Runcie’s $700K severance, lobbying for vetoes, top educators, colleges back to normal in fall and more

The veto lobbyists: Even as Gov. Ron DeSantis signs bills approved by the Legislature into law, he’s being lobbied intensely by advocates to veto others. Among those most targeted are the bill banning transgender females from competing in women high school and college sports, which DeSantis has said he will sign, and one that would put limits on how much developers have to pay schools and governments in impact fees. As of Tuesday night, 11 of the 260 bills approved in this legislative session have made it to DeSantis’ desk, and he has signed 10 of them, including bills banning vaccine passports and shielding schools and businesses from COVID-related lawsuits. Last year he vetoed five bills and slashed $1 billion from the budget. News Service of Florida. The governor is also being urged by state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills, to order that all school face mask mandates be repealed immediately. He called the mandates “cruel and misguided policy.”  Florida Politics.

Top educators selected: Brittany Brown, a language arts teacher at Wildwood Elementary School in Sumter County, has been chosen by the state Department of Education as a finalist for the 2022 Florida teacher of the year award. Other finalists announced earlier this week are Frank Garaitonandia, an art teacher at Citrus Grove Elementary in Volusia County, and Jim Schmitt, a history teacher at Mandarin High School in Duval. The teacher of the year will be announced July 22. WMFE. Florida Department of Education. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran also announced Wednesday that Zemenaye Belda Harris, the assistant principal of Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Hillsborough County, has been named Florida’s assistant principal of the year. Florida Department of Education.

Around the state: Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie wants a severance package that could top $700,000, the state’s 12 universities will resume pre-COVID operations this fall, Nova Southeastern University has reversed an earlier decision to require students and employees to be vaccinated before returning to campus in the fall because of the new law banning vaccine passports, Palm Beach County school officials say playgrounds will be reopened and students won’t have to wear masks outside, Sarasota’s school board is discussing a significant expansion of mental health services, and Manatee school board members have approved another $550,000 to pay for substitute teachers for the rest of this school year. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Superintendent Robert Runcie, who was indicted for perjury last month and said he was resigning, wants a severance package from the school board that could top more than $700,000. He is asking the board to be kept on the staff long enough to qualify for a retirement benefit of $400,000 in addition to the $137,000 in severance pay and more than $100,000 in unused sick and vacation time he’s owed by contract. Runcie said he’s entitled to 90 days’ notice, then wants to use accrued sick time to extend his stay on the payroll until Oct. 6. At that point he would have 10 years of service in Broward, triggering a contract clause that would require the school board to buy retirement benefits equal to to four years of service with the Chicago school system, where he worked previously. When the clause was added to his contract in 2017, it was estimated to be worth $80,000. Now it’s projected to be worth $400,000. Negotiations resume Monday. Meanwhile, board chair Rosalind Osgood reached a tentative severance agreement with general counsel Barbara Myrick, who was indicted for illegally disclosing grand jury proceedings and also is resigning. Myrick will receive $84,000 in severance and $3,000 in benefits  if the school board approves the settlement. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. WPLG. WTVJ. A man who is accused of send his son to their car to get a gun during a fight at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek last month claims he was acting in self-defense. Terry Loray, 39, was charged with possession of a firearm on school property and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Sun Sentinel.

Palm Beach: District officials said they are reopening their school playgrounds this week and won’t require students to wear face masks when they’re exercising or playing outside. Superintendent Donald Fennoy made the announcement Wednesday after being pressured by school board members to loosen mask requirements. Parents have been lobbying the board for weeks against the mask mandate. “It’s a positive communication that we are listening, and I think it’s the first step,” board member Karen Brill said. Palm Beach Post. WPEC.

Polk: School officials said the district’s mandatory face mask policy will remain in effect through the end of this school year. But four schools did drop their face mask mandates: the McKeel Academies’ elementary, middle and high charter schools, and the private Lakeland Christian School. Lakeland Ledger.

Manatee: School board members have approved another $550,000 to hire substitute teachers for the rest of this schools. The board approved $210,360 last week, taking the total to just under $50,000 less than the $810,000 the district had asked for. The district pays ESS $2.5 million a year to hire and manage subs, but demand has skyrocketed during the pandemic. Bradenton Herald. Monica DeLesline, an assistant principal at Palmetto High since 2017, has been named the school’s principal, starting July 1. She replaces Carl Auckerman, who has moved to the principal’s job at Braden River High School. Bradenton Herald.

Sarasota: The school board met this week with leaders from the Florida Center and First Step Sarasota to talk about a significant expansion of the services the nonprofits provide in schools. The Florida Center wants to double the number of mental health clinicians in the district’s elementary schools, while First Step wants to place mental health therapists in every middle school and high school. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Marion: School board members will discuss at today’s meeting whether to lift their face mask mandate in schools. The state has said that mandates may remain through the end of the school year, which is May 26. Ocala Star-Banner.

Flagler: Face masks are required for the rest of the school year in the district, but will become optional after June 5 unless there is “a significant spike in cases or other safety/health issues,” district officials announced Wednesday. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live.

Nassau: The district’s superintendent and school board are being accused by the nonprofit Florida First Amendment Foundation of violating the state’s Sunshine Law by holding closed meetings while discussing a contract with the teachers union. Superintendent Kathy Burns and school board members deny the accusations. Fernandina Beach News Leader.

Colleges and universities: Florida’s state universities will return to normal, pre-pandemic operations in the fall, including social and athletic activities, according to a news release signed by Florida Board of Governors chair Syd Kitson and chancellor Marshall Criser. News Service of Florida. WTXL. Nova Southeastern University has announced that because Florida has a new law prohibiting vaccine passports, it has reversed course and won’t require students and employees to be vaccinated before the fall semester. WTVJ. Sun Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. A 16-year-old from Washington, D.C., who has already completed two years of college has chosen to attend Florida A&M University instead of accepting offers from Yale, Harvard and Morehouse and 11 other schools. Curtis Lawrence II will major in biology and computer science, with a minor in Mandarin. Tallahassee Democrat. WCTV. The University of South Florida is holding in-person graduation ceremonies Saturday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Nearly 7,200 degrees will be awarded. Each student is limited to two guest tickets, and the ceremonies will be livestreamed. Florida Politics. Saefallah Mohamed, 17, will be the youngest USF graduate at Saturday ceremonies. He will earn degrees in biomedical sciences and public health. WFTS. The State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota will hold a drive-through graduation ceremony Friday at the school, while New College of Sarasota will have an in-person graduation May 21 at Ed Smith Stadium and the Ringling College of Art and Design will hold a virtual ceremony May 13. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The College of the Florida Keys’ graduation ceremony is Friday, in-person at the Key West Campus. Key West Citizen. University of South Florida chemical engineering professor Norma Alcantar is being inducted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame. She holds 22 patents, with much of her work focusing on cleaning contaminated water. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the nation: The Texas Senate has approved a bill that would expand the availability of micro-grants for children with special needs. redefinED.

Education podcasts: La Toya Bell, an independent living specialist for the Children’s Home Society of Florida and mother to Camrin, who attends a private school in Tallahassee on the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, talks about the bill expanding school choice, how Camrin’s ADHD diagnosis and symptoms affected the way she was treated by her district school, and how her daughter’s new school improved her self-esteem. redefinED. Orlando Sentinel reporters discuss the district’s decision to require student-athletes to get a heart test and the push to get students interested in the arts. Orlando Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: The most perplexing aspect of private school vouchers is that they are the work product of Republicans who claim to be conservatives. Mac Stipanovich, Tampa Bay Times. You can drive a stake through the heart of vampire myths about vouchers with a couple of facts: research shows vouchers save money that can be reinvested in public education and that public school student performance does not suffer from an expansion of choice options. Scott Kent, redefinED. Perhaps the greatest reform in the Legislature’s workforce training bills is the one that is the most revolutionary: A money-back guarantee to students who enroll in public programs focused on certain higher-skill, higher-wage and in-demand occupations. Jeb Bush, Tampa Bay Times. The private Centner Academy of Miami, which balked at federal guidelines on mask use and vaccinations, still received a loan of more than $800,000 in government money from the federal Paycheck Protection Program. That loan, which the institution does not have to pay back, is intended to help avoid layoffs, meaning it’s supposed to save the jobs the Centners are threatening if staff members choose to get vaccinated. Welcome to Florida. Miami Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff