QAnon eyeing school board seats, CRT training for teachers who don’t teach it, Elsa’s exit and more

Q and school boards: Followers of the right-wing conspiracy group QAnon have a new approach to spreading their beliefs: running for seats on school boards and other local offices. Many followers are galvanizing support with their opposition to race-conscious education, as symbolized by the controversy over the teaching of critical race theory. They’re starting to downplay their conspiracy theories and emphasizing the dangers of human trafficking as a way to help win off-year, low-turnout elections for local seats. Drake Wuertz described the new approach at a Seminole County School Board meeting in June, telling board members that America’s children are at risk of systemic abuse. “(Children are) being carried away through our education system, through the woke ideology that’s infiltrated professional sports, through the sexual grooming and pedophilia that’s apparent in the entertainment industry,” said Wuertz, 36,. “We need to run for precinct committees, we need to run for city council, run for school board and primary the RINOs (Republicans in name only) in this room.” NBC News.

Elsa’s exit: Tropical Storm Elsa made landfall late Wednesday morning in Taylor County before beginning a turn to the north-northeast and exiting the state in the afternoon. The storm brought high winds, heavy rains and storm surge to counties along the west coast and north-central part of the state, closing schools and knocking out power to thousands. Damage was described as minimal, and normal school and other operations are expected in most of the affected counties by today. Associated Press. USA Today Florida Network. Florida Times-Union. Capitol News Service. WUSF. Florida Politics. Florida Department of Education. WLRN. Tampa Bay Times. Gainesville Sun. WJAX.

Around the state: Three former school superintendents are finalists to replace outgoing Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie in an interim role, the Santa Rosa district doesn’t teach critical race theory but teachers and administrators will still undergo training on what they can and cannot include in class lessons, several school districts are holding job fairs to fill open positions, and the final 11 contestants of the Scripps National Spelling Bee compete for the championship tonight in Orlando. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Three former school superintendents have been chosen as finalists to replace the outgoing Robert Runcie in an interim role. They were the only ones among 26 applicants who met all the requirements, which include having a master’s degree and 10 years of management experience. The finalists are: Jim Notter, who was Broward’s superintendent from 2006 to 2011; Vickie Cartwright, who just finished three years of running the school district in Oshkosh, Wis.; and Robert Schiller, who has been an interim or permanent superintendent for six districts in the past 40 years. Interviews will be conducted later this month, and the school board will choose one in the first week of August. Runcie’s last day is Aug. 10. He resigned after being indicted for perjury. Sun Sentinel.

Orange: The school district is looking to hire 100 bus drivers and 10 mechanics at a job fair Monday. WMFE.

Volusia: Students in the summer program at the Yvonne Scarlett Golden Cultural & Educational Center in Daytona Beach are busy two hours a day learning multiplication facts while they’re singing and dancing. The Math Party program is the creation of Stephanie Pasley-Henry, a former teacher who left to write songs and prepare a way for students to learn math through music. “I really do believe that we can either engage our students or we can enrage our students,” said Pasley-Henry. “So my approach helps to abate children’s trepidation towards math and it helps to enhance their fluency.  So they’re singing, they’re dancing, they’re exercising, and they’re learning.” Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Sarasota: The school district has chosen Raptor Technologies to provide a mobile panic alarm app to quickly notify law enforcement during an emergency. A 2020 law honoring Alyssa Alhadeff, who was one of 17 people killed in the 2018 Parkland school shooting, requires every district to have a cell phone app with a panic alarm button. Raptor is one of nine state-approved vendors for the technology, and is also the choice of the Polk, Charlotte, Nassau, Gadsden, Holmes and Bradford school districts. Sarasota Magazine.

St. Lucie: School officials are holding a job fair July 19 to try to fill 62 teacher openings and other staff positions. Starting pay for teachers is now $44,600, and district officials said they will help those hired obtain their teaching credentials from the state. WPTV.

Escambia: Denny Wilson, the district’s director of school improvement, has been chosen as the principal at Warrington Middle School, which will be closed ot turned into a charter school if it doesn’t earn a C grade from the state next year. Wilson was once the principal at Oakcrest Elementary School, which improved to an A grade in 2009 after five years of getting a D or F. Pensacola News Journal.

Okaloosa: The school district is holding a job fair Friday to hire substitute teachers, classroom aides, custodians, cleaners, bus mechanics, bus drivers, maintenance techs and more. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Santa Rosa: Even though the school district does not include critical race theory in its history curriculum, teachers and administrators will get special training on what can and cannot be included in class lessons. The Florida Board of Education recently adopted a rule prohibiting CRT from being taught in K-12 classrooms, defining it as a “theory that racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons.” Superintendent Karen Barber said she wanted to give teachers as much guidance as possible so they can “feel safe and secure in what they can teach and what they shouldn’t avoid teaching.” Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

Bay: A shortage of school bus drivers could force the district to consolidate some routes and eliminate courtesy busing for up to 700 students who are transported even though they live within 2 miles of their schools. WMBB. WJHG.

Colleges and universities: Angela Garcia Falconetti, president of Polk State College, is the new chair of the Florida College System Council of Presidents for 2021-2022. The council is made up of the presidents of Florida’s 28 public colleges. Lakeland Ledger.

School lunch program: The United States Agriculture Department is committing $93 million toward sustaining Florida’s school meals program, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried announced this week. About 71 percent of Florida’s schoolchildren receive free meals under the program, which lost $262 million in school lunch revenue during the pandemic. WFSU. Capitol News Service.

Around the nation: The finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee are tonight from 8-10 p.m. at the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando. First lady Jill Biden will be in attendance. Eleven spellers are still alive after nine rounds of competition. The best showing by a Florida student was Clay County’s Erik Williams, who was eliminated in the ninth round and finished tied for 12th. News Service of Florida. Orlando Sentinel. WMFE. WESH. Clay Today.

Education podcasts: Iowa state Sen. Amy Sinclair talks with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about her state’s success expanding school choice and plans for continuing that growth. redefinED.

Opinions on schools: Legislators should stay out of the classroom. Curriculum, whether around race or ‘rithmetic, is for school board members, principals and teachers themselves – education experts beholden to the classroom and the community – to sort out for the educational enrichment of their students. USA Today Florida Network.