Special session, rising teacher resignations, new Lee school in jeopardy, vaccinations and more

In the Legislature: Bills to limit mask and coronavirus vaccine mandates began moving through the Legislature on Monday, the first day of a special session. One bill that was approved by a House committee and is now ready for a full House vote would authorize Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office to develop a plan creating a state version of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The plan would have to be approved by the federal government, which is considered unlikely because the measure is being touted as a way to bypass federal vaccine mandates. Another bill would create exemptions for workers at companies that require vaccinations, and another would strip the authority of the state surgeon general to mandate vaccinations during a health emergency. Also being considered this week are bills that would give parents the right to decide whether their children wear masks to schools and allow them to sue districts that don’t comply, and one that would ban coronavirus vaccine mandates for public school and government workers. Votes are expected on the final bills on Wednesday. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. USA Today Florida Network. Florida PoliticsFlorida Phoenix. Florida Politics. Capitol News Service. Politico Florida. WFSU.

Around the state: The number of teacher resignations in several central Florida school districts is up sharply over last year, Lee County School Board members are considering killing the plan for a new school in Estero, Brevard teachers and the school district reach a tentative agreement on a contract that provides bonuses, a Palm Beach County teacher with COVID-19 whose husband sued a hospital to try to force it to treat her with an unauthorized drug has died, more school districts are setting up vaccinations clinics for students who are 5 years or older, and some parents talk about deciding whether to vaccinate their children. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A math teacher at Barbara Goleman Senior High School in Miami Lakes has been arrested and is accused of inappropriately touching two students who are 15 and 16 years old. Police said Jose Calderon, 27, was charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation, two counts of offenses against a student by an authority figure, two counts of child abuse without harm and one count of misdemeanor battery. District officials said he has been reassigned and won’t be working with students while school police investigate. Miami Herald. WPLG. WFOR. WTVJ.

Broward: A 6th-grade math and chemistry teacher at Bethlehem Junior Academy in Tamarac who also works as a private tutor has been arrested and charged with lewd and lascivious molestation on a victim 12 to 16 years old. Police said Leslie Wolfe, 63, molested a 12-year-old girl during a tutoring session at the West Broward Regional Library. WPLG. WFOR. WTVJ. Students at Coconut Creek High School lost about three hours of their day when they were evacuated for a bomb threat Monday. They left the school around 10:30 a.m. and waited in a nearby community center until being sent home around 1:15 p.m. Typical hours for the school are 6:50 a.m. to 1:35 p.m. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald.

Orange, central Florida: Teacher resignations in five central Florida school districts are up over last year from 3 percent to 32 percent, according to data from the districts. In Orange County, the resignation rate is up 32 percent. Brevard is reporting a 28 percent increase, Osceola 24 percent, Seminole 15 percent and Lake 3 percent. Wendy Doromal, president of the Orange County teachers union, said, “I’m not surprised at all. It was a terrible year last year, and (teachers) say this year is even worse. They are resigning because of the pay because they do not feel valued.” WKMG. All 22 Orange County high schools will host another coronavirus vaccination clinic between Nov. 30 and Dec. 6. Five schools will also have vaccination events Dec. 20 and 21. WFTV.

Palm Beach: A district teacher with COVID-19 whose husband sued a hospital to try to force it to treat her with an unauthorized drug has died. Tamara Drock, 47, who taught at Egret Lake Elementary School in West Palm Beach, died of coronavirus-related complications Friday. Her husband Ryan Drock wanted her to be treated with ivermectin, which is used to treat parasitic worms in humans but not COVID. A judge rejected the lawsuit and urged the two sides to reach an agreement. But they could not when the family’s attorney said the hospital’s proposed dosage was too low. Drock said he will proceed with the case. Palm Beach Post. WPTV.

Polk: COVID-19 vaccinations are being offered to district students ages 5 and up, their parents and school employees this week. The district is partnering with the Florida Department of Health to hold clinics at Ridge Community High School on Wednesday and Lake Gibson High on Thursday. Lakeland Ledger.

Lee: School board members will consider pulling the plug on a proposed school in Estero during today’s board meeting. Questions have arisen about the need for the school, and board member Gwynetta Gittens said, “I will be making a motion tomorrow to stop the project, the financing, and the focus, and to move forward to prioritize our resources in a different direction.” She is supported by at least two of the other six board members. WINK. School officials are proposing to add four early-release day students during the 2022-2023 academic year in hopes of alleviating some stress on teachers. The proposed calendar calls for students to be released two hours early on Aug. 31 and Oct. 26 in 2022, and Feb. 22 and April 26 in 2023. WFTX. The Fort Myers High School marching band has been invited to play in London’s 2023 New Year’s Day parade. It will need to raise about $425,000 for all 125 members to make the trip. WINK. WFTX.

Pasco: A science teacher at River Ridge Middle School has been arrested and accused of assaulting an 11-year-old boy who was playing basketball near his home. Deputies said Donald Curtis Fawley, 58, asked a group of kids to stop playing basketball near his home. Words were exchanged, and Fawley allegedly pushed the boy, put his hands around his neck and shoved him. District officials said Fawley has been placed on administrative leave. WFLA.

Brevard: Teachers would receive a $2,000 bonus and those who have been teaching 12 or more years would get another $1,100 under a tentative contract agreement reached by district officials with the teachers union. Among the other details of the deal are no increases in health insurance premiums and a $1,000 supplement for teachers at schools with nine-hour days. The deal must be approved by union members and the school board. Space Coast Daily. Spectrum News 13. School board members meet today to reconsider the changes they recently made to the rules governing public comments at board meetings, and to elect a new board chairperson and vice chair. Moms for Liberty, a conservative activist group, filed a suit last week against the new comments policy, alleging speakers are being silenced because their views don’t align with board members’. Florida Today. Space Coast Daily.

Volusia: Second-graders in Kristen Mullins’ class at Coronado Beach Elementary School in New Smyrna Beach found and helped rescue an injured bald eagle in some bushes on the school playground last week. The school called the Marine Science Center to capture and treat the bird, which has a fractured left wing and minor injuries near its eye but it expected to make a full recovery. Students named the eagle Charles, and Mullins hopes to make a field trip to the center soon so the students can visit it. WOFL.

Alachua: Superintendent Carlee Simon used her state of the school district speech to call for more mental health services for students, improving academic outcomes at all schools and developing a strategic plan that better reflects the needs of the community. Mainstreet Daily News. WCJB.

Monroe: At today’s meeting, school board members will be asked to consider a request from the College of the Florida Keys to create a charter high school on its Key West campus. Board members will also get an update on the five current charter schools in the district. Key West Citizen. Sue Woltanski has announced she is running for re-election to her District 5 seat on the school board. The retired pediatrician has drawn one opponent so far, Alexandria Suarez. Florida Keys Weekly.

Colleges and universities: Three more University of Florida professors have joined a lawsuit challenging the school’s conflict of interest policy, saying it gives UF “unfettered discretion to stifle speech that it deems ‘adverse’ to the state’s political interests.” Gainesville Sun. Politico Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Financially struggling Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens is considering cutting 38 percent of its undergraduate curriculum programs and will undergo a “serious examination” of staffing levels, school officials announced Monday. Miami Herald. The University of Central Florida is developing a program to use virtual reality treatment for people with post-traumatic stress disorder. WOFL. A $15 million bequest from Antoinette Levasseur LaValle will fund scholarships for arts students at Stetson University in DeLand. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The first class in Jacksonville University’s fast-track bachelor of nursing program has finished four months of classroom instruction and is now heading into clinical training at two Baptist Health facilities. Florida Times-Union. Santa Fe College is partnering with VyStar Credit Union to create a financial wellness center at the school’s northwest Gainesville campus. WUFT.

Education podcast: Education choice pioneer Jack Coons talks with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about the history of choice, its importance for society, the ways it reinforces a successful family ecosystem, the present-day system of public education, and his new book of essays, School Choice and Human Good. reimaginED.

Opinions on schools: Passenger vans are not a silver bullet to our school transportation woes, but we don’t have any silver bullets at all. We are going to need to flood the zone with partial solutions, and vans could be helpful in that endeavor. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. The University of Florida is a center of vital research and great creativity, but it’s embarrassed itself with this tawdry episode over the right of scholars to pursue the facts. Diane Roberts, Florida Phoenix.

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