Broward teacher fired for not wearing mask, DOE’s ‘victims of communism’ instruction rule, and more

Around the state: A Broward County teacher has been fired for insubordination for repeatedly refusing to wear a face mask in school, a rule proposed Tuesday by the Florida Department of Education would require schools to teach students about “victims of communism” in their government classes, a Miami-Dade student is in critical condition after being shot during a brawl outside a high school, Brevard school board members approve a contract agreement with teachers but negotiations are stalled in the Orange and Hillsborough school districts, St. Johns school officials said they are building four new schools in the next five years to keep up with population growth, and Miami-Dade school Superintendent Alberto Carvalho will get a $90,000-a-year pay hike to lead the Los Angeles school district. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A 16-year-old district student is in critical condition after being shot Tuesday afternoon during a brawl just off the campus of Miami Norland Senior High School. Carlton Bridges was shot in the back and airlifted to a nearby trauma center. At least one person has been taken into custody. WTVJ. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. Thirteen Miami Central High School were arrested after several fights broke out Tuesday at the school. No injuries were reported. WSVN. WTVJ. School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho will be paid $440,000 a year for four years to lead the Los Angeles school district. He earns $350,000 from the Miami district. Carvalho announced last week that he was leaving Miami after 14 years as superintendent for the job in California. He’s expected to make the move by March. Miami Herald.

Broward: A teacher who repeatedly refused to wear a face mask for much of 2021, as required by district rules, has been fired for insubordination. School board members voted unanimously Tuesday to terminate John C. Alvarez, 57, a science teacher at Piper High in Sunrise. Masks were required for all students and employees from March until Nov. 19, when the policy was changed to make them optional. Board member Patti Good called Alvarez’s actions “highly irresponsible. The conduct could have potentially jeopardized a fellow employee or even a student.” Alvarez has said he will appeal the decision to an administrative law judge. WFOR. Sun Sentinel. Board members also approved two lawsuit settlements, totaling $26 million, for victims of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Sun Sentinel. WTVJ. WSVN.

Hillsborough: Students, parents and members of the community called for an investigation into the district’s sexual harassment policies in general, and specifically at Blake High School. Past and current students there said they were sexually assaulted or harassed over the past five years, but the school district did little to make them feel they’re being protected. “I am here to ask for fundamental change to an institutional culture where our children are not listened to,” Blake parent Jeffrey Failes said at Tuesday’s school board meeting. “You must listen to our children.” Tampa Bay Times. Board member Stacy Hahn was criticized at the meeting for her recent comment that redistricting was necessary to create a Hispanic seat on the board, and that the election of colleague Karen Perez, a Hispanic, happened by chance. “This elected official is a voice of the people, not a chance,” Perez countered. Tampa Bay Times. Negotiators for the teachers union and the district failed to come to a contract agreement after another bargaining session this week. Teachers want a starting salary of $49,200, but the district said it can’t afford the $38.7 million that would cost. Talks resume in late January. Tampa Bay Times.

Orange: District teachers protested outside school board headquarters Tuesday, calling for school officials to offer them more than a raise of $150 and a $25 cost-of-living increase. “That’s pretty pathetic,” said University High School teacher Gretchen Robinson, who was one of the dozens who gathered before the board meeting. “Shame on you,” she said. “You better do better for the sake of our kids.” Orlando Sentinel. Two more threats were made against central Florida schools Tuesday, bringing the total to seven in the past 11 days. The latest were made against Glenridge Middle and Freedom High schools, both in Orlando. WKMG. WESH.

Pinellas: Starting Jan. 1, all school district students, teachers and employees can ride free on county buses by showing a school ID. The school district is partnering with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority to provide the universal pass. Next fall, the two government agencies will test a pilot program allowing students at Dunedin, Largo and Gibbs high schools to ride the buses to school. Patch. WTSP. WTVT.

Brevard: School board members approved a contract agreement between the district and its teachers that includes bonuses instead of raises and no increase in insurance premiums. But union officials cautioned that next year they will want permanent raises for veteran teachers. “I’m sure that all board members and the superintendent believe that a teacher with 15 years of experience should not be separated by only $1,500 from a teacher with 15 minutes of experience,” said union president Anthony Colucci. The board also agreed to revise the process for changing the names of schools, and the district will offer a new policy at a future meeting. Florida Today.

Osceola: Three students at Liberty High School in Kissimmee have been arrested and accused of beating a 16-year-old classmate at the school Oct. 22. Deputies arrested the students, 16, 17 and 18 years old, after a video of the event surfaced on social media. WKMG. WESH. Orlando Sentinel.

Manatee: A 6-year-old kindergartner who was supposed to get on a school bus last Friday instead walked away from Prine Elementary School in Bradenton. The boy was found safe a mile and a half from the school after he had crossed busy roads. School officials said they were investigating how the student wound up with the students who walk home from school. WFTS.

St. Johns: School board members have approved a plan to build four schools in the next five years to keep up with the expected increase in enrollment and cut back on the use of portable classrooms. Three of the new schools would be for K-8 students, and the fourth would be an elementary school. Also approved was an expansion of South Woods Elementary in Elkton. Together, they would cut the percentage of portables used from 19 percent of all classrooms to 1 percent by 2025. WJXT. A new student dress code instituted by the school district last summer was intended to remove subjective terms and eliminate different rules for girls and boys. But after one semester, 83 percent of the dress code violations issued were to girls. That’s the same as it was before the code changed. WTLV. Creative marketing and bonuses of up to $3,000 have helped the district fill 97 percent of its school bus driver positions. WJXT. Mike Gaetanos, a basketball coach at St. Joseph Academy in Jacksonville for the past 12 years, died Dec. 1. He was 58. St. Augustine Record.

Marion: The 114-year-old District East/School Board building in downtown Ocala will close Friday because of water damage. School board employees will be moved into the Manatee Technical Institute and board meetings will be held in the MTI auditorium starting next month. The board has been considering creating a new school district complex, also downtown. Ocala Star-Banner.

Alachua: A requirement that before- and after-school providers collect personal information about students and their parents has been killed by board members of the Children’s Trust of Alachua County. Earlier this week, an after-school provider said the Children’s Trust withheld funding because it refused to collect the information. Gainesville Sun. More Alachua students than expected have been getting vaccinated, according to county health officials. “Several hundred students have been vaccinated in school and we are winding down COVID first doses this week with four school clinics per day,” said county health administrator Paul Myers. Mainstreet Daily News. The school board has approved a job description for a fulltime language translator and interpreter. The position is a requisite to receive federal funding. WUFT.

Bay: A shortage of substitute teachers has prompted the school district to offer incentive bonuses. The school board has approved a proposal to reward subs who work 14 days in a month with a $200 bonus. It goes into effect Jan. 7 and continues through the 2022-2023 school year. The district will use federal coronavirus relief funds to cover the costs. WJHG.

Flagler: School board attorney Kristy Gavin’s contract was renewed Tuesday on a 3-2 vote by school board members. Gavin has represented the district since 2006. Board members Janet McDonald and Jill Woolbright voted to fire her. McDonald has been critical of Gavin for months, and Woolbright was unhappy with the way Gavin handled her attempt to ban several books from school libraries. Flagler Live.

Martin: School board members are being asked to approve a contract with the Canadian company Paper to provide free, around-the-clock online tutoring help for middle and high school students. The one-year deal would cost the district $487,000, and be paid with federal coronavirus relief aid. WPTV.

Colleges and universities: The University of Florida is changing its rules for managing COVID-19. It will discontinue its online coronavirus dashboard, make vaccines and boosters available at the Student Health Care Center and UF Health pharmacies, and more. The changes begin Jan. 1. Gainesville Sun. WGFL. A hearing has been set for Jan. 7 in the lawsuit brought by UF professors against the college over its policy that gives school administrators the discretion to block professors from testifying against the state in court cases. News Service of Florida. State college enrollment is down 5.5 percent since last year, and analysts said it could hit 9 percent over the next five years. News Service of Florida. An impasse has been declared in contract negotiations between Pensacola State College and the union representing the teaching faculty and school administrators. College officials want the option to offer higher starting pay for teachers of subjects in high demand, but the union wants pay raised for all teachers. Pensacola News Journal. Florida State College at Jacksonville is planning to double the number of spaces in its commercial driver’s license courses, from 200 to about 400. When FSCJ opened registration in October for spring, classes filled in 90 minutes. Florida Times-Union. Gov. Ron DeSantis has appointed Melissa Kindell, a dentist from Okeechobee, and Indian River County sheriff’s chief deputy Milo Thornton as trustees for Indian River State College. Indian River Guardian.

Rule targets communism: A rule proposed Tuesday by the Florida Department of Education would require schools to teach students about “victims of communism” in their government classes. The rule aims to “encourage patriotism” and “remember the more than 100 million people who have fallen victim to communist regimes across the world.” The rule is similar to a bill proposed by state Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, for the 60-day legislative session that begins Jan. 11. Politico Florida.

Catholic school enrollment: Student enrollment in Florida Catholic schools has rebounded after declining sharply during the pandemic, according to the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops. Enrollment is now more than 84,000 students, almost 6 percent more than last year and about 1,200 fewer than in the 2019-2020 school year.  reimaginED.

Around the nation: The South Dakota organization that held a fund-raiser featuring teachers crawling on their hands and knees to grab for dollar bills at a junior hockey league game has apologized after critics called the event demeaning to educators. Associated Press. NPR.

Opinions on schools: The search for the next superintendent of the Miami-Dade School District should be serious and meaningfully consider both national and local talent. It must also be a transparent, community-driven search process that holds itself accountable to defined search criteria and attracts a pool of candidates worthy of this tremendous charge. David Lawrence, Tony Argiz, Kerry-Ann Royes and Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, Miami Herald.