Around the state: Pinellas County school Superintendent Michael Grego announces he’ll retire July 1, a bill that would impose term limits on school board members has been filed for the legislative session, another bill would penalize public, private and charter schools that can’t prove that their courses on Holocaust and African-American history meet state standards, Palm Beach school district’s police chief resigns after just eight month, Florida Department of Health releases new guidance for COVID-19 testing, a panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal has officially dismissed a lawsuit brought by three school districts challenging a state rule against requiring students to wear face masks, and Escambia school officials are asking Instagram to remove videos showing fights at a middle school. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Miami-Dade: School officials distributed free at-home COVID-19 rapid test kits Thursday to students and employees. Students got one kit and employees received two while supplies lasted. The distribution was a collaboration among the district, the county and the health department. Miami Herald. WPLG. The family of a 7-year-old student at the Airbase Elementary School in Homestead said they will file a federal lawsuit alleging the developmentally delayed girl was bullied by a teacher, falsely accused of stealing a cell phone and injured when the teacher yanked her arm. District officials said the allegations were investigated and no probable cause was found. WFOR.
Broward: A bike-riding student from Lakeside Elementary School in Pembroke Pines suffered life-threatening injuries when she was hit by a vehicle that ran a stop sign at an intersection Thursday afternoon, according to police. The driver of the car also was taken to a hospital and treated for minor injuries. Miami Herald. WSVN. WTVJ.
Orange: Wednesday’s contract negotiations between the teachers union and the district broke off after midnight with no resolution. Teachers want more than token raises, and district officials said they don’t have money. School board members meet today to discuss the impasse. Orlando Sentinel.
Palm Beach: Daniel Alexander, chief of the school district’s police department for the past eight months, is resigning to take an administrative job with a police agency in Virginia. His last day will be later this month. Alexander replaced Frank Kitzerow, who resigned last April amid escalating tensions with the police union, which was calling for the sheriff’s department to take over the district’s department. The district is expected to name an interim chief and then conduct a national search for a new chief. Palm Beach Post. WPTV. WPEC.
Pinellas: Superintendent Michael Grego announced Thursday that he was retiring July 1 after 10 years of leading the district. Grego has spent 42 years in public education, and his other jobs included Osceola County school superintendent, state chancellor of K-12 schools and assistant superintendent of Hillsborough County schools. “Together, we have made tremendous progress, and I sincerely appreciate the support, feedback and trust you have given me,” he said to friends and supporters in an e-mail. He said he was confident his successor would be in place when schools open next fall. Pinellas joins Miami-Dade, Broward and Lee as large Florida districts searching for a new superintendent. Tampa Bay Times. WUSF. WTSP. WFTS.
Collier: A former member of the Collier County School Board talks with reimaginED about her latest project, the Optima Classical Academy, which is being billed as the world’s first virtual reality charter school. Erika Donalds, the president and CEO of the Optima Foundation, said the school will offer live instruction in the metaverse through the use of virtual reality headsets, including trips to Pompeii, Independence Hall, under water and outer space. The school opens next fall. reimaginED. Florida Politics.
Manatee: The mother of a 12-year-old 7th-grader who was arrested and taken away in handcuffs for filming a fight at the Palm View K-8 School in Palmetto in September said she will sue the school board if the school district and the sheriff’s office don’t hold those responsible accountable. Ja’Quyla Jones was ordered by school officials and a resource officer to delete the video and hand over her phone. When she refused and tried to walk away, she was pushed to the ground by the deputy and handcuffed, and later charged by the state attorney with battery on a law enforcement officer. The charges were subsequently dropped, and both district officials and Sheriff Rick Wells acknowledged the incident was preventable. Bradenton Herald. WFLA. WTSP.
Sarasota: The county health department is offering free PCR coronavirus tests for all public, private and charter school students, and in some cases their family members. A test request form must be filled out to be eligible for an appointment. WWSB.
Marion: School board members decided not to impose a face mask mandate, limit visitors or ban in-state field trips because of the rising number of coronavirus cases. But out-of-state field trips are on hold because some of the states students would have visited have requirements that students wear masks and/or show proof of vaccination, both of which are forbidden by Florida law. Ocala Star-Banner. WKMG.
Escambia: School officials are asking Instagram to remove several videos of students fighting at Beulah Middle School in Pensacola. “I would just urge everybody to please use social media responsibly because it is upsetting to a school when it happens, and then weeks pass and it happens again,” said Superintendent Tim Smith. “This is a situation that makes it look like something happened yesterday and that is not the case. This happened back in December and earlier.” Instagram officials have yet to respond to the request. Pensacola News Journal.
Leon: The number of coronavirus cases has spiked in the past three days. In the two weeks from Nov. 23 to Dec. 7, the district reported seven cases. From Jan. 4-6, it reported 237 cases, with 194 among students. WTXL. Florida Politics. The district has fired a Lincoln High School teacher who had exchanged thousands of texts with a 15-year-old student, many of a sexual nature. Sophina Webb, 27, was arrested last week on 24 counts of soliciting a minor using a computer. She had been placed on administrative leave by the district in December. Tallahassee Democrat.
Alachua: A school board workshop meeting called to discuss how to evaluate Superintendent Carlee Simon turned into a debate about violations of the state’s Sunshine Law. Three members of the board questioned an e-mail exchange among Simon and board members Gunnar Paulson and Robert Hyatt, which was copied to the rest of the board, over the availability of of the minutes from the Dec. 7 board meeting. Board attorney David Delaney didn’t say if there had been a violation, but did say while any board member can e-mail the superintendent about agenda items, “It’s generally a recommended best practice not copy other board members on emails because, at any time, a board member could respond and say something that seems innocuous, like, ‘I think that’s a good idea,’ or, ‘perhaps I would be in favor of that.’ ” Gainesville Sun.
Charlotte: District 1 school board member Cara Reynolds has announced she will run for re-election. Kathleen Futch and Lawrence Benjamin have also announced their candidacies for the seat. Charlotte Sun.
In the Legislature: A bill proposing a constitutional amendment that would impose term limits on school board members has been filed for the 60-day legislative session that begins Jan. 11. SJR 1644, filed by state Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, would limit board members to eight years in office. If approved, it would go on the November ballot and would need to gather more than 60 percent support to be added to the state constitution. Similar measures have been proposed in previous sessions. News Service of Florida. Public, private and charter schools that can’t prove that their courses on Holocaust and African-American history meet state standards would be penalized under two proposed bills. S.B. 1398 was filed by state Sen. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, and H.B. 51 was proposed by state Rep. Geraldine Thompson,. D-Windermere. Florida Politics.
Mask suit dismissed: A panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal has officially dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Miami-Dade, Broward and Duval school districts challenging a state rule against requiring students to wear face masks. Both sides had previously agreed the lawsuit has been rendered moot by the state’s adoption of a law prohibiting school districts from requiring masks. News Service of Florida.
New COVID test guidelines: State health officials have released new guidance on COVID-19 testing, and they’re suggesting that asymptomatic people should not get tested. Those at significant risk for severe COVID and have symptoms should be tested, according to the guidelines, and those not at significant risk who are showing symptoms should consider getting tested. The guidance contradicts the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG.
Around the nation: About 68 percent of Americans parents worry about “politicians who are not educators making decisions about what students learn in the classroom,” according to a survey conducted by the nonprofit Learning Heroes. K-12 Dive.
Opinions on schools: The greased-lightning approach of selecting a successor to Miami-Dade school Superintendent Alberto Carvalho will undercut the stature of the ultimate choice in the eyes of the district and the broader community. It’s time to rally together and insist the school board take the time to conduct a transparent national search and get it right. Miami Herald. University of Florida president Kent Fuchs will be remembered for shepherding the institution to reaching its longtime goal of being a highly ranked public university. But his legacy is more complicated than that. Gainesville Sun. Florida’s state government has always connected its lottery with the promise of increasing funding for education. Today, for all its jingling advertisements, the lottery provides only about 6 percent of education funding, and that has tended to replace rather than supplement state dollars. This meager support has come at an outsized cost to Florida’s poor and marginalized. Michael Stephens, Gainesville Sun.