Parkland trial testimony delay, suit over college fees rejected, book reviews, and more

Around the state: Testimony in the sentencing trial for the Parkland school shooter will likely move into June instead of beginning at the end of May, a three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal rejects a potential class-action lawsuit against Miami Dade College over student fees collected during the pandemic, a majority of Manatee school board members don’t want to see Superintendent Cynthia Saunders further punished for her role in inflating district graduation rates years ago, the Lake Wales Charter School System board is investigating complaints that materials used by Lake Wales High School students for an online college class were inappropriate, Brevard school board members are working on a policy to review challenged books at the district level instead of school-by-school, Citrus school board members give their approval to proceed with a plan to hire four athletic trainers, and St. Johns school officials are dropping plans to rezone several schools after construction of a new school was postponed because of higher-than-expected bids. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: A summary of Day 6 of jury selection in the sentencing trial of Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 students and employees at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 and wounded 17 others. The pace of jury selection prompted Judge Elizabeth Scherer to say Wednesday that’s she’s open to starting testimony as late as June 13 instead of the scheduled May 31. Once a jury is seated, it will decide if Cruz gets the death penalty or life in prison. Sun Sentinel. WPLG. Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale was on lockdown Wednesday after a student was discovered with ammunition. No weapons were found. WTVJ. School officials want to fire a career and technical teacher at Piper High in Sunrise because he didn’t self-report his arrest on accusations of sexual misconduct with a student. Rafael Guzman, 37, was arrested Jan. 31. Sun Sentinel.

Orange: Five schools that will open in the fall were given names this week by the school board. Hamlin Middle School, Hamlin Elementary and Panther Lake Elementary will open in the Horizon West development. The K-8 Kelly Park School will open in Apopka, and Stonewyck Elementary School will open in the southeast part of the county. Orlando Sentinel. A student at Lake Buena Vista High School in Orlando says he was able to save the life of a coworker by using CPR that he had just learned in a class. “I don’t know if I feel like a hero, but I’m glad that I used it with her because now she’s alive,”said Daniel Navarro. WOFL.

Polk: The Lake Wales Charter School System board is investigating complaints that materials used by Lake Wales High School students for an online college class were inappropriate. The students took two classes through the National Education Equity Lab, which provides courses from such universities as Howard, Princeton, Stanford, Wharton, the University of Pennsylvania, Wesleyan, Cornell, Georgetown, Arizona State, Barnard and Harvard. Lakes Wales High principal Donna Dunson said no one raised objections when the materials were discussed last year. “If concerns had been raised, we would not have moved forward with the implementation,” Dunson wrote in a timeline. Lakeland Ledger.

Brevard: A draft policy to conduct reviews to book challenges on a district level, instead of school-by-school, is in the works. Under the proposed policy, a district-wide or a school-level review committee would be formed to respond to each book complaint. Members would include a district-level media specialist or teacher, two school media specialists at the grade level of the book in question, a principal or assistant principal at the grade level, one content specialist or resource teacher, and a parent or community member selected by each school board member. Books that are removed would stay off library shelves for four years. Florida Today.

Manatee: A majority of school board members seemed inclined to not further punish Superintendent Cynthia Saunders after she was disciplined by the Florida Education Practices Commission last month for her role in inflating graduation rates in 2014-2016, when she was the director of curriculum. After the discipline settlement was announced, both the Manatee County NAACP and Manatee County Republican Party Executive Committee called on Saunders to resign. Bradenton Times.

St. Johns: Now that the construction of a K-8 school in the northwest part of the county has been delayed because the bids came in higher than expected, the school rezonings to fill the school have been dropped at least for the time being. “Since now it (the school) may be a 2024 opening, it’s too far out to realistically consider (enrollment) numbers,” said Nicole Cubbedge, the district’s director for government and planning relations. St. Augustine Record. WJXT.

Marion: A 1st-grade teacher at Hammett Bowen Elementary School in Ocala was arrested this week after a pill bottle with the drug MDMA was found in her classroom bathroom. Administrators told a school resource officer that Hiromi Adams, 37, had been acting strangely, and a search of the bathroom turned up the drugs. She was placed on administrative leave, pending the results of an internal investigation. Ocala News. WKMG. WCJB.

Alachua: The Buchholz High School math team won its 15th state championship last weekend and will compete for its 14th national title in Alexandria, Va., July 10-15. Mainstreet Daily News. WCJB. WGFL.

Bay: The school district’s chief financial officer, Jim Lloyd, said this week he is optimistic that the nearly $2 million the district will receive from the state for teacher raises will allow Bay to improve starting teacher salaries to $47,500 for the 2022-2023 school year. Contract negotiations are expected to begin in the next few weeks. WJHG.

Charlotte: Three 8th-graders spoke before the school board this week to object to the Parental Rights in Education bill. The three, all members of the Gay Straight Alliance at Murdock Middle School, called the law vague and shared their experiences about being bullied at school. After the meeting, board chair Ian Vincent said he was impressed with them, and that their behavior “was far better than the adults who were here.” Charlotte Sun.

Citrus: School board members agreed this week to hire four athletic trainers to work 40 hours a week for 44 weeks, from Aug. 1 to May 31. They asked district staff to write a contract with the University of Florida Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Institute to hire the trainers. Citrus County Chronicle.

Colleges and universities: A potential class-action lawsuit against Miami Dade College over student fees collected during the pandemic has been rejected by a three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal. A nursing student wanted the college to refund student fees in 2020 because services the fees support were not provided during remote learning.The court said the college was shielded by sovereign immunity, which generally protects government agencies from lawsuits. News Service of Florida. Members of the community said they want to see a diverse set of candidates for the presidency of Florida International University, and that academic freedom is an important issue. The 15-member presidential search will recommend at least two candidates to the board of trustees sometime in June, and the board will pick the new president in July. The chosen candidate would start in the fall if confirmed by the Florida Board of Governors. Miami Herald. Santa Fe College has received $568,860 in state grants to expand its registered apprenticeship programs in electrical, HVAC, plumbing and carpentry, and add a new two-year program in building maintenance. Mainstreet Daily News.

Opinions on schools: The notion that public schools are being “dismantled” by charter schools is not only empirically false but also theoretically unsound. Charter schools have become more popular over the past 20 years, but the number of students enrolled in public school over the last 20 years has not changed significantly. In fact, public school funding has increased since 2000. If charter schools are trying to “dismantle” the public school system, they simply aren’t doing a very good job of it. Sean-Michael Pigeon, reimaginED. The Biden administration’s attack on public charter schools will undermine them and harm the families and students who need them. Mary Landrieu and Carlos Curbelo, The 74. Jeb Bush was the education reform governor. Charlie Crist campaigned on pocketbook issues. Rick Scott was all about jobs, jobs, jobs. Then there’s Gov. Ron DeSantis, chief of the woke police. Zach Anderson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.