Top state administrator finalists, district and charter schools partner in Pasco, and more

Around the state: Finalists are named for the Florida principal and assistant principal of the year awards, Miami-Dade schools choose their top office employee and paraprofessional school support worker of the year, Palm Beach school board members approve a rezoning plan to relieve overcrowding at three schools and fill one that opens in the fall, at least 19 candidates have applied to replace Pinellas’ retiring superintendent, a Christian school in Tampa is appealing a court decision that ruled against its lawsuit that its rights were violated when its request to broadcast a pregame prayer was denied by a state organization, and Pasco school district officials are partnering with charter school officials to deal with enrollment growth. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Analy Rodriguez, a secretary and treasurer at Blue Lakes Elementary School in Miami, was named this week as the school district’s office employee of the year. Latisha Lewis, who works at Robert Morgan Educational Center & Technical College, was chosen as the district’s paraprofessional school support worker of the year. WSVN. Parents of students at the Key Biscayne K-8 Center are organizing to demand more services for students with disabilities. Islander News.

Broward: Another fight this week at Gulfstream Academy on Hallandale Beach has prompted parents to pressure school officials to make changes, starting with replacing principal Tarshe Freeman. Lisa Maxwell, the executive director for the Broward Principals and Assistants Association, which represents Freeman, said the school may have security flaws but that those issues are the responsibility of the school district’s security staff, not the principal. WPLG.

Hillsborough: A Tampa Christian school is appealing a federal judge’s ruling that its First Amendment rights were not violated when the Florida High School Athletic Association’s denied its request to broadcast a prayer before a state championship football game in 2015. Cambridge Christian School is asking the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the decision because it claims the FHSAA displayed “viewpoint discrimination and arbitrariness” in its decision. News Service of Florida.

Palm Beach: School board members have approved a plan to rezone three schools in Boca Raton to fill the new Blue Lake Elementary School. About 800 students will be moved from Calusa Elementary, and the elementary grades at the K-8 schools Addison Mizner and Verde to relieve overcrowding and fill the new school. Palm Beach Post. School district police are working with the sheriff’s office to try to find the person who shot a 17-year-old boy at a senior medical center across the street from John I. Leonard High School on Wednesday. The victim is in stable but critical condition. WPTV.

Polk: A new charter school has been proposed in Davenport, and nine other charters in the district are making plans to expand. Mater Academy, a not-for-profit Charter Management Organization, wants to open a K-12 school in Davenport. Three other charters will add grades under a state statute that gives high-performing charters the authority to do so if they stay within their building capacity. Two other charters’ expansion plans will need the approval of the school board, as will three schools in the Lake Wales Charter School System. Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: At least 19 candidates have applied to be the school district’s next superintendent. Fifteen have doctoral degrees, and eight have experience as educational administrators in the state. Among the candidates is Kevin Hendrick, the district’s associate superintendent for teaching and learning. School board members will begin to narrow the field at an April 20 meeting, with the intended goal of choosing a new superintendent in May. Michael Grego, superintendent for the past 10 years, is retiring July 1. Tampa Bay Times.

Lee: Construction is scheduled to begin this summer on a $60 million renovation of Riverdale High School in Fort Myers. The two-year project includes adding more parking for students and staff, redesigning the car line, renovating a science lab and a building a new gym and locker rooms for the 50-year-old school. Revenue from the half-cent sales tax increase voters passed in 2018 will be used to pay for the project. WFTX.

Pasco: District school officials are planning to partner with local charter school leaders to deal with enrollment growth. “The war between public and charter schools is over,” said deputy superintendent Ray Gadd. “Charter schools are here to stay, and we want to work with them, especially the local ones that we know well.” The agreements call for charters to build and manage the school, but include a “step-in” clause that allows the district to operate the facility as a public school if anything goes wrong and the charter school closes. reimaginED.

Brevard: The school board has yet to officially decide whether to ask voters to approve a proposed property tax increase for teacher raises and other expenses to place on the November ballot, and opponents are already preparing a campaign to oppose it. “The public has lost all trust,” said parent Katie Delaney. “And now you’re asking us for more of our hard-earned money when we’re spending $5 a gallon on gas and a loaf of bread is $5. People can barely feed their families right now, and now you want to tax them more. It’s not right.” The board is expected to vote on the proposal April 26. Florida Today.

Osceola: School officials have warned parents that there are likely to be school bus delays today because they expect many drivers to call in sick for the holiday weekend, which will add to the existing shortage of drivers. Arby Creach, the district’s transportation director, said the district has 242 daily bus runs but only 212 drivers. WOFL. WKMG. WESH.

Seminole: A Lake Howell High School JROTC instructor’s conviction on a 2018 charge of custodial authority when he allegedly had sex with a 17-year-old girl has been overturned by a three-judge panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal. Judges agreed with the teacher, Bryan Teet, when he argued he didn’t have custodial authority. “This result was self-inflicted by the state’s decision to charge Teet as it did,” said the judges. “There were other offenses available that did not involve the element of custodial authority.” News Service of Florida.

Manatee: Three school board races will be decided Aug. 23 under the single-member district representation system approved by voters in 2018. Only residents who live in the redrawn districts 2, 4 and 5 can vote for their representative. In District 2, Susan Agruso and Harold E. Byrd Jr. are the only candidates for the seat held by Charlie Kennedy, who has not filed for re-election. Chad Choate and Garin C. Hoover are candidates for the District 4 seat, and District 5 incumbent James T. Golden is being challenged by Richard William Tatem. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Marion: Nine Fort King Middle School students were arrested and 13 were suspended after four fights at the school Wednesday. District officials said the fights were started when students made threats on social media. WKMG.

St. Lucie: T-Mobile has filed a lawsuit to try to prevent the school district from selling two 2.5GHz spectrum licenses to its competitor, the investment firm WCO Spectrum. The cell phone operator has a lease until 2038 for those two licenses, which provide the underpinning for T-Mobile’s 5G network. T-Mobile alleges that its leasing agreement prevents the school from selling its licenses to WCO. Light Reading.

Leon: District officials will use federal coronavirus relief aid to hold summer school programs aimed at recovering learning loss and helping high school students earn credits needed for graduation. Students will receive intensive reading and math instruction. They’ll also be transported to schools and receive free breakfasts and lunches. Tallahassee Democrat.

Alachua: Records from a land deal between the school district and two real estate agents have been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury. The real estate agents have been accused of inflating the price for a 37-acre property being sold to the school district, in order to increase their commission. The agents have denied the charges. Gainesville Sun. Changes are being proposed in the school district’s operation of Camp Crystal Lake. The expenses of the camp, which offers day-long field trips for 2nd-graders and three-day overnight trips for 5th-graders as well as a summer camp, exceed revenues and participation does not reflect the demographics of the school district. Questions were raised about the camp operations by former superintendent Carlee Simon, and were echoed this week by district finance chief Alex Rella. WUFT.

Charlotte: A pilot program for electrocardiogram tests will be launched at Lemon Bay High School after the school board signed an agreement this week with Who We Play For Inc. of Cocoa Beach. That group will test Lemon Bay student-athletes for heart health. If the pilot program is successful, it could be expanded to include Port Charlotte High School and Charlotte High School. Charlotte Sun.

Colleges and universities: One of the provisions of H.B. 7 that ties into the state budget will place restrictions on race-related instruction in public universities and colleges, and threaten to cut funds to those schools that violate the new regulations. Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the bill.  Miami Herald. The University of Florida has seven Fulbright scholars this year, the fourth-most of any university in the country. Fulbright is a cultural exchange program between the United States and more than 150 countries. WUFT.

Top administrator finalists: Three finalists have been named for both the Florida principal of the year and assistant principal of the year awards. The finalists for the top principal are: Amy Archer of Garden Elementary School in Sarasota County; Carolyn Davis of Rutledge H. Pearson Elementary in Duval County; and Jenni Ellis of Everglades Elementary in Okeechobee County. Finalists for the assistant principal of the year are: Sarah Ray of Wildlight Elementary in Nassau County; Sarah Dobbs of Oakcrest Elementary in Marion County; and Stacia Werner of Beverly Shores Elementary in Lake County. Florida Department of Education. Patch. Ocala-News.

Around the nation: An “action plan” was announced Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education to reduce racial disparity in K-12 schools and colleges by improving academic achievement and boosting funding for children of color who have fallen behind their peers. Florida Phoenix. The 63 percent increase in home-schooled students during the first year of the pandemic in 2020 dropped by only 17 percent in 2021, according to records kept by 18 states. Associated Press. A new poll shows a stark divide between Republicans and Democrats on how much racial and sexual issues should be discussed in schools. Associated Press. A political action committee has been launched by the Parent Party to financially back candidates who “support school choice and oppose defund the police policies.” Founder Patrick Donohue said, “Our goal is to empower parents.” Politico. Almost 50 years after the Title IX law was passed to achieve equity between girls and boys sports, the system still favors boys, according to a review of conditions across the country. Associated Press.

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BY NextSteps staff