Broward reorganization plan, protests at homes curtailed, random student searches and more

Around the state: Broward’s superintendent is proposing a reorganization that she said will save the district $2.3 million, a new law signed Monday by Gov. Ron DeSantis will allow police to arrest people who protest outside private homes such as school board members, Volusia school officials are considering starting a random student search policy as part of safety protocols, a proposal to revise the Brevard County charter to allow school board members to be recalled has been rejected, high schools around the state are warning students scheduled to speak at graduation ceremonies to stay away from controversial topics, a woman who was arrested at a Marion County School Board meeting in February won’t be prosecuted, Duval school board members will get their first look at a proposed revision of the district’s LGBTQ support manual, University of North Florida trustees hire a University of South Florida dean as the new school president, and an Osceola school’s opening Monday morning was delayed by a large alligator at the front door. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Superintendent Vickie Cartwright is proposing a district reorganization that she said will save the district $2.3 million. The plan, which will be presented to the school board today, would cut 26 administrative positions but add 23 other jobs. Cartwright proposes cutting 20 jobs from the teaching and learning department, 17 from the finance department, and 8 from the student services department. The budget for the communications department, which handles public relations and marketing, would be increased by $218,000, the most of any division. John Sullivan, who is acting as the communications chief, declined to answer questions about the plan, saying only that “the superintendent looks forward to bringing the proposed organizational chart to the school board meeting. Following the meeting, if you have any questions, we’ll be happy to address them.” Sun Sentinel. The second of three phases of jury selection in the trial of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz began Monday, with prospective jurors being questioned about their views on the death penalty. Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said the process of questioning 400 potential jurors could take nine weeks. Sun Sentinel. Associated Press. WPLG. WFOR. WTVJ. Swastikas and other offensive images were discovered on the walls of a bathroom at Western High School in Davie. Police and the district are investigating. WPLG.

Hillsborough: District officials said Monday that schools will focus on early intervention to combat what they call a “pandemic” of mental health issues for students. More than 1,000 students have been evaluated by the Tampa non-profit Gracepoint, with the goal of cutting back on the number of times the Baker Act is used. “For us, we have leveraged the mental health dollars that the state of Florida has provided us to be able to provide more access to children, and … we’ve stood up additional resources in 100 schools to be able to further help … address any issues (students) have to be able to be successful academically, socially, emotionally,” said Superintendent Addison Davis. WFTS. WFLA.

Duval: School board members meet today to be briefed on proposed revisions to the district’s LGBTQ support manual. Board attorneys have been working on the revision to make sure the policy complies with Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law. “It all boils down to one paragraph in the manual, where it states that if a child indicates to a teacher about their gender identity, that the teacher wouldn’t take it any further,” said Superintendent Diana Greene. That is in conflict with the state law, which requires districts to notify parents if there is “a change in services regarding a child’s mental, emotional or physical health or well-being.” Jacksonville Today. A small group of protesters gathered outside Riverside High School in Jacksonville on Monday to lobby for the dismissal of a teacher accused of using the N-word in front of students and making homophobic comments. In a statement, district officials said, “The school and the district are aware of this allegation, and it has been reported to the district’s Office of Professional Standards.  That office will conduct a full review of the allegation, and based on those findings, the district will determine if further steps are necessary.” WTLV.

Palm Beach: Officials from the St. Joseph’s Episcopal School in Boynton Beach are going to court to try to stop their church landlord from closing the school. Church representatives recently notified parents of students that the school would close at the end of the school year. School officials contend the church is reneging on a verbal agreement made in 1994 to not displace the school for at least 99 years. A mediation meeting between the school and church is scheduled for today. WPTV.

Brevard: County Public Defender Blaise Trettis’ proposal to amend the county charter so school board members can be recalled was killed last week by members of the County Charter Review Commission. Trettis made the recall proposal in February, after board members approved a face mask mandate for students. Supporters now have to wait six years before the idea can be resubmitted for consideration. Florida Today.

Osceola: School was delayed by about a half-hour Monday morning at Michigan Avenue Elementary School in St. Cloud when a 6-foot alligator blocked the front door. Police officers and trappers secured the gator and relocated it to a nearby canal. WOFL. WESH. Orlando Sentinel.

Volusia: District officials are considering starting a random student search policy as part of their safety protocols. The first step, they said, is creating a community focus group, then taking the discussions to the school board. Some parents and students are expressing privacy concerns. WOFL. District 1 school board candidate Jaclyn Carrell recently said during an appearance on a radio show that she’s running because she is embroiled “not only in a spiritual war and a political war, but a culture war,” and to defend “Western civilization and our values as a whole.” Other candidates are incumbent board member Jamie Haynes, Georgann Carnicella and Ginny-Beth Joiner. West Volusia Beacon. Work began Monday on a makeover of the parent pickup loop at DeBary Elementary School. The current loop caused traffic backups that affected emergency vehicles. District officials expect the work to be completed by October. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Lake: A 16-year-old Leesburg High School student was arrested Friday and accused of having a loaded gun at school. According to school police, a teacher found the gun in the student’s backpack after the boy and two classmates were reported for smoking a nicotine device in class. WOFL.

Marion: A woman who was arrested at a school board meeting in February will not be prosecuted, according to the state attorney. Patricia Driscoll was escorted after the meeting when she approached the stage where board members were seated, then threw papers announcing her intent to sue the district at the stage. Driscoll said she has a video showing police using excessive force to remove her, but wouldn’t share the video because it may be used in the lawsuit. Ocala Star-Banner. The number of coronavirus cases reported by the school district is continuing its upward trend, though the total is nowhere near the record 1,014 for the week of Jan. 15-21. For the week ending May 13, the district reported 41 cases, up more than 50 percent from the previous week’s 27. Ocala Star-Banner.

Okaloosa: A new app for safety is being introduced into the school system. SaferWatch allows school employees and resource officers to report intruders, medical emergencies and more to the county 911 system with the click of a button. “I think anytime we can add a layer to keep our students safe, to keep our employees safe, that’s something we’re about,” said Superintendent Marcus Chambers. “Seconds save lives, and this is a prime example of something that can get the word out right away.” Northwest Florida Daily News.

Bay: District officials and the union representing non-instructional employees are squabbling over raises. About 78 percent of those workers make less than $15 an hour and will be bumped to that level because of a new state law raising the minimum wage for government workers. Union officials welcome those raises, but say the plan shortchanges more veteran workers who could be making the same amount as new hires. Negotiations continue June 6. WJHG. WMBB. Bay High School will place stickers over two obscene comments that were slipped into the yearbook. In one case, someone changed the word pelican into a sexual phrase on the spine of the book. In the other, a senior quote included an inappropriate sexual comment. Superintendent Bill Husfelt said stickers will be placed over the comments instead of recalling and fixing the yearbooks. WMBB.

Martin: School Superintendent John Millay spoke Monday at an event staged by the conservative activist group Moms for Liberty, answering questions about the district. “We don’t want to be adversarial,” said the group’s county co-chair Amy Pritchett, who is also a candidate for the District 4 seat on the school board. “The parents have a stake. The children have a stake. The teachers, administration — everyone wants it to work. Collaboration is the key.” Millay stressed that amid the culture wars now buffeting school districts, he takes a nonpartisan position. “I don’t take sides. I work right in the middle,” he said. “I follow the law.” TCPalm.

Citrus: Problems with insurance coverage could force an end to students in the Future Farmers of America program keeping their personal animals on school properties. Insurance covers only the school-owned FFA Club Chapter supervised animals. School board member Douglas Dodd said district officials are working to resolve the issue. Citrus County Chronicle.

Monroe: The expansion of the Carrie Brazer Center for Autism in Miami into Tavernier last year makes services more accessible to students who live in the Keys. The first class had just 10 students, but Brazer wants to expand to 100 students while keeping the 5:1 student to teacher ratio. The center is a “positive discipline” school that includes an intensive early intervention program, life skills and vocational training, music therapy and more. reimaginED.

Colleges and universities: Moez Limayem, a dean of the University of South Florida’s business college, has been unanimously chosen by trustees as the new president of the University of North Florida. The state Board of Governors is expected to vote on Limayem’s appointment at its next meeting June 29-30. If approved, Limayem replace interim president Pamela Chally, who took over when David Szymanski resigned in September to become the CEO and executive director for UNF MedNexus, a university-based medical and healthcare program. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. WJXT. WUSF. Politico Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Gov. DeSantis announced Monday that $125 million is being earmarked for nursing education. About $100 million will go to fund higher education and workforce education programs for nursing, and $25 million will be used to reward colleges and universities for the success of their programs. Politico Florida. WFTV. WESH.

Graduation cautions: High schools around the state are warning students scheduled to speak at graduation ceremonies to stay away from controversial topics. In Broward County, for instance, small committees made up of teachers and administrators are reviewing speeches and trying to steer students to stay away from such subjects as LGBTQ issues and the state’s new Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits K-3 teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity. While students complain they’re being censored, legal experts said districts are generally within their rights to try to regulate speaking topics. Sun Sentinel. Meanwhile, the fight over the Parental Rights in Education bill is intensifying among students and in schools. Politico Florida.

Home protests blocked: A new law signed Monday by Gov. DeSantis will allow police to arrest people who protest outside private homes, such as school board members, with the intent of harassing or disturbing that person. “Sending unruly mobs to private residences, like we have seen with the angry crowds in front of the homes of Supreme Court justices, is inappropriate,” DeSantis said in a prepared statement. “This bill will provide protection to those living in residential communities and I am glad to sign it into law.” Critics contend the law is a violation of the First Amendment’s right to assemble and protest. Orlando Sentinel. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. Associated Press.

Around the nation: The U.S. Department of Education said it will allow schools and districts to apply for extensions to finish building improvements funded by federal coronavirus relief aid. The deadline was set in September 2024, but districts had worried that inflation and supply chain challenges would keep them from meeting the deadline. Now they can apply for extensions until April 2026. Chalkbeat. Even as scores on the ACT have declined slightly since 2016, grade point averages continued to go up throughout the pandemic, according to a study by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. “The heart of the problem is that there aren’t any standards or guidelines for grading in most places,” said Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “Teachers are on their own, and don’t get much, if any, guidance. Nor do they get much training in schools.” The 74.

Opinions on schools: The school choice movement has much to learn from the Cold War. It’s a long struggle. Fatigue sets in, and it is easy to get distracted. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. Just as they did with workplace-based early childhood education programs, smart employers will recognize that offering onsite K-12 micro-schools will be an effective way to attract and retain talented employees. Kerry McDonald, Foundation for Economic Freedom. There is a demonstrable inverse relationship between increasing state control of curriculum content and the sharply diving value of degrees granted. Bruce Anderson, Lakeland Ledger. Those who will suffer most in the culture wars are the students, bewildered and betrayed by the decisions of adults they trusted. The clash over yearbook content in Seminole County ended in a moment of triumph, but it left a lingering fear. More pain lies ahead for students across Florida, and they did nothing to deserve it. Sun Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff