DOE names top principal and assistant principal, just 15 apply to lead Orange schools, and more

Top principal, assistant principal: Carolyn Davis of Rutledge H. Pearson Elementary School in Duval County has been named the 2022 Florida principal of the year, the Florida Department of Education announced Monday. The other finalists were Jennifer Ellis of Everglades Elementary School in Okeechobee County and Amy Archer of Garden Elementary School in Sarasota County. Davis wins a $3,500 prize, while Ellis and Archer receive $1,500 each. DOE officials also announced Stacia Werner of Beverly Shores Elementary School in Lake County as the state’s assistant principal of the year. The other finalists were Sarah Dobbs of Oakcrest Elementary School in Marion County and Sarah Ray of Wildlight Elementary School in Nassau County. Werner receives a $2,500 prize, while Dobbs and Ray receive $1,000 each. Florida Department of Education.

Around the state: Only 15 people apply for the Orange County superintendent’s job, 10 potential jurors were dismissed in the Parkland school shooter’s sentencing trial because of a message on a shirt worn by one of them, more than 330 Duval students have been Baker Acted since January 2020, Polk school board members approve a plan to add high school grades to McLaughlin Middle School and Fine Arts Academy, Brevard school board members will consider changing the process of renaming schools, bonuses ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 have been approved for Leon County teachers, and a second graduation ceremony was held for a Lake County high school after rain spoiled the first one for students and their parents. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Jury selection for the sentencing trial of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz was delayed briefly on Monday when a prospective juror wore a shirt that said “Teacher Strong” in big letters and “#NeverAgain” and “#MSDStrong” in smaller type. She and nine other potential jurors were dismissed over concerns that they could have been prejudiced by the shirt. Proceedings were ended early after another lawyer became ill. Jury selection is expected to resume today, depending on the attorney’s illness. Sun Sentinel. Associated Press. WPLG. WTVJ. A 13-year-old student at Ramblewood Middle School in Coral Springs has been arrested and accused of having a pellet gun at school Monday. He was charged with disrupting a school function and possession of a firearm on school grounds. Sun Sentinel. WPLG. WSVN.

Hillsborough: Professional wrestler Chris Jericho said the school district has refused for months to take any action to stop the bullying of his niece at Mulrennan Middle School in Valrico, and has taken to Twitter and speaking to national outlets to criticize the district. “Hey @HillsboroughSch – My niece has been incessantly bullied at #MulrennanMiddleSchool for months. Despite my families pleas, nobody did anything to help,” he tweeted Sunday night. He also shared a video of the young woman being stomped while lying on the ground as a dozen other watched. District officials said the incident in the video happened off school property, and said in a statement, “There is much more to this story that we cannot share because of student privacy laws. As soon as this incident occurred, administrators immediately acted, and discipline was handed down. In a situation like this, discipline can range from out of school suspension to expulsion.” WTVT. New York Post. TMZ.

Orange: Only 15 people applied for the soon-to-open school superintendent’s job, and just two of them are from Florida. The number of candidates is far below what the district might have expected a few years ago, said Andrea Messina, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, which is running the search. “The numbers for superintendent applicants are going way down across the country,” she said. “It’s not as a desirable a job as it once was.” Florida applicants to replace the retiring Barbara Jenkins are Maria Vasquez, an Orange deputy superintendent who has Jenkins’ support, and Peter Licata, a regional superintendent for the Palm Beach County School District. School board members will discuss the candidates Wednesday, and expect to name a new superintendent by the end of June. Orlando Sentinel. The district will distribute free breakfast and lunch this summer at 224 locations to children 18 and younger. The program begins May 31 at some schools and June 1 at others, and continues through July 31. WKMG.

Duval: More than 330 district students have been involuntarily committed for mental health observation under the Baker Act since January 2020, according to records maintained by the University of South Florida. A district crisis response team is responsible for 154 of those commitments, and sheriff’s deputies 116. Some parents complain that they are being notified by schools at the same time as deputies or crisis response teams, and that their children are often gone before they can get to the school. WJAX. The Bolles School is planning to add a $25 million building on its upper school San Jose campus to house science, math and technology departments. Construction is scheduled to begin next month and be completed within two years. WJAX.

Polk: School board members have unanimously approved adding high school grades to McLaughlin Middle School and Fine Arts Academy over the next four years. Ninth grade will be added in August, and another grade will be added in each of the following three years. The first senior class will graduate in 2026. District officials said the change will make better use of available space at the school and prepare it to accept new students expected because of growth in the area. Lakeland Ledger.

Brevard: School board members will discuss today whether to change the process for considering school name changes. School Board member Matt Susin said a new policy is needed after bitter debates over renaming Melbourne High School for a Hispanic astronaut with thin ties to the county and Andrew Jackson Middle School because of Jackson’s ownership and treatment of slaves and his role in the forced relocation of 60,000 native Americans, called the Trail of Tears. Neither idea received much support. Under current policy, a single resident has the power to request a change, which triggers an 18-month process. Susin wants the policy changed to require signed petitions before any name change is considered. Florida Today.

Osceola: A 49-year-old man has been arrested and is accused of exposing himself to students at Bellalago Academy in Poinciana while they were at recess. Deputies said Luis Davila-Quinones has been charged with lewd and lascivious exhibition and violation of probation. WFTV. WESH.

Lake: After rain spoiled the graduation experience for Leesburg High School students and parents last week, school officials decided to hold another ceremony indoors on Monday. Rain fell on students as they collected their diplomas Friday, and parents headed for their cars when lightning moved into the area. The downside to the indoor ceremony was that students could only have three guests. WKMG. A 15-year-old Mount Dora Middle School student has been arrested and accused of having a loaded handgun at school. The boy was taken to the principal’s office when he was reported smoking on the soccer field at lunch. While there, his backpack was searched and a school resource officer found a 9mm handgun loaded with 13 rounds of ammunition. Daily Commercial. WKMG. WOFL.

Leon: At their meeting Monday, school board members approved bonuses for district teachers. The bonuses range from $1,500 for teachers with less than nine years of experience to $3,000 for those who have taught for 30 years or more. About $4 million will be paid out to almost 2,300 teachers. WCTV.

Charlotte: Real estate agent Jim Barber has announced he’s a candidate for the District 4 seat on the school board. Ian Vincent currently holds the seat, but is not running for re-election. Retired principal James LeClair is also a candidate for the seat. Barber, 52, said he decided to run after “watching school boards deny parents their rights to send their children to school as they saw fit during COVID.” Charlotte Sun.

Levy: Some Cedar Key parents are protesting what they call bullying of their children by Cedar Key School officials. A student who said she saw a sexual encounter between two administrators was suspended after she reported it. Protesters want the administrators fired. Superintendent Chris Cowart said in a statement, “This has been thoroughly investigated by our HR department. It was found to have no merit, and this false accusation is an unfair claim against two people with spotless professional records.” WCJB.

Bradford: A district student has been hospitalized for injuries suffered when a school bus was sideswiped by a semi-truck driver who then drove away Monday morning in Hampton. WCJB.

Colleges and universities: Florida State University’s Dedman College of Hospitality has received an anonymous $4.15 million gift that it will use to renovate and set up a scholarship program for first-generation students. Tallahassee Reports. A recently released University of Central Florida investigation has concluded that provost Elizabeth Dooley resigned in 2020 for abusing her power to help her husband find a job, for making disparaging comments about white people and other misconduct. Dooley remains as a tenured member of the faculty and is paid $394,503 a year. Florida Politics.

Around the nation: The National School Board Association said it now regrets taking sides in the political fight over COVID-19 rules and critical race theory in schools, and for asking for federal law enforcement’s help in dealing with threats of violence to U.S. schools and their education leaders. The National Desk. U.S. teachers say they are confused by new laws in Florida and other states restricting what they can say and teach about sexual orientation and gender identity, and are worried that simply helping students could cost them their jobs. The Hechinger Report.

Opinions on schools: Nearly 70 years after Brown v. Board of Education rewrote the rules of American K-12 education, pundits and academics are still debating its legacy. And despite nearly universal agreement over the shame and damage done by segregation and resistance to integration, some refuse to reflect deeply on the very flaws of the public institutions and policies they support today. Patrick R. Gibbons, reimaginED. No silver bullet will solve the transportation challenges brought about by increasing public school choice. But if state policymakers place greater responsibility for transportation on public education providers and give school districts greater flexibility to find solutions, school choice will be more attainable for more families. Christian Barnard, The 74.

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BY NextSteps staff