State sets rules for social studies textbooks, final two teacher of year candidates revealed, and more

Next, social studies texts: The state has begun shopping for social studies textbooks, and is telling publishers that including concepts such as critical race theory and social justice in them will be prohibited. Bids will be accepted starting June 10 to supply social studies books for a five-year period starting in 2023. Florida Department of Education officials have posted a 29-page document online that specifically lists topics that are expected in the books, and to be left out. “Critical race theory, social justice, culturally responsive teaching, social and emotional learning, and any other unsolicited theories that may lead to student indoctrination are prohibited,” the document reads. It also describes “potential CRT components,” such as the concept that a person “bears responsibility for, or should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of, actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin,” and that “social justice is closely aligned to CRT.” In April, the state rejected 41 percent of the math textbooks submitted. Many publishers made revisions to comply with state law, and this week state officials said 88 percent of math textbooks have now been approved. News Service of Florida. Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher of the year finalists: The final two contenders for the Florida Department of Education’s teacher of the year award were announced Thursday. Melissa Anne Matz, a 7th-grade math teacher at Lakeside Junior High School in Clay County, and Trinity Brooke Whittington, a 4th-grade English language arts and social studies teacher at Bell Elementary School in Gilchrist County, round out the field of five finalists. They join Deelah Jackson, a 4th-grade teacher at Samoset Elementary School in Bradenton; Jennifer Jaso, a 6th-grade social studies teacher at Sarasota Middle School; and Seema Naik, a 4th-grade teacher at Eagle Ridge Elementary School in Broward County. The winner will be announced July 14. WGFL. WCJB. WJAX. Florida Department of Education. Florida Department of Education.

Mental health bill signed: School districts will be required to notify parents about additional mental-health resources available for students who are already receiving services under a bill signed into law this week by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The requirement can be met by schools providing parents with Internet addresses for online directories or guides for local behavioral-health services. News Service of Florida. Florida Phoenix.

Around the state: Voters in Miami-Dade County will be asked Nov. 8 to renew a school property tax that is projected to raise $395 million a year so school employees can be better compensated, the wife of Miami-Dade’s new superintendent has been hired by the district to a six-figure job, Alachua County school officials are apologizing for mistakenly sending an active shooter alert e-mail Thursday morning to parents, graduation caps and gowns have arrived for two Lee County high schools, a Marion County community has lobbied for 20 years to have a road to a neighborhood school paved, and a quadriplegic Miami Dade College student uses new brain implant technology to drive a race car this week. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Voters will be asked Nov. 8 to renew a school property tax so the district can pay employees more to attract and retain teachers and school safety staff. The referendum received backing from more than 70 percent of voters in 2018, but expires June 30, 2023. If approved, the tax renewal is expected to raise $395 million a year. WLRN. School board members have approved hiring the wife of the new superintendent to a job paying between $101,335 and $154,000 a year. Maribel Bruscantini Dotres, who is married to Superintendent Jose Dotres, is a longtime principal and administrator with experience in Miami-Dade and Collier counties. She’s been hired into an existing position as the administrative director of professional development and evaluation. A district spokeswoman said her hiring does not violate school board policy because her immediate supervisor will be an assistant superintendent. Miami Herald. A gay teacher in Miami said she struggled for years to gain acceptance from her colleagues, and when the new Parental Rights in Education law was signed she decided it was time to find another job. Washington Post. A Miami middle school teacher who allegedly pursued a romantic relationship with a former student has been arrested and charged with offenses against students by authority figures. Police said Sean David Loret de Mola, 37, a teacher at Glades Middle School has been talking with the student on social media for the past year, but she became alarmed when his interest changed from friendly to romantic, and she reported the contact to the school. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ.

Broward, Palm Beach: Twenty-eight high school seniors from Broward and Palm Beach counties have been awarded scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Program. Students are chosen by their academic records, scores from the preliminary SAT or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, and contributions and leadership in school and community activities. Sun Sentinel. A reading teacher at William T. Dwyer Community High School in Palm Beach Gardens has been honored for rescuing a student in her class in January. Khamisi Guadalupe began the Heimlich maneuver when she noticed the boy choking on a piece of gum. WPTV.

Hillsborough: A student who was accidentally run over by a parent in a pickup truck at Webb Middle School in Tampa this week is recovering at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Sheriff’s deputies said the parent was cited for careless driving. WFLA.

Pinellas: More than 120 students from Hollins, Lakewood and Boca Ciega high schools have received checks for $500 for improving their reading skills and grade point averages and surpassing benchmarks set at the beginning of the year. The $123,000 payout in the Paid for Grades program was funded by Chargebacks911. St. Pete Catalyst. WFLA.

Lee: Graduation caps and gowns arrived Thursday for students who are graduating this weekend from Fort Myers and Mariner high schools. Earlier in the week, supplier Herff Jones said it couldn’t guarantee delivery before commencement ceremonies this weekend, citing shortages and supply chain issues. Fort Myers News-Press. Some parents and at least one school board member are angry about photos in the North Fort Myers High School yearbook that show student-held signs protesting the new Parental Rights in Education law. “My gay moms could take Ron DeSantis,” read one. Lee County School Board chair Debbie Jordan said students were just exercising their free speech, but colleague Melisa Giovannelli said printing the photos in the yearbook “shows poor judgment on administrators and the staff.” WINK.

Seminole: District officials said the high school truancy rate has spiked during the pandemic, going from 15 percent in the 2018-2019 school year to 22 percent this year. At Seminole High, the rate is 26 percent. The district is calling and e-mailing missing students, and even talking to their friends. WFTV.

Lake: An Oak Park Middle School math teacher has been arrested and accused of sexual battery on a boy older than 12 but younger than 18. Deputies said Keith R. Moulton, 35, assaulted the boy in April in the teacher’s home. Moulton has been placed on administrative leave and the district will recommend to the school board that he be fired. Daily Commercial. WKMG. WOFL. WESH. WFTV.

Marion: Residents in the Weirsdale community said they’re tired of waiting for the road leading to the Stanton-Weirsdale Elementary School to be paved. They’ve been making the request for at least 20 years. The road floods often, and there are no stop signs at the end of the road, causing safety concerns. Board member Don Browning said he’s tried to get the road paved. “Crosswalk, blinking light, 20 miles an hour sign at other schools but down here at this historic black school none of the above,” he said. WCJB.

Leon: A 15-year-old Godby High School student was arrested this week after an administrator noticed he was wearing a Taser attached to a lanyard around his neck. He’s at least the 11th district student to be arrested since the school year began for possession of a weapon on school property. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL.

Alachua: District officials are apologizing for mistakenly sending an active shooter alert to parents Thursday morning. District spokeswoman Jackie Johnson said the e-mail alert was only a “test” and was not intended to be sent to anyone other than a handful of district employees. “We’re still trying to sort out how this all happened,” Johnson said. Gainesville Sun. WGFL. WOFL. WCJB. Mainstreet Daily News.

Bay: More than 600 students have signed up for summer school, and district officials said they expect the highest summer attendance ever. “We’ve had lots of students that have missed due to COVID, have some big attendance gaps and have missed lots of instruction,” said secondary and adult services director Alana Simmons. WMBB.

Martin: Superintendent John Millay said the district has completed its investigation into a photo of six middle school students holding up signs that spell out a racial slur, and that the students responsible are being disciplined. “We are deeply aware of the hurt and pain this photograph has caused our community, especially our black American residents and students,” Millay said in a statement. “As we have said previously, this incident is in complete opposition to our values and the ideals that we instill in our students. … We assure our community, however, that the district will address this incident consistent with its adopted policies as stated in the Code of Student Conduct.” No further details were released. WPTV. WPEC.

Colleges and universities: A Miami Dade College student who is a quadriplegic drove a race car around a Colorado track this week using only his thoughts to control the car. German Aldana Zuniga was using brain implant technology created by Falci Adaptive Motorsports and the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, which is part of the University of Miami. Miami Herald. Gulf Coast State College received a donation of $2.5 million this week, the largest gift in its history. Julie Hilton gave the money to create the Hilton Hospitality Management & Tourism Program at the Panama City college. A million dollars will be used to expand the hospitality and tourism program, $1 million will go to installing a hospitality and tourism expert on staff, and $500,000 will be used for student scholarships. WMBB. WJHG.

Teacher math instruction: Aspiring teachers are not getting enough elementary math instruction in college, according to a review conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality. The council recommends students receive a minimum of 45 instructional hours on math pedagogy and 105 instructional hours on math content. In Florida, students get just 40 hours of instruction in math content, last among the states. Education Week.

Opinions on schools: There’s no compelling reason for Florida to opt out of the CDC’s long-running youth risk survey. State officials should reverse course, rather than start from scratch with their own at such a critical time. Reliable data is needed now to identify growing areas of concern, provide support through schools for at-risk teens and inform public policy and fiscal decisions to protect young Floridians’ health and safety. Tampa Bay Times. How we spend our money is irrefutable proof of what we value. Words are  no substitute for real, measurable action. If educating the future generation is one of the most important jobs a society undertakes, shouldn’t we properly reward those who do it? Ana Veciana-Suarez, Miami Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff