Sustainability officer, superintendent applicants, $15-per-hour wage, enrollment spike, and more

Around the state: Miami-Dade’s school district plans to hire a sustainability officer to lead its response to climate change, the job as Orange County school superintendent has drawn 11 candidates but more are expected, a minimum $15-per-hour wage begins July 1 in the Polk County School District, a burst of development in Marion County could add almost 5,300 students to just four schools in the next five years, Brevard’s Charter Review Commission is considering asking voters to make the school superintendent’s job an elected one and add two at-large members to the school board, girls are still receiving the vast majority of student dress code violations a year after the St. Johns County School District code was changed, fights are anticipated over the coming selections of social studies and science textbooks for the state’s school districts, a Sarasota County class president who was told he couldn’t talk about his LGBTQ activism in his graduation speech found a workaround, and a 17-year-old Broward student graduates from both high school and and college with a bachelor’s degree in education and plans to begin teaching in the fall. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: School board members agreed last week to hire a sustainability officer for the school district. The person hired will try to improve the district’s conservation and resiliency efforts against the effects of climate change. It begins as a single position, but Superintendent Jose Dotres said, “It’s an individual that will grow a department, someone that will initiate and launch big thinking, organizing, crossing through different bureaus, across the board.” WLRN. A private school bus driver has been arrested and accused of lewd and lascivious conduct against a 7-year-old girl. Miami police said Marcelo Ortega, 67, assaulted the girl, then gave her mangoes and chips to not tell anyone. He was a driver for Kiko and Kika Bus Transportation Services. WFOR. Miami Herald. WPLG. Hialeah Gardens High School students are fighting the proposed closure of a popular dance program. The program and coach Adriana Rizzo were removed from the school district’s budget for next year because of low enrollment, according to district officials. “If there is an increase in enrollment for this course, the school may be able to sustain the program,” said a district spokesperson. Students dispute that enrollment is low, and plan to protest the decision this week at the school. WTVJ.

Broward: A 17-year-old student at SLAM Boca has graduated from high school and college this spring, becoming the first student from his school to accomplish it. Nathan Nieves received his bachelor of arts degree in elementary education from Doral College and graduated from SLAM on the same day. To get the credits he needed, Nieves took dual-enrollment and Advanced Placement courses every spring, summer and fall semester throughout high school. He wants to get his educator’s certificate this summer and begin teaching in the fall while he works on his master’s degree. WSVN. WPBF.

Hillsborough: Betty Reed, a longtime advocate for education and a member of the Florida House from 2006 until 2014 representing the Tampa Bay area, died Friday at the age of 81. She got involved in public service after joining the PTA while her children were in school. Florida Politics. Tampa Bay Times. A charter school company will provide free breakfast and lunch for its students this summer. Meals will be available at IDEA Victory in north Tampa and IDEA Hope in east Tampa from May 31 through July 22. WTSP.

Orange: Eleven educators have applied so far for the school superintendent’s position that opens this summer when Barbara Jenkins retires after 10 years of leading the district. Deputy superintendent Maria Vasquez is the only candidate from Florida. The Florida School Boards Association is conducting the search, and executive director Andrea Messina said she expects more people to apply. “We do expect some internal applicants, and just to be clear, in most of our searches, not just this one, the bulk of the applicants will come in at the end.” School board members meet Wednesday to discuss the applicants and establish a process for interviewing candidates and choosing a new superintendent by June 28. WKMG.

Palm Beach: More than 7,000 families already have signed up to receive free back-to-school supplies from the Palm Beach County’s Office of Community Revitalization and other organizations. About 3,000 more are expected to register by the end of today for the event being held July 30 across the county. Qualified students can receive get free backpacks and school supplies, haircuts, and health checks, dental screenings and more. WLRN.

Polk: The school district is raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour, a move officials hope will help relieve shortages of support employees. “We’re seeing it in the mass exodus of support staff,” said union president Stephanie Yocum. “Statewide we have about 5,000 support staff vacancies … and we’re just as impacted in Polk as other districts are.” The new pay rates take effect July 1. WFTS.

Pasco: School board members say even though there have been few book challenges in the district, a deluge is inevitable. So they’re starting to plan now on how they and the district will respond when the battles begin. Superintendent Kurt Browning said, “I don’t want this district to be in the book banning business.” He added that he supports the rights of parents to choose for their children, but draws the line at interfering with the rights of others. Tampa Bay Times. Four elementary schools are getting new principals, the district announced last week. Jennifer Jaworski will take over at Pine View, Christina Twardosz at Mittye P. Locke, Shirley Ray at Achieve Center Wesley Chapel, and Clara Craig at Woodland. The changes open up two other jobs for principals, and other changes also are expected to be made over the summer. Tampa Bay Times. Free meals will be distributed this summer by the school district at 29 schools for anyone 18 years old or younger. The service begins June 6 and continues through July 29. WFLA.

Brevard: While the County Charter Review Commission declined to change its rules to allow for the recall of school board members, it is considering other proposals that would have an impact on the school district. Among proposals under discussion are a measure to make the school superintendent an elected position, and a proposal to add two school board members who would be elected on an at-large basis. The school board now has five members, each of whom represents a defined district. “Obviously, a lot of discussion around school board this cycle,” said commission member Matt Nye, who introduced the two school-related proposals. “I was trying to come up with some possible alternatives to the recall and some of these other things.” Florida Today. Math textbooks chosen by the school district for next school year were later rejected by the state for not meeting state standards or for including prohibited content. But the chosen books have been revised to meet state standards and will be used by the district. Florida Today.

Osceola: First Lady Casey DeSantis took the opening of her anti-drug campaign last week to students at Tohopekaliga High School in Kissimmee. DeSantis said she is taking a fact-based approach in the series of school assemblies. “By giving you the facts about drugs, you make the decision for your future. Because these drugs, that the officers are seeing on the streets, they’re really scary,” she said. Florida Phoenix. WFTV.

Volusia, Flagler: About 1,500 children are on waiting lists for preschools and child-care centers in Volusia and Flagler counties because of a shortage of teachers. The Early Learning Coalition has applied for a nearly $900,000 grant that it will use to pay $500 bonuses, all education and certifications needed, and buy materials for newly hired teachers. WKMG. WESH.

Manatee: A 13-year-old district student was arrested Friday and accused of firing a gun during a fight at the Palmetto High School spring football game Wednesday. The boy is a virtual school student, said district spokesman Michael Barber. He said the district will increase security at the remaining spring football games. WFLA.

Lake: Some parents are angry that the Leesburg High School graduation ceremony started despite a rainfall forecast and continued when drizzles turned into a downpour accompanied by lightning. Several people who posted to the school’s Facebook page said the school should redo the ceremony. WKMG.

St. Johns: A year after the student dress code was revised, girls are still being cited for violations more often than boys. The total number of violations is down 40 percent, according to district data, but girls received 77 percent of the citations compared with 23 percent for boys. “They made changes on paper, but it just seems like there’s still a lot up in the air, especially as far as the administration at some schools enforcing policy more than others, and that’s concerning,” said parent Nancy Tray, who filed a federal Title IX complaint against the district. Paul Abbatinozzi, senior director for school services, agrees. “We have 40 different school principals across the district and all lead a little differently,” he said. “One goal we are working toward is to have it (the policy) enforced more consistently.” St. Augustine Record.

Sarasota: The Pine View School class president who was told by his principal that he couldn’t talk about his LGBTQ activism in his graduation speech found a workaround. Instead of speaking about his experience as a gay student or criticizing the Parental Rights in Education bill, Zander Moricz talked about his curly hair being a part of who he is, and how he learned to embrace it. WWSB.

Marion: A wave of development in the next five years is expected to add almost 5,300 students at just four southwestern county schools that are already well over capacity. Saddlewood Elementary, which has 962 students, projects 1,343 more students coming into its zone. Hammett Bowen Elementary has 852 students but expects 1,329 more students, Liberty Middle’s enrollment of 1,339 could grow by another 1,254, and West Port High is expecting to add 1,370 to its 2,748 enrollment. School board members are calling for meetings with county and city of Ocala officials and elected representatives to try to coordinate a solution. Ocala Star-Banner. Five Marion County high school seniors have been been recognized by 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. Ocala Star-Banner.

Martin: A charter high school focused on rural workforce development tailored to Indiantown’s local economy opens in the fall for up to 75 students with plans to expand each year until there are 400 students across all grade levels. Indiantown Charter High School will be operated by Indian River State College, and classes will be held at the Boys and Girls Club of Indiantown until the $25 million, 60,000-square-foot campus is completed later in 2023. WPTV.

Citrus: School board members are expected to give tentative approval Tuesday to math instruction instructional materials for the 2022-23 school year. The district had made its selections, but had to adjust when the state rejected some of the selected textbooks. A final public hearing is set for June 28. Citrus County Chronicle.

Gilchrist: A teacher at Bell Elementary School was arrested Friday and accused of sexually abusing someone younger than 12 and five counts of lewd and lascivious molestation. William Carawan Jr., 31, has worked for the school district six years. He’s been placed on administrative leave while the sheriff’s office and the Department of Children and Families investigate. Mainstreet Daily News. WGFL. WCJB.

Colleges and universities: Among the graduates from Keiser University in Naples last weekend was 94-year-old Bob Blum, who earned a degree in interdisciplinary studies and spoke at the ceremony. He attended the University of Maryland after high school graduation, but left to join the military during World War II. When he got out in 1953, he worked in sales and then started a construction company. Granddaughter Kelly Fitzgerald said it was no shock when he returned to college. “I can’t say I was surprised because he’s always doing things like this, things that should surprise people or that seemed out of the norm,” she said. Fort Myers News-Press. WWSB.

The next textbook fights: The rejection of 54 math textbooks for not meeting state standards and including what the state considered “prohibited” content such as critical race theory was just the first of what’s expected to be several pitched battles. Next up are social studies and science textbooks, and both have the potential to provoke bitter disputes. “I would hope we all can agree we want to ensure all of the instructional material and content has merit and allows our students to learn and think critically and excel,” said Sarasota school board member Bridget Ziegler, who also is a co\founder of the conservative activist group Moms for Liberty. “An onus needs to be put on publishers to understand they may not be supported or approved if there is content that is alluding to a political agenda that is not relevant to the subject.” Tampa Bay Times.

Around the nation: The Scopes “monkey trial” of 1925 could be considered a forerunner for the increasingly common use of culture wars in schools as a proxy for political battles. Politico.

Opinions on schools: Universities must return to core values involving free speech and due process. University administrators need to cease responding with panic and cowardice in the face of polarized, censorious, bad-faith actors, whether students or from outside the university. Christopher J. Ferguson, Orlando Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff