CRT suit hearing, chiefs mascot retired, public aid for religious schools okayed by top court, and more

Around the state: A federal judge said he would rule in the next few days in the challenge to the law that prohibits schools from teaching critical race theory and businesses from using it in training, Hillsborough’s school board approves a high school’s recommendation to stop using its Native American mascot, jury selection could conclude this week in the sentencing trial of the Parkland school shooter, Orange County School Board members interview the two finalists for the superintendent’s job, a Seminole County School Board meeting was interrupted when Pride Month supporters began singing during their appeal to board members to issue a proclamation recognizing the month, the Volusia County School District is reporting a shortage of school nurses, University of Florida graduate assistants are locked in a dispute with the school over pay, and a Sarasota school board candidate said she won’t attend a campaign event being hosted by a man with ties to the Proud Boys group. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said Tuesday that a jury for the sentencing trial of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz could be seated by the end of the week, with motions being heard next week and testimony starting July 5. The trial, which will decide whether Cruz is executed or spends his life in prison, is expected to last through October. WPLG. WTVJ. WPTV. Summarizing Day 20 of jury selection in the sentencing trial of Cruz, who has admitted killing 17 students and employees and wounding 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. Sun-Sentinel.

Hillsborough, Tampa Bay area: Chamberlain High School will begin the process to replace its “Chiefs” mascot after school board members gave their approval at Tuesday’s meeting. The action came despite a petition signed by more than 6,000 people opposing the change. Members of the school’s Student Government Association recommended retiring the mascot after talking with Native American parents who supported the change and alumni leaders who opposed it. Tampa Bay Times. WFTS. WFLA. School board members also approved the appointment of new principals at 17 schools. Tampa Bay Times. Tampa Bay area school districts are offering expanded summer programs aimed at preschoolers to prepare them for kindergarten. Tampa Bay Times. Hillsborough schools are spending $10 million to broaden the emotional wellness services it’s offering to summer school students. Spectrum News 13.

Orange: The two finalists for the superintendent’s job made their cases to be hired during interviews Tuesday with members of the school board. Maria Vazquez, deputy superintendent for the school district, talked about programs she helped develop to improve college and career pathways. She said her parents, both Cuban immigrants, “instilled in me that education was the most valuable currency I had and I couldn’t squander it. I am living proof of what a quality education can do to transform lives.” Peter Licata, a regional superintendent for the Palm Beach County School District, said he would focus on hiring hiring high-quality teachers, and building on the district’s diversity and inclusion programs. He said he is inspired by his father, who was a south Florida teacher, and his grandchildren who attend Florida schools. School board members expect to make their final decision June 28 on a replacement for Barbara Jenkins, who announced in February that she was retiring in December after 10 years as superintendent. Orlando Sentinel. WMFE. WESH.

Seminole: Several people who are urging school board members to issue a proclamation or to just acknowledge Pride Month interrupted Tuesday’s school board meeting by breaking into a song. “There are only nine days left in Pride Month,” said one parent. “Are you going to stand on the right side of history or will you choose to cower once again behind desk and let your inaction traumatize your LGBTQ+ students and faculty once again? This board needs to do better.” Board members declined to post support for Pride Month on social media, and will discuss the district’s policy on issuing proclamations at next month’s meeting. WOFL.

Volusia: The school district has 19 openings for school nurses, the highest number of vacancies at this time of year than any in the past 23, said Debbie Fisher, coordinator of student health services. The problem is the pay, which has skyrocketed during the pandemic for many nurses. School nurses make between $16.92 to $35.60 an hour, depending on their certification. But many are leaving to become travel nurses, Fisher said, where they can make $60 to $75 an hour. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The district is again offering free meals throughout the summer to all students 18 years old or younger. Meals are available for pickup at nine schools in Daytona Beach, seven in Port Orange, six in Deltona, five in DeLand, three in Orange City and in New Smyrna Beach, and at single schools in DeLeon Springs, Edgewater, Enterprise, Holly Hill, Ormond Beach, Osteen, Pierson and South Daytona. Visit summerbreakspot.org for more information. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

St. Johns: Three school board seats are on the primary ballot Aug. 23. In District 1, incumbent Bev Slough will face Racheal Hand and Nancy Tray. In District 3, Lauren Abell, Rita Baldwin, Jennifer Collins and Doug Russo will complete to replace Bill Mignon, who is not running for re-election. If no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the two top finishers move on to the runoff Nov. 8. And in District 4, incumbent Kelly Barrera is being challenged by Yvonne Lockbaum. St. Augustine Record.

Sarasota: District 4 school board candidate Robyn Marinelli said Tuesday that she will not attend a campaign event hosted in part by a man who appears to identify with the local chapter of the Proud Boys. Marinelli said last week she didn’t know James Hoel. Her campaign manager, Collin Thompson, didn’t say whether the event had been canceled or was planned as a fund-raiser. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Marion: The school board is asking the public for help in naming a new early learning academy opening in August at the former Evergreen Elementary School in Ocala. Eight options are given in the online poll: Bright Star Learning, Bright Stars Early Learning Academy, Bright Stars Elementary, Brick City Early Learning Academy, First Light Academy, Fordham Early Learning Academy, H.O.P.E. (Helping Our Pupils Excel) Academy, and Marion Early Learning Academy. The deadline to vote is 5 p.m. Thursday. School board members will choose a name June 28. WCJB. WFTV.

Leon: The three candidates for the District 1 school board seat talk about why they’re running for the board and what they anticipate their role would be as a board member. Alva Striplin, the incumbent running for her third term, is being challenged by Marianna Arbulu, a former superintendent of the Jefferson County School District, and IT specialist Anthony DeMarco. The primary is Aug. 23. Tallahassee Democrat.

Jackson: School district officials have announced changes in sites where students 18 years old and younger can get free meals throughout the summer. Starting tomorrow and continuing until July 28, Marianna K-8 School will stop providing meals after noon, and Marianna High School will open for breakfast starting June 27. WJHG.

Colleges and universities: University of Florida graduate assistants are protesting the school’s contract offer to pay them $22,500 for a 12-month contract and at least $17,000 for a nine-month contract, with bonuses of $1,150 for those making less than $18,500 and a 3 percent raise across the board. The graduate assistants’ union wants at least $27,900 for 12-month contracts and $20,000 for nine-month contracts. WUFT. Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota is being sued by eight alumni who charge the school “breached its duty to provide a safe campus environment by failing to protect its student population from the mishandling of student-on-student reports of sexual assault, sexual harassment, threats of violence, and stalking” after they were allegedly discriminated against by a former associate dean of students. Charlotte Sun. WWSB.

CRT court hearing: A lawsuit brought against the “Stop WOKE Act” that would restrict critical race theory from being taught in schools or used in workplace training was heard Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee. A group of plaintiffs that includes two high school teachers, a professor at the University of Central Florida and a soon-to-be kindergartner from Nassau County, claims that the law violates the First Amendment and is therefore unconstitutional, and are asking for a preliminary injunction to stop it from taking effect July 1. The state is asking that the case be dismissed. Walker said he plans on announcing a ruling in the next few days. News Service of Florida. WPTV. Politico Florida.

Around the nation: Since Maine provides public money for rural high school students to attend private schools, it cannot prohibit public funds from being used for students to attend religious schools, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a 6-3 decision. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the conservative majority, said that the state’s decision to exclude religious schools from its tuition assistance program promotes “stricter separation of church and state than the federal constitution requires. … A state need not subsidize private education. But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious,” he wrote. The decision is expected to have consequences for states with public tuition-based programs. Bangor Daily News. Associated Press. New York Times. NPRK-12 Dive. Politico. The 74. Chalkbeat. A $3 billion bipartisan deal has reportedly been reached to extend the universal free school meals program through the summer. It’s scheduled to end June 30. Now the deal-makers have to get it approved by Congress. Politico. NPR. A new national Harris Poll taken on behalf of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools indicates that education has become a more important political issue to parents of school-age children than it has been in the past. “The education voter is the new swing voter,” said Nina Rees, the charter alliance’s president and CEO. Politico. The 74.

Opinions on schools: Former U.S. education secretary Betsy DeVos, in her new book, is agnostic about the education choices families make for their children. But her core belief is that all families and educators need access to as many educational options as possible. A public education capable of providing every child with an effective and efficient customized education is her goal. SUFS president Doug Tuthill, reimaginED. It is difficult to find, in recent memory, any policy that does a better job of illustrating white supremacy and systemic racism than Florida’s Stop WOKE Act and the subsequent banning of math textbooks. Matthew Kincaid, Hechinger Report. A year after Robert Runcie left his job as Broward school superintendent, new chief Vickie Cartwright is still trying to clean up the insider culture he created. Randy Schultz, Sun-Sentinel.

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