Governor’s school board plan: Gov. Ron DeSantis’ re-election campaign has created a blueprint for local school board candidates to follow that calls for empowering the role of parents in their children’s education, preventing far-left agendas from infiltrating school systems, and furthering the academic success of Florida students. The program is called the “DeSantis Education Agenda: Putting Students First, Protecting Parents’ Rights,” and guides candidates who support the governor’s education priorities. In a statement, DeSantis said, “Florida has delivered the most student-focused, parent-centered education agenda in the nation” at a time when “curriculum in states around the country are being used as opportunities to indoctrinate innocent children.” The Federalist.
Around the state: The Florida Board of Education is meeting June 29 to create a rule describing the process parents can use if they believe districts are not following the Parental Rights in Education law, school superintendents in Duval and Sarasota counties are awarded pay raises, an appeals court has rejected a request to “repress or expunge” parts of the final report from a statewide grand jury that investigated school safety and more after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, two school districts assure parents they’re ready for an active shooter, Florida is the only state that did not pre-order doses of the COVID-19 vaccination for children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old, two Hillsborough schools come to different conclusions about their native American mascots, a charter school in Osceola County surrenders its charter, and the dean of the business school at Bethune-Cookman University has been named the interim president. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Miami-Dade, south Florida: Law enforcement training for an active-shooter situation in schools varies based on police department size and available equipment, but representatives from all of them agree that the top priority is taking out the threat as soon as possible. Many of the officers from city departments are trained by the Miami-Dade school police department, which is one of the largest in the country with almost 500 sworn officers. Chief Edwin Lopez said training “goes from the classroom, to physically doing it, to even where vehicles are parked and how we coordinate with other agencies and how our tactical teams are used.” Miami Herald.
Hillsborough: Two district schools that still have native American mascots have come to different conclusions about whether to scrap them. The student government at Chamberlain High School in Tampa has recommended ditching the use of Chiefs as a mascot, while the same organization at East Bay High in Gibsonton voted to keep its Indians label. An advisory group of native Americans urged that both schools change their mascots. School board members are expected to vote on the issue next Tuesday. Tampa Bay Times. District officials said there are 160 renovation projects underway at schools this summer. The $110 million cost is being paid by revenues from the extra half-cent sales tax that was approved by voters in 2018, which can be used only for capital expenses such as repairs, maintenance, technology and security. WFTS. WFLA. WTVT.
Palm Beach: School board members voted 5-2 Wednesday to approve a new school district policy to align with the state’s Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for K-3 students and for older students if it’s not “age appropriate and developmentally appropriate.” In other developments, the board approved the purchase of a new panic alarm system attached to employee ID badges, an upgrade in surveillance cameras, and a 5 percent pay raise for school district police officers. WPTV. WPEC.
Duval: A nearly 10 percent pay raise and a four-year contract extension for Superintendent Diana Greene was approved this week by school board members. Her new annual rate was set at $300,000, up from the $275,000 she had been making. Board members wanted to push it to $310,000, but Greene turned it down, saying she wanted to “stay in alignment with the teachers as a show of support for teachers.” The pay for superintendents had been at $275,000 since 2005. WJAX.
Lee: The Innovation School is on track to open for up to 1,500 preK-8 students in the fall of 2025 near Florida Gulf Coast University, at a cost of $75 million, district officials said. The school will be designed to encourage collaboration among classes, with larger open spaces. WINK.
Brevard: In response to parents worried about school safety after the shooting last month in Uvalde, Texas, Superintendent Mark Mullins said the district has a safety plan in place and that sheriff’s deputies are well-trained to quickly confront any active shooter. “The following day, I was just as concerned bringing my five-year-old to school,” said school board member Jennifer Jenkins, addressing parents’ concerns. “I think about all those things, all the time. … And so if it gives you any reassurance to know that everyone up here, shares your concerns. It’s a priority to them. I just wanted to let you know you’re not alone.” Florida Today.
Osceola: School board members recently accepted an offer by officials of the St. Cloud Preparatory Academy charter school to revoke its license to operate. The school is losing its lease and has had financial and regulatory issues. Mike Fisher, a board member for the school, said once the decision to close was made, it wanted to notify the school board so parents could find new schools for their children and teachers and staff could find new jobs. Osceola News-Gazette.
Seminole: County commissioners voted Wednesday to move ahead with a plan to convert the historically black Rosenwald School into a community center for residents of East Altamonte Springs. The school closed in 2011, and the building was purchased by the county eight years later. The county will now issue a bid for proposals. Spectrum News 13.
Manatee: School district support staffers will soon be getting raises after the school board approved a proposed contract. The deal improves the minimum pay for bus drivers, custodians, food service workers and maintenance employees to $15 an hour, and provides raises for workers who have been with the district for at least six months. Cost to the district is estimated at about $1.9 million. WWSB.
Sarasota: School board members reached a tentative agreement this week to offer Superintendent Brennan Asplen a 3 percent raise, but declined his attorney’s request to include a provision in the updated contract requiring a supermajority of the board to fire him. Asplen’s proposed raise of $6,810 would take him to $227,000 a year. But three board members balked at requiring four votes on the five-member board, instead of a simple majority, to fire him. Board members will vote on the raise at their meeting Tuesday. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WWSB. A Sarasota man with ties to the far-right group Proud Boys is helping to host a campaign event for District 4 school board candidate Robyn Marinelli. Marinelli said she doesn’t know James Hoel, and wants to keep the focus of her campaign on students. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Clay: Wilkinson Junior High School in Middleburg has been accepted into the University of Central Florida certified Community Partnership School program. The designation brings the school extra resources and funding for services that help students and the surrounding community. Clay Today.
Citrus: Even though Gov. DeSantis vetoed funds for the proposed Construction Academy at Citrus High School, school officials they will proceed with the program for the 2022-2023 school year. Nearly 140 students have expressed interest in enrolling, a teacher has been hired and the district is now assessing what it needs for the initial curriculum, supplies and equipment. Citrus County Chronicle.
Columbia: Fort White High School security guard Steven Hill resigned this week as the school board was considering whether to fire him. Hill was accused of having sex with a woman at the school in April. He has denied the charges. WCJB.
Colleges and universities: Lawrence Drake, dean of the Bethune-Cookman University’s College of Business & Entrepreneurship since last fall, has been chosen as interim president of the school. He replaces Hiram Powell, who retired after serving a year as interim after president Brent Chrite resigned to become president of Bentley University in Massachusetts. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WFTV. University of South Florida officials said Wednesday that plans for building an on-campus football stadium are moving ahead at a slightly accelerated pace. The projected opening has been pushed up from the fall of 2027 to the fall of 2026, USF athletic director Michael Kelly told trustees. Seating capacity will be 35,000, and the stadium will also include standing-room areas and room for future expansion. Tampa Bay Times. USF board of trustees chairman Will Weatherford said Wednesday that Gov. DeSantis assured him he would be supportive of an oceanographic science center on the St. Petersburg campus next year, even thought he vetoed a $75 million appropriation for it this year. Tampa Bay Times. About 20 University of North Florida archeology students are excavating what appears to be a long-lost indigenous village of Sarabay at Big Talbot Island State Park. Lab director Keith Ashley said the group may have unearthed a large council house from the Timucua culture. WJCT.
H.B. 1557 rule: The Florida Board of Education has scheduled a meeting June 29 to create a rule describing the process parents can follow if they believe districts are not following the Parental Rights in Education law that prohibits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for K-3 students and older students if the lessons are “not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.” A notice for the meeting states that “the purpose of this rule development is to craft a rule describing the process for a parent to request the appointment of a special magistrate when a parent’s concern for his child’s welfare under the provisions of (the law) have not been satisfactorily resolved at the local level by the school principal or by the school district.” The law takes effect July 1. News Service of Florida.
Court rejects secrecy: A three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal has rejected an attempt to “repress or expunge” parts of the final report from a statewide grand jury that investigated school safety and more after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County. In its ruling Wednesday, the court said the grand jury did not exceed its jurisdiction in the investigation and in findings, including a recommendation that Gov. DeSantis “should remove or suspend certain school board members.” News Service of Florida.
Around the nation: Florida is the only state that did not pre-order doses of the COVID-19 vaccination for children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old. The state Department of Health said it didn’t place an order because it doesn’t recommend that all children be vaccinated. Politico Florida. WKMG. The U.S. Department of Education has announced the creation of a “Parents and Families Engagement Council” that will include representatives from 14 groups that advocate for greater parental involvement in education and represent charter schools, homeschooling and private schools. “It’s the first time where we’re really getting … a group of folks representing parents and families at the table. It’s unprecedented,” said Keri Rodrigues, president of the National Parents Union. The 74. A charter school in North Carolina is considering appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court after an appeals court ruled this week that the school acted unconstitutionally in requiring girls to wear skirts to school. The court said the school was acting on behalf of the state, just like any public school. School officials argued that because it’s a nonprofit organization, it should have the flexibility to include strict expectations on student behavior and appearance. The 74.
Opinions on schools: One day, today’s chapter of Florida history will be written. We can only hope that it won’t be written to protect the deservedly sullied reputations of today’s book banners. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post.