Math scores up on FSA tests, Orange hires new leader, Parkland jury seated, and more

Tests show math gains: Students showed improvement on the Florida Standards Assessments test for math in grades 3-8 this spring, but language arts scores remained the same as last year for grades 3-10, according to data released Tuesday by the Florida Department of Education. Fifty-five percent of students in grades 3-8 scored at a Level 3, which is considered passing, or higher on the math portion of the FSA and end-of-course exams, up 4 percentage points from last year. In English-language arts, scores stayed the same for students in grades 3-10, with 52 percent scoring at least at the satisfactory Level 3. Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. also said achievement gaps between white and minority students narrowed in several categories. Politico Florida. News Service of FloridaWPTV. WCJB. Florida Department of Education. Alachua County School District.

Around the state: The Orange County School Board selects the district’s deputy superintendent to replace outgoing Superintendent Barbara Jenkins, a jury of seven men and five women has been chosen for the sentencing trial of the Parkland school shooter, some Palm Beach County school classroom doors are not routinely locked because they are used as fire exits, Alachua County school officials reverse their decision announced earlier this week to require middle and high school students to have clear backpacks, Sarasota’s school district will phase in higher school impact fees on new construction over the next four years, and a Pinellas County teacher died Monday after rescuing a 17-year-old girl who was struggling in rough waters in Lake Michigan. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: A jury of seven men and five women was seated Tuesday for the sentencing trial of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz. The selection of eight to 12 alternates is expected to be completed today. Opening statements have been rescheduled from July 6 to July 18. The trial is expected to last through October, and the jury’s only duty is to determine if Cruz, now 23, will be sentenced to death or life in prison. Jurors include two banking executives, two tech workers, a probation officer, a human resources professional, a Walmart store stock supervisor, a librarian, a medical claims adjuster, a legal assistant, an immigration officer and a retired insurance executive. Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press. WPLG. WTVJ. Summarizing Day 23 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. Several district teachers who underwent training to teach the new state standards for civics education said they are concerned that the state has laced the subject with Christian and conservative viewpoints. “It was very skewed,” said Barbara Segal, a 12th-grade government teacher at Fort Lauderdale High School. “There was a very strong Christian fundamentalist way toward analyzing different quotes and different documents. That was concerning.” Miami Herald. The principal of Gulfstream Academy of Hallandale Beach has been reassigned to Broward Estates Elementary School a few months after a mother complained that no school employees intervened when her 13-year-old daughter was beaten during a brawl in the cafeteria. WTVJ.

Orange: District deputy superintendent Maria Vazquez was chosen Tuesday by the school board to succeed Barbara Jenkins as school superintendent. Vazquez, 58, has been a teacher, principal and administrator for the past 20 years, and deputy superintendent since 2018. The other finalist for the job was Peter Licata, 57, a regional superintendent for the Palm Beach County School District. Initially, two of the board members favored Licata, suggesting that a fresh face might be good for teacher morale. But the other six board members pointed to Vazquez’s long experience with the district and called her better prepared for the job. All eight board members then voted for Vazquez. Negotiations will begin soon, with the board expected to offer a three-year deal with a salary between $295,000 and $350,000. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WOFL. WFTV. WESH. School board members approved the contract agreement between the district and teachers that will give most teachers a $900 cost-of-living bonus and a raise of $2,425. WKMG. At Tuesday’s board meeting, school officials also tried to clarify rumors about what teachers can and cannot do under the state’s new Parental Rights in Education law. Previous reports were recommendations from the district’s attorneys. More official guidance is expected soon from the Florida Department of Education. WOFL. WFTV.

Palm Beach: A small percentage of district school classroom doors don’t lock because they are are used as potential fire exits, district officials confirmed this week. “It’s an issue the district has been aware of and we’ve taken measures last year and before to address those issues,” said Joseph Sanches, the district’s chief operating officer. “One of the things that we’re looking at is putting electronic strikes on those doors to keep them locked. So when a fire alarm goes off or a smoke detector goes off, that door will open and someone can get out of the corridor safely. So that would keep the doors locked full-time.” School board chair Frank Barbieri said he wasn’t aware of the problem, and wants the board to create a policy requiring teachers to keep their classroom doors locked at all times. WPTV.

Duval: Duval college student Ross C. Johnson has been awarded a Carnegie Medal for helping save a 13-year-old boy who was caught in a rip current and carried 450 feet offshore at Neptune Beach in 2020. Johnson swam to the boy despite 4-foot waves and got him back to within 75 feet of the shore, where two men pitched in to get the boy and Johnson safely to land. WTLV.

Pinellas: Thomas Kenning, a middle-school social studies teacher at Plato Academy Pinellas Park, has been hailed as a hero when he died Monday after rescuing a 17-year-old girl in distress from rough waters in Lake Michigan. Kenning, 38, was visiting Porter Beach in Indiana with his parents when he saw the girl struggling. He rushed in and got her to safety, then disappeared under the waves. “He died saving a stranger’s life,” said his wife, Jasmine Kenning. “I think if he had the chance, he would do it again.” Tampa Bay Times. WTSP. The school district has applied for $700,000 in federal grants to find and address school threats and develop mental health intervention teams to develop a response and train school staff. Spectrum News 9.

Lee: A North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts 1st-grader teacher has been suspended indefinitely after allegations that she dragged and struck a student in January. A petition urged the district to fire Ada Bromley, but school board members chose to suspend her without pay for now and refer the case to the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings for final disposition. WINK. WFTX.

Sarasota: Fifty percent higher school impact fees on new construction will be phased in over the next four years, school board members recently decided unanimously. It’s the first time the fees have been raised since 2016. By the fourth year, fees on single-family homes will reach $3,048. Multi-family construction fees will be $774 and mobile homes $282. The district projects it will collect $3.4 million over the next five years to help pay for new school construction and other capital projects. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Escambia, Santa Rosa: Seven Escambia County schools and one in Santa Rosa will have new principals when the next school year begins in August, the districts have announced. Escambia also appointed six new assistant principals, and Santa Rosa named four. Pensacola News Journal. Dixon School of the Arts, a private school in Pensacola, is getting a new principal and a new theater program being created in partnership with the Equity Project Alliance and the Children’s Theater Company of New York City. New principal Kevin Kovacs said he hopes the new program will help the school reach more families in the community. “I do not want to be the best-kept secret. We want the community to know that we’re out there so that we can serve more families in the neighborhood and more families in this Pensacola community,” he said. Pensacola News Journal.

Okaloosa: County high school student EllaGrace Clinger is one of the winners of the 8th Annual Unity Awards given out by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center in Minneapolis. Clinger has worked against bullying since the 3rd grade and has made presentations about ways students could support those who are bullied and to encourage kindness and acceptance. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Alachua: A day after announcing that middle and high school students would have to wear clear backpacks next fall, the school district backtracked after being deluged with complaints from students’ parents. “Families have shared very strong concerns with me and board members about the use of clear backpacks,” said interim superintendent Shane Andrew. “I’ve spoken with board members individually, with Chief Scott at GPD (Gainesville Police Department) and with Sheriff Watson at the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, and they agree we should spend more time discussing this and other safety proposals.” Mainstreet Daily News. Gainesville Sun. WCJB. WGFL.

Bay: Substitute teachers will get a pay raise for the 2022-2023 school year, from $12 an hour to $15, school board members decided this week. Board member Pamm Chapman said the district has 199 substitutes and is trying to add more. WMBB. WJHG.

Colleges and universities: University of Central Florida officials are creating a system to scan license plates of students in campus parking garages and surface lots. Those plate readers will verify if a vehicle is registered for a parking space. The “virtual” permits replace decals and hanging tags, starting Friday. Students will be required to park nose-first into spaces so license plates can be seen by the scanners. WFTV. Tampa philanthropists Carol and Frank Morsani are donating $7 million to the University of South Florida for scholarships, to create an endowed chair in geriatrics, a directorship and professorship focused on ethical leadership in business. In March, the Morsanis donated $5 million to help build an on-campus football stadium. Tampa Bay Times. St. Pete Catalyst. The University of Central Florida athletic program has received a pledge of a record $5 million gift from Sharon and Marc Hagle of Winter Park. The money will be used to expand the school’s football stadium and renovate the sports center. Orlando Sentinel.

Around the nation: The nation recorded more school shooting casualties during the 2020-2021 school year than in any of the previous 20 years, even as many K-12 students were off campuses for parts of the year because of the pandemic. Deaths were reported in 43 school shootings and injuries only were reported in 50 other attacks, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Center for Education Statistics. K-12 Dive.

Opinions on schools: Charter schools ought to be treated as private schools for federal constitutional purposes, regardless of the fact that state laws call them “public schools.” They are, after all, privately operated and freed from many of the regulations governing district public schools. Moreover, charter schools, indisputably, are schools of choice. If these two things are true, then charter schools are essentially programs of private-school choice, which the U.S. Supreme Court’s Carson vs. Makin decision makes clear that not only may states permit religious charter schools, but they must permit them. Nicole Garnett, New York Daily News. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that H.B. 7 is an attempt by an increasingly authoritarian state government to impede the free flow of ideas that some may find detrimental to the status quo. Paul Ortiz, Gainesville Sun.