Pay for private vs. public school leaders, tax hikes, schools hire ‘mindfulness coordinator’ and more

Around the state: Pay for superintendents of south Florida public school districts with hundreds of thousands of students pales by comparison to what some private schools with a few thousand students are paying their leaders, four school library books are under review by an Osceola schools committee, Nassau school board members will consider a resolution asking voters Nov. 8 to increase the county’s property tax rate by 1 mill to make teacher pay more competitive, Bay County schools have reached an agreement with support employees to raise wages to at least $15 an hour, the Alachua County School District is taking over education services for at-risk students at the Alachua Academy and the Alachua Regional Juvenile Detention Center, Bethune-Cookman University’s interim president is retiring, and a charter school company in Hillsborough County has hired a “mindfulness coordinator” to help students process their thoughts and feelings and how to deal with their emotions. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade, south Florida: School Superintendent Jose Dotres makes $363,461 a year to run the fourth-largest public district in the country, with 345,000 students. Broward Superintendent Vickie Cartwright runs the sixth-largest U.S. district, with about 250,000 students, and is paid $350,000 a year. Their compensation is dwarfed by many top administrators at private schools in south Florida that have only a few thousand students or less. At least one, the Pine Crest School in Broward County, paid its president more than $1 million. Miami Herald. A 12-year-old 6th-grader was arrested this week and accused of threatening to kill 17 classmates at the Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic School. He said he was being bullied. WPLG.

Broward: An appeals court is scheduled to hear arguments July 12 to determine if Fred and Jennifer Guttenberg can sue the manufacturer of the gun that was used to kill 17 people, including their daughter Jaime, in the 2018 Parkland school shooting, and the store that sold it to the gunman, Nikolas Cruz. The Guttenbergs want to know if the businesses are shielded by state law before pursuing the case. News Service of Florida. The pace of jury selection in the sentencing phase for Parkland school shooter Cruz is picking up, as 18 more prospective jurors passed the second phase of questioning Wednesday to bring the total to 68. Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said she hopes to have a pool of at least 80 prospective candidates from which to find 12 jurors and eight alternates. The scheduled start of opening arguments and testimony in the trial is the end of this month. WTVJ. Summarizing Day 19 of jury selection in the Parkland school shooter’s sentencing trial. Sun-Sentinel. A false report of a shooting Wednesday closed the Davie campus of Broward College and also prompted lockdowns at six nearby public schools. Sun-Sentinel. WSVN. WPLG. WTVJ.

Hillsborough: IDEA Public Schools has hired a “mindfulness coordinator” to help the charter schools’ students feel better. Marco Mooyoung said he helps students process their thoughts and feelings and how to deal with their emotions. He uses yoga and breathing techniques to calm students, and occasionally will have them walk laps in the parking lot. “They’re taught the academics …. (to) read and write from an early age,” Mooyoung said. “But how many times do we sit down before they get into school and talk about how to deal with their emotions? Your emotions affect your mental health.” WFTS.

Orange: Free meals are now being offered by the school district throughout the summer. Children 18 or younger can pick up the meals at one of 224 locations, which include summer programs, summer camps, all six county library branches and several churches. WFTV. WKMG. Orange County Sheriff John Mina has been asked by the U.S. Department of Justice to join a team that will review the law enforcement response during the school shooting May 24 in Uvalde, Texas. WKMG. WMFE. WFTV. WESH.

Polk: More than 70 schools, businesses, and city recreation centers are taking part in the summer free meal program for all students 18 years old or younger. All food must be eaten on site, district officials said. LKLD Now.

Osceola: Four books in county school libraries will be reviewed for content by a committee, Superintendent Debra Pace said at this week’s school board meeting. The committee’s findings will be presented to the school board for consideration. Books under review are Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez, Me, Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, and Looking for Alaska by John Green. WKMG.

Sarasota: Early-education centers continue to struggle to maintain their services amid the continuing worker shortage. Preschool teachers say the low pay and the high cost of housing are forcing them to change careers. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. A 29-year-old Sarasota High School government teacher has announced his candidacy for the state House District 73 seat. Derek Reich, a Democrat, is challenging incumbent Sarasota Republican Fiona McFarland. Reich said he won’t let his campaign interfere with students’ education. Florida Politics.

Alachua: The school district is taking over education services for the Alachua Academy and the Alachua Regional Juvenile Detention Center on July 1 after Sequel Youth and Family Services decided it would not renew its contract to teach 46 at-risk youths. The move is expected to be temporary, until the district can find another provider. District officials said Sequel decided to step away because it was struggling to retain teachers. Gainesville Sun.

Bay: District officials will spend nearly $4 million to raise the pay for all public school support employees to at least $15 an hour. Almost 80 percent of those workers are under that level now. “The range of increases will go from a little over 6 percent to around 46 percent, but it averages out to about 18.9 percent for the entire group,” said district CFO Jim Loyed. The employees and the school board still have to approve the proposed deal. WJHG. Students 18 and younger will be able to pick up free meals over the summer. Distribution will be weekdays at Deer Point, Lynn Haven, Parker and Breakfast Point elementary schools. Panama City News Herald.

Martin: School board members have approved the hiring of seven administrators. Mark Cowles has been named the coordinator for social studies and special projects, Troy LaBarbara is the new executive director of principals and professional standards, and new principals have been hired for five schools. WQCS.

Citrus: School district employees have completed two days of training to learn the procedures for reuniting students with their families after school emergencies. “It’s something we hope we never have to use,” said Superintendent Sandra Himmel. “But we want to be prepared in case anything ever happens.” Citrus County Chronicle. Spectrum News 9.

Nassau: At today’s meeting, school board members will consider a resolution to ask voters Nov. 8 to increase the county’s property tax rate by 1 mill to make teacher pay more competitive. The resolution says Nassau ranks 50th among the state’s 67 districts in average teacher salary, and that “a significant increase in teacher compensation” is crucial. WJXT.

Colleges and universities: Bethune-Cookman University’s interim president, Hiram C. Powell, is retiring. He was hired in April 2021 after the resignation of E. LaBrent Chrite. A new interim president is expected to be appointed soon as the university continues its search for a permanent president. WFTV. Eastern Florida State College is making plans to open technology centers at its Melbourne and Titusville campuses over the next two years. Almost $20 million will be spent to create the Center for Innovative Technology Education in Melbourne, while $1.2 million will fund an Aerospace Center of Excellence in Titusville. Florida Today. Several buildings on the campus of Nova Southeastern University in Davie were evacuated Wednesday after a construction crew broke an underground gas line. WPLG.

Testing and the pandemic: Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeatedly claimed that in-person learning saved Florida’s students. A closer look at the latest testing results for the state’s 3rd-graders suggest that it’s not that simple. Even with the widespread return to face-to-face learning, 25 percent of Florida’s 3rd-graders scored at the lowest level on the state reading test — the worst showing since the test was first given in 2015. Politico Florida.

Fighting over “WOKE” law: State lawyers want a district judge to block a request for a preliminary injunction against the new state law and regulations that set limits on the discussion of racial issues in schools and in workplace training. Plaintiffs say the “Stop WOKE Act” violates the First Amendment and is unconstitutionally vague. The state denies that, saying, “All it says is that state-employed teachers may not espouse or advocate in the classroom views contrary to the principles enshrined in the act, while they are on the state clock, in exchange for a state paycheck. The First Amendment does not compel Florida to pay educators to advocate ideas, in its name, that it finds repugnant.” A court hearing is scheduled June 21 to consider the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction. News Service of Florida.

Opinions on schools: Tracing the racist roots of Gov. DeSantis’ Parental Rights in Education bill. Paul Finkelman, Washington Monthly. In most of their criticisms of charter schools, opponents fall back on the tired, old “for-profit” argument instead of comparing the successes and failures of district schools against those of charter schools. Valora Cole, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff