School safety bill signed: An update to the school safety law was signed Monday by Gov. Ron DeSantis. H.B. 1421 extends the life of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission until July 1, 2026, so it can set up a database of incidents; requires school districts to certify that at least 80 percent of staff, including school resource officers, receive youth mental health awareness and assistance training by July 2023; requires districts to conduct annual emergency drills in all schools; requires districts to create plans to reunify students and their parents after a school emergency; and more. The law takes effect July 1. News Service of Florida. USA Today Florida Network. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Politics. Florida Office of the Governor.
Around the state: The Orange County School Board chooses two finalists to be interviewed for the soon-to-open superintendent’s job, a part of the Parental Rights in Education bill is on hold until the Florida Department of Education can establish a definition of when instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity would be appropriate for students in grades 4-12, the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library in Indiana is responding to the Brevard Moms for Liberty’s push to ban are the novel Slaughterhouse-Five by offering 1,000 free copies to students at a Brevard high school, Sarasota school board members reject a K-8 charter school application, Flagler County’s sheriff orders a deputy to be posted at an elementary school for the summer session after the district decides none was needed, the newest school in Pasco County is already looking to expand to accommodate enrollment growth, and Gov. DeSantis appoints a new member to the Lake County School Board. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Broward, Miami-Dade: All five members of the team defending Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz were in court Tuesday, and jury selection proceeded as planned. Still undecided is the defense request to delay the trial because of the Texas school shooting. Associated Press. WTVJ. Summarizing Day 18 of jury selection in the Parkland school shooter’s sentencing trial. Sun-Sentinel. Members of the Miami-Dade and Broward school boards say they have been harassed in person, on social media, and through e-mails and phone calls since last fall, when they decided to impose face mask mandates for students. “I think what we’ve seen was a very coordinated, very strategic, deliberate effort to insert partisan politics into our local school board issues, which has really been the final frontier for collegiality,” said Miami-Dade vice chair Steve Gallon. WTVJ.
Hillsborough: A group of activists is calling for a protest June 21 against the use of Native American mascots and logos at several district schools. “It’s time to be actually respectful of the Indigenous peoples,” the Florida Indigenous Alliance wrote in a statement on its Facebook page. The protest will be held outside the school board’s June 21 meeting. Creative Loafing. Fifteen district schools are getting new principals next fall. Tampa Bay Times.
Orange: The list of candidates to become the school district’s new superintendent was pared to two by the school board at its meeting Tuesday. Board members unanimously decided to interview Maria Vazquez, deputy superintendent for the district, and Peter Licata, a regional superintendent for the Palm Beach County School District. Interviews and a public “meet-and-greet” will be held June 21 and 22, and the board expects to name a superintendent on June 28. Vazquez or Licata would succeed Barbara Jenkins, who is retiring after a decade of leading the district. Orlando Sentinel. Spectrum News 13. WKMG. WMFE.
Duval: School board members are considering a proposal to create an “adjunct teaching certificate” that could be issued to teachers who meet all the state requirements and have expertise in a particular subject but whose certificates expired. “It may allow those with expired temporary certificates an additional year to work on professional certificate requirements and still be employed — thus, increasing teacher retention,” said district spokeswoman Sonya Duke-Bolden. In another development, parents lobbied the school board Tuesday to bring back and approve a resolution supporting the Parental Rights in Education law. In May, after hearing hours of public comment for and against the resolution, school board members decided to take no action. WJXT.
Pinellas: Ground was broken Tuesday for a combination middle school and YMCA in northeast St. Petersburg. The magnet school will emphasize health and wellness leadership for about 600 students. The school/YMCA will be built on property formerly occupied by Riviera Middle School, which closed in 2008. The YMCA will have a fitness center, three group exercise studios, a child-care center, a lap pool, a splash pad and a playground, and will share a media center, dining hall, gymnasium, science lab, sports field and garden with the school. St. Pete Catalyst. WFLA. WTVT. Luke Williams, chief of the school district’s police force, is one of six finalists for Campus Safety Magazine’s director of the year award. The winner will be announced later this month. St. Pete Catalyst.
Lee: SAT tests that were postponed by the possibility of a tropical storm have been rescheduled by the school district. The new date is June 18 at Cape Coral High School, Fort Myers High, Gateway Charter High, Island Coast High and North Fort Myers High. Tests that were supposed to be taken at South Fort Myers High and Gateway High aren’t being rescheduled, and a makeup date has not been determined for East Lee County High. WINK.
Pasco: The newest school in the district is already making plans to expand because of enrollment growth. Construction on a $10 million, 26,000-square-foot classroom addition at Starkey Ranch K-8 School begins this year and is scheduled to be completed by 2024. Eight portable classrooms will be used until the addition is ready. Starkey Ranch opened last August and ended the year with 1,568 students. In the fall it’s projected to have almost 2,100. Tampa Bay Times. New principals have been approved by the school board for three schools: Paul Lipinski at Crews Lake Middle School in Shady Hills, Pio Rizzo at Gulfside Elementary, and Angie Shauger at Sand Pine Elementary. Nine assistant principals were also approved. Tampa Bay Times.
Brevard: Officials of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library in Indiana are offering 1,000 free copies of Slaughterhouse-Five to students at Bayside High School in Palm Bay in response to the group Moms for Liberty trying to get the book banned from school libraries. “You have misunderstood the meaning of the word ‘liberty,’ ” wrote museum CEO Julia Whitehead in an open letter. “Removing someone else’s privilege of reading a book is an act that is worthy of rebellion. But we don’t actually have to rebel because these are our rights as Americans. We just simply have to help the school officials and elected officials to understand that the Constitution is our law of the land. The whims of one group of moms is not the law of our land.” Florida Today.
Osceola: School board members voted Tuesday to contract with the International Alliance Group, a company that hires qualified teachers from South America to teach in the United States. About 140 will be hired to teach for at least a year under the International Teach Alliance program, but could stay up to three years. WESH.
Lake: Tyler Brandeburg, a 29-year-old commercial insurance adviser, has been appointed by Gov. DeSantis to the school board to replace District 2 member Kristi Burns, who resigned May 1. Brandeburg will serve the rest of Burns’ term and then run for election to the seat in November. Daily Commercial.
Sarasota: School board members unanimously rejected an application from Florida Charter Educational Foundation Inc. to build a K-8 charter school in Wellen Park that would be managed by Charters Schools USA. Superintendent Brennan Asplen recommended the application be denied. “We need to deny this application,” he said. “If we could possibly take on debt if they pull away, then I don’t think we should approve this.” He also noted that the district planned to build a K-8 school about a mile away from the proposed charter. The board also approved a $12,000-a-year raise for Asplen, retroactive to July 1, 2021, and approved a resolution to ask the county commission to increase new home impact fees by 50 percent. Charlotte Sun.
Hernando: School board members voted this week to follow through on their threat to sue the county commission for not placing a sales tax extension referendum on the November 2022 ballot. Instead, commissioners decided to place it on the November 2024 ballot. Board lawyer Joe Mason argued in his complaint that the commission had no authority to make that decision, that state law specifically gives school boards the power to call for a tax vote and that commissioners “shall” place them on the ballot. Tampa Bay Times. A 13-year-old middle school student has been arrested for allegedly threatening to blow up a school bus last October. WFLA. WTSP.
Martin: County commissioners unanimously approved a proposal Tuesday that will require sex offenders to live at least 2,500 feet away from a public or private kindergarten, elementary, middle, high school or child-care facility. The current requirement is 1,000 feet. The change is effective Sept. 5. TCPalm.
Flagler: When Sheriff Rick Staly heard that Rymfire Elementary School was preparing to open for summer school for 350 students without having a law enforcement officer present, he ordered his department to place a deputy there and to bill the school district. Thomas Wooleyhan, the district’s safety specialist, had maintained that the law did not require it to provide an officer, but the district is not fighting the sheriff’s action. Flagler Live.
Colleges and universities: Textbook affordability is on the agenda for the next Florida Board of Education meeting June 22. Two new laws that go into effect July 1 (S.B. 2524 and S.B. 7044) require universities to compile lists of free learning materials and to post information about textbooks and other learning materials 45 days before the start of each term. News Service of Florida.
Part of new law on hold: Part of the Parental Rights in Education bill won’t go into effect when the law does July 1, according to a memo the Florida Department of Education sent to school districts this week. The part that bans classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in K-3 grades will begin July 1, but the provision that also bans it for higher grades if it’s not deemed age or developmentally appropriate is on hold until DOE defines what is appropriate. WLRN.
New commissioner’s choice: In his first day as education commissioner, Manny Diaz Jr. held a virtual meeting with 20 education policy leaders, including representatives from independent, faith-based, charter and virtual schools, to affirm the state’s commitment to education choice and inclusion. “Commissioner Diaz was the voice for nonpublic school students in the state Legislature for the past decade, and we are ecstatic to have him leading our state’s educational system,” said Daniel Aqua, executive director of Teach Florida, which represents Jewish day schools. “The fact that he included the nonpublic school coalition on his Day 1 agenda gives us confidence that our children will be considered by the state’s educational infrastructure moving forward.” reimaginED.
Opinions on schools: It took some chutzpah for Gov. DeSantis to eliminate the plan to punish Florida schools, and individual students, for decisions by district-level officials in an election year that were clearly tailored to his specifications. But the cut made sense and “thanks, but no thanks” was the right response. Sun-Sentinel. Across Florida, parents have disrupted school board meetings, claiming to be exercising their “rights.” Yet these parents and Gov. DeSantis never talk about the responsibility that goes with those rights. One responsibility is being a proper role model for your children. DeSantis is celebrating the wrong kind of parent. Randy Schultz, Sun-Sentinel. Educational excellence and high expectations led IDEA Public Schools of Texas to the top of national rankings. The company’s formula can can be replicated and scaled in any district or charter school. Thomas Torkelson, The 74.