Teacher of the year: Melissa Anne Matz, a 7th-grade math teacher at Lakeside Junior High School in Clay County, was named the Florida teacher of the year in a ceremony Thursday night. She receives $20,000 from the Florida Department of Education, a tuition waiver to pursue a graduate degree from Florida State University’s College of Education, and a two-year Florida College scholarship from the Florida Prepaid College Board to present to a student of her choice. She will also spend the next year as the Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education. “Melissa Matz’s students see firsthand that the skills they acquire in her classroom can be applied to a broad spectrum of fields, and therefore, they can become well-rounded members of our community,” said Clay Superintendent David Broskie. The other finalists were: Trinity Whittington, a 4th-grade English language arts and social studies teacher at Bell Elementary School in Gilchrist County; Jennifer Jaso, a social studies teacher at Sarasota Middle School; Deelah Jackson, a 4th-grade teacher at Samoset Elementary School in Manatee County; and Seema Naik, a 4th-grade teacher at Eagle Ridge Elementary School in Broward County. Florida Department of Education. WJAX. WJXT. WCJB.
Around the state: Gov. Ron DeSantis said this week that next year’s budget will include “the boldest set of proposals that we’ve had yet,” Florida has issued a set of specifications to publishers for social studies textbooks that will start getting reviewed in September, Brevard school district officials deny telling teachers to hold off putting together a classroom library until the books can be vetted, a Duval high school assistant principal has been removed from the classroom after a district investigation concluded he was at fault for grabbing two students by the neck earlier this year, a Brevard school board candidate said he was offered a job by Sheriff Wayne Ivey if he withdrew from the race against Ivey’s preferred candidate, Gadsden’s school district agrees to give returning teachers $2,500 bonuses in each of the next two years, and more on school board elections and school grades. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Miami-Dade: District 6 school board member Maria Teresa Rojas is being challenged by Sandra Manzieri, 56, a teacher at Key Biscayne K-8 Center, in the Aug. 23 primary election. Student achievement and supporting teachers are among the top issues in the campaign. Miami Herald.
Broward: Incumbent District 4 school board member Lori Alhadeff, who decided to run after her daughter was murdered in the 2018 Parkland school shooting, is being challenged by Kimberly Coward, a Coral Springs attorney and former guidance counselor. Alhadeff said she still has work to do. Coward said she empathized with Alhadeff’s loss, but believes she is the best choice to act in “the best interest of the children.” Miami Herald.
Hillsborough, Tampa Bay area: With less than a month to go before schools in the Tampa Bay area open, hundreds of teaching and school bus driving jobs are still unfilled. Hillsborough needs 700 teachers and 180 bus drivers, while Pinellas has 174 teaching vacancies and 50 unfilled bus driver positions. Pasco County needs 364 teachers, Polk 220, Sarasota 149, and Manatee 74. WTSP. An 18-year-old Hillsborough man who threatened to commit a school shooting four days after a gunman killed 21 people at a Texas elementary school pleaded guilty this week and was sentenced to probation. Corey Anderson told police the Snapchat story was a “dark joke” intended for his friends. Tampa Bay Times.
Duval: A district investigation has concluded that Terry Parker High School assistant principal Oscar Harris was at fault for grabbing two students by the neck earlier this year. In the first incident, Harris grabbed a student by the neck and pushed the student to the floor and used profanity. Nine days later, Harris broke up a fight by grabbing a female student by the neck and slamming her into a fence. A district spokesperson said Harris “is still employed with the district” but has been “reassigned to a role with no student contact.” WJAX.
Polk: A woman who began a job as senior director of digital learning and innovation for the district this month is a defendant in an Illinois civil lawsuit. Lindsay Sharp was principal at an elementary school that employed a substitute teacher in 2017 who was later convicted of sexually abusing at least 12 students. The suit contends Sharp should have known about his actions. Polk Superintendent Frederick Heid preceded Sharp as principal at the school, but did not hire the man and was not named in the lawsuit. In a statement, district officials denied allegations from a blogger that Sharp was improperly hired. Lakeland Ledger.
Brevard: District officials deny telling teachers to hold off placing books in their rooms until they are vetted by library technicians. “We have not given any directions to schools to close down their classroom libraries,” said Jane Cline, assistant superintendent for elementary leading and learning. “In fact, we’ve given no direction other than to read (the new law) and we will give guidance at our principals meeting.” Some teachers said earlier this week that they were advised to delay creating a classroom library. Cline said the district supports classroom libraries, and planned to make sure at least some books were available to students. Florida Today. School board District 2 candidate Shawn Overdorf said Brevard Sheriff Wayne Ivy offered him a political job paying up to $50,000 a year if he dropped out of his race against Courtney Lewis, whom Ivey supports. Ethics and legal experts say if the claim is true, Ivey could be guilty of ethics violations and abuse of office, as well as criminal offenses including bribery. Florida Today.
Osceola: For the fourth year in a row, the school district was awarded a B grade by the state for the 2021-2022 school year. Seven schools received A grades, with 17 getting a B, 37 a C and five a D. No schools received an F. “We’re recovering, but we’re not there yet,” said Superintendent Debra Pace. “It’s all about proficiency. We’ve got to get our students back on grade level in those core subjects.” Osceola News-Gazette.
St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: All three county school districts were awarded B grades from the state this year. For Martin County, it was a decline from the A it received in 2019 and the first time since 2016 that Martin did not get an A, while St. Lucie and Indian River maintained their grades. No schools in any of the three counties received an F. TCPalm. Indian River County School Board candidates in districts 1, 2 and 4 say parental rights, student discipline and teacher retention are the top issues in the Aug. 23 primary. In District 1, Gene Posca was automatically elected after incumbent Mara Schiff did not seek re-election and no one else filed to run. District 2 incumbent Jacqueline Rosario is being challenged by LaDonna Corbin, Cynthia Gibbs and Josh Post, and District 4 incumbent Teri Barenborg is running against Thomas Kenny. TCPalm.
Sarasota: Hundreds of free books were distributed this week to low-income children living in public housing through a partnership of the Sarasota Housing Authority, Sarasota Police Department, the Book Rich Environment Collaborative and Sarasota County Libraries. “It’s a great opportunity for us to come together as officers with the community that we serve and interact with the kids before they go back to school,” said police officer Nate Lynn. “We’re trying to give them a positive experience with law enforcement.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Alachua: Sixth-graders at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, a K-12 public school affiliated with the University of Florida in Gainesville, were told in a health class in May that boys were “people with a penis” and girls were “people with a vulva.” The gender-neutral lesson continued by saying, “Most people who have biological male reproductive parts are boys and most people who have biological female reproductive parts are girls, but sometimes people can have reproductive parts that don’t match who they are.” Fox News.
Gadsden: The school district has reached an agreement with the teachers union to provide $2,500 bonuses to all returning teachers in each of the next two years, and $5,000 to professionally certified teachers working in their field. Federal coronavirus relief funds will be used to help the district address the teacher shortage. WCTV.
Colleges and universities: A Florida State University student is asking the 1st District Court of Appeal to review a ruling in a lawsuit against the school that contends it should refund part of the tuition and fees it collected for closing down during the pandemic and forcing students to learn remotely. The case was dismissed last month by a Leon County circuit judge who said there was no breach of contract. News Service of Florida. Several for-profit colleges have filed legal challenges against the U.S. Department of Education’s proposal to cancel student loan debts for 200,000 students who say they were defrauded by their schools. They argue that the settlement is unfair and maligns them without giving them a chance to respond to the allegations of fraud made against them. Politico.
Planning for next budget: While specific budget details for the 2023-2024 fiscal year are still months from being revealed, Gov. Ron DeSantis has pledged to put forward “the boldest set of proposals that we’ve had yet.” In education, DeSantis said, “I think a lot of you are going to be very excited when we start rolling out, you know, what can we do, yes, for teacher compensation. What can we do to help recruit additional folks into the profession? What can we do to reward teachers who really go above and beyond?” News Service of Florida.
Social studies textbooks: The state’s review of proposed social studies textbooks begins in September, and the specifications instruct publishers to avoid theories that “may lead to student indoctrination.” They also warn against the inclusion of critical race theory, culturally responsive teaching, “social justice,” or social-emotional learning. Education Week.
Opinions on schools: A study finding that most students at a Nevada microschool made substantial progress based on online platform metrics suggests that microschools can track the progress of the learners they serve in different useful ways. That will likely be important in framing future discussions by families, educators, and policymakers alike, about the benefits of such nontraditional learning models. Don Soifer, reimaginED. Fight back against groups trying to ban books in Florida schools by reading the challenged titles. Nathan Crabbe, Gainesville Sun. No matter how taxpayers ended up footing the $3 million to create a new civics program at the University of Florida, there’s no mystery of what the bigger picture is: a concerted effort to use public education for ideological wars. Miami Herald. Will the Hillsborough County School District’s shaky financial history deter voters from supporting a property tax hike to improve teacher pay and improve the 35 campuses on the state’s list of persistently low-performing schools? John Hill, Tampa Bay Times. Adults in the Sarasota County School District need to stop acting like schoolchildren, now. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.