K-12 enrollment to near 3M, Parkland jurors visiting crime scene today, open jobs, budgets, and more

Around the state: State economists project that K-12 school enrollment in Florida will approach 3 million this year, jurors in the Parkland school shooting are walking through the crime scene today, Palm Beach County School Board members are considering a “safe harbor” policy that would allow students to turn in stun guns and knives without consequences, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that he’d take a Marine over a college education major as a teacher “every day of the week and twice on Sunday,” the number of charter schools in Florida has grown by 5 percent and student enrollment is up 20 percent in the past five years, school districts continue to report large numbers of openings for teachers, Duval schools are launching an ad campaign to try to lure students back to public schools, school board elections in several districts are previewed, and an Osceola charter school will appeal an administrative judge’s ruling to uphold the school board’s termination of its contract. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Hundreds of school nurses are gathering this week at a conference this week at Ronald W. Reagan Doral High School. The topics? Mental health services for students, gun violence prevention and general school health. Wednesday, Shirley Plantin, chief executive consultant for U-Turn Youth Consulting Firm, pointed out that the county loses a classroom of students every year, about 30, to gun violence. “We’re screaming and yelling about the Uvalde shooting,” she said. “But we’re losing them every day. … Uvalde matters, but the community shootings that happen every day, they matter, too.” Miami Herald.

Broward: Jurors in the sentencing trial of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz will retrace his steps today at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They will see blood-stained walls and rooms and bullet holes that remain in the three-story building where 17 students and employees were murdered on Feb. 14, 2018. “This is the crime scene that he chose,” said prosecutor Jeff Marcus, who argued that the jury needed to see where students died and where they hid to escape death. Wednesday, for the third straight day, parents of children who were killed described in heartbreaking testimony the depth of their losses. Losing his son Alex, said father Max Schachter, is “an ache that is just constant. I wish every single day this is a nightmare I can wake up from. … Part of me will always be sad and miserable.” Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press. Miami Herald. WPLG. WFOR. WTVJ. Summarizing what happened Wednesday in the sentencing trial of Cruz. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post.

Hillsborough: Schools reopen Aug. 10, and the district is still trying to fill 680 teaching openings, Superintendent Addison Davis said Wednesday. “This is the greatest deficit we’ve ever seen,” he said. WTVT.

Palm Beach: School board members are considering a proposed “safe harbor” policy that would allow students to turn in small weapons like stun guns or pocket knives without being punished. “I want a student, who, if for whatever reason, they’re carrying a Taser with them to school, I want them to be able to turn it in and basically self-report without consequences,” said board member Debra Robinson. WPTV.

Duval: School district records show 389 teacher jobs remaining open, with 41 percent of the vacancies being reported in elementary schools. One school has a third of its teaching jobs open, and several others are down 20 percent or more. Thirty-one percent of the the district’s schools, 53, are fully staffed with teachers. Florida Times-Union. School officials are committing up to $120,000 for a television ad campaign to convince charter and private school students to return to traditional public schools. The focus of the ads is on charter school students, said district spokesman Tracy Pierce. “Almost one out of every three charter schools is a D or an F school. So we wanted to take this opportunity to invite those charter school families back to traditional Duval County Public Schools, and that’s what’s behind the campaign,” he said. Enrollment is down about 7 percent in the past five years, from about 115,000 to 107,000, while charter schools have expanded from 14,000 students to 21,000 in that same period. WJAX.

Polk: District 7 school board incumbent Lisa Miller has drawn two opponents in the Aug. 23 primary. Miller, 45, is the owner of a real estate company. She wants to raise salaries for veteran teachers and other employees, and said a mentoring program for principals initiated by Superintendent Frederick Heid should help slow down departures. She’s being challenged by Dell Quary, a retired school paraprofessional who wants to improve student achievement and allow parents influence in the educational process, and Jill Sessions, a director of solid waste for Plant City who wants the district to focus on the achievement gap and create a database of “which types of books” parents would allow their children to check out. Lakeland Ledger.

Lee, Collier: Six Lee County schools will have new principals when classes resume next week, and a principal has also been appointed for a school that doesn’t open until August 2023. Holly Mathews will lead Amanecer Elementary School, which is still under construction. In Collier County, 12 schools are getting new principals. Fort Myers News-Press. Naples Daily News.

Osceola: The founder of a charter school that had its contract terminated by the school board said he will appeal an administrative law judge’s ruling that lets the board’s decision stand. Mark Gotz,who owns American Classical Charter Academy in St. Cloud, said the school’s problems aren’t any different than the school district’s. This week, he got backing from school board member Jon Arguello. “If we were a charter school, we’d have the exact same issues that ACCA has. We would be closed as a district. If we were held to the same standards that ACCA was, we would be closed,” said Arguello. WESH.

Sarasota: Cameron Parker has been named the acting principal at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota. She replaces the retiring Edwina Oliver. Parker had been the professional development assistant principal at Booker Middle School since 2016. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Marion: School administrators are proposing a $905 million budget for the 2022-2023 school year. That’s up from last year’s spending of $746.6 million. Almost all the extra revenue comes from federal coronavirus relief aid. Without that money. the district’s budget would have been just $22 million higher than last year’s, an increase that would just cover rising salaries and higher costs due to inflation. Ocala Star-Banner.

Escambia: Incumbent District 1 school board member Kevin Adams, who is running for re-election against Connor Mann, answers questions about his three most important priorities if he’s elected, closing the learning gap created during the pandemic, and how the district can implement new state laws on parental rights and instruction. Pensacola News Journal.

Alachua: Sarah Rockwell and Ray Holt are competing to replace the retiring Gunnar Paulson in the District 3 school board seat. Rockwell, 40, is a former special education teacher and a mother of two children with disabilities. She supported COVID mitigation protocols such as face masks, wants to close the achievement gap between disabled and non-disabled students, and backs rezoning and the creation of magnet programs at schools to help balance school enrollment between the east and west sides of the county. Holt, 51, owns a farm in northeast Alachua. He wants better pay for teachers and favors the privatization of the district’s transportation department. Gainesville Sun.

Flagler: School officials are planning to spend $165 million over the next five years for school construction. Among the projects on the list are $77 million for a new high school, $70 million for a new middle school and $18 million to expand Matanzas High School. The plan hinges on student enrollment in October, said David Freeman, chief of operations. Enrollment increases of more than 20 percent are projected between now and 2030. Flagler Live.

Monroe: District 5 school board incumbent Sue Woltanski is being challenged this fall by Alexandria Suarez. Both Woltanski, a retired physician, and Suarez, a prosecutor with the state attorney’s office, said recruiting and retaining quality teachers and finding affordable housing options for them are priorities. One point of disagreement is the emphasis on standardized testing for students. Suarez said it’s crucial to measure achievement. Woltanski said she isn’t opposed to testing, but contends it’s been over-emphasized and detracts from a child’s overall education. Florida Keys Free Press.

Projected enrollment: Florida is expected to enroll 2,983,464 students in the upcoming school year, state economists have projected. That would be an increase of about 60,000 over last year. Enrollment is expected to top 3 million in the 2023-2024 school year, at 3,028,736, and grow to 3,133,803 by 2027-2028, according to the latest estimates. Politico Florida.

Veterans as teachers: Gov. Ron DeSantis defended a new state law that would allow military veterans without college degrees to teach, suggesting that they’re better suited for the job than a college education major. “You give me somebody who has four years of experience as a Devil Dog over somebody who has four years of experience at Shoehorn U and I will take the Marine every day of the week and twice on Sunday,” DeSantis said Wednesday at a news conference in Brevard County. Florida Politics.

Charter school approvals: The number of charter schools in the state has grown 5 percent in the past five years, and enrollment has grown 20 percent. That growth is expected to continue with the implementation of a new law creating a statewide commission that can approve applications without consulting the local school board. WFTS.

Education podcasts: Erika Donalds, a former Collier County School Board member turned education entrepreneur, talks with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about the tuition-free virtual reality public school she’s launching this fall and more. reimaginED.

Around the nation: The shortage of teachers around the nation is at crisis levels, say education experts. “I have never seen it this bad,” said Dan Domenech, executive director of the School Superintendents Association. “Right now it’s No. 1 on the list of issues that are concerning school districts … necessity is the mother of invention, and hard-pressed districts are going to have to come up with some solutions.” In Florida, that means allowing veterans without college degrees to get hired as teachers. In Texas, it means switching to four-day school weeks in some districts. In Arizone, college students are leading classrooms. Washington Post. Here are four ways that four-day school weeks are challenging. K-12 Dive.

Opinions on schools: The decline of New York City’s K-12 educational achievement despite substantial spending continues to nudge the city ever further from its glorious past. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. Gov. DeSantis was right when he asked, “OK, how can we get more talent into our school system?” It’s a good question and a problem that will take years, if not decades, to solve. Turning to former military members could be a good piece of the puzzle. Joe Henderson, Florida Politics. Along with the standard exhaustion and anxiety that is part of a starting a new year, tremendous fear has now become commonplace for the American teacher. Mark Massaro, Fort Myers News-Press. Where are the incentives to keep the most experienced teachers in the classroom? Amanda Lacy-Shitana, Gainesville Sun.

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