Teacher openings, metal detectors, 2.4M in state eligible for student loan relief and more

Around the state: A state report shows that the number of teacher openings in Florida is down to 4,442, about 400 military veterans have applied to become teachers under the state’s new program, teachers talk about why they left public schools for jobs in private education and Palm Beach County teachers get specific about their reasons, Volusia County School Board members will consider spending $90,000 for 30 metal detectors to be placed in high schools, the White House announces that about 2.4 million Floridians are eligible for student loan relief of up to $20,000, and some state college athletics officials are lobbying the Legislature to change the law to allow schools to help student-athletes find deals that pay them for the use of their names, images and likenesses. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: National, state and local teachers union officials criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis Wednesday for his “overreach” into the Broward County school board, new state laws he signed that limit discussion on racial and sexual issues, and for “attacking” instead of supporting public education. “I know there’s a lot of problems in this state … but the one thing that is not a problem is that teachers want to teach and kids want to learn, and we should be rolling up our sleeves to help them.” said Randi Weingarten, the president of the national American Federation of Teachers. DeSantis’ press secretary, Bryan Griffin, responded in a written statement: “It’s inconceivable that Randi Weingarten would travel to Florida and attempt to politicize the results of the findings of an independent grand jury formed in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas tragedy.” Miami Herald. Florida Politics. WPLG. WTVJ. A suspended school board member had harsh words for the statewide grand jury report that led to her suspension, calling it malicious and misleading, a “Mean Girls slam book” and a “political maneuver” by DeSantis. But Donna Korn, who is running for the seat she no longer holds, said Wednesday she thought DeSantis will allow her to keep the seat if she wins the Nov. 8 election. The governor hasn’t indicated what he might do if Korn wins. Sun-Sentinel.

Orange: A Cypress Creek High School student was arrested Wednesday after deputies said he made a written threat against the school. The boy told deputies the threat was an attempt at “dark humor.” WESH.

Palm Beach: More than 1,200 district teachers left their jobs last year, an increase of 64 percent over the number who left in 2019, according to recently released school district data. Most listed personal reasons, relocation or other as reasons. Of those who were specific, 56 cited low pay and 51 pointed to job stress. Both those totals were twice as many as the year before. “We have to acknowledge … the climate in the state of Florida for educators and the things that have made it less desirable for people to want to be in this profession,” said board member Alexandria Ayala. WPTV. A teacher who was seen on video striking a student with a yardstick has been fired by the school board. Victor Lopez, a 49-year-old math teacher at Boca Raton Community Middle School, was suspended in February after the video was made public. Other students also accused Lopez of putting them in chokeholds, throwing markers at them and calling them names. He begins an unpaid suspension today and will be fired Oct. 18 unless he appeals WPTV. WPEC.

Duval: The case against a Westside High School paraprofessional who was accused of having sex with a student has been dropped, according to court records. Julie Leigh Rodeheaver, 42, was charged in March with soliciting or engaging in sexual conduct with a student by an authority figure. Prosecutors offered no explanation why the charges were dropped. District officials said Rodeheaver no longer works at the school. WTLV. WJXT.

Lee: A 12-year-old student at Diplomat Middle School in Cape Coral was arrested this week and accused of making a shooting threat against the school on the social media platform Snapchat. Police said the girl posted a photo of what looked like a machine gun with the caption, “imma shoot up the school tmr.” The gun wasn’t real and the girl told police she was just joking. WINK. WFTX. WBBH.

Volusia: School board members will vote next Tuesday on a proposal to spend $90,000 to buy 30 metal detectors. Each high school would get three of the devices. “This allows us to perhaps deter those who are maybe thinking of bringing something to school. … We want to have one more layer to provide that safety and security that our students, staff and community deserve,” said Angel Gomez, director of community information services. District officials also said they will meet with law enforcement to discuss each school’s safety plan, review the district’s code of conduct and send messages home to parents explaining what they’re doing to keep students safe. The review of procedures was prompted by the gun threat a week ago that sent Mainland High School into a lockdown. It was a false threat, and officials called it a “cruel prank.” Daytona Beach News-Journal. WKMG. WESH.

Manatee: Don Falls, an economics and U.S. history teacher at Manatee High School, said he became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the state’s new law that bans the teaching of critical race theory because it infringes on his and all teachers’ First Amendment rights. Beyond that, he argues the law is dangerous for students and teachers alike. “How can you legitimately teach American history and try to explain away arguably the most important issue that defined much of our history?” Falls said. “You have an obligation in a democracy to stand up and have your voice heard. So I can’t very well, year in and year out, tell young minds that they need to be part of our democratic process and then ignore it myself.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Sarasota: This week’s school board meeting was another acrimonious session, with debate and commentary on LGBTQ+, banned books and other cultural issues overwhelming attention to the agenda. Several issues, including the removal of a poster at a school that was promoting an LGBTQ+ student event called QueerCon, became a running topic on social media, prompting a reminder from board member Tom Edwards, who is gay, that LGBTQ+ students read the hateful rhetoric and are affected by it. Superintendent Brennan Asplen said the district is considering ordering stickers for schools that say “Safe Space for ALL.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Charlotte Sun.

Marion: A 67-year-old man was killed in Ocala Wednesday morning when the SUV he was driving sideswiped a school bus, then went across the street and hit a tree. Authorities said Karl Heinz Weber may have had a medical episode just before the crash. Seventeen Forest High School students were on the bus, but none was injured. Ocala Star-Banner. WOFL. WCJB. WGFL.

Bay: Wednesday was the last day for free meals at some district schools. A federal waiver permitting free meals for all students was issued after Hurricane Michael devastated the area in 2018. Then the pandemic set in and the waiver was extended. Meals will remain free at 22 schools. Panama City News Herald. At least five district students have been hospitalized this school year for treatment of seizures they suffered after using vaping products at schools, district officials said. WMBB.

Colleges and universities: After months of search for a new president, a presidential search committee for Florida International University has recommended the school hire Kenneth Jessell, who has been the interim president since January and said initially that he didn’t want the job permanently. Jessell, who was the only finalist, had been the university’s chief financial officer and vice president for finance administration for 13 years. Trustees meet today to discuss the search committee’s recommendation. Miami Herald. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. A Pensacola law firm has donated $2.5 million to the University of West Florida to have the school’s new business center bear its name. The Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz Center for Leadership is being housed in the school’s business college, and plans to begin offering classes for students and professional development seminars to business executives by the fall of 2023. Pensacola News Journal.

Teacher vacancies: The number of teacher openings in the state is down to 4,442, according to the latest figures provided by the Florida Department of Education. “Florida has roughly 185,000 teachers and the state’s current vacancies represent approximately 2.4 percent of teaching positions, which is also around 1.2 open positions per school on average,” said DOE officials. About 1,000 of the vacancies are for 6th-grade students with special needs, and 9th-grade math has about 450 openings. WFLA. Nearly 400 military veterans statewide have appliedfor teaching jobs under the state’s new program that gives five-year temporary certificates to veterans who have at least four years of active duty with an honorable/medical discharge and a minimum of 60 college credits with a 2.5 grade point average. WJXT.

Why teachers switch: More than 90 percent of public school teachers who left for private school jobs are reporting greater satisfaction in their work, according to a Step Up For Students survey of 177 teachers who made the jump. They cite a “better alignment with morals and values,” more freedom to teach, less bureaucracy, and less pressure with standardized testing. By contrast, a Merrimack College teacher survey last spring found only 12 percent of public school teachers were “very satisfied” with their jobs, which is down from 62 percent in 2018. Step Up For Students is a nonprofit that helps administer state K-12 scholarship programs and hosts this blog. reimaginED.

Changes sought for NIL: Some Florida college athletics officials are pushing for changes in the state law that allows student-athletes to be compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses. Current law does not allow schools to help students find deals. But coaches in other states don’t have those restrictions, and are using that in recruiting. “I’m hoping in Florida, over the next couple of months, and when we get into session next year from a legislative standpoint, that we are in a different place relative to the state law that allows us to be more involved in it. Because it is not going away,” said Florida State University Seminole Boosters president and CEO Stephen Ponder. News Service of Florida.

Around the nation: About 2.4 million Floridians are eligible for student loan relief of up to $20,000, the White House announced this week. Forty-two million Americans qualify for some amount of loan forgiveness. The aid is available only to borrowers earning under $125,000 a year individually or under $250,000 a year as a family. Politico. Why are so many Republican governors raising teacher salaries? Political experts say it’s a largely due to a combination of smart politics and the presence of federal coronavirus relief aid. The 74.

Opinions on schools: On the campaign trail, it’s rare to hear Gov. DeSantis discuss the state’s “persistently low-performing” schools or how the state is assisting them. And the stakes are high, with concerns that a generation of students could fall behind in their academics at the persistently low-performing schools. Danielle Brown, Florida Phoenix.