Jury makes recommendation in Parkland case, schools to reopen after Hurricane Ian and more

Around the state: A Florida jury has recommended life in prison for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz, former President Mark Rosenberg returns to Florida International University, schools hit by Hurricane Ian are slated to reopen next week and restrictions were lifted on the Bible after a ban in Escambia. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools and colleges and universities:

Parkland school shooting: A Florida jury deliberated for seven hours over the span of two days before deciding on Thursday that Nikolas Cruz should go to prison for the rest of his life in lieu of the death penalty for killing 17 people in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school in Parkland.  Cruz pleaded guilty last year to 17 charges of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder. The recommendation by the jury ended a three-month trial but left some victim’s families angry. “We are beyond disappointed with the outcome today,” said Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter was killed. Tampa Bay Times. NPR. The Miami Herald. Associated Press.

Broward: During a school board meeting on Wednesday, Superintendent Vickie Cartwright said the district had to start from scratch in its search for a chief facilities officer after Cartwright removed a candidate from consideration. The role had been vacant for a few years and includes overseeing the district’s SMART program. In August, a grand jury report alleged mismanagement of the program. “I think as Broward County Schools, as an organization, I think we’ve reached a new low,” board member Daniel Foganholi said. “The entire process was messy and it was ugly.”  WPLG.

Polk: The school district’s legislative agenda for the next session in Tallahassee was part wish list but mostly about measures officials need to address educational needs. The district’s in-house lobbyist Wendy Dodge presented its preliminary legislation platform to the school board this week at a special work session. Lakeland Ledger.

Escambia: The school district here reversed course on Wednesday and alerted staff to put the Bible back in school libraries after a debate challenging its appropriateness. District officials say the restrictions were lifted without a formal review because the Bible is legally approved as educational material in the state of Florida. The number of challenged books in the district stood at 128 as of Tuesday with the addition of the Bible after a request for reconsideration was filed by Sarah Holland. North Escambia.  Pensacola News Journal.

COVID coping: Nationwide, seniors in high school have had every high school year touched by the pandemic, forcing them to adapt, grow and appreciate the moments of relative normalcy. NPR. Meanwhile, more students than usual missed big portions of school during the pandemic, with some districts seeing chronic absenteeism rates double. Chalkbeat.

Critical race theory poll: Nearly half of Americans have never heard of critical race theory or say they don’t know anything about it, according to a poll. The 74th.

Hurricane Ian: Counties in southwest Florida that were hard hit by Hurricane Ian are working to get their schools reopened so students can return to classrooms after Hurricane Ian swept through the state. All school districts will be open by Tuesday, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis during a Cape Coral press conference. But that doesn’t mean every school will be functioning by that date. Most school districts closed during the last week of September in preparation for Hurricane Ian, but five districts experienced longer shutdowns due to the storm’s damage: Hardee, Charlotte, Lee, DeSoto and Sarasota. Lee was given the green light to reopen 13 schools on Monday. Florida Phoenix. Fox 4.Ft. Myers News-Press.

University and college news: Mark Rosenberg abruptly resigned when a woman who worked in his office accused him of misconduct. Now, the former president of Florida International University will return in the spring semester, earning about $377,000 to teach one class per semester. Rosenberg has been on a one-year paid sabbatical since resigning at the end of January. WSVNThe Miami Herald. Attorney and higher education leader David Fugett has been tapped as vice president and general counsel at Florida Polytechnic University. Lakeland Ledger.

Opinions on schools: Some still appear to be interested in “getting and spending” at the expense of education’s power to give students hope for the future.  Jonathan Butcher, reimaginED.  The verdict in Nikolas Cruz’s sentencing trial was stunning and a gut punch to some of the families of the victims of the Parkland shooting.  Miami Herald editorial board.