Nebraska senator is sole finalist to become UF president, districts schedule reopenings, and more

Sasse to UF presidency? U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, has been unanimously recommended by a search committee as the only finalist for the president’s job at the University of Florida. He has indicated he will take the job, and that he would resign from the Senate in the coming weeks. Sasse is expected to visit the campus Monday to meet with students, faculty and other members of the university community. Sasse, 50, was president of Midland University, a Christian school in eastern Nebraska, before he was elected to the Senate in 2014. He said he has been approached by other universities, but that “this time is different because the University of Florida is very different. … The University of Florida is the most interesting university in America right now. It’s the most important institution in the nation’s most economically dynamic state.” If the school’s trustees accept the recommendation that Sasse becomes UF’s 13th president at their Nov. 1 meeting, he’ll replace Kent Fuchs, who announced in January that he was stepping down by the end of the year. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Politico. Gainesville Sun. Mainstreet Daily News. Tampa Bay Times. Miami Herald. USA Today. NPR. CNN. WCJB. WGFL. Higher Ed Dive.

Around the state: Schools in the north part of Sarasota County are on track to open Monday with schools to the south returning a week later, Charlotte district officials are aiming to reopen schools Oct. 24, Hillsborough students will have to make up some instruction time lost when schools were closed because of Hurricane Ian, Collier County schools reopened Thursday, testimony concludes in the sentencing trial of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz, Gov. Ron DeSantis blocks the release of $175 million for education and other projects that the Legislature recently approved, the Florida Board of Education meets Oct. 19-20 to establish rules for schools on adopting textbooks and informing parents about policies that allow students to use restrooms or locker rooms based on any criteria other than their sex assigned at birth, and the 50-year tradition of a lighting a huge bonfire for a Bay County high school’s homecoming is ending after it exploded this week. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: County voters are being asked Nov. 8 to renew a tax hike so the school district can improve pay for teachers and school police officers. “We want to make sure that we’re able to maintain our ability to recruit and retain our teachers and our police officers,” Superintendent Jose Dotres said Thursday. He said if voters don’t approve the measure, salaries will be rolled back and the teacher shortage will worsen. WPLG.

Broward: Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz told a psychologist he chose Valentine’s Day to commit the mass shooting in 2018 to ruin the day forever for anyone associated with the school. The video of that conversation was played by prosecutors in his sentencing trial Thursday. Testimony has now concluded and closing arguments are scheduled Tuesday, with jury deliberations likely to begin Wednesday. Jurors can sentence Cruz to life in prison or recommend the death penalty, which would put his fate in the hands of Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer. Sun-SentinelAssociated Press. Summarizing what happened Thursday in Cruz’s sentencing trial. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. A 17-year senior at Fort Lauderdale High School jumped to his death from a third-floor stairwell at the school Thursday morning. Grief counselors were called to console students and staff, and parents were allowed to take their children home early. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ.

Hillsborough: Students will have to make up some of the instruction time lost because of Hurricane Ian, the district announced Thursday. Classes will be held Oct. 27, which had been scheduled as a teacher planning day with students off, and six days that were on the calendar Nov. 7, 14 and 28, and Dec. 5, 12 and 19, as one-hour early-release days are now full school days. Tampa Bay Times.

Osceola: A 15-year-old student at St. Cloud High School was arrested Thursday for allegedly attacking a school resource officer who was trying to break up a fight between two other boys. He faces charges of battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence. WKMG. WESH. Orlando Sentinel.

Volusia: District 1 school board incumbent Jamie Haynes is being challenged in the Nov. 8 election by Al Bouie. Board vice chair Haynes, 56, and retired educator Bouie, 76, recently answered questions about why they’re running, their top three priorities if elected, and more. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Collier: Schools reopened Thursday for the first time since Hurricane Ian approached the southwest Florida coast last week. Superintendent Kamela Patton said she hoped the return of students could help bring a sense of normalcy back to the community. Mental health resources are being made available to students and staff, and all students can get free breakfast and lunch at schools through the end of this month. Naples Daily News. WBBH. WFTX.

Marion: A 17-year-old student at North Marion High School was arrested Thursday after having a loaded gun at school, according to sheriff’s deputies. A student overheard two other students talking about having a gun and killing someone, and notified deputies. The two students were identified through surveillance videos, and deputies said the gun was found in the 17-year-old’s book bag. WKMG. WCJB. WGFL.

Sarasota: District officials confirmed Thursday that they will be able to open schools in the northern part of the county on Monday. Schools in the southern part of the county, closer to the landfall of Hurricane Ian and more heavily damaged, are projected to open Oct. 17. Heron Creek Middle School in North Port had the most damage, said district spokesman Craig Maniglia. It was flooded and needed major roof repairs, and one of its buildings will be closed for at least a month, he said. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Alachua: The school district is partnering with the University of Florida to improve literacy and reduce the academic achievement gap between white and black students with programs such as the University of Florida Literary Institute Foundations, Summer Adventures in Literacy, the James Patterson Literacy Challenge and the New World Reading Initiative. “When you start off with a child reading on grade level, there’s no need to remediate,” said school board member Tina Certain. “If we can get them started on the right foot, that’s better than trying to get them caught up.” Gainesville Sun. An after-school program combines tennis instruction at the University of Florida practice courts with tutoring, mentoring and counseling to improve academic performance for students who are mostly black and from low-income families. Aces in Motion reported a 100 percent graduation rate and postsecondary acceptance rate for its students during the 2020-2021 school year. WUFT.

Bay: District and law enforcement officials are ending the Mosley High School homecoming bonfire tradition of 50 years after the bonfire exploded Wednesday night. No one was injured and the fire was quickly extinguished. The cause is under investigation.  WJHG. WMBB. Panama City News Herald.

Charlotte: District officials have set Oct. 24 as the goal to reopen schools to students. A damage assessment released Thursday disclosed that every school had damage from Hurricane Ian, and Neil Armstrong, Liberty and Vineland elementary schools and Port Charlotte Middle are still without power. “We expect to receive a detailed assessment of damage from Disaster Restoration Co. by end of this week,” district officials announced in a statement. They hope “that every school can be used in some way even if we have to close some sections of a school and reconfigure areas to accommodate all students.” Superintendent Steve Dionisio said he hopes the district can “stay away from double sessions like when I was principal at Port Charlotte High School” after Hurricane Charley in 2004. “Kids need normal schools with normal teachers at the normal time,” he said. “No one knows how taxing this is on the community; some of these kids work on a part-time basis.” Charlotte Sun. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WFTX. WWSB.

Flagler: The District 2 school board race Nov. 8 matches Courtney VandeBunte against Will Furry. VandeBunte, a 35-year-old middle school content provider for a Harvard University platform, and Furry, a 47-year-old realtor, recently answered questions about why they’re running, their top three priorities if elected, and more. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Colleges and universities: Four finalists have been chosen for the University of South Florida’s provost and executive vice president of academic affairs job. One is the interim provost, Eric M. Eisenberg, who is the dean of USF’s College of Arts and Sciences. Each will visit USF’s three campuses and participate in town halls Oct. 12, 13, 17 and 18. Tampa Bay Times.

State projects blocked: Gov. DeSantis is blocking the release of $175 million for education and other projects that the Legislature recently approved, citing uncertainty about the financial costs of Hurricane Ian and because he has concerns that the way the Legislature structured the spending violates the constitutional separation of powers. Politico Florida. Florida Politics.

State BOE tackling rules: The Florida Board of Education meets Oct. 19-20 in Orlando to issue new rules for schools on a process for adopting textbooks, for setting up websites listing elementary school library holdings and reading lists, and for informing parents about policies that allow students to use restrooms or locker rooms based on any criteria other than their sex assigned at birth. Tampa Bay Times.

Florida quarterfinalists: Five Florida education providers are among 64 quarterfinalists from 33 states and the District of Columbia who are in the running for a $1 million award for educational excellence. SailFuture in St. Petersburg, RCMA Immokalee Community Academy, Hope Ranch Learning Academy in Hudson, Colossal Academy in Davie and Kind Academy in Coral Springs are competing for the prize that recognizes schools offering education that is sustainable, transformational, outstanding and permissionless. reimaginED.

Around the nation: During a time of teacher shortages, U.S. K-12 schools employ about 160,000 educators who are considered “underqualified” because they are working without state certification or are teaching outside their subject area. Florida was one of the 11 states with the highest percentage of underqualified teachers. The 74.

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BY NextSteps staff