Sasse at UF today to meet students and staff, Lee targets Oct. 17 for reopening, and more

Sasse assessment: Ben Sasse, the conservative Republican U.S. senator from Nebraska and the only finalist for the job as president of the University of Florida, will be at the school today to meet faculty and students and attend an open forum where he’ll answer questions. The reaction to his presumed appointment ranges from, “This is a historic moment that calls for a unique, transformational leader, and that is who I think our search committee has found,” to, “It could have been worse.” He’s being praised by conservative politicians but panned by some groups because of his public positions on such issues as abortion, same-sex marriage and climate change. And some have criticized the closed selection process. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. USA Today Florida Network. Gainesville Sun. WGFL. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Around the state: Lee school officials are targeting Oct. 17 for the reopening of most of the disttrict’s schools, Alachua students will attend classes on two days previously designated as off-days to make up instructional time missed during Hurricane Ian, Florida Gulf Coast University students and staff aren’t happy about having hurricane makeup days on weekends for the next two months, Broward school board members will be asked to approve the hiring of a new chief facilities officer after four years without one, police shot a man with an ax who tried to get into a Duval County elementary school Friday, and the jury in the Parkland school shooter trial will begin deliberations this week. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: School Superintendent Vickie Cartwright is asking the school board Tuesday to approve her choice for chief facilities officer, Harun Biswas, a consultant who recently retired as vice president for facilities management at Clayton State University in Georgia. The Broward job has been open since late 2018, and the statewide grand jury report cited a lack of leadership as a primary cause of the problems that have plagued the $800 million bond program voters approved to renovate schools. The program is years behind schedule and $500 million over budget. Sun-Sentinel. Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer will read the jury instructions today in the sentencing trial for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz, with closing arguments beginning Tuesday and jury deliberations scheduled to start Wednesday or Thursday. The jury of seven men and five women will decide whether Cruz will be sentenced to life in prison or receive the death penalty. If the jury recommends death, Scherer will make the final decision. WPLG. Associated Press.

Duval: A man with an ax who was trying to get into Ruth N. Upson Elementary School on Friday afternoon was shot and critically wounded by a school police officer. Superintendent Diana Greene said the man couldn’t get into the school because the doors were locked, so he left the campus. He was then confronted by officers nearby and was shot after he moved toward officers and refused their orders to drop the weapon. Police later identified the man as Eric Hurley, who was taken off probation Oct. 4 and was set to graduate from mental health court days after the incident at the school. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. WJXT. WTLV.

Lee, southwest Florida: Oct. 17 is the targeted date for most Lee County schools to reopen, Superintendent Christopher Bernier said Friday. “We are not ready this week to reopen,” he said, and he warned that factors may further delay some reopenings. Bernier said that the Sanibel School, Fort Myers Beach Elementary and Hector A. Cafferatta Jr. Elementary School in Cape Coral will have to be rebuilt. Students and teachers from those three schools will be relocated to other schools together, Bernier said. Fort Myers News-Press. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. WGCU. WBBH. Here is the status of each county school. Fort Myers News-Press.

Brevard: A 29-year-old mother of a student at University Park Elementary in Melbourne was arrested last week and accused of threatening to blow up the school and beat up the principal when she wasn’t allowed to pick up her child from school. Tiffanimarie Pirozzi was charged with making “false reports of deadly explosion or arson” and fleeing and eluding a police officer. Florida Today. Miami Herald. WPEC.

Seminole: District officials said the number of district students who are English speakers of other languages continues to grow. At Lake Mary High School, for example, the number of ESOL students went from 118 in the 2020-2021 school year to 142 this year, said assistant principal Melisa Ayala-Cruz. Spectrum News 13.

Volusia: Former Edgewater City Council member Justin Kennedy and political newcomer Jessie Thompson square off Nov. 8 for the District 3 school board seat. Thompson edged Kennedy in the Aug. 23 primary, 33.77 percent to 33.57 percent. Thompson, 34, said her top priorities are improving the district’s literacy rate and school security. Kennedy, 51, wants to improve staff and teacher morale and stop dipping into district reserves to balance the budget. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A student at New Smyrna Beach High School was arrested last week after allegedly threatening a classmate with a pellet gun after school. The student has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Alachua: Students will now have classes on two previously designated days off to make up time lost to Hurricane Ian. Jan. 3 and Feb. 20 are now full days, the district announced last week. They also said more time will have to be made up by elementary students. WCJB.

Bay: Four new menu items are being introduced Tuesday through Friday to district students. “We like to try these new menu items at schools because we’re trying to get an idea of what appeals to students,” said Stephanie Werchan, who works for the company that has provided meals to the district for 10 years. “We just try to capitalize on that and give our students options on what they want to see again.” Panama City News Herald.

Colleges and universities: A proposal for Florida Gulf Coast University to make up instructional time lost during Hurricane Ian on weekends from now through December has not been well-received by students or staff. At least one petition has been started opposing the move, saying it will make it harder for students who work on weekends to pay their way through college. Fort Myers News-Press. About 2.4 million Hispanics are attending U.S. colleges and universities, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center. That’s an increase of 287 percent in 20 years. Miami Herald. The total compensation for the next Florida International University president could pass $1 million a year by 2025 under a proposal approved by the presidential search committee last week. It recommended that interim president Kenneth Jessell be given the job. Miami Herald. Terri Graham, who became president of Indian River State College’s Vero Beach campus Aug. 1, said one of her top priorities is to continue the Promise Program, which gives free tuition to high school seniors who graduate from a public or charter high school. TCPalm. Pay continues to be the sticking point in contract talks between Hillsborough Community College and its faculty. A study by the union puts the starting professor pay at HCC at $42,187 and the average salary at $58,367, which is lower than the Florida College System average. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the nation: While Republicans are using the issue of transgender women competing in female high school and college sports as a political weapon in the midterms, Democrats are largely silent. Politico.

Opinions on schools: Sen. Ben Sasse’s coronation would be the crowning achievement of the Gov. Ron DeSantis-led effort to defile the University of Florida. Nate Monroe, Florida Times-Union.

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BY NextSteps staff