School closings: More than 50 of the state’s 67 K-12 school districts have announced they’re closing today because of the anticipated high winds and heavy rainfall Tropical Storm Nicole is expected to bring across the state. Most schools were already scheduled to be closed Friday for Veterans Day. Nearly 30 colleges and universities have also announced they would be closing. Nicole made landfall as a hurricane just south of Vero Beach early today, and is expected to cross the state in a northwesterly direction, then begin turning to the north and north-northeast tonight and clear Florida by late tonight or early Friday. Florida Department of Education. Tampa Bay Times. Miami Herald. Sun-Sentinel. Hernando County School District. WFLA. WTSP. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Fort Myers News-Press. Charlotte Sun. Tallahassee Democrat. Florida Times-Union. WTLV. Port St. Joe Star. WFSU. WTXL. WCTV. WINK.
Sasse hiring finalized: Ben Sasse was officially hired as the new president of the University of Florida after a unanimous vote Wednesday by members of the Florida Board of Governors. The 50-year-old Republican senator from Nebraska will begin work Feb. 6 with a base salary of $1 million a year on a five-year contract, along with automatic raises and bonuses. Calling Sasse’s hiring a “game-changer” for UF, board member Charles Lydecker described the new president as “a workhorse, a life-long learner, a community builder, an intelligence expert, a child of agricultural upbringing, a scholar, a teacher, a public servant, an optimist, and a relatable, humble person at the same time.” Sasse, who will succeed Kent Fuchs, said, “We aspire for Gainesville to be the center of a revolution in higher education in America. And we want our graduates to go out and change the world.” Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Gainesville Sun. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Phoenix.
Around the state: Marion County voters approved the renewal of a 1-mill property tax to support the school district, Manatee County schools name their principal and assistant principal of the year, Bay County schools announce the five finalists for the district’s teacher of the year award, Lee County’s school superintendent said the vote to turn the job into an elected one has him “evaluating his options,” a Florida Board of Governors committee has signed off on a proposal to tie a university tenure-review regulation to a state law that puts restrictions on the way race can be taught in classrooms, the board also confirmed Kenneth Jessell as the new president of Florida International University, and the Venice High School band will play in the Sarasota holiday parade after canceling a Disney appearance after the company asked the school to cover the Indian mascot logo on band members’ uniforms. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Broward: A school board member who was running for re-election after being suspended in August by Gov. Ron DeSantis has conceded defeat in Tuesday’s election. Donna Korn lost to Allen Zeman by 13,410 votes out of 473,508 cast for the at-large District 8 seat. She acknowledged the loss Wednesday in a Facebook post, in which she thanked supporters. Zeman and the three other new board members elected Tuesday will be sworn in Nov. 22. Sun-Sentinel.
Duval: A student faces legal and disciplinary action after a loaded gun was found in a backpack Wednesday at Arlington Elementary School in Jacksonville, according to school officials. School police said another student informed them about the weapon. Under district rules, any student who brings a firearm to school could be expelled for at least a year. WTLV. WJXT.
Pinellas: The increasingly partisan nature of school board races is now giving way to governing. It’s a transition that some former school board members say can be difficult. “There’s a big difference between how you campaign and the latitude you’re given as one of a seven-member board,” said retiring board member Nicole Carr. “A lot of people come in thinking they will be able to tell schools what to do,” said former board member Carol Cook. She said learning how to comprmise is imperative. Tampa Bay Times.
Lee: When Christopher Bernier took the position as school superintendent in February, he knew there was a bill pending in the Legislature to ask voters to determine if the job should be an appointed one or elected one. The bill was passed and signed into law and Tuesday, county voters overwhelmingly decided the job should be an elected one. On Wednesday, Bernier said in a statement, “When I was offered the opportunity to be superintendent by the school board of Lee County, I was fully aware of the possibility of the superintendent role becoming an elected position. Now that it has, I have another decision to make and will be evaluating my options. In the meantime, I remain committed to raising student achievement, leading efforts to improve our student enrollment and transportation systems, and continuing the district’s recovery from Hurricane Ian.” WFTX.
Manatee: Carol Ricks of Myakka City Elementary School has been named the school district’s principal of the year, and Adrienne Vos of Johnson K-8 School of International Studies has been chosen as the district’s top assistant principal. Both are now eligible for the statewide honor. SRQ magazine. Your Observer.
Sarasota: Venice High School’s marching band, which was pulled from a scheduled performance at Disney World after company officials asked the school to cover the Indian mascot on band members’ uniforms, will instead perform at the city of Sarasota’s holiday parade on Dec. 3. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Marion: A special 1-mill property tax to support the school district was extended another four years by almost 65 percent of county voters in Tuesday’s general election. The tax raises about $25 million a year, which is used to pay for school security; art, music, physical education and vocational teachers; and 102 classroom teachers who help the district meet the state-mandated class size caps. Ocala Star-Banner.
Santa Rosa: A substitute teacher at Navarre High School has been arrested and accused of having a sexual relationship with an underage student. Deputies said John Kapolczynski, 46, has been charged with obscene communication, use of a two-way device to commit felony, and the sexual offense of an authoritative figure engaging in a romantic relationship with a student. District officials said Kapolczynski has been removed from classrooms pending a district investigation. WEAR.
Bay: Five finalists have been named for the school district’s teacher of the year award. They are Donna Stark of West Bay Elementary, Adrianna Swearingen of Northside Elementary, Morgan Sansbury of Tyndall Academy, Rebecca Wishart of Parker Elementary, and Jessica Brantley of Rutherford High. The winner will be announced in January and become eligible for the statewide honor. WMBB. A 19-year-old Bay High School student has been arrested and accused of sexual assaulting two female students in a school locker room. WMBB. WJHG. Panama City News Herald.
Wakulla: Crawfordville Elementary School, Shadeville Elementary and Wakulla High have been selected as “schools of excellence” by the Florida Department of Education. To earn the designation, schools must be in the 80th percentile or higher among peer schools in grade calculations for at least two of the past three years. Wakulla News.
Colleges and universities: Florida’s Board of Governors confirmed Kenneth Jessell as the sixth president of Florida International University. The compensation package for Jessell, 67, will be nearly $1 million a year. He replaces Mark Rosenberg, who resigned in January after being accused of harassment. Miami Herald. WLRN. William Hogarth, a biologist who helped build up the University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s College of Marine Science during his tenure as dean and interim regional chancellor, has died at the age of 83. St. Pete Catalyst.
Tenure regulation: A Florida Board of Governors committee has signed off on a proposal to tie a university tenure-review regulation to a state law that puts restrictions on the way race can be taught in classrooms. Violations of the so-called Stop WOKE Act would be one of seven criteria used in a “comprehensive post-tenure” review every five years. Public comment on the proposal will be taken over the next month, and the board will vote on it at a future meeting. The proposal has drawn opposition from officials at several state universities. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Tampa Bay Times.
Legislative committee meetings: Incoming Florida Senate president Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, and incoming House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, have announced the schedule of committee meetings leading up to the beginning of the 60-day legislative session March 7. Committees will meet Dec. 12-16, Jan. 3-6, Jan. 17-20, Jan. 23-27, Feb. 6-10, Feb. 13-17 and Feb. 20-24. News Service of Florida.
Education podcast: Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill and Heidie Nesset, SUFS’s director of platform operations, talk about the infrastructure necessary to expand school choice on a large scale so it will be accessible to families regardless of their income. reimaginED.
Opinions on schools: There was great concern that penny-pinched residents would reject renewing the referendum for Miami-Dade schools, but county voters have long been supporters of public education. They again proved that they have the right priorities on Election Day. Miami Herald. The main focus of the newly reconfigured Sarasota County School Board should be to positively shape the futures of its 50,000-plus students, not to be unduly preoccupied with determining the future of its leader. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.