Parkland school shooter Cruz given 34 life terms, state audit in Broward, teacher raises, and more

Around the state: Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz was sentenced Wednesday to 34 consecutive life terms, the Broward school district’s $237,000 in separation payments to three administrators will be investigated by the Florida Department of Education, Pinellas teachers reach a tentative contract agreement with the district on average raises of 4.25 percent, Clay and Hernando name their principals and assistant principals of the year, Sarasota school Superintendent Brennan Asplen gets a highly effective rating on his evaluation by school board members, at least seven books are removed or banned from Flagler County schools, Florida Gulf Coast University has delayed the selection of a finalist among three candidates for the school presidency, and a new high school in Palm Beach County will be named after a Hispanic community leader who died last December. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: After a second day of being confronted with the grief and rage of families who lost loved ones in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, confessed murderer Nikolas Cruz was sentenced Wednesday to 34 consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole — one life sentence for each of the 17 people Cruz killed and 17 he wounded. “May your life be horrific, painful and shown no mercy,” said Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was one of the victims. Also killed were Scott Beigel, 35; Martin Duque Anguiano, 14; Nicholas Dworet, 17; Aaron Feis, 37; Jaime Guttenberg, 14; Christopher Hixon, 49; Luke Hoyer, 15; Cara Loughran, 14; Gina Montalto, 14; Joaquin Oliver, 17; Alaina Petty, 14; Meadow Pollack, 18; Helena Ramsay, 17; Alexander Schachter, 14; Carmen Schentrup, 16; and Peter Wang, 15. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post. Associated Press. WLRN. WPLG. WTVJ. Florida Department of Education officials have ordered an investigation into the legality of the school district’s payment of $237,000 to three administrators who were pushed out after being criticized in the statewide grand jury report of school safety and the district operations. Superintendent Vickie Cartwright said the district entered into negotiations for the employees to leave if they agreed not to file any legal action against the district. The audit was prompted by a complaint from a Pompano Beach resident about possible waste and overpayment. Sun-Sentinel.

Hillsborough: Parents of children whose schools are most likely to be affected if the district follows through with a proposed rezoning plan have been the least involved in the process so far, according to a consultant. The plan calls for several underenrolled schools to be closed, and most of those schools are in low-income neighborhoods. While white students make up just 31 percent of the district’s enrollment, 62 percent of the residents answering surveys on the issue were white, the consultant said. School board member Henry Washington said he was troubled by the uneven participation. “This was not communicated well enough, but we have to do a better job,” he said. “We may have to knock on doors, talk to people at church. We have to make sure constituents come out and engage.” Tampa Bay Times.

Palm Beach: A new high school opening next fall in Lake Worth will be named after a Hispanic community leader who died last December. Dr. Joaquín García High School honors the founder of the Hispanic Education Coalition. Garcia was a supporter of scholarship programs, dual-language learning and causes that make schools more accepting for both Hispanic and LGBTQ+ students. Up to 2,600 students will attend the school. Palm Beach Post. Three students who threatened a mass shooting at a district school were expelled Wednesday, along with six others who were discovered with weapons on school campuses. School officials said they take every threat seriously. “It’s probably the hardest part of my job is having to expel a student from a campus. However, safety comes first. We’ve learned that and we’re going to take that responsibility extremely seriously,” said Keith Oswald, the district’s chief of equity and wellness. Expulsions are typically for a calendar year, during which the students attend one of the district’s four alternative schools, a virtual school, a charter school if the charter accepts them, or are home-schooled. WPTV.

Polk: A former Haines City High School math teacher has been arrested and accused of having a sexual relationship with a student. Jeremiah Stringer, who was arrested Wednesday, was fired by the district in October after the alleged relationship was discovered. WFLA.

Pinellas: Teachers and the school district have reached a tentative agreement on a contract that would raise the average teacher’s pay by 4.25 percent and starting pay to $50,568. Bonuses of $1,000 for teachers with at least 20 years of experience and $735 for those with 10 to 19 years are included, and the district will cover the full increase in health insurance premiums. The deal still must be approved by union members and the school board. Tampa Bay Times. School officials are asking developers for proposals to transform a historic St. Petersburg building that had been an adult education center and is now a storage facility into affordable housing for teachers and other school employees. The Tomlinson building sits on 1.7 acres in 10 parcels in the downtown area. Any proposal would have to preserve the three-story, 41,000-square-foot main building, but could build on seven of the parcels to provide the maximum number of units at the lowest rents possible. “This project sets out to innovatively and collaboratively address housing for our teachers and other district employees,” said Superintendent Kevin Hendrick. WTVT. WTSP. Patch.

Osceola: School board members are considering a request from a developer of an affordable housing community to waive school impact fees. At least one board member, Julius Melendez, suggested that the school district work with other government agencies to each lower the fees they collect. “We don’t want to be the only provider of that assistance to a specific community. So if the county commission says they want to waive, say, 10 percent of the impact fee, we are willing to match those and do that as well,” said Melendez. “I don’t support completely waiving the fee, completely because we do need those funds to build a school.” The board did not vote on the request. Spectrum News 13.

Seminole: Workers will soon begin to address mold and air quality issues at some buildings on the campus of Evans Elementary School in Oviedo. After parents began to report early in the fall that their children were becoming sick, students were removed from the affected buildings. The district’s goal is to have the buildings ready for students to return to after the Thanksgiving break. WFTV.

Collier: School board chair Jen Mitchell, who is running for re-election to her District 3 seat Tuesday against Kelly Lichter,  says she’s the target of a campaign by an unknown party to brand her as a progressive liberal, not the conservative Republican she says she is. Pointing out that a candidate isn’t a “real Republican” can be damaging in Collier, a GOP stonghold. “They’re fooling people,” Mitchell said. “People are very confused, they’re reaching out to me, (asking) ‘what’s the truth?’ It’s effective.” Naples Daily News.

Sarasota: Superintendent Brennan Asplen received a “highly effective” rating on his evaluation this week by school board members. Asplen was judged to be highly effective in eight of the 10 categories rated, and effective in the other two. Board members Shirley Brown, Tom Edwards and Jane Goodwin each graded Asplen as highly effective in at least eight categories. Both Karen Rose and Bridget Ziegler thought Asplen needs improvement in four categories. Charlotte Sun.

Clay: Becky Murphy of Ridgeview High School in Orange has been named the school district’s principal of the year, school officials announced last week. Chosen as the assistant principal of the year was Amanda Strickland of Middleburg Elementary. Both now advance to the state competition. Clay Today. Clay Today. Clay County School District.

Santa Rosa: The Central School in Milton will start playing football next fall. Fielding a junior varsity team will be the first step in a phased-in approach to having a varsity team. “There are a lot of questions. There’s a lot of things to do. There’s a lot that we’ve got to get done,” said principal Klint Lay. “But in the 40th anniversary of Central School … in the shadow of all that tradition next year, in the year 2023, we’re going to have a football team.” Central is a K-12 school with fewer than 1,000 students. Pensacola News Journal.

Hernando: Rosemarie Maiorini, the principal at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics in Spring Hill, has been named the school district’s 2023 principal of the year. Alex Rastatter of Powell Middle School, also in Spring Hill, was chosen as the district’s assistant principal of the year. Both are now eligible for the state competition. Hernando County School District.

Flagler: At least seven books have been banned or removed from libraries in middle and high schools since last summer, according to a review of district records. Some of the books were taken off shelves by media specialists as part of routine culling process, while others were removed after complaints were made and the books reviewed by a district committee. Flagler Live.

Walton: A school bus driver was hospitalized after he crashed into a tree in Freeport on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. No students were injured. WEAR.

Levy: A 13-year-old student at Bronson Middle/High School was arrested after deputies said she brought meth to campus and gave it to two friends. The drugs were discovered when the two students became ill in a school bathroom, and tracked to the 13-year-old. One of the students was taken to a hospital for treatment. WGFL. WCJB.

Colleges and universities: Florida Gulf Coast University has narrowed the field of candidates for the school presidency to three candidates but will delay the selection of a finalist, citing the short turnaround before the Board of Governors meets next week. School trustees will meet in two weeks to pick a nominee from finalists Robert Gregerson, Tod Laursen and Susana Rivera-Mills. WINK. News Service of Florida. State Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, takes over as chancellor of the state university system next Wednesday, replacing Marshall Criser. Rodrigues is on a three-year contract that will pay him $400,000 a year. He’ll also be eligible for performance-based bonuses of up to 15 percent of his salary starting at the end of 2023, and will receive $50,000 a year for housing and transportation expenses and $25,000 in relocation expenses. News Service of Florida.

Opinions on schools: Results from the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress aren’t pretty, but Florida does have some bright spots. The state’s students continue to excel at reading, especially when viewing the results demographically, and in particular, by free and reduced-price lunch eligibility, an indicator of poverty. Patrick R. Gibbons, reimaginED. Ben Sasse will have many challenges as president of the University of Florida, including gaining the trust of students and faculty and dealing with a governor who has presidential ambitions and no problem using higher education as a punching bag. Tampa Bay Times.

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BY NextSteps staff