Sarasota leader allowed to resign and Brevard’s gets unexpected support, makeup days, and more

Around the state: Sarasota school board members decided Tuesday to allow Superintendent Brennan Asplen to negotiate his resignation instead of firing him, Brevard’s departing superintendent gets unexpected support from one of the founders of the Moms for Liberty organization, the Lee school district’s principal and assistant principal of the year are chosen, Manatee school officials announce finalists for the teacher and support employee of the year awards, Broward schools convert two scheduled half-days into full days to help make up instructional time lost to hurricanes, Brevard’s school board will consider a proposal next week that would restore allotted speaking time at board meetings to three minutes, and a Martin County School Board member apologizes after being criticized for a Facebook comment that many interpreted as an attack on teachers. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: School officials have announced that scheduled half-days on Jan. 12 and April 20 have been converted into full days to help make up time lost during Hurricane Ian in September and Hurricane Nicole in November. Sun-Sentinel.

Palm Beach: A former William T. Dwyer High School football coach and behavioral intervention assistant has been sentenced to a year in prison one day after he pleaded guilty to lewd or lascivious battery and unlawful sexual activity with a minor. Prosecutors said a woman, now 38, first accused Reginald Stanley, now 55, in 2019 of coercing her into having sex hundreds of times with him between 1999 and 2002, when she was a teenager. Palm Beach Post. WPTV. WPEC.

Lee: Brandy Macchia of Ray V. Pottorf Elementary School has been chosen as the school district’s principal of the year, and Joseph Restino of Harns Marsh Middle School is the assistant principal of the year. Both are now eligible for the statewide awards from the Florida Department of Education. WBBH.

Brevard: The conservative group Moms for Liberty backed school board candidates who were elected and quickly said they were interested in new district leadership. Subsequently, Superintendent Mark Mullins agreed to step down. Now one of Moms for Liberty’s founders, former school board member Tina Descovich, has issued a statement of support for Mullins, calling him a “true servant leader.” She added, “In my opinion, there have been many failures of the board the last two years but the blame should lie with the school board. The superintendent is an employee of the board and his job is to carry out the will of the board. … I believe the board will have a hard time finding someone to measure up.” The executive board of the county chapter of Moms for Liberty, though, backed the board’s decision. Florida Today. School board chair Matt Susin has called a special meeting to consider a proposal reinstituting a three-minute time limit for speakers at board meetings. In May, the board restricted speakers to one minute. Space Coast Daily.

Manatee: Finalists for the district’s teacher of the year and support employee of the year awards have been announced by school district officials. Best teacher finalists are Tiffany Barrett-Greer, who teaches 2nd grade at Braden River Elementary School; music teacher and band director Kendall Carrier of Parrish Community High; biomedical science teacher Michelle Dowell at Palmetto High; and Kelly Smith-Williams, anatomy and physiology teacher at Lakewood Ranch High. Finalists for support employee of the year are Gena Case, a guidance clerk at Myakka City Elementary; Brianna Hall, clerical assistant at Lincoln Memorial Middle; Marisol Hernandez, school secretary at Braden River High; and Latisha Jones, guidance clerk at Southeast High. The winners will be announced Feb. 7. Bradenton Herald. Mitchell Teitelbaum, the general counsel for school district since 2014, has been hired as a deputy county administrator by Scott Hopes, a former member of the school board who is now county administrator. Teitelbaum will oversee departments that handle information outreach, public records, human resources and economic development. Bradenton Herald.

Sarasota: After a nearly six-hour meeting Tuesday night, school board members decided in a 4-1 vote to allow Superintendent Brennan Asplen to negotiate his departure from the district instead of firing him. Dozens of students, parents and members of the community spoke in support of Asplen, who has been with the district just over two years and has received positive evaluations from the board, including one last summer. But election results shifted the balance of power on the board from liberal to conservative, and in a 4-1 vote last week the board agreed to consider firing Asplen at Tuesday’s meeting, where board members Bridget Ziegler and Karen Rose criticized his leadership and ethics. Asplen responded by slamming board members for allowing politics to get in the way of serving students, then surprised the board and many in the audience by announcing that he is a conservative Republican who aligns politically with the four board members who voted to consider firing him. Charlotte Sun. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT. WWSB. Politico Florida.

Escambia: A former school board member has filed a complaint against the board’s newest member, claiming he used an improper address when filing to run. Laura Edler lodged the complaint against David Williams, who was sworn in last week. Edler said the address Williams used in his campaign records is listed in property tax records under another name. WEAR.

Alachua: Thirty-nine district students have been selected as all-state musicians by the Florida Music Education Association (FMEA). The students and others chosen from around the state will perform at the FMEA conference Jan. 11-14 in Tampa. WGFL.

Bay: The Bay Education Foundation has started a campaign to raise money for education foundations in three counties affected by Hurricane Ian. The foundation will match up to $20,000 of the money raised for students and teachers in Lee, Seminole and Collier counties. Monies raised will be split proportionally among the three foundations. Panama City News Herald.

Hernando: Newly re-elected school board members Mark Johnson and Shannon Rodriguez were sworn in last week along with returning board member Susan Duval. Gus Guadagnino and Duval were unanimously elected as board chair and vice chair, respectively. Suncoast News.

Martin: School board member Christia Li Roberts is apologizing for comments she made on Facebook. Parents had been asked if they it would bother them to know their children watched a movie in class just before Thanksgiving break. Roberts responded by writing, “The intent at the Martin County School District is for high quality instruction. If your child’s class watched a movie for entertainment this week, please COMMENT with the following: School, Grade Level, Regular Teacher or Substitute (teacher name not necessary).” The post drew criticism from parents and others who said the post appeared to be an attack on teachers. Roberts then backed away from the post, writing, “At no point was it my intent to offend or create upset feelings amongst our teachers or supportive community. I humbly ask for forgiveness from all who were offended or troubled by my posts.” WPTV.

Citrus: After years of inactivity, the freshwater aquaculture tanks at Crystal River High School are now being used by agriculture students to raise East Coast redfish for population restocking throughout Florida. “We have fingerling redfish right now,” said course instructor Aimee Owens. “So, we’ll raise them throughout the year and then eventually they’ll be released. It’s a good opportunity for the students to learn and get hands-on experience, career experience in the aquaculture industry, hopefully encourage some enthusiasm and maybe spark some interest in future careers.” Citrus County Chronicle. Bobbie Joe Collins, an agriculture teacher and Future Farmers of America adviser who taught at Citrus High School and Inverness Middle School, died earlier this month at the age of 87. Citrus County Chronicle.

Colleges and universities: A University of South Florida professor has received a patent for technology that creates a digital certificate on a cell phone to confirm a person’s identity and location and protect people wrongly accused of crimes. While there are many uses, developer Sriram Chellappan said, “This is a service that can let anyone prove that they were at or not at a particular point in time. Years after the fact.” St. Pete Catalyst.

Opinions on schools: Education choice is helping thousands of rural families access life-changing options for their kids. Still, the overwhelming majority of rural families continue to choose district schools. Policymakers should proceed accordingly. Ron Matus and Dava Hankerson, reimaginED. In the face of the twin cliffs, financial and enrollment, when education leaders believe they have to close schools, they should do so carefully. Smart steps can mitigate the harm. We have a long way to go to help students catch up post-pandemic and we can’t afford to make the problem worse by following faulty precedents and closing successful schools. Douglas N. Harris and Valentina Martinez-Pabon, Education Week.