Broward board reverses firing of superintendent, Patton departs, Hillsborough rezoning, and more

Around the state: Broward County’s new school board voted Tuesday to reverse the firing of Superintendent Vickie Cartwright at least until Jan. 24, Collier Superintendent Kamela Patton announced Tuesday that she has reached an agreement with the school board and will step down immediately instead of at the end of the academic year, Sarasota school board members approved a separation agreement with Superintendent Brennan Asplen, a plan to close some schools and rezone thousands of students has been submitted to the Hillsborough school board for consideration, Miami-Dade school board members will consider creating a policy on what flags may and may not be used in classrooms, Lee’s school board is considering four options for the future of an elementary school badly damaged by Hurricane Ian, Charlotte will reopen a middle school Jan. 4 that was also battered by Ian, Tampa Bay area school districts worry that the teacher shortage could get worse after the holidays, and Brevard narrows its list of finalists for the interim superintendent’s job to three candidates. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: School board members will consider a proposal at today’s meeting that would allow only the American flag and the official motto of the state of Florida to be displayed in classrooms and on campuses. Flags that are unrelated to curriculum, such as those from other countries, a Black Lives Matter flag or a rainbow flag to celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month, would be prohibited. Newly elected board member Roberto Alonso, who sponsored the proposal, said it’s intended to give teachers flexibility to display flags that correlate with specific parts of the curriculum while also providing guidelines for how and when to do so. “What we don’t want is for the Cuban flag to be flying all year long inside of a classroom that discussed it during Hispanic heritage month, but now that flag is overpowering the American flag within that classroom,” said Alonso. Miami Herald.

Broward: The firing of school Superintendent Vickie Cartwright on Nov. 14 by a school board with five members appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis was reversed Tuesday. The new school board, with four of the DeSantis-appointed members no longer in office, voted 5-3 to keep Cartwright at least until Jan. 24, which marks the end of the 90-day period the previous board gave her to make improvements shortly before firing her. Voting to retain Cartwright were board members Jeff Holness, Allen Zeman, Nora Rupert, Sarah Leonardi and Debbi Hixon. Those in favor of upholding the firing were Lori Alhadeff, Brenda Fam and Torey Alston. “We are delaying the inevitable,” Alhadeff said. “We are kicking the can, leaving her district shaky, not knowing what’s going to happen.” Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WLRN. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. Board members also approved a school calendar for the 2023-2024 academic year. The first day of school is Aug. 21, and the last day June 10. It includes a week off over Thanksgiving and spring break, and two weeks over the winter holidays. Tap Into.

Hillsborough, Tampa Bay area: District officials released three options on Tuesday to close as many as a half-dozen schools and rezone up to 24,000 students to save money and ease overcrowding at some schools. The plans, made after months of collaboration with a consultant, now must be considered by school board members in time to implement by next fall. “This is bold for us,” said Superintendent Addison Davis. “But it’s necessary. We have to make sure we are being fiscally responsible and maximizing every dollar we spend at every facility.” Tampa Bay Times. WTVT. The shortage of teachers reported when schools opened in August in Tampa Bay area districts is lingering, and many school officials said it’s possible it will get worse. “Winter break is a natural point in time when a lot of people leave, retire, what have you, and don’t come back,” said Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association teachers union. Hillsborough County still has 509 vacancies, while Pasco has 207 and Pinellas 136. Tampa Bay Times. Pinellas officials have announced that students will lose a day of spring break  to make up a day of instructional time lost to Hurricane Nicole. March 20, the Monday after spring break, had been scheduled as a day off for students but will now be a full school day. WTSP.

Lee: School board members are considering four options for the future of Fort Myers Beach Elementary School, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Ian in September. Parents have been lobbying the board to rebuild the school, which was built in 1947 and is the smallest public elementary school in the county. Option 1 would be to restore the historic building but remove the outer buildings and temporarily send students to other schools. The cost would be $4.6 million. Option 2, which would cost $10.2 million, would be to repair the historic building and bring in portable classrooms. Option 3 would restore the historic building and add new buildings at a cost of $19.8 million, and Option 4 would be to restore the historic building and then sell the property and relocate students to other schools. WBBH. WFTX. Students from Franklin Park Elementary School in Fort Myers will attend a school in portable classrooms at a temporary campus after the holiday break while most of their school is torn down to be rebuilt. The new school will open in August 2024. WZVN.

Brevard: Three finalists are in the running to become the interim superintendent while the school board searches for a permanent replacement for the outgoing Mark Mullins. The finalists are Mark Rendell, the former superintendent in Indian River County who is now the principal of Cocoa Beach Junior/Senior High School; James Larsen, who works in the Orange County schools administrative offices; and Robert Shiller, who has interim leadership experience in California, Maryland and Virginia. The board is expected to make a decision by New Year’s Day, which is the day after Mullins leaves. WKMG.

Seminole: A former football player at Ovieo High School is suing the district, claiming he was sexually assaulted in the locker room in 2018. The assaults were commonplace and called “Code Red” and the principal at the time knew about them but did nothing to stop them, the student alleges in the suit. WFTV.

Collier: Kamela Patton, superintendent since 2011 who had announced in June that she would be leaving the district by the end of this school year, reached an agreement Tuesday with the school board to exit immediately, and will be replaced on an interim basis by deputy superintendent Leslie Ricciardelli. Patton will receive 20 weeks of severance pay and accrued vacation and sick leave pay. “Now is the ideal time for me to depart as I welcome a brand new year filled with opportunities that will allow me to build and support other leaders and districts across this nation, including our own school district,” Patton said. “I have 14 different job offers … I have my own company that I’m ready to be starting. I’m ready for the next chapter in my life.” Naples Daily News. WINK. WFTX. WBBH.

St. Johns: School board members signed off Tuesday on plans to build two schools in the northwest part of the county. STG Contracting Group’s  $65.2 million bid to build K-8 school “OO,” which will hold 1,500 students, was approved, and board members also gave the go-ahead to site plans for another K-8 school for about 1,100 students. Both are expected to open in the fall of 2024. WJXT.

Sarasota: Superintendent Brennan Asplen’s separation agreement was approved by the school board Tuesday. He left with a $170,000 severance package and a few choice words. “This is politics, people,” he said, reading aloud celebratory social media posts from such conservative politicians as state Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, and Christian Ziegler, former Sarasota county commissioner and husband of school board chair Bridget Ziegler. “How does that fit in with civility and the school district’s policy on bullying?” he asked. Charlotte Sun. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT. WFTS. WWSB. School board members got a preview Tuesday of the updated plans for a new high school in Wellen Park. Construction is expected to start early next year and be finished in time for the school to open in the fall of 2025. It will focus on career and technical education, science, agriculture, arts and athletics. Charlotte Sun.

Leon: School Superintendent Rocky Hanna is proposing the district create a new position to work on recruiting and retaining new teachers and school bus drivers. “We are hopeful that this new coordinator will be able to go out and dispel some of the rumors and language that’s out there and be able to recruit people to come into this profession,” he said. WTXL.

Bay: School board members voted Tuesday to approve a contract agreement between the district and its teachers that will raise base salaries by an average of $2,000. If the teachers union ratifies the deal, it will go into effect immediately and raises will be retroactive to the beginning of the school year. WMBB. Blythe Carpenter, who has been acting principal at Bay High School since July, had the word acting dropped from the title on Tuesday. She becomes the first female principal in school history. WMBB.

Charlotte: The district school that suffered the most damage during Hurricane Ian will reopen Jan. 4, school board members were told by administrators at Tuesday’s meeting. Port Charlotte Middle School was so badly damaged that there were concerns it would have to be torn down, but assistant superintendent Jeff Harvey said about 70 percent of the repair work has been done and the rest will be finished in time for the school to reopen after the winter break. Harvey also said Port Charlotte High and some other schools are still working on repairs, and that 51 school roofs were either replaced or repaired. Charlotte Sun.

Colleges and universities: A new state regulation that would allow college deans to review the employment of tenured faculty staff every five years should be removed when the rules for the review process are formed, the University of Florida Faculty Senate is urging the Florida Board of Governors. The rule will be considered by the board at its January meeting. “By specifically mentioning this statute and no others, what it does is that it sends a message to faculty in our state, and to potential faculty members elsewhere, that you are going to be targeted if you cover topics that are deemed controversial by elected officials,” said Amanda Phalin, chair of the UF Faculty Senate. Gainesville Sun. A $100 million donation from the Dr. Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Family Foundation will be used by faculties at the University of Florida, Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University to research and develop treatments for genetic, infectious and autoimmune diseases, brain disorders and cancers. Miami Herald.

Around the nation: Ten years ago today, 26 students and adults were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The massacre sparked significant changes in school security, but at least a dozen schools have still been the site of mass shootings, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County on Valentine’s Day 2018. USA Today. Education Week.

Opinions on schools: Accountability demands that everyone who has a stake in Sarasota County’s 46,000-student school system feels a sense of responsibility to ensure that the spectacle of a high-performing superintendent being run out of town merely represents an unusual aberration for the district, and not an unnerving harbinger of what’s yet to come from the current school board. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Our democracy depends on a strong public education system. Our teachers need you. Our students need you. Stand and fight with us. Clinton McCracken, Orlando Sentinel. Gov. DeSantis’ vow to “Keep Florida Free” doesn’t seem to extend to south Florida school district leaders. Randy Schultz, Sun-Sentinel. The school choice movement is picking up steam across the country. Reagan Reese, Daily Caller.