DeSantis again appoints Foganholi to Broward board, Okaloosa schools settle with DOJ, and more

Around the state: Gov. Ron DeSantis has appointed a replacement for a Broward school board member-elect whose eligibility was in question over a felony conviction in 1994, the Okaloosa school district will change its disciplinary policies on seclusion and use of restraints against students with disabilities to settle a federal complaint, the number of homeless students has skyrocketed in Sarasota and Charlotte counties since Hurricane Ian hit the area in late September, Flagler school officials will conduct a survey to determine interest in the creation of an armed school guardian program, Nassau County teachers and the school district reach a tentative contract agreement, and the state has paid four outside law firms $16.7 million to defend the governor’s legal wars on what he calls “woke” culture. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: For a second time, Gov. Ron Desantis has turned to Daniel Foganholi to fill an opening on the school board. Foganholi was appointed in April to fill the rest of Rosalind Osgood’s term after she resigned to run for another office. Thursday, he was appointed to the District 1 seat won in the Nov. 8 election by Rod Velez, whose eligibility was in question because of a felony conviction in 1994. By law, any elected seat becomes vacant if an elected official fails to qualify for office within 30 days from the start of the term. That deadline was Thursday for Velez, and he had made plans to be sworn in at 11 a.m. But at 10:40 a.m., DeSantis announced the appointment of Foganholi. Velez vowed to challenge the governor’s decision. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Politico Florida. WLRN. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ. Florida Politics.

Polk: Lake High School’s 30-member chorus has been chosen to perform for the National Youth Festival at Carnegie Hall in New York City in April. In August, chorus director Regina Register submitted an audition video with several songs. “We took that chance and just threw that audition out there to see if we could get into that festival,” she said. Now they’re trying to raise $60,000 to pay for the trip. “We’re singing at places and caroling different places and trying to sell chocolate and holding car washes and all kinds of stuff so that they can fund-raise their way to go,” said Register. Lakeland Now.

Lee: Parents say that nearly three months after Hurricane Ian slammed into southwest Florida, there are still missing and nonworking lights and signs near schools that are intended to keep students safe. “The traffic is really intensifying every day,” said Steven Koshiol, who lives near Gulf Elementary School in Cape Coral. “Week by week it gets faster and faster… it just seems a little out of control.” City officials said they are working on the problem, but it could take months before all stop signs are repaired or replaced. WINK.

Pasco: Sunlake High School students can earn college credits and a pilot’s license through the dual-enrollment program started at the school this year in partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. “I would have loved to have something like this myself, being a pilot already, but I struggled to get there,” said Mark Aragon, an Air Force veteran and adjunct professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. “It wasn’t an easy step like it would be for the kids that are coming to Sunlake.” WTVT.

Manatee: A 14-year-old 8th-grader at Buffalo Creek Middle School in Palmetto has been honored for creating an app to help Ukrainian classmates who are struggling to understand class assignments. Jace Billingsley’s app helps international students translate their lessons from English to their native language. “If I was in a place where I didn’t know anybody, I didn’t know the language, it would be hard for me, and I would want people to help me. That’s what I felt for these students. I wanted to help,” said Billingsley. WFTS.

Okaloosa: The school district will change the way it treats students with disabilities as part of a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department. The district was found to have violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act by using  “seclusion and restraint” on misbehaving disabled students before trying other methods to change behavior. District officials agreed to end seclusion, reform restraint practices, improve staff training and strengthen complaint procedures and internal investigations. WEAR. News Service of Florida. U.S. Department of Justice.

Sarasota, Charlotte: The number of homeless students in Sarasota and Charlotte counties is up sharply since Hurricane Ian struck the area in late September. Sarasota school officials said the number has more than doubled to almost 1,400, while Charlotte’s total went from 252 before Ian to 777 now. Homelessness for students is defined as living in a tent, car, motel, abandoned building, or at a campground due to loss of housing, or living with another family. Charlotte Sun.

Flagler: School officials will conduct a survey of school employees, parents and other residents to gauge the interest in adding armed school guardians to supplement the existing security provided by school resource officers. Armed guardians can be civilians or school employees who would receive 144 hours of training from the sheriff’s department. The survey would be the first step in determining the vioability of the program for the district. Flagler Live.

Nassau: School officials and the union representing teachers reached a tentative contract agreement this week that would increase the starting salary to $49,523, the highest in northeast Florida, and provide all teachers with raises of 6 percent. The deal, which also would increase the average teacher salary to $52,207, still has to be approved by union members and the school board. WJAX.

State’s law firms of choice: When the state goes to court next month to defend a constitutional challenge to a law requiring viewpoint surveys of students at employees on university campuses, it will be represented by the Washington, D.C., law firm of Cooper & Kirk. It’s one of four private law firms with deep connections to Republican politicians hired by the state at a cost of $16.7 million to defend its wars on what Gov. Ron DeSantis calls “woke” culture. Miami Herald

Around the nation: COVID relief, pandemic learning losses, school violence, and the fight over instruction on racial, sexual orientation and gender identity were among the major education stories in 2022 in Florida and around the country. Chalkbeat. The 74. WFTS.

Opinions on schools: Are Florida’s early colleges preparing students for STEM careers? If they are, then they should be teaching calculus and physics to many students. Unfortunately, none of the 10 early college high schools associated with institutions in Florida’s State College System has yet chosen to do so. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. Where is the school safety discussion about prevention beyond more police in schools, metal detectors, sniffing dogs, teachers with guns and locked campuses and classroom doors? These strategies look like they are effective, but they only deal with the symptoms of the problem rather than solutions. Jim Croteau, Tallahassee Democrat.