Zero tolerance discipline in Brevard, state training for media specialists, foreign teachers, and more

Around the state: Brevard students returned from the winter break to a zero tolerance discipline policy with tighter enforcement, the proposed training on the appropriateness of school reading materials is drawing raves from supporters and cries of censorship from critics, Flagler schools are considering recruiting foreign educators to help with the teacher shortage, Broward is the second-largest school district in the state and a hotspot for the growing micro-school and home-school co-op industries, a judge has dismissed a lawsuit claiming the Manatee school district wrongfully terminated the charter of Lincoln Memorial Academy, the state Supreme Court won’t hear a case of a University of South Florida student who wants the school to refund fees collected during the pandemic when the school was closed, the Miami-Dade school district’s police chief is offered a job as chief by the city of Doral, Martin County opens a new elementary school, and enrollment is growing at a Jackson County high school threatened with closure after a 2018 hurricane. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: The school district’s police chief has been offered the job of police chief for the city of Doral. According to the agenda for the city council’s Jan. 11 meeting, Edwin Lopez and the city have “reached a mutual understanding of his employment terms.” If approved by the city council, Lopez would start his new job Jan. 18 and be paid an annual salary of $199,000. He’s been the school police chief since 2018, and was making between $180,000-$190,000 a year. Lopez was a physical education teacher in the district before joining the police department, and also has worked as a school resource officer. He said he would have no comment until the council finalized a decision next Wednesday. Miami Herald.

Broward: The county that ranks second in the state and sixth nationally in student enrollment also is home to a growing variety of micro-schools and home-school co-ops that are filling the niches the school district either can’t fill or no longer feels it needs to. There are now schools that focus on such topics as gardening, cooking, sustainable agriculture, physics through the skateboarding and surfing, art, music, photography, PE, entrepreneurship, and flying lessons for low-income students. And even more are coming. The trend is drawing national attention. reimaginED.

Brevard: A zero tolerance discipline policy greeted students Thursday when they returned to district schools from the winter break. Board chair Matt Susin said the policies have been in place, and “what we’re doing is making sure that we enforce them to the letter that they are written for.” So students who violate the rules by using their cell phones in class may have them temporarily confiscated, and princpals have been given the authority to suspend students for up to five days for bad behavior. “We have to send a strong, stern example of what’s right and wrong,” Susin said. A district disciplinary committee meets this month to discuss other changes. WKMG.

Manatee: A lawsuit claiming the school district wrongfully terminated the charter for Lincoln Memorial Academy has been dismissed by a federal judge. Former officials of the school named the district, the city of Palmetto and the Florida Department of Education in the suit. U.S. District Judge Charlene Honeywell closed the case on Dec. 30, saying that several drafts of the academy’s complaint are regarded as “shotgun pleadings,” a term used for a pleading that makes large general claims without much precision. The plantiffs said they will appeal the decision to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Mitchell Teitelbaum, an assistant superintendent and general counsel for the school district for the past nine years, has withdrawn his acceptance of a job as deputy administrator for the county government after a sexual harassment allegation was filed against him after the commission agreed to hire him but before he was scheduled to start the new job. Teitelbaum asked the school board to withdraw his resignation on Dec. 13, the day the allegation was filed, and school spokesman Michael Barber said he’s still employed by the district. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton Herald.

Martin: One new school has just opened and another is expected to begin welcoming students after spring break. A new Jensen Beach Elementary School opened Wednesday, even though some work remains to be done. The old school, which was built in 1970, will be demolished soon and replaced with the car line and parking. After spring break, Palm City Elementary School also will open. Revenue from the extra half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2018 is paying for the schools. WPTV.

Flagler: School board members said this week that they’re open to recruiting educators from other countries as a way to address shortages of teachers in critical subject areas such as math, science and special education. “If we had local Floridians or folks from wherever that would be available to fill some of these positions, I think that would be the best way to go, but we’re obviously not, we’re not there,” said board member Colleen Conklin. If the proposal is approved at a future school board meeting, educators from other countries could begin teaching next fall. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WKMG.

Jackson: A high school that had been threatened with closure because of declining enrollment after Hurricane Michael struck the area in 2018 is growing again. The Graceville School is back up to 478 students, and officials hope to be over 500 by the end of the school year. “I do think that we’re getting to the point now where we’re making parents feel like we’ve got a safe environment,” said principal Carlan Martin. “We’ve got a place that our kids can come in and get the small school environment and thrive and that’s what we want. We want to thrive, not survive.” The growth is also welcome sign for Superintendent Steve Benton, who said last May that the school had to get enrollment up, and the school board. “When schools close, communities suffer and we do not in no way want to have to cause communities in Jackson County to have to suffer a school loss,” said board member Chephus Granberry. WMBB.

Colleges and universities: Florida’s Supreme Court has announced it will not hear an appeal by the University of South Florida in a case over student fees collected during the pandemic when the school was closed. Last year, the 2nd District Court of Appeal declined to dismiss a potential class-action lawsuit that contended the university breached a contract with a student by improperly keeping fees. News Service of Florida. Twenty-seven college, university and high school nursing programs will receive $79 million in grants from the state. “With today’s announcement, we are ensuring that Florida’s future nursing workforce is filled with highly trained and dedicated professionals,” said Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. Office of the Governor. USF’s recently completed indoor performance facility will be named after a Pasco County family that gave the school $5.1 million last year. The Porter Family Indoor Practice Facility opens next week. St. Pete Catalyst.

Race, LGBTQ training course: Proposed rules for training school media specialists and librarians have been released by the state. Regulations are intended to keep “pornography” and other topics “harmful to minors” out of the schools, with encouragement for school officials to “err on the side of caution.” One supporter of the rules call them “95 percent amazing,” while critics say the training “is promoting censorship.” Department of Education officials are taking public comment on the rules online through Jan. 13, and at a public meeting Jan. 18. Tampa Bay Times. WJAX. WSVN.

Around the nation: New rules for higher education and student loan policies are expected to be announced in April by the U.S. Department of Education. Among the issues the department is expected to address are how to regulate third-party providers, redefining distance education, rules on forgiving student loan debt, college accreditation standards, and the timely disbursement of student aid. Politico.

Opinions on schools: The 8th grade NAEP and “learning rate” failures of Florida students are evidence that we’ve wasted a generation of human potential and severely damaged the state’s teaching profession. Will anyone “follow the data” where it leads? Will anyone ask: Should our kids peak at age 9 and decline inexorably from there? Billy Townsend, Tampa Bay Times. The U.S. K-12 education system is lagging behind many countries in producing enough workers with the skills needed for the next generation, high-tech American manufacturing industry. Tony Schmitz, The Conversation. Here’s what Gov. DeSantis didn’t say in his inauguration speech: Teachers are free to teach — as long as it is what he likes. Parents are allowed to exercise power in schools — as long as they do what he wants. Rather than expanding freedom in classrooms, he led the states in restricting what teachers can say in the classroom about subjects including race, racism, gender and sex education. Valerie Strauss, Washington Post.

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