Around the state: Two legislative committees have signed off on a bill that would allow colleges and universities to help student-athletes find deals to be compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses, Duval reports an increase in the number of students attempting suicide and engaging in risky sexual behavior, a Senate committee approved a bill allowing charter school students to play sports at private high schools, walk-through metal detectors are being installed at a Manatee County high school after a series of bomb threats, Pinellas school officials select their teacher of the year, and a Hillsborough K-8 principal entertains at the morning car line with his guitar. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Miami-Dade: A 37-year-old physical education teacher at Campbell Drive K-8 Center in Homestead has been arrested and accused of having sex with a 14-year-old student. Police said Joseph Edward Tolliver developed a relationship with the girl, sneaking into her house for sex there and also in his car. District officials said they have begun employment termination proceedings. Miami Herald. WLPG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ.
Hillsborough: Morning car line at Rampello K-8 Magnet School in downtown Tampa often is an outdoors concert, thanks to the acoustical guitar playing by principal Justin Youmans. “To me, connections with my students, connections with my families, is a crucial part of what we do,” he said. “It helps build trust.” WFTS.
Duval: The number of Duval middle school students attempting to commit suicide was at 24.4 percent in 2021, doubling the rate since 2011, according to a health department survey. Risky sexual behavior is also increasing. Less than half the students reported not using a condom in their last sexual encounter, a drop of 20 percent from 2011. WJAX. WJCT. Many classrooms no longer have books for students after district officials directed teachers to temporarily cover or store their books. That’s temporary, they said, while 52 media specialists review books in nearly 200 schools. As of Monday, about 2,000 books have been approved, and those books can be returned to classrooms. “The list of approved books grows every day as certified media specialists conduct reviews and post new titles to the approved list,” said a district spokesperson, though no list has been released to the public. Jacksonville Today. WJXT.
Pinellas: Adam Zele, a math teacher at Azalea Middle School in St. Petersburg, has been chosen as the school district’s teacher of the year. The other finalists were Rebecca Byrne, a 1st-grade teacher at Azalea Elementary; Jerry Cantrell, a science teacher at Seminole High; Amber Holmes, a 3rd-grade teacher at Melrose Elementary; Dana Ingebresten, a science teacher at Boca Ciega High; Rachel Mita, a physical education teacher at Sandy Lane Elementary; Jaclyn Reyes, a library media technology specialist at Cypress Woods Elementary; Shelli Sorensen, a science teacher at Osceola Middle; Nicole Szydlowski, an English language arts teacher at Seminole Middle; and Courtney Thompson, a special education teacher at Nina Harris ESE Center. Tampa Bay Times.
Lee: Final decisions are pending on what to do with two of the three schools most damaged when Hurricane Ian struck the area Sept. 28. Mitigation on the main building at Fort Myers Beach Elementary School is expected to be completed in two weeks, with a presentation of the options being made to the school board Feb. 22. In March, board members will hold a town hall and hear a proposal to replace Hector A. Cafferata Jr. Elementary with a K-8 school nearby. The third, the Sanibel School, reopened last week. Fort Myers News-Press.
Pasco: David Peterson of Pasco County and Larry Miller of Seminole County have been named Florida’s 2022 school crossing guards of the year by the Florida Department of Transportation. Peterson is assigned to Starkey Ranch K-8 School in Odessa, where he helps more than 500 students a day. Florida Department of Transportation. Suncoast News.
Seminole: Dede Schaffner, who started a school parent-volunteer program almost 50 years ago, long supported educational initiatives as a volunteer and was a member of the school board for 16 years, has died at the age of 84. Schaffner was on the school board from 2000 to 2016, and even after losing her re-election bid remained active in many community projects on behalf of children. Orlando Sentinel.
Volusia: A new private, preK-5 Christian school will begin enrolling students next week in anticipation of opening in August in Ormond Beach. The Florida East Coast Christian School will specialize in STEM subjects and emphasize project-based learning for up to 450 students. It will also have etiquette classes and a chapel with services. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Four boys between the ages of 14 and 16 have been arrested and accused of vandalism that caused $30,000 in damage to Spruce Creek Elementary School in Port Orange last weekend. Police said the boys damaged portable classrooms, storage sheds and smashed windows in the school’s main building. They have been charged with trespassing on school grounds, felony criminal mischief and burglary. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Orlando Sentinel.
Manatee: After a series of recent bomb threats, Parrish Community High School officials said walk-through metal detectors are being installed at entry points. “We will continue to have extra security and law enforcement presence on campus,” school officials wrote in a letter to parents. “We will also be using our district’s walkthrough, touchless metal detection system at designated entry points. This is the same system successfully used at some of our county’s high school football games this season.” WWSB.
Treasure Coast: No teachers in the St. Lucie, Martin or Indian River school districts have been ordered to pack up and store their classroom libraries because of new state laws, but many are keeping them closed even after being advised by the teachers union that it was safe to reopen them. “There are teachers that are afraid, and there are teachers that are concerned,” said Indian River teachers union president Jennifer Freeland. “Some teachers are acting conservatively.” TCPalm.
Sumter: A double whammy of enrollment growth and a shortage of teacher shortages is putting stress on the district. “Vacancy totals have been slowly increasing for many years. However, the last two to three years have been extreme,” said Dana Williams, the district’s senior director of human resources. “We normally hire between 50 and 60 new teachers annually. Now it’s over 100.” At the end of January the district had 12 teacher vacancies and openings for 17 paraprofessionals. “Fifteen years ago we had 20-plus applicants for a teaching job,” Williams said. “Now schools are fortunate if they have one to three.” Villages Daily Sun.
Colleges and universities: The $114.8 billion budget proposed last week by Gov. Ron DeSantis calls for Florida State University to receive $88.5 million in specific funding for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, while Florida A&M University would get $33.4 million and Tallahassee Community College $6.7 million. All would be increases from the 2022-2023 budget. Tallahassee Democrat.
NIL bill moving: Education committees in both the Florida Senate and House approved proposals (S.B. 200 and H.B. 7B) that would permit colleges and universities to help student-athletes land deals to license use of their names, images and likenesses. Current law forbids school involvement in the process, something that other states permit, and legislators and school officials said that prohibition is hurting recruiting. The House bill could go before the full chamber as early as today. The Senate version will be considered during the regular 60-day legislative session that begins March 7. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Politics.
Also in the Legislature: A bill that would allow charter school students to play sports at private high schools was passed unanimously by the Senate Committee on Education PreK-12. The next stop is the Senate Judiciary Committee. Florida Politics. A House committee voted 13-3 on Wednesday to advance a bill that transfers control of the Reedy Creek Improvement District from the Disney Corp. to the state. The state began the process after Disney protested against the Parental Rights in Education bill. The bill goes to the full House today. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. USA Today Florida Network. Politico Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Gov. DeSantis made a pitch Wednesday for bills that would cut taxes by a projected $2 billion, including two back-to-school tax holidays. WPTV. WKMG. Florida Politics. Florida’s high school graduation rate hit a non-pandemic high in 2022 at 87.3 percent, members of the House Education Quality Subcommittee were told Wednesday. The panel is about to consider five graduation-related bills legislators hope will help continue the upward trend. Florida Politics.
DeSantis and education: Gov. DeSantis’ emphasis on education issues in the past two years has distinguished him from other potential 2024 Republican presidential candidates. “He’s set himself up as the don among Republican governors when it comes to education,” said Max Eden, an education fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Tampa Bay Times. Ten times DeSantis has changed the course of education in Florida. Tampa Bay Times.
Opinions on schools: In the new choice-for-all education landscape, navigators will play a critical role ensuring all students — not just the privileged — are able to take advantage of the options these new and expanded programs make available. Travis Pillow, Thomas B. Fordham Institute. School choice advocates have done well to explain the real reasons why millions of parents around the country are pushing for more options for their children. But one chapter in school choice’s history must still be written. By turning back to Thomas Paine, school choice advocates can not only expand their potential audience, but also correct any historical misunderstandings before they reach the public square. Garion Frankel, reimaginED. I grew up a racist in St. Petersburg. I became a history professor. Will the education that turned my life around be available to today’s Florida students? Charles B. Dew, Tampa Bay Times. Best-selling author John Green is chafing at efforts to ban his book, Looking for Alaska, especially in his hometown of Orlando. He contends it’s misrepresentative and frankly, bizarre, for anyone to label his book pornographic based on an excerpt or two. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel.