Efforts to hire Black and Hispanic male teachers, character education, teacher turnover and more

Around the state:  The school board in Sarasota is expected to discuss a state-mandated character education program today, a first of its kind job apprenticeship program helps find opportunities for the blind and visually impaired, and Spanish-speaking school officers are needed. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Duval: The Lift and Lead Conference, the first of its kind here, is helping the county reach a crucial goal: Hiring and retaining more Black and Hispanic men as teachers. The two-day conference is led by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, which said that as of December 2022, there were 1,628 male teachers in Duval. As of February, the county had 509 Black male and 85 Hispanic male teachers, an increase from May 2021. News4Jax.

Sarasota: The school board here is expected to suspend its state-mandated character education program at a meeting today, calling it a “distraction” after criticism from a group of parents about the program’s use of emotional and social learning. Character Strong, an education program, fulfills the character education requirements mandated by state law. Because character education is required, the board is expected to direct Interim Superintendent Allison Foster to find an alternative program. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Escambia: Schools Superintendent Tim Smith is facing pressure over the past few weeks as he finds himself having to defend the appointed superintendent system, and now, his job. Pensacola News Journal.

Teacher turnover: More teachers than usual exited the classroom after last school year, which confirms a longstanding fear that pandemic-era stresses would prompt an outflow of educators. Chalkbeat.

Teen drivers: Teens can lose their driver’s license for skipping school or having tobacco. WKMG.

Apprenticeship program: The state Department of Education Division of Blind Services announced the first in the nation job apprenticeship program to create employment opportunities for blind and visually impaired individuals. Graduates will receive internationally-recognized portable credentials, and the training can be applied toward further post-secondary education. WFTV. Yahoo News.

School vouchers: Florida leaders are posted to expand school voucher programs to every student, a move praised by school choice advocates who say parents deserve state funding to help pay for their children’s education. Critics, though, argue that an expansion will mean more public money spent on private, often religious schools that are able to operate without state oversight. Orlando Sentinel.

Spanish-speaking officers needed: A recent lockdown at Lake Worth Middle School highlights the need for Spanish-speaking school police officers. More than 37% of students are Spanish-speaking in the Palm Beach County school district, but Police Chief Sarah Mooney said only about 10% of their police force speaks Spanish. WPTV.

Book bans: Students statewide have pushed back against book bans as the scope of a new state law expands. Training for HB1467 says school media specialists should “err on the side of caution” if reading material aloud in a public meeting would make them uncomfortable.  WUSF.

Opinions on schools: The Arkansas House of Representatives passed SB 294, also known as the Arkansas Learns Act. The bill will require Senate concurrence and then be sent to Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The bill would increase public school teacher pay and create the Education Freedom Account program. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. Students will suffer from the dismantling of public universities, which are places to be exposed to “dangerous” ideas. Banning controversial speakers from campus makes them more alluring and less likely to be stripped down and their ideas subject to close examination.    Jan Rogers, Tallahassee Democrat. Parental rights advocates don’t trust parents. Kathie Obradovich, Florida Phoenix.   Experiencing joy leads to health and wellness benefits that include reduced chance of heart attacks, lower cholesterol and blood pressure and a boosted immune system. Joy also positively impacts learning by enhancing children’s cognitive abilities and increasing aptitude for making social connections. Juliette Cricket Heinze, The 74th. 

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BY Camille Knox