Education policies prompt travel advisory for state, teachers unions recruiting, graduation protest, superintendent search and more

Around the state: Florida’s “aggressive attempts to erase black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools” have prompted the NAACP to issue a travel advisory for the state, teachers unions are busy recruiting to retain certification under a new state law, extending the window to apply for the Broward school superintendent’s job has added just two candidates considered qualified for the job, a Flagler school board member says she feels “unsafe” in a board workshop meeting room and wants a deputy on duty, and New College of Florida students turned their backs to the commencement speaker Friday in a protest to the conservative takeover of the school. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Extending the application window for the school superintendent’s job by a week has added five more candidates, but only two are considered qualified for the job, district officials said Friday. A total of 31 candidates have now applied, with 16 considered qualified. School board members meet today to name semifinalists. WLRN. WFOR. An auditing firm is recommending that the school district consider adding non-disclosure language to separation contracts for administrators. The auditor was hired to determine if the district violated state law by paying large separation packages to three former administrators, but concluded it could not say the law was broken. District counsel Marylin Batista said the auditor’s recommendation probably won’t be followed. “They’re limited in their viability because we have a public records law,” she said. “So even if the person cannot say anything, all they have to do is give you the actual agreement, so there is really no point.” Sun-Sentinel.

Tampa Bay area: Teachers unions in the Tampa Bay area and around the state are busy encouraging members to sign up for a new payment system for collecting union dues. A new state law prohibits dues from being automatically deducted from teacher paychecks, and also requires unions to have 60 percent of all eligible members to belong to the union for it to remain certified. “We are going into schools talking to our members all over the state,” Florida Education Association president Andrew Spar said. “We are preparing for all aspects of this law while we fight it out in court.” Jeff Larsen, an official with the Pasco teachers union, said, “The turnover rate in education is such that you have to recruit lots and lots of new members, because they don’t necessarily stay in the system. It’s a tough job.” Tampa Bay Times.

Orange: The mother of a district student is trying to get a Japanese sci-fi book series removed from high school libraries. The Japanese sci-fi book Manga series Assassination Classroom is too violent, she said. It’s now under review by the district. Last week, a parent in Osceola County also objected to the series. WOFL. Legal experts are disputing the school district’s contention that it would be illegal to donate 100 acres of land it owns in Eatonville to the town. District officials had planned to sell the property where the old Hungerford School stood to a developer for $10 million, but the deal fell through after Eatonville officials objected. Orlando Sentinel.

Palm Beach: An app that tells parents if their child got on a school bus and the location of the bus will be rolled out this summer as a pilot project. Joe Sanches, the district’s direct or transportation, said school employees are working with the “Here Comes the Bus” vendor to add security levels that will protect information about students. Children of school employees will be part of the pilot program. “We’ll test that out over the summer. And then hopefully by August we’ll have it rolled out a little bit further, but over the course of the fall will be rolling outto all the parents,” said Sanches. Palm Beach Post.

Lee: District officials with a “reasonable suspicion” may search a student, his or her possessions, locker or any other storage area on school property without a warrant under the proposed student code of conduct. That search would include cell phones and other electronic devices. School board members will discuss the proposal at Wednesday’s meeting. WINK.

Brevard: The district’s rookie and emerging second-year teachers of the year have been announced for each level. Joshua Katz of Croton Elementary School, Amanda Taylor of Southwest Middle and Brooke Haid of Rockledge High are the rookie teachers of the year, and Alexis Henriquez of Longleaf Elementary, Rachael Moore of Stone Magnet Middle and Sophia Wixted of West Shore Jr./Sr. High are the emerging teachers of the year. Space Coast Daily.

Collier: High school graduations are May 25 and 26, and the final day of school is Friday, June 1. Summer school is June 12 through July 13, and the first day of the next school year is Aug. 10. Naples Daily News.

Escambia: The firing of school Superintendent Tim Smith last week was something of a surprise and came immediately after the board accepted Smith’s recommendation to approve a contract with Charter Schools USA to take over the long-struggling Warrington Middle School. Here’s what school board members are saying about the firing. Smith’s last day is May 31. Pensacola News Journal.

Hernando: District officials have moved the location of the school board workshop and meeting May 30 “to ensure the school board meeting is conducted safely and without interruption. … District officials are preparing for the potential of larger than normal attendance due to increased media attention surrounding the showing of a Disney film in a classroom,” a district spokesperson said in announcing the venue change from district headquarters to Hernando High’s theater. Additional law enforcement and school guardians will provide security. Suncoast News.

Flagler: School board member Sally Hunt says she feels “unsafe” at board workshop meetings, and is asking that a deputy by stationed in the room or that workshops be moved into the downstairs board chambers. “I like having exits. I feel safer in this space,” she said, referring to the downstairs room. “I like having a deputy in the room. And I just wanted to throw that out. I’m not the only person who shares that concern of the workshops.” Placing a deputy in the room where workshops are held would cost about $2,600 a year, said a sheriff’s spokesperson. Flagler Live.

Gulf: Port St. Joe High School is mourning the deaths of two student-athletes in a traffic accident Saturday. T.J. Jenkins, 18, and Andrew Sheppard, 16, were killed when their car ran off a roadway and into a culvert. Officials opened the school Sunday so students and others could gather and be consoled by school counselors, staff and coaches. “We filled up a school today with people that want to be near and hug. … Our hearts our broken because we know what the Jenkins and Sheppard-Haffleid families are going through,” said school Superintendent Jim Norton. WMBB. WJHG.

Colleges and universities: Hundreds of students and other attendees at the New College of Florida graduation ceremony Friday wore masks, turned their backs and chanted “wrap it up” as a protest against the speaker, a former official in the Trump administration, and the state’s takeover of the school. About 100 students received diplomas. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tampa Bay Times. WWSB. Newsweek. Joe Jacquot, the general counsel and chief ethics officer for Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2019 and 2020, has been appointed by the governor as a trustee at New College of Florida. He replaces Eddie Speir, whose appointment was not confirmed by the Florida Senate. Jacquot is a shareholder of the Gunster law firm, which specializes in business litigation. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. WWSB.

High school graduations: High schools around the state are holding graduation ceremonies. Here are reports and photos about some of them. Palm Beach Post. Palm Beach Post. Palm Beach Post. Palm Beach Post. Palm Beach Post. Palm Beach Post. Fort Myers News-Press. TCPalm. TCPalm. TCPalm. TCPalm. TCPalm. TCPalm. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Ocala Star-Banner. Charlotte Sun. Port St. Joe Star. Port St. Joe Star. Palm Beach Post.

Policies lead to travel advisory: Florida’s “aggressive attempts to erase black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools” have prompted the NAACP to issue a travel advisory for the state. “Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals,” the warning said in part. “Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.” The advisory mentions the so-called Stop W.O.K.E Act, and bills that restrict pronoun use in schools and force students and others to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender at birth. The NAACP joins the the gay rights advocacy group Equality Florida and the League of United Latin Americans Citizens in urging people to reconsider traveling to the state. USA Today Florida Network. Associated Press. Tampa Bay Times. Miami Herald. CNN. National Review. New York Times. Florida Politics.

Education and politics: Gov. DeSantis, who is expected to announce his candidacy for the presidency this week, is using education policy as a way to push back against social changes and turn conservative ideology into actionable laws. U.S. News & World Report.

Opinions on schools: If we’re brave, as Florida leaders have proven to be when it comes to K-12 learning, we won’t opt to hide behind low passing scores. We’ll seize this moment to demonstrate our strong commitment to high expectations and an education system where every child masters the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in today’s classrooms and workforce. Bruce Rauner, Sun-Sentinel. After the wave of choice policies adopted in 2021, education policy wonks frequently wondered whether it was a “tipping point” or merely a “flash in the pan.” This year’s school choice tidal wave should remove all doubt. Jason Bedrick, Daily Signal. A knowledge purge is underway in Florida. The targets: History lessons that politicians want hidden. Perspectives that make parents uncomfortable. Truths that ideologues find inconvenient. Basically, we have people who want to control the narrative. And they think it’s easier to do that if kids don’t know all the facts. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff