Superintendent searches, book challenges, raises for Pinellas bus drivers, college fee dispute dismissed and more

Around the state: Broward’s school board selects seven semifinalists for its school superintendent’s job, 20 people have applied for the leadership opening in Sarasota County, Charlotte County’s school board will vote on a contract for its newly selected superintendent, the Collier County selection of a superintendent is being challenged in court over an alleged violation of the Sunshine Law violation, two books and two poems have been restricted to middle school students at a Miami-Dade K-8 school, a potential class-action lawsuit against Florida International University over fees that were collected while the campus was closed during the pandemic has been rejected by a judge, Pinellas school bus drivers will receive raises of up to 20 percent, a charter school in Indian River County has its contract revoked after failing to open as promised, and a Polk County science teacher is retiring after working for 52 years at the same high school. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Two library books and two poems have been restricted to middle school students only at the K-8 Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes after a parent complained that they contained references of critical race theory, “indirect hate messages,” gender ideology and indoctrination. The ABCs of Black History, Cuban Kids, and the poems The Hills We Climb, which was recited by poet Amanda Gorman at the inauguration of President Joe Biden, and Love to Langston were restricted. A book review committee determined that another challenged book, Countries in the News Cuba, was “balanced and age appropriate in its wording and presentation” and will continue to be available for all students. Miami Herald.

Broward: Seven semifinalists will be considered for the school superintendent’s job, school board members decided Monday. Each of the nine board members could choose five candidates from the 17 qualified candidates among the 31 who applied. But three tied for fifth place, so the number of semifinalists was boosted to seven. They are: Luis Solano, deputy superintendent for the Detroit Public Schools Community District, who received nine votes; Peter Licata, regional superintendent for Palm Beach County schools (seven votes); Valerie Wanza, chief of staff of Broward schools (six); Jason Nault, associate superintendent of teaching and learning, equity and accountability for the Waukegan, Ill., schools (five); and four votes apiece went to Sito Narcisse, superintendent of East Baton Rouge (La.) School District; Wanda Paul, chief operating officer of the Houston Independent School District; and Rita Raichoudhuri, former superintendent of Kalamazoo (Mich.) Public Schools. All seven have been asked to submit videos, and the school board is expected to select three finalists on May 30. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WLRN. WFOR. WPLG. WPTV. A circuit judge will decide this week if another jury has to walk through the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School crime scene as part of the child neglect trial against former Broward deputy Scot Peterson. He’s accused of taking cover instead of action when a gunman entered a building and killed 17 students and employees in 2018. Sun-Sentinel.

Polk: After 52 years of teaching science, all at Bartow High School, Adele Allison will stand before students for the final time on May 31. Allison, 74, started teaching in 1971 and once told her class that it would be time to quit when she began getting students who were the grandchildren of some of her previous students. When a student said that Allison had taught her grandmother, Allison quickly replied, “I meant great-grandparents.” Even so, she will not hold the Polk teaching longevity record. That belongs to the late Hazel Haley, who taught English for 69 years, all but two at Lakeland High School. Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: Salaries for school bus drivers will go up 10 to 20 percent under a contract agreement approved Monday by the school board. Hourly pay for starting drivers will increase from $16.25 to $19.79, and more experienced drivers will earn $21.75 an hour. The district decided to raise pay after struggling to fill vacancies even after offering hiring bonuses of up to $2,000. WFLA. WTVT. Three Safety Harbor Middle School students received medical attention Monday after becoming ill when they ingested an unknown substance. WTSP. Two students at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg were arrested last week and accused of having a gun at school. Responding to a fight in a bathroom, school resource officers saw a 15-year-old boy hand a backpack to a 16-year-old boy, who then ran away. He was later apprehended and found with the gun, police said. Patch.

Collier: Alfie Oakes, a Naples grocer and Republican party activist, has filed a lawsuit asking the circuit court to void the May 4 hiring of Leslie Ricciardelli as school superintendent. Oakes contends the school board violated the state’s Sunshine Law by allowing the search firm Hazard Young Atea Associates to select 10 candidates out of 45 applicants privately, without public notice or public comment as required by law. Naples Daily News.

Sarasota: Twenty people have applied to become the next school superintendent. One of them is Allison Foster, the former director of human resources and labor relations who has been the interim superintendent since February. Five others are also from Florida. School board members are expected to pare the list to three finalists, and conduct interviews by mid-June. WWSB.

Indian River: A charter school has had its contract revoked by the school board for not opening on time as it promised. Miami-based Somerset Academy Inc. signed a five-year contract in 2018 and said a school would open the following year. It didn’t, and then was delayed for the next three years as well. Somerset officials said they ran into difficulties that caused delays, but have plans to reapply and open a new school for the 2024-2025 at a new location. TCPalm.

Charlotte: School board members will vote Wednesday on a contract for newly named superintendent Mark Vianello, who is currently the chief operating officer of Marion County schools. The proposed deal calls for Vianello to be paid $180,000 a year, with a pay raise of 3 percent on July 1, 2024. He’ll get a $7,500 bonus if the district is rated in the top third in the state for the 2023-2024 school year, and $10,000 if it’s rated No. 1. He also receives $15,000 in moving expenses and has six months to establish residency in the county. His first day is June 14, and he replaces the retiring Steve Dionisio. Charlotte Sun.

Citrus: Archie Dabney, who worked as a teacher and principal in the school district for about 40 years, died Sunday at the age of 95. He taught at Booker T. Washington School in Inverness and Crystal River High School before finishing his career in 1995 as principal of Citrus Springs Elementary School. “If I ever needed him for advice, he was there. I loved his passion for kids; he was tough on them, but he loved every one of them,” said Superintendent Sandra Himmel. Citrus County Chronicle.

Colleges and universities: New College of Florida faculty has voted to censure the school’s trustees for “disregarding their fiduciary duties,” according to a letter sent to the school that detailed 13 complaints. About 80 percent of the faculty voted for the resolution. School officials said many of the complaints were false, and predicted that the concerns would subside “once the faculty see how all of the changes we are making at New College are moving us in a direction of improvement and future stability for our campus.” Tampa Bay Times. Citing inflation, Tallahassee Community College is proposing to raise 18 percent of the fees it charges students. The biggest increase would be in the cost of the commercial driving program, with fees going from $2,165 to $4,091. WTXL.

Start times cost questions: A new state law that requires later start times for middle and high school students could have costly consequences for many school districts, say some school officials. Under the law, by July 2026 no middle schools can start before 8 a.m., and no high schools before 8:30 a.m. Backers pointed to studies showing older students have better academic outcomes with later start times. But those later start times could also require districts to buy more buses and hire more drivers, affect families’ work schedules, and have an impact on students with jobs and those who participate in extracurricular activities such as sports. “It was just something that sounded like a great idea,” said state Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando. “And then they were like, we’re going to pass it and y’all are going to figure it out.” News Service of Florida. Flagler Live.

Court rejects suit over shutdown: A potential class-action lawsuit against Florida International University over fees that were collected while the campus was closed during the pandemic has been rejected by a judge. Two students had alleged breach of contract because FIU continued to collect student fees for services that were not provided during the shutdown. The decision concluded one of the plaintiffs had “failed to meet her burden to show an express, written contract overcoming the general rule of sovereign immunity for governmental entities.” News Service of Florida.

NAACP’s travel advisory: The president of the NAACP said the group issued a travel advisory for Florida over Gov. Ron DeSantis’ policies so “we can get rid of him once and for all.” Derrick Johnson made the statement to CNN after the advisory was announced due to Florida’s “aggressive attempts to erase black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools.” DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern responded by saying, “This is all a stunt. We aren’t going to waste our time on a stunt.” Politico Florida. Florida Politics.

High school graduations: High schools around the state are holding graduation ceremonies. Here are reports and photos about some of them. Tampa Bay Times. Lakeland Ledger. Tallahassee Democrat. Palm Beach Post. Palm Beach Post. Citrus County Chronicle. WJHG. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Positively Osceola.

Around the nation: The National Assessment of Educational Progress’ governing board is asking Congress to postpone the 2026 testing for students until 2027 to get it back to its biennial pattern that keeps it “off-cycle” from federal elections. The next NAEP is to be given in the 2023-2024 school year, with results for reading and math released in in the winter of 2025. K-12 Dive.

Opinions on schools: The universal school choice legislation guarantees that the state money allocated for each student follows them, even if they leave the one-size-fits-all monolith of traditional public schools. Students and their parents will now be able to make the choice that’s best suited for each child’s unique abilities – opening access and opportunity by removing the barriers that ZIP codes or financial status currently pose for students hoping to receive a different form of education. Daniel Martinez, reimaginED. In these (freedom-affirming / authoritarian) times, it’s important that we gather like this at your high school graduation to (celebrate / acknowledge) that education in Florida has never been more (valued / under attack). Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post.

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