Duval expecting a new superintendent by Jan. 1, Brevard reconsidering media assistant role, universal school choice cost estimate, and more

Around the state: Duval school board members set a superintendent search timeline that they anticipate will locate a new leader by Jan. 1, Brevard schools will consider bring back media assistants after eliminating the position in 2020, the Florida Policy Institute projects a first-year cost of $4 billion for the state’s new universal school choice law, Miami-Dade school board members want to update the district’s policy against having guns on campuses, a Broward judge said a re-enactment of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting can be staged as part of a civil trial against a school resource officer who didn’t intervene, Palm Beach schools are offering bonuses of up to $5,000 to new new school bus drivers, and a Pinellas schools book review committee chooses not to reject any of 87 books it recently checked for objectionable content. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A proposal to update the district’s policy on having guns on campus has gotten the informal approval of the school board. Board member Steve Gallon made the suggestion to revisit the policy after a judge recently ruled that a St. Lucie County teacher didn’t violate state law by leaving an AK-47 in his car in plain sight parked at a school. “There are two policies that speak to weapons but none of them are explicit enough to have withstood what happened in St. Lucie County. So, we want to strengthen our policy with respect to it being explicit,” Gallon said. Ths issue will be discussed at next week’s regular board meeting. WTVJ. A teacher at Horace Mann Middle School in El Portal has been arrested and accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a 12-year-old student that began last December. District officials said they have begun termination proceedings against Martai Delvon McCullough Jr., 26. Miami Herald. WSVN. WPLG. WFOR.

Broward: A Broward Circuit Court judge will allow a re-enactment of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting as part of a civil trial against school resource officer Scot Peterson alleging he failed to protect students by taking cover instead of confronting the gunman. Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips told attorneys for both the defense and the plaintiffs that they could stage their own re-enactments, and she would decide later if video or audio recordings of them could be shown to the jury. She also said the re-enactment must take place before school starts Aug. 21. The building where the shooting took place is scheduled to be torn down soon. Reuters. WFOR. Associated Press. WPEC.

Hillsborough, Pinellas: After reviewing 87 books over two days for objectionable content, the Pinellas Library Media Review Team decided this week to reject none. It did determine what grade levels were appropriate for the books, and flagged five for possible reconsideration once the state issues guidelines for complying with new state laws regarding sexual content. The district’s book review policy could be revised as early as Tuesday to incorporate new language in the law. Hillsborough’s school board, meanwhile, has delayed holding a workshop to discuss book challenges. Instead, said chair Nadia Combs, it makes sense for the district to wait until the state clarifies the rules before setting a policy. “I want a process that’s going to be here six months, a year or two years,” she said. Tampa Bay Times.

Palm Beach: District officials are offering bonuses of up to $5,000 to attract 80 new school bus drivers. Recruits who need trained to be properly licensed are eligible for $2,500 bonuses, while drivers who already have the required license will get $5,000. Hourly wages are $20. WPTV. A school district employee has been arrested and accused of lewd and lascivious conduct with an 11-year-old girl at a school summer camp near West Palm Beach. Police said Michael Richard, 23, acknowledged kissing the girl and having her sit on his lap. WPTV.

Duval: A new school superintendent will be on the job by Jan. 1, according to a timeline approved Wednesday by school board members. Community input will be collected in August and September, and applications will be taken for 30 days and reviewed in September and October, according to the schedule set by the board in collaboration with the Florida School Boards Association, which is helping with the search. The board hopes to have a finalist selected by the end of November, and use December as a transition period. Until then, Dana Kriznar will continue as interim superintendent. She stepped in when Diana Greene resigned in June. WTLV. WJXT. WJAX.

Lee: Acceleration Academies of Lee County will hold its first graduation ceremony next month, with a class of six. The free program opened in January with about 70 students who struggled in traditional high schools but still want to earn a diploma. Many of the students who or take care of children, so an attraction of the program is that it works around their schedules. “What has been just so rewarding for me is to see them come in, and most of them come in without hope. Like they’ve already experienced a lifetime of failure,” said program director Shelley Markgraf. “As soon as they get to see success or feel success, you see them smile for the first time. And that is just so worth it.” Fort Myers News-Press. The city of Cape Coral and the Florida Department of Transportation are installing new school road signs as part of a safety improvement plan in the city. New signs are up at seven schools, with replacements scheduled at 12 more. The state will pay for the signs, and the city will maintain them. WFTX.

Brevard: Assistants for school media specialists, positions that were eliminated by the school district in 2020, could be making a comeback. School board members have expressed an interest this week in re-creating the media assistant position, at least at the elementary school level. No decisions were made, but the board agreed to continue the discussion. Florida Today.

Volusia: School district trade employees such as transportation and maintenance workers, custodians and guardians will receive average raises of 2 percent under an agreement reached between the district and the union. Higher percentages will go to “those employees who are on higher steps on the salary schedule,” according to school officials. The deal still has to be ratified by union members and approved by the school board. WKMG.

Lake: Superintendent Diane Kornegay received high marks from the school board in her recent job evaluation. She earned a perfect score in student performance objectives for an increase in algebra 1 proficiency among high school students and maintaining a graduation rate of 90 percent or higher. She also scored a 98.9 percent on professional practices, including vision, culture and leadership; board governance and policy; communication and community relations; and ethical leadership. Triangle News Leader.

Citrus: School board members approved a $262,200 contract to insure all student and staff iPads for the 2023-2024 school year, instead of trying to get parents to pay for insurance. Last year about 1,600 parents signed up for the insurance, which “is nowhere near what we needed,” said Kathy Androski, district director of educational technology. Also approved was a contract with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office to provide school resource officers, security at school-sanctioned activities and crossing guards. Citrus County Chronicle.

Flagler: No replacement has yet been found for Flagler Youth Orchestra director Cheryl Tristam, who resigned last week after citing “reprehensible and inexcusable” conduct from “some” school board members, but interim superintendent LaShakia Moore said the district is committed to continuing the 350-member program. At least three current instructors said they want to stay with the orchestra, while the director’s job and two others are open. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Madison: After hearing from a Florida Department of Education official why having one principal for Madison County Central School made more sense than having two, school board members reversed an earlier decision and agreed to have just one leader. The school is made up of both elementary and middle grades, but Sandy Brusca, the DOE’s regional executive director for the Bureau of School Improvement, said the schools had very different visions for improvement. The school gets just one grade from the state, Brusca said, and the DOE’s position was that having a single leader would bring a uniform approach. Greene Publishing.

Colleges and universities: A new sailing classroom has docked at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg. The research vessel Western Flyer was gifted to the school by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. It will be used as a sailing classroom for students pursuing careers in ocean science, engineering and marine operations though the Florida Institute of Oceanography, which is housed at USF but serves the entire state university system. Tampa Bay Times. A University of Florida student has been sentenced to three years of probation after pleading guilty to parading, demonstrating, or picketing during the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021. Gabriel Chase, 22, is a history major enrolled at UF for the upcoming fall semester. Gainesville Sun. WCJB.

Cost of universal choice: The latest estimate of the cost for the state’s new school choice law is $4 billion in the first year, which began July 1, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the Florida Policy Institute and the Education Law Center. State scholarships are now available to any K-12 student in Florida. This past year, the state spent $1.4 billion on state scholarships. This estimate projects $2 billion will be spent for those who already receive vouchers and those who will begin to access them now that there are no income limits. About $1.1 billion is forecast to be spent for 219,000 private school students who would receive Family Empowerment Scholarships after Florida Tax Credit Scholarships has been distributed, and $971 million would be used to cover 75 percent of eligible home-schooled students. Florida Policy Institute. State scholarships are now available to any K-12 student in Florida. Here’s what parents and students must do to claim one. Axios. WKMG.

Back-to-school shots: What immunizations must children have before school starts next month? Here’s a list, how to get the shots, how to get your child’s records, and how to apply for an exemption. Tallahassee Democrat.

Around the nation: A $200 million program to fortify school cybersecurity has been proposed by Federal Communications Commission chair Jessica Rosenworcel. The plan calls for a three-year pilot program to support cybersecurity and firewall-related services for K-12 schools and libraries while the Biden administration considers getting other federal agencies involved to review school districts’ digital defenses. Politico.

Opinions on schools: Whatever happens next in the Florida Atlantic University presidential search really doesn’t matter. The state’s clumsy effort to control it has already hurt FAU and the reputation of Florida’s university system. Palm Beach Post.

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BY NextSteps staff