Five books taken off Leon high school shelves after Moms for Liberty challenge, Broward board approves superintendent’s contract, and more

Around the state: Five books were removed from Leon County high school libraries after the Moms for Liberty challenged them, Broward school board members approve a contract for new Superintendent Peter Licata after making some slight changes to the deal that had been negotiated, a Duval school board member will act as an alternate for the Florida School Board Association’s legislative advocacy committee even though she is vice president of a competing group, two newly created administrative jobs in the Brevard school district are filled just two weeks after being approved by the school board, and for the 15th time in the past 16 years the Gainesville Buchholz High School math team has won the national championship. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Peter Licata was unanimously approved Tuesday as the school district’s superintendent, but only after the school board trimmed his negotiated salary slightly, declined to meet his request for a higher degree of job protection, and told him he’d have to move to Broward from Palm Beach County, where was an area superintendent. Licata will earn $350,000 a year instead of the $360,000 he negotiated with board vice chair Debbi Hixon last month, but can earn an extra $20,000 if the school district becomes A-rated by the state and by meeting certain goals of completing projects in the $800 million bond-funded school renovation program that is years behind schedule and well over budget. Board members also voted 5-4 to retain the option of firing the school leader without cause by a simple majority vote. Licata said he’s anxious to get started. “I’ve been an expectant father for the past three weeks — a father waiting to give birth to this job,” said Licata, 58. “I’m as excited as I’ve ever been.” Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WLRN. WPLG. WFOR. WTVJ. WPTV. Five things to know about Broward’s new school superintendent. Miami Herald.

Orange: Riverdale Elementary School, closed since last October after sustaining extensive flooding damage caused by Hurricane Ian, is on track to reopen in August, according to district officials. Riverdale was flooded by more than 2.5 feet of water, sending students to East River High School for classes. A reopening ceremony will be held next month. WKMG.

Duval: School board member April Carney will act as an alternate for the Florida School Board Association’s legislative advocacy committee, even though she is vice president of the Florida Conservative Coalition of School Board Members, which formed in opposition to the FSBA, and is a member of the conservative Moms for Liberty group. “How is that going to work when you’re member of one and then represent the other?” asked board member Darryl Willie. Colleague Warren Jones also expressed concern about Carney’s membership in Moms for Liberty. “How can a person who’s a member of Moms for Liberty advocate for policies that we may approve that goes against what they’ll recommend?” he asked. Carney said she didn’t see any conflict of interest. “At the end of the day, my responsibility is to this district and this board and there is nothing that I want more than to make sure that Duval County Public Schools is represented in Tallahassee. Being able to be in in both groups gives me a very large perspective of what the needs are of school board members, and these are things that I can bring back to FSBA,” she said. Jacksonville Today.

Pinellas: Caring, hugs and affirmation are part of the daily routine at the Infinite Potential Learning Academy in St. Petersburg, a private preK-5 school that will begin its second year in the fall. It was opened by Twanna and Kori Monroe in a predominantly black neighborhood with about 50 students, and is expected to grow to 85 in August. “Kids only learn when they know you care,” said Twanna Monroe. “Some of these kids don’t have fathers and grandfathers, so we said, ‘I’ll be your father and grandfather.’ ” Tampa Bay Times.

Lee: The former head of security at the private Canterbury School in Fort Myers has pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a previously convicted felon. Wyatt Henderson was arrested in May by sheriff’s deputies after they received a complaint that he was carrying a loaded gun on campus. The former detective with the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office had been convicted of three felonies in 2006 after hitting a teenager while on duty. Henderson faces up to 15 years in prison. No sentencing date has been set. WINK. WFTX. WBBH.

Pasco: A high school math coach who said he supports Gov. Ron DeSantis’ parental rights movement has announced his candidacy for the school board. Clyde L. Smith II, who teaches at Zephyrhills High School, filed papers last week to run for the District 2 seat held by Colleen Beaudoin. She has yet to file paperwork, but said she plans to run for re-election. Smith, who has been with the district since 2010, said, “It seems like the more we keep our mouths quiet and our voices are never heard, then everyone assumes the direction we are going is the only way things can be. If I can’t be myself and speak out for my children in education, it would be a disservice.” Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: Two weeks after approving Superintendent Mark Rendell’s administrative reorganization plan that included two new high-ranking positions, the jobs have been filled. Tara Harris, the district’s director of elementary programs, was transferred to the position of assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, and Merritt Island High principal James Rehmer III was transferred to the position of chief of schools. Each will be paid $140,000 a year. Also appointed as the administrative assistant to the school board was the district’s administrative secretary, Lena Farnam. She replaces Tammy Aguirre, who resigned last month. Florida Today.

Leon: Challenges from members of the conservative group Moms for Liberty have led to the removal of five books from high school libraries. The books are Doomed by Chuck Palahniuk, which follows a 13-year-old who escaped hell to earth, where the character resides in a state of purgatory; Dead End by Jason Myer, a work of fiction about two teenagers who flee their town after shooting and killing a rapist in self-defense; Lucky, a memoir by Alice Sebold that describes how her life changed being raped at 18 years old; Push by Sapphire, a fictional work about a teenager who has two children and HIV after being raped by her father; and Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, another work of fiction about a 17-year-old boy’s relationship with a girl dying of leukemia. “I reviewed them personally and (the books) have been removed,” said Superintendent Rocky Hanna. “These are black-and-white, cut-and-dry, need-to-be removed.” Tallahassee Democrat. WCTV.

Alachua: For the 15th time in the past 16 years, Buchholz High School’s math team has won the national championship, besting 31 schools at the competition last weekend in Fayetteville, Ark. Team members won 282 trophies and medals during the four-day competition, and also received two special awards: The Khalin Award was won by senior Tucker Shea for his contributions to the team over his school career, and the Sister Scholastica Award went to coach Olanrewaju Fayiga as sponsor of the year. Next up for the team is preparing for next year’s nationals in Las Vegas. Gainesville Sun. WCJB. A new youth learning center opens next month on the Metcalfe Elementary School campus. The Gainesville For All Family Learning Center aims at providing learning and services for children from 6 weeks to 5 years old. Enrollment will be capped initially at 87 students. Short-term, its goal is to help prepare students get ready for kindergarten. An overall goal is to close the school district’s achievement gap between black and white students. Gainesville Sun.

Santa Rosa: With less than a month before schools reopen for the 2023-2024 academic year, the school district still has more than 200 open jobs to fill. More than 100 are teaching jobs, and another 80 education support positions. The position the district is in is not unusual, said a spokeswoman. “At this present time we’re not too concerned. Once we get about a week or so out we definitely start looking then, you know getting a little more anxious but right now we’re still in a really really good place,” said Tonya Shepherd. WEAR.

Bay: District officials are looking for about 40 more substitute teachers for the next school year, and are considering offering incentives and hiring Education Staffing Space to help fill the openings. “Over the last several years, we have experienced a sub shortage in the classroom and on a daily basis, normally fill in about 78 percent of the vacancies,” said Holly Buchanan, executive director of human resources. “(This company has) a more comprehensive support plan to be able to recruit and support and retain this and provide training for them. We are hoping to increase our daily substitute rate to at least 90 percent.” The district would pay for background checks and screenings and offer a $100 bonus to subs who sign up with ESS. WMBB.

Martin: School board members will consider a proposal at their July 18 meeting to enter into a contract with a company that will help the district develop its own teachers. Under the plan, from BloomBoard Inc. of Pennsylvania, up to 15 paraprofessionals or teacher assistants who want to become certified teachers would enter a two- to three-year process to earn bachelor’s degrees in either elementary education or intervention specialist. The district would foot the costs, and the new teacher would commit to staying with the district for another two or three years. TCPalm.

Walton: Education goes to vacationing students in the summer in the form of the school district’s EPIC van, which travels around the county four days a week with educational materials and snacks and drinks for children. WJHG.

Colleges and universities: The University of Florida wants more premium seats, and shaded ones, new food and drink options and less congestion in its $400 million upgrade of its football stadium, according to the school’s posting asking for bids from architects. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the nation: Public confidence in higher education has dropped sharply in the past five years, according to a new Gallup poll. Just 36 percent of surveyed Americans said they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in higher education, down from 57 percent in 2015 and 48 percent in 2018. Only 19 percent of Republicans reported having high confidence in colleges and universities, compared with 32 percent of independents and 59 percent of Democrats. Higher Ed Dive.

Opinions on schools: The available evidence suggests that, on average, competition is good for students, including those who remain in district schools. But it might not be competition per se driving improvements. It could be that “fit” matters a lot in education. When parents gain access to new options, such as using state scholarships to purchase a mix of education-related goods and services that meet their child’s needs without enrolling full-time in any one school, public or private, all students become more likely to find schools that fit their needs. As a result, students on average wind up slightly better off, even if they remain in the same school they attended before. Travis Pillow, reimaginED. The goal of Florida leaders for years was to compete with the South’s most prominent public universities. Today, universities in the Sunshine State get more attention because of its heavy-handed governor. Miami Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff