Nondisclosure rule adds to secrecy of searches for college presidents, smooth Day 1 in Broward, book and bus issues for districts, and more

College search secrecy: A rule quietly approved by the Board of Governors last November requires all members of college presidential search committees to sign non-disclosure agreements. Its existence became known only last week during a Florida Atlantic University trustees meeting when one trustee accused two others of violating the terms requiring confidentiality of the search. The rule adds another layer of secrecy in searches for college and university presidents approved by the Legislature in 2022 and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis. That law created a public records exemption shielding the name of applicants until the end of the searches. Supporters of the law argued that the quality of applicants would improve if the state protected prominent applicants so their employers wouldn’t know they were looking for another job. News Service of Florida.

Around the state: The first day of school in Broward reportedly went smoothly, Escambia school district officials defend library bookshelves being covered with black paper so students can’t take out unreviewed books, a Flagler County elementary school holds an assembly for black students where they were told they needed to get serious and improve their test scores or they could end up shot or dead, Leon’s superintendent vows to step up security at football games after a violent incident Friday ended a game at halftime, busing issues continue to be reported in some districts, and a Collier County School Board member wants to rid classrooms of ideologies that he calls “anti-American and anti-God.” Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Superintendent Peter Licata said the opening of the school years Monday went smoothly, with minor issues reported. “Today was great,” said Licata, who visited seven schools. “I cannot tell you how impressed I am with the people. I’m still beaming. Just excited and happy.” He reported that enrollment was at 202,916, down 2,827 from last year though the numbers are likely to change at least until after the Labor Day weekend, and that the district still needs to hire 145 teachers, 792 teacher assistants, 37 campus monitors and 80 school bus drivers. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ. WPLG.

Duval: The first two of six community meetings to get public input into the search for a new school superintendent are today at Baldwin Middle-High School and Westside, with the other four scattered over the next 10 days. An online public survey also has been posted on the school district’s website. School board members hope to vote Nov. 21 on a new superintendent to replace Diana Greene, who retired in June, and interim superintendenrt Dana Kriznar. Florida Times-Union.

Lee: District officials said they now have 533 school bus drivers but need 67 more to help cover all 546 routes driven every day. The shortage is leading to late buses, though district officials would not provide a specific number of students who have been late since schools opened Aug. 10. “The first week of school for transportation is always a challenge,” said spokesman Robert Spicker. “Each day is getting better and we expect to be able to provide an accurate picture after the third or fourth week of school once we make needed and requested adjustments.” Fort Myers News-Press.

Brevard: Sheriff Wayne Ivey said Monday that his office is also investigating a hazing incident involving members of the Viera High School football team. In a video that has circulated on social media, several members of the team are seen simulating sex acts with other players. Sunday, Superintendent Mark Rendell suspended the football program, its head coach and several members of the team until further notice. School leaders told parents of football players at a closed-door meeting Monday that the team and coaches will undergo anti-hazing training. Florida Today. WKMG. WOFL. WFTV. What do state laws say about hazing? Florida Today.

Manatee: A 16-year-old Bradenton Southeast High School student was arrested Monday after a a gun was found in his fanny pack during a search for a vape device, according to sheriff’s deputies. No threats against the school or any other students were made, they said. Bradenton Herald. WFLA. WTSP. WWSB.

Collier: School board member Jerry Rutherford is proposing to ban ideologies that he calls “anti-American and anti-God” from district classrooms. They include critical race theory, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, the woke and the gay agenda, social emotional learning and diversity, equity and inclusion. Rutherford said he would bring it up at the Sept. 11 board meeting. WINK.

Lake: A school guardian at Mount Dora High School has been arrested and accused of sexually abusing a child. Groveland police said James Wolfe, 50, is charged with sexual battery, engaging in sexual battery with a child under 18 years of age, and giving obscene material to a minor. WOFL. WESH.

Escambia: Unreviewed school library books are being kept out of circulation, parents are charging even as school officials have insisted media centers would remain open this school year. A photo taken by a student of a school library with shelves covered by black paper created a stir when it was posted on social media. District officials defended their actions. “There is good reason to cover those titles,” said spokesperson Cody Strother. “In terms of protecting students from potentially objectionable or illegal content and in terms of protecting professionally those media center specialists from someone removing one of those titles, it makes sense to physically deny access to those titles not yet reviewed.” They also said that book circulation has been delayed by routine start-of-the-year duties such as orientations, schedule changes and textbook distribution. Once those are complete, they said, all libraries will be open. Pensacola News Journal. School board attorneys have asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought by group of free-speech organizations, parents, authors and the publisher Penguin Random House that accuses district officials of banning books. They argue that the board has the “ultimate authority” to determine what books are in libraries, and that a new state law putting book challenges in the hands of a special magistrate makes the issue moot. Politico Florida.

Leon: Gameday security will be increased, Superintendent Rocky Hanna vowed after violence at the Leon-Rickards high school football game Friday night caused a panic and canceled the game at halftime. “I’m hurt, I’m angry. I have zero tolerance for violence. Parents need to be able to send their children to ball games without fearing there’s going to be violent acts,” Hanna said. Tallahassee Democrat. WCTV.

Alachua: An ongoing shortage of school bus drivers has led to late arrivals to and from schools, sometimes by up to an hour or so. Dontarrious Rowls, director of transportation for the district, said the problem is a national one, and is asking parents for patience until new drivers are trained and take over 17 unstaffed routes. “It is our goal to have every bus on time and have every child picked up and make sure that we can meet the needs of our parents, students and community,” Rowls said. “We will be working tirelessly to make sure that we can provide a stellar service.” Gainesville Sun.

Flagler: Some parents of Bunnell Elementary School students are expressing outrage that the school recently pulled black 4th- and 5th-graders into an assembly where they were told by a teacher that their test scores were too low, and to stop clowning around or they could miss out on college and end up shot or dead. High-achieving students were sent up to the stage and praised as examples to be emulated. Interim superintendent LaShakia Moore said the incident was a matter of misjudgment, not malice. “Though the intention of the assembly came from a positive place, we could have done better with the delivery and some other things we could have put in place,” she said, adding that parents would be contacted with an explanation of what happened. Flagler Live.

Wakulla: Teachers complained to the school board Monday night about being underpaid and overworked with crowded classrooms because of the teacher shortage that they say is caused by the low pay. The average Wakulla teacher makes $46,000 a year, which is $10,000 less than teachers in neighboring Leon County make. Superintendent Robert Pearce said the district is working on filling open teaching positions and expects to be fully staffed soon. WTXL.

Colleges and universities: Florida Polytechnic University took the first step Monday to begin a search for a president to replace outgoing President Randy Avent. Beth Kigel, vice chair of the board of trustees, was chosen to lead the search committee. She will have authority to hire a search firm to help select candidates. News Service of Florida. The Black Male Achievers organization at Tallahassee Community College won’t have to change its name because of a new state laws restricting funding for diversity, equity and inclusion programs, TCC officials said Monday. WFSU. Students from around the state have already headed back to college campuses or are starting to. Lakeland Ledger. Gainesville Sun. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tallahassee Democrat. WJXT. WTSP. WPBF. WFLA. WFTS. WTXL.

Around the nation: The rising trend in private schools is microschooling, which often has as few as 5 to 25 students and has been called an “updated version of the one-room schoolhouse.” As many as 2 million students now attend one, according to the latest estimates. “I really think we’re at the beginning of what will be an ongoing movement toward personalized, learner-centered, unconventional education models,” said Kerry McDonald, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education, a nonprofit educational organization supporting free-market principles. Wall Street Journal.

Opinions on schools: Florida doesn’t have a functioning education system; Florida has chaos. The state has chosen ignorance over education. We will eventually drown in it. Diane Roberts, Florida Phoenix. If a high school athlete in Florida can make NIL money, why not let him or her try? David Whitley, Gainesville Sun.

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BY NextSteps staff