Open teaching positions statewide are 4,776 or 6,920 depending on source, AP psych course, Flagler superintendent and more

Teaching openings variance: Teachers unions and the Florida Department of Education agree on very little these days, so it’s no surprise those differences now extend into how many teacher openings there are statewide. Tuesday, the DOE announced that the number of unfilled teaching jobs was 4,776 as the school year began, which it said was down 8 percent from the 5,208 openings reported in August 2022. The Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union, contends there are 6,920 openings across Florida, up from the 6,006 a year ago, and said the upswing is due to the policies of Gov. Ron DeSantis, the DOE and the Legislature. FEA officials said their numbers are based on a “count of positions advertised on district websites,” and provided this link. The DOE said the higher number reported by the FEA is a “blatant lie,” and attributes the decline of unfilled jobs to moves made by DeSantis, the DOE and the Legislature, such as raising teacher salaries and creating new pathways to a career in teaching. Politico Florida. WQCS. NBC News. Florida Politics. Florida Department of Education. WJAX.

Around the state: Duval and Seminole county school officials announce that they will offer the College Board AP psychology course this year, Flagler’s school board suspends its search for a new superintendent and indicates it will elevate current interim LaShakia Moore, members of the Florida Atlantic University board of trustees squabbled at their first meeting since the search for a new president was suspended July 7 to investigate alleged anomalies, a St. Lucie County charter school will cut its ties with FAU and become a public school next year, and about 40 former New College of Florida students are expected to transfer to Hampshire College in Massachusetts after that school offered to take New College students at the same tuition rate as they were paying in Sarasota. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade, Broward: Twenty new electric school buses are ready to go when Miami-Dade schools open for classes Thursday. The district ordered 50 of the new vehicles that can carry 72 passengers and travel 120 miles on a six-hour charge. “We are taking a huge step,” said Miami-Dade Superintendent Jose Dotres. Broward has ordered 60 electric buses, and received 18. Broward schools open Monday. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR.

Hillsborough: School board members conceded at a workshop meeting Tuesday that the district’s formal process to choose and vet books has allowed questionable content to “fall through the cracks” at times. They’re waiting for further guidance from the state, expected at the state Board of Education meeting Aug. 23, before refining the district’s process to avoid lawsuits or having challenges skirt past the rules. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WFTS.

Orange: Police are looking for an intruder who entered the Kelly Park K-8 School in Apopka early Monday morning and set a fire that damaged the school entrance. A school camera captured the intruder, who was wearing all black with a long-sleeve red T-shirt and a face mask. Apopka police, the fire department and fire marshal’s office are investigating. WKMG. WOFL.

Duval: School officials have reversed course and said they will offer 1,100 high school students the College Board’s Advanced Placement psychology course. A week ago, students were told the district would not use the course and that they would have to change to other college credit courses. “On Monday, Duval County Public Schools received assurance from the College Board that students in our district and throughout Florida will be able to sit for the AP psychology exam and earn college credit upon approval of the teacher syllabus covering all required content, including gender-related topics,” the district said in a statement Tuesday. Jacksonville Today. WJAX. Severe school bus delays continued into the second day of the new school year Tuesday. About 70 routes had some delays; some up to an hour or more. Huge delays were also reported both Monday and Tuesday as parents and students tried to enroll at Atlantic Coast High School. WJXT. WTLV.

Polk: Air-conditioning problems have now been reported in 51 district schools, according to the president of the teachers union. “As this got more attention and more coverage, our members started reaching out saying, ‘Hey, we need to add our school. Our school’s having AC issues too. We’ve put in work orders,’ ” said Stephanie Yocum. District officials said technicians are making progress on an above-average number of repairs. WFLA.

Pasco: A bill has been filed for the 2024 legislative session to compensate a Pasco man who suffered catastrophic injuries when the car he was in was hit by a school bus in 2006. Marcus Button was 16 at the time. State Sen. Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee, is sponsoring the bill that calls for the state to pay Button and his parents $1.5 million. Previous attempts to compensate Button dating back to 2010 have failed. The 60-day session begins March 11 and ends June 3. Florida Politics. Dozens of parents are taking to Facebook to complain about a new dress code policy that says shirts must have straps and extend to the waist. “We got a call on a Sunday night before school started telling us to review the dress code, that changes have been made, that no longer crop tops or straps showing are allowed,” said one parent. “I don’t know about most parents, but all of our back to school shopping had been done well in advance of the first week of school.” District officials said the new policy was approved by the board and that parents were notified in advance. WFLA.

Seminole: Superintendent Serita Beamon said Tuesday that the district has decided to offer the College Board’s AP psychology course to students this year. Beamon said the course was restored after discussions with principals, AP psych teachers and superintendents from other districts. “By choosing to enroll your student in AP psychology, we trust that you have considered your educational options and accept the AP psychology curriculum, including topic 6.7, understanding that AP psychology is a college level course, and you are in agreement that the content is age-appropriate for your student,” Beamon wrote in a letter to parents. Orlando Sentinel. WMFE.

Volusia: School safety has been upgraded this year, Superintendent Carmen Balgobin said this week as more than 63,000 students returned to 87 schools. Every school will have a resource officer or school guardian and a threat assessment team. All students are encouraged to use the FortifyFL as needed to report threats, and teachers have access to a crisis alert system that goes directly to law enforcement. Fences, single-point entryways, high-definition cameras and door alarms are also in place on campuses. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Lake: A school bus driver mistakenly let two boys, 10 and 6, get off the bus at the wrong stop this week. When the boys realized they were in the wrong area, they stopped a man and asked for help. Michael James, a registered nurse, drove the boys home. District officials said bus drivers are supposed to know what stops children are supposed to be dropped off at, and have a list to follow, but that those lists are not final and drivers are still getting to know their riders. WOFL.

Sarasota: Karen Rose has announced she will stand for re-election to her District 2 school board seat in 2024, and she already has drawn an opponent. Liz Barker, a stay-at-home mom with four children, said she decided to run after a school board majority targeted then-superintendent Brennan Asplen for removal. She said she wants to find common ground with both political sides, expand parental rights for all parents so any one parent can’t decide what all students can and cannot read, and support teachers. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Charlotte Sun.

St. Lucie: A charter school in Port St. Lucie has announced it will end its association with Florida Atlantic University and transition into a public school, starting in the 2024-2025 academic year. Palm Pointe Educational Research School at Tradition, a K-8 charter research lab school under FAU, will continue to get support from FAU for the university research component and the placement of student teachers. “Palm Pointe K-8 is already a district-managed charter school, with a history of excellence that is staffed with district employees, and we look forward to positive and productive collaboration in the win-win agreement,” said St. Lucie Superintendent Jon Prince. WPTV.

Escambia: O.J. Semmes Elementary School in Pensacola is getting a $4.5 million renovation, including classrooms, restrooms, windows, ceilings and floors, even as it’s in turnaround status after receiving an F on its state report card for the 2021-2022 school year. Principal Susan Sanders said she hopes the improvement in the school environment will lead to academic gains. “The classrooms will look completely different … more modernized. It’s totally modern, clean, fresh, and just it’s going to be a lot better for teachers and students,” she said. Pensacola News Journal.

Clay: Some employees at Argyle Elementary School in Orange Park have been placed on leave after a 4-year-old girl was sent out with the wrong dismissal group and wandered away. She was found safe a few hours later, several miles from the school. “District leadership is working with the school on reviewing their safe dismissal protocols and procedures,” said a district spokesperson. “Human resources started the investigation and the employees involved have been placed on leave pending the outcome of the investigation.” WJXT.

Leon: An investigation into the conduct that led to the removal of Leon High School volleyball coach Angie Strickland concludes that Strickland asked two separate players whose fathers had died if their dads “would be proud” of the way their daughters were playing. The incidents occurred in 2017-2018 and in 2021. In both cases, the students cried after Strickland’s actions. Both incidents were considered violations of school board policies stating that staff should “make a reasonable effort to protect the student from conditions harmful to learning and/or to the student’s mental and/or physical health and/or safety” and “not intentionally expose a student to unnecessary embarrassment or disparagement.” Tallahassee Reports. Tallahassee Democrat. WCTV. WFSU.

Flagler: School board members have suspended the search for a new superintendent and announced their intention to hire interim superintendent LaShakia Moore into the permanent role. Moore, who was the assistant superintendent for academic services, has been in the job since Cathy Mittelstadt was fired in May. “I could see everybody was kind of happy, which I haven’t seen in a long time, so it’s good,” said board chair Cheryl Massaro said after her colleagues decided to suspend the search. The board is expected to establish a hiring process that would include a community survey, one-on-one interviews between members and Moore, and a board retreat Aug. 24 for a final discussion. Flagler Live.

Colleges and universities: Members of the Florida Atlantic University board of trustees squabbled at their first meeting since the search for a new president was suspended July 7 to investigate alleged anomalies, including the use of a straw poll to narrow the field and a search firm’s questions about sexual orientation and gender identity. Board chair Brad Levine has backed the search that yielded three finalists, while vice chair Barbara Feingold was critical of Levine, two of the finalists and the search process, and said she’s holding up on a $30 million donation until the issues are resolved. Other major donors are also delaying decisions. The investigation should end by November. Sun-Sentinel. WLRN. News Service of Florida. About 40 former New College of Florida students are expected to transfer to Hampshire College in Massachusetts after that school offered to take New College students at the same tuition rate as they were paying in Sarasota. Hampshire made the offer after the state began a conservative makeover of New College. Axios. A lawsuit against the University of South Florida over student fees the school collected while the campus was closed during the pandemic has been certified as a class-action suit by a Hillsborough County circuit judge. It applies to students enrolled at USF in 2020 and the spring semester of 2021 News Service of Florida. State student aid is expected to increase in the next five years as more students graduate from high schools, according to estimates from the Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research’s Education Estimating Conference. The Center Square.

New parent group forms: Equality Florida, an LGBTQ advocacy group, is starting a parents organization intended to challenge the political influence in schools of the conservative Moms for Liberty. Brandon Wolf, a spokesman for Equality Florida, said 1,000 families have already joined the new group. “For years, parents and families just like the ones behind me have been under assault,” he said at Tuesday’s news conference announcing the formation of the group. “Politicians have waged war on these families turning their classrooms into political battlefields and descending school districts into utter chaos. But today marks a turning of the tide. Today marks a rise in the resistance against that agenda.” Orlando Sentinel. Florida Politics.

Catholic enrollment booms: Enrollment in the 64 Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Miami is up between 2.5 and 3 percent for this school year, said Superintendent Jim Rigg. “We are over 29,000 students in the archdiocesan operated schools, which is the largest enrollment we’ve had for at least eight years,” he said, and much of the increase is attributed to the state’s expansion of state scholarships with no eligibility limits on family income. Archdiocese of Miami.

Opinions on schools: Thanks to their ability to operate at a small scale, to bring students together in ways that defy the conventions of age-based grading, and sometimes to blur the lines between schooling and homeschooling, microschools have the potential to enable a new level of pluralism and diversity in education. Travis Pillow, reimaginED. We do ourselves a disservice when we close ourselves off to understanding that which we think we already understand. And Gov. DeSantis and the New College trustees have done a disservice to all Floridians by limiting what students are allowed to learn. Carly Earnshaw, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Parents should oversee Florida’s school systems because they will promote the education and well-being of their own children better than politicians. Stephen Erickson, Sun-Sentinel. Teaching the truth about black history is important enough that all parents should join together and demand more of the Florida education system. If that means voting out politicians who promote propaganda, so be it. William Spivey, Orlando Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff