School Day 1, a recap: Excitement and energy marked the first day back at school in 61 of the state’s 67 school districts, which was also dotted with late school buses, teacher and staff shortages, adjustments being made because of new state laws, additional security including metal detectors, sweltering heat and air-conditioning issues, a power outage at a Brevard school, and more. Here’s a look at the day’s events at some schools and districts around the state. Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco. Orange. Palm Beach. Duval. Polk. Lee. Brevard. Manatee. Sarasota. Collier. St. Johns. St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River. Marion. Escambia, Santa Rosa. Clay. Leon. Alachua. Bay. Okaloosa. Charlotte. Citrus. Flagler. Nassau. Okeechobee. Gadsden. Bradford. Suwannee. Jefferson. Florida Phoenix.
Corcoran cries politics: A federal investigation into how the Florida Department of Education handled a $4 million contract to oversee a rural school district is politically motivated, interim New College of Florida president Richard Corcoran suggested during his interview Thursday for the presidency of the Sarasota school. Corcoran was the state’s education commissioner when vendors with ties to him and the Gov. Ron DeSantis administration bid for the contract to help the Jefferson County School District return to local control after five years as a charter school district. Corcoran was asked during the interview why trustees should consider hiring someone with a “controversial” past. He defended his tenure at DOE, saying state investigators praised him for doing an “unbelievably good job of handling” controversies, and hinted the federal investigation was prompted by the Biden administration’s continued opposition to the state’s education policies. Trustees also interviewed finalists Tyler Fisher, an associate professor of modern languages and literature at the University of Central Florida, and Robert Gervasi, the former interim president at the University of Mount Union in Ohio, and moved to abolish the school’s gender studies program. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tampa Bay Times.
Around the state: New Florida black history standards and Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. were sharply criticized during a town hall meeting Thursday about the standards, a proposed rule being considered by the Florida Board of Education at its Aug. 23 meeting would allow only parents who formally challenge a school book to then appeal to a special magistrate if a school district rejects the challenge, a tentative contract agreement would add from $500 to $12,000 in annual supplements to Broward teachers, the number of students in the Tampa Bay area seeking state vouchers has nearly doubled since last year, and charges were dropped Thursday against a New College of Florida student who was arrested and accused of spitting on school trustee Christopher Rufo during a protest in May. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Miami-Dade: Florida’s black history standards and Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. were both harshly criticized Thursday at a town hall meeting in Miami Gardens that was organized by several black elected, religious and community leaders. Critics of the standards focused on excerpts that say blacks benefited from slavery by learning skills, and that violence was “perpetrated against and by African Americans” in several famous massacres and race riots. Diaz was called a coward for pledging to attend the meeting, then skipping it with the excuse that he would be “visiting schools throughout the state to welcome back students, parents and teachers for the first day of school.” Politico Florida. Miami Herald. Sun-Sentinel. WFOR. WPLG. WSVN. WTVJ. Associated Press. A volunteer band and dance instructor at Booker T. Washington Senior High School in Miami has been arrested and accused of sexually assaulting a former student in 2019, when the student was 16 or 17. Police said Morris Knyada Chaney, 46, is charged with engaging in sex acts with a child, offenses against students by authority figures and written threats to kill or bodily injury. WSVN. WTVJ.
Broward: A tentative contract agreement between the school district and the teachers union would pay teachers annual salary supplements ranging from $500 to $12,000 annually over the next four years. The range would start at $500 for teachers with less than a year of experience and rise gradually so that educators with 15 years of experience would receive $12,000. The money would come from a referendum voters approved last year to improve teacher pay, which now averages $66,259. Union members and the school board must approve the deal. Sun-Sentinel.
Tampa Bay area: The number of students in the Tampa Bay area who have signed up to take state vouchers has nearly doubled since last year. In Hillsborough, 18,784 students will receive the vouchers, up from 10,927 last year. Pinellas went from 6,242 last year to 11,434 this year, and Polk jumped from 7,601 to 10,870. Pasco, Manatee, Sarasota, Hernando, Hardee and Sumter have also shown increases. WUSF. Hillsborough school officials plan to offer students the Cambridge AICE course instead of the College Board’s AP psychology class. School board member Nadia Combs said the district has already received training for the Cambridge course, and the textbooks have been shipped. About 1,800 county students signed up for the AP psychology course. WFLA.
Palm Beach area: The number of weapons confiscated in five south Florida schools more than doubled between the 2020-2021 school year and 2021-2022, according to Florida Department of Education data. Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Indian River, Martin and Okeechobee had 260 weapons seized in 2021-2022, up from the year before. Palm Beach schools accounted for 204 of the weapons seized in 2021-2022, and St. Lucie 43. WPTV.
Central Florida: Osceola and Lake school officials said Thursday they’re sticking with their earlier decisions to drop the College Board’s Advanced Placement psychology course despite Education Commissioner Diaz’s assurance that it can be taught in its entirety without violating state law limits school discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity. Those districts will offer alternative courses. Orange and Seminole school officials have not yet announced what they’ll do. Orlando Sentinel. Scott Ramsey, who owns the P-R Sod Co., Ramsey Feed Co. and Ramsey Cattle Co., has announced he’s a candidate for the District 5 spot on the Osceola County School Board. That seat is being vacated by Erika Booth, who is running for the Florida House District 35 seat. Positively Osceola.
Escambia: Superintendent Keith Leonard said Thursday that a majority of district school media centers are now open. Media specialists have been reviewing all books for inappropriate content, he said, and he expects all school libraries to be available sometime in September. Classroom libraries are closed while the district focuses on media centers. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.
Clay: School board members voted this week against the purchase of a blended literacy program for students in grades 3-10. They cited the cost, $620,000, and questioned how much the technology software Achieve 3000 would be used by students. Questions about the proposal prompted Superintendent David Broskie to suggest tabling consideration until September, but board member Michele Hanson pushed for a vote. Only Mary Bolla voted for the purchase. Clay Today.
Gulf: Karen Shiver, the assistant principal at Wewahitchka High School, has been named the school’s principal. She replaces Jay Bidwell, who has been named the executive director of the district’s adult school. Port St. Joe Star.
Colleges and universities: Charges were dropped Thursday against a New College of Florida student who was arrested and accused of spitting on school trustee Christopher Rufo in May. Libby Harrity, 20 was charged with misdemeanor battery during a protest against Gov. DeSantis’ appointments of six trustees who vowed to make over the college into a conservative Christian school. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
New book challenge rule: A proposed rule being considered by the Florida Board of Education at its Aug. 23 meeting would allow only parents who formally challenge a school book to then appeal to a special magistrate if a school district rejects the challenge. The rule doesn’t mention other parents or refer to other district residents who also are entitled under law to challenge school materials. The law, which was part of H.B. 1069, says a parent who disagrees with a school board’s action on challenged books and materials “may request the commissioner of education to appoint a special magistrate.” Sponsors of the bill did not comment on the discrepancy. Tampa Bay Times.
Bonuses at risk: Teachers whose districts have decided against offering students the College AP psychology course could take a hit in their pocketbook. Florida pays AP psych teachers $50 for every student who passes the course, and an additional $500 to teachers at D- and F-rated schools. Tallahassee Democrat.
No boycott for them: Many black organizations are boycotting the state over its education policies, specifically on the teaching of black history, but the Association for the Study of African American Life and History is not one of them. The organization will hold its annual convention in September in Jacksonville. President W. Marvin Dulaney said, “We decided to take the proactive approach” and challenge what Gov. DeSantis is doing. Tampa Bay Times.
Opinions on schools: This is where we are in Florida: Instead of supporting our public school teachers, we are instilling fear and worry. Instead of celebrating their hard work, we are threatening them with license suspensions if they dare to cross the power of the mighty state. Teaching has always required courage. In Florida, it now requires a whole new brand of bravery. Miami Herald. We mustn’t let Florida officials dodge accountability for the damage they are doing. When they can place the blame on a parent, educator, textbook company, national nonprofit or local school district, state officials are able to wash their hands of the crisis facing public schools. It’s time they take credit for their work. Sam LaFrance and Jonathan Friedman, Orlando Sentinel. The DeSantis administration is full of bravado about black history standards, but when it comes to facing parents, especially black ones, face to face, his administration won’t do it. It’s a cowardly move by an administration that showed it only governs on behalf of some Floridians, those who agree with his extreme education policies. Miami Herald.