Florida schools roundup: DeSantis wins, tax hikes pass, board elections and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Statewide races: Republican Ron DeSantis, who strongly backs school choice, wants 80 percent of all education spending directed into the classroom and pledges to expand the state’s K-12 scholarship programs and career and technical education opportunities, narrowly wins the governor’s race over Democrat Andrew Gillum. In other statewide races, Gov. Rick Scott defeats incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, Republicans win all three Cabinet seats, and 11 of the 12 constitutional amendments are approved with the required 60 percent majority. Associated Press. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel. The 74.

Tax initiatives: Voters approve all eight tax increases for education in the state. Sales tax hikes for construction and repairs of schools pass or are renewed in Alachua, Hillsborough, Lee, Martin and Polk counties. In Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Charlotte counties, voters approve higher property taxes to pay for school safety and teacher salaries. Politico Florida.

School board elections: Results of school board races from around the state. Hillsborough District 1. Hillsborough 6. Pinellas 2. Pinellas 3. Pinellas 6. Pasco 5. Hernando 3. Orange 2 and 7. Seminole 1. Broward 1. Duval 2, 4 and 6Clay 5. Escambia 2Escambia 3. Brevard 1. Brevard 2. Brevard 5. Lee 4, 5 and 6. Polk 3 and 5. Indian River 2Indian River 4. Manatee 4. Alachua 3. Marion 3, 4 and 5. Leon 1. Leon 3. Volusia 1 and 5. Flagler 2. Charlotte 1. Columbia 1. Putnam 4. Calhoun 3. Columbia 1 and 5. Gadsden 2 and 3. Holmes 1. Jackson 1. Liberty 5. Lee County elects its first African-American school board member. Fort Myers News-Press. Brevard County School Board election results seem to reduce the chances that the district will implement the state’s guardian program for security in schools. Florida Today. Manatee County voters approve a switch to electing school board members by districts instead of countywide vote. Bradenton Herald.

Selecting superintendents: Voters in Escambia, Marion and Martin counties approve proposals to start appointing school superintendents instead of electing them. Pensacola News Journal. TCPalm. Ocala Star-Banner.

Security at schools: Florida legislative leaders say they plan to increase security measures at all public and privates schools during the next session, which begins in March. “I believe we have to find security solutions for all of the students in the state,” says Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, the House Education Appropriations chairman. “All of them are residents of this state and parents are all taxpayers in this state.” Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, says he wants to allow private schools to participate in the school guardian program, which provides training to school employees who volunteer to be armed at schools. redefinED. Marion County high school students are now required to wear identification badges. The change was prompted by a shooting incident at Forest High School last April. Other security measures were enacted after the shooting, in which one student was wounded, but district officials won’t reveal what they are. Ocala Star-Banner.

Gender guidelines upheld: In a 3-2 vote, the Sarasota County School Board approves the district’s new gender guidelines that allow students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity and to use their preferred gender pronoun and name at school. Board member Bridget Ziegler wanted to require parental consent for students to claim those rights. Superintendent Todd Bowden’s response: “To our students, I say this: I see you. You do not need permission from your parent or anyone else to be lesbian, gay, transgender, questioning, intersex or asexual. You exist. This district while I am superintendent will respect the rights of and serve the unique needs of every student, every day, whatever it takes.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WFLA.

School closings considered: A week after recommending the closure of Lacoochee Elementary School, Pasco school officials are now considering shuttering Hudson and Mittye P. Locke elementary schools and merging their students into nearby campuses. Both schools are struggling and well under capacity. Under the plan, some of the Locke students could be sent to a renovated Marlowe Elementary less than 2 miles away, while other Locke students and those from Hudson would be rezoned to other schools in the area. Gradebook.

School enrollment: Bay County school officials still don’t know how many students returned this week after missing more than three weeks because of Hurricane Michael. They say because of Internet problems they’ll have to do a paper-based attendance, and hope to have numbers next week. Panama City News Herald.

Personalized learning: Products and services for personalized learning are flooding the education market. But how effective are they? “It’s become such a generic term. It’s aspirin,” says Daniel Gohl, chief academic officer of the Broward County School District. “Slapping on the label ‘personalized’ does not mean that [a product] helps me systematically move student achievement.” Education Week.

Notable deaths: Jim Haley, a longtime teacher and basketball coach at Ocala Vanguard High School who started the nationally recognized Kingdom of the Sun basketball tournament, has died at the age of 74. Ocala Star-Banner.

Personnel moves: Pasco County School Board members say goodbye to Steve Luikart, who is retiring after eight years on the board. Gradebook.

Teacher/coach reinstated: Winter Haven teacher and head football coach Charlie Tate is reinstated after a meeting Tuesday with Polk County Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd and other school officials. He had been suspended, then fired after an incident in which he pushed a cart into one student and grabbed another who had cursed at him. “Based on the findings by the State Attorney’s Office, we have decided to reinstate Mr. Tate. He will serve a three-day suspension and will be allowed to return to work on Tuesday, Nov. 13,” says district spokesman Kyle Kennedy. Lakeland Ledger.

Teacher arrested: A Jacksonville teacher is arrested and accused of possession of cocaine, controlled substances, over 20 grams of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Seth Herrick, a teacher at Westside High School, was arrested in Columbia County. WJXT.

School officers investigated: A Miami-Dade high school security guard is arrested and accused of dealing cocaine and marijuana in his uniform during school hours. Police say Jamie Green, 43, was dealing the drugs from a gas station near Felix Varela High School in West Kendall. Miami Herald. Tallahassee police are investigating a social media post that appears to show a Kate Sullivan Elementary resource officer sleeping on the job. Tallahassee Democrat.

Vandalism at school: Coleman Middle School in Tampa is defaced with drawings of two swastikas in crayon. Both were removed or covered with paint. Police are investigating. Tampa Bay Times.

Suspicious packages: A 25-year-old man is arrested and charged with trespassing on school property and causing interference with a school function after allegedly sending two suspicious packages to Lakeview Middle School in Winter Garden. The school was put on lockdown. The packages contained water bottles and other harmless objects. Orlando Sentinel.

2 hurt in school bus fight: Two women are hospitalized after a fight at a North Port school bus stop in front of dozens of children from Glenallen Elementary School. Police say a coffee mug was broken and used as a weapon. Charges are pending. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Opinions on schools: On Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court will hear a case challenging the constitutionality of both the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and the John M. McKay Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities. A Supreme Court ruling against these programs would be historic and unprecedented. Ari Bargil, Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: The Experium spaceship, a mobile interactive museum that’s designed as an escape room, landed last week at the Rosarian Academy in West Palm Beach to give middle-schoolers problems to solve. The school also has opened a new STEM center. Palm Beach Post. A garden with a cardinal-shaped mold beautifies the courtyard at Driftwood Middle School in Hollywood. Sun-Sentinel.

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