Miami-Dade scandal, Parkland deaths, Schools of Hope, and more

David Hudson Tuthill


Miami-Dade scandal: Leaders of the Miami-Dade school district are under fire this week after a Miami Herald investigation revealed Wendell Nibbs, a physical education teacher at Brownsville Middle School, was kept on in his role for over a dozen years and throughout nine accusations of sexual misconduct with students. Nibbs was arrested in November 2017 and stands trial in June on charges that he sexually assaulted two students inside the private office in his classroom. Last Wednesday, Nibbs was arrested again on two more charges of raping students. One girl said she believes he may be the father of her child. Three former students are suing Miami-Dade Schools, and their lawyers say they plan to bring two more lawsuits on behalf of the two girls who recently came forward. Nibbs spent eight years as a building steward and was a forceful advocate for the current United Teachers of Dade union leadership. Miami Herald.

Parkland deaths: Two survivors of the Feb 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas passed away by suicide this week. Florida’s emergency chief is calling for the state Legislature to dispatch more mental health resources for the school’s community. Miami HeraldSouth Florida Sun Sentinel.

Schools of Hope: House and Senate leaders rolled out different K-12 education budgets this week, with the Senate seeking to gut the Schools of Hope program that the House has targeted for a massive expansion. The Senate budget proposed cutting the entire $140 million Schools of Hope allocation and reclaiming the last two years of unspent money. The plan comes days after a House education subcommittee unveiled legislation to give Schools of Hope room to grow, something Gov. Ron DeSantis has requested. POLITICO Florida.

Polk charter controversy: A Polk charter school that is pulling a trail of troubles from its previous incarnation as a private school is now considering doing away with daily therapeutic services for the severely handicapped students it serves. The Language and Literacy Academy of Learning will instead provide only weekly services. The school has cited financial reasons for the proposed cuts, leaving parents heartbroken and threatening to pull their children out of the school they say has “worked miracles” for their sons and daughters. Lakeland Ledger.

Duval discipline: Student conduct violations at Duval County Public Schools is up 8 percent so far this year compared to the same period last year, district administrators say, noting various resources are being used to address the problem. Overall, student disciplinary referrals for all infractions totaled 68,322 during the first 125 days of the current 2018-19 school year. By comparison, the overall referrals totaled 63,339 during the same period during the 2017-18 school year, district data shows. Florida Times-Union.

Lee County raises: The Lee County school board and the teacher’s union have tentatively agreed to a plan that includes a 6 percent raise for teachers.Ft. Myers News-Press.

Private school turmoil: Barnabas Christian Academy did not respond to the state’s second demand for records and information about that and myriad other issues by a March 21 deadline. The school likely will have its public funding revoked, as the state threatened in a March 6 noncompliance notice to the school, which moved to a Stuart apartment building after being evicted from a Port St. Lucie shopping center. TC Palm.

Assistant honored: Chain of Lake’s Elementary’s Suzie Nelson is the Polk school district’s nominee for the statewide Outstanding Assistant Principal Achievement Award, which recognizes “exemplary assistant principals for their contributions to their schools and communities.” Lakeland Ledger.

Volusia board eyeing changes: Tuesday meeting the Volusia County School Board will decide whether to buy new language arts textbooks for elementary schools, on top of the math textbooks that were already green-lit. On Thursday, board will have a special meeting to decide how to alter the school schedules. The goal for almost a full year has been to add 30 extra minutes to the elementary day, which would change the schedule for all school levels. But now teachers are asking the district to postpone any changes for another year. Daytona Beach News-Journal

Volusia teacher shortage: An internal district memo dated March 1 stated that a survey of Volusia schools revealed 82 substitutes had been in classrooms for more than a month. Almost half of those instances were attributed to there being no qualified candidates to hire. It’s the latest bit of light to be shed on the national teacher shortage in Volusia County, which impacts families and district employees each day but officials say is difficult to quantify. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Bathroom lawsuit: It’s been seven months since a federal judge ruled that Drew Adams, a transgender student at Nease High School, can use the boys’ bathroom during his final year at the school. Since the July ruling, Adams has returned to life as a senior preparing for college. But the fight isn’t over. The St. Johns County School Board decided to appeal the decision. In doing so, some believe the case has a chance to be a watershed moment in advocates’ push for transgender rights, and it’s capturing national attention. St. Augustine Record.

Promotions in Manatee: Four more schools will have new principals at the start of the 2019-20 school year, according to a news release from the School District of Manatee County.All four of the new principals currently work as assistant principals at local schools. One of them, Bernadette Pletcher, won the Outstanding Assistant Principal Achievement Award from the Florida Department of Education earlier last week. Bradenton Herald.

Commentary: School choice empowers parents, helps students. Gainesville Sun. A school choice scholarship would help save my son. Ocala Star BannerTerm limits for school board are an overdue idea. Orlando SentinelHere’s why the Times says Florida can’t afford private school vouchers. Tampa Bay Times. Help teens struggling to get into college. Sarasota Herald-TribuneDisruption, theft, and cursing – teachers never know what they’re going to get. Florida Today. Florida still needs STEM improvement. Panama City News-HeraldHold Lee County School Board responsible for fiscal failures. Ft. Myers News-PressGrit is a determining factor in success. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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