Holocaust principal’s rehiring challenged, another hiring question, school closed a week and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Around the state: The Palm Beach School Board will reconsider its decision to rehire the principal who refused to say the Holocaust was a factual, historical event and State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran proposes to revoke his educator certificate, Broward will consider hiring a principal to head a department helping schools manage their money and inventory despite his own history of not being able to account for missing inventory, schools in Duval and Brevard are closed because of coronavirus outbreaks, Lee school board members will discuss creating a policy for introducing resolutions, and Volusia parents are worried that a popular learning option will end after this semester. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Nineteen students and 38 employees have been diagnosed with the coronavirus since students began returning to schools, district officials have announced. Miami Herald. A Miami-Dade special education teacher has been arrested and charged with child abuse and child neglect. Police said Graciela Reyes-Marino, 60, a teacher at Auburndale Elementary School, punched one student and shoved another. District officials said she will be fired. WTVJ. WPLG.

Broward: Superintendent Robert Runcie wants to hire a principal who couldn’t account for hundreds of thousands of dollars in school property over the past 15 years as a director of the office that helps some schools manage their money and inventory. Scott Fiske, principal at Coconut Creek High, also doesn’t have the minimum requirements established by the school board for the job as director of the district’s Business Support Center. But Runcie is recommending the board hire Fiske over 169 other applicants for the job that pays $138,922 a year. Fiske was criticized in a January audit that concluded $110,000 in school inventory was missing, and urged him to “improve accountability and the safeguarding of the district’s assets by strengthening the internal controls at the school.” Sun Sentinel. Eleven students and nine employees contracted the coronavirus during the first week of in-person instruction, district officials said. Miami Herald.

Hillsborough, Tampa Bay area: The Hillsborough County dual language immersion program has expanded to 700 students in seven elementary schools from the 72 students in two schools when it began in mid-2017. Those students are taught all their classes in both English and Spanish, with a different teacher handling the instruction in each language. “Our students are not only excited about learning to read, write and speak in two languages but also to interact with diverse cultures,” said Melissa Morgado, who supervises the program. “We feel we’ve found the secret key to unlock the doors of success in their futures.” Tampa Bay Times. At least 198 cases of the coronavirus were reported last week in the Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando school districts, taking the total since schools reopened to 1,104. The University of South Florida reported positive coronavirus tests for 44 students and two employees, and the University of Tampa reported 121, all students. Tampa Bay Times.

Orange, central Florida: Central Florida teachers said they are overwhelmed and frustrated by being required to teach both in-person students and remote learners simultaneously. “I just didn’t realize how exhausting it was going to be,” said Valerie Powell, a 33-year teaching veteran who works at Southwest Middle School in Orange County. “I hope parents understand we are doing the best we can.” District officials are evaluating the hybrid classes and waiting for the state to decide if it will extend the emergency order that allows districts to offer both in-person and virtual learning or let it expire in December and have most students return to classrooms. Orlando Sentinel. WOFL.

Palm Beach: The former high school principal who said he couldn’t say whether the Holocaust was a historical fact may not get his job back after all. An administrative law judge ruled that William Latson’s comments did not merit termination, and said he should be rehired in some capacity and given $152,000 in back pay. On Oct. 7, the school board agreed to do so, on a 4-3 vote. The move sparked an outcry from the community, and the board has scheduled a meeting for Wednesday to reconsider its decision. At least one board member who voted to rehire Latson said she would reconsider if valid legal grounds are offered. Meanwhile, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran called for Latson to be stripped of his principal’s educator certificate immediately because he “took advantage of his position of trust.” Latson needs the certificate to work as a principal, but he’s currently in an administrative job that does not require certification. Palm Beach Post. Sun Sentinel. Florida Phoenix. WPBF. WPTV. The district is making changes to the process of notifying parents about coronavirus cases in schools. Principals will call parents when their child has been in class with an infected person, then make a second call after contact tracing has been completed to let parents know if their child was deemed to be at-risk. District officials will also update the coronavirus dashboard immediately when a positive test is reported, instead of waiting for the health department to confirm the case. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: The Douglas Anderson School of the Arts will be closed at least through Wednesday and Fletcher High School remains closed today after several cases of the coronavirus were reported last week. Students will switch to remote learning, and after-school activities are canceled. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. WJXT. WTLV.

Polk: East Coast Migrant Head Start Centers are reopening today for the preschool children of migrant farm workers. The Polk County early childhood education centers are located in in Fort Meade, Dundee and Wauchula. Lakeland Ledger.

Lee: School board members meet today to try to set a policy that determines how resolutions get on the board agenda and whether a vetting process can be established. The board has had such a document for about 12 years, said Superintendent Greg Adkins, though it doesn’t detail how resolutions are chosen. The discussion was prompted by a resolution asking board members to declare October as LGBT History Month. It was introduced by board chair Mary Fischer, who “didn’t think it would be an issue in this day and age.” But it met with considerable community resistance. Board member Cathleen Morgan said she worries that not having a formal process would put the board in the position of not being able “to turn anybody down for any recognition or resolution for any reason.” Fort Myers News-Press.

Brevard: Eau Gallie High School has been closed for at least a week due to multiple coronavirus cases at the schools and to prevent the infections from spreading, district officials said Friday. Students will switch to remote learning this week, and return to classes no earlier than Oct. 26. This is the third Brevard school to close temporarily because of the coronavirus. Florida Today. Spectrum News 13. WKMG.

Volusia: Parents who enrolled their children in the Volusia Live remote learning system, and have found it to be a good experience, are beginning to worry it will no longer be offered when the second semester begins in January. Their concerns are warranted. “All indications show that by January, or the end of the first semester, there is going to be no Volusia Live,” assistant superintendent of high schools Gabriel Berrio told the school board last week. The district is waiting for guidance from the state, which probably won’t decide until the middle of November how much financial support to provide such programs. Through December, schools get full funding for every student attending school or learning remotely through a district program. If funding is cut for Volusia Live, parents would have to decide whether to send their children back into classrooms, enroll in a virtual school program that doesn’t follow their school’s schedule, send them to private school or home-school them. About 16,000 students are enrolled in Volusia Live. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The school board is considering a policy that would put rules on how employees could use their professional and personal social media accounts. District officials said the policy is needed to curb the potential spread of misinformation. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee, Sarasota: Thousands of Sarasota and Manatee students still have either slow or no Internet access, and lack electronic devices to use to attend their classes remotely. A survey of 12,539 parents in Manatee revealed that 12 percent have either slow or no Internet service, and 28 percent either have no electronic device to use or have to share one with others in the home. The districts are using money from the federal coronavirus aid bill to plug the gaps. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. About 11,000 face masks are being donated to students at 15 Title I elementary schools in Manatee County through the Mask Up Manatee Coalition. The low-income neighborhoods around those schools have been especially hard hit by the coronavirus. Bradenton Herald.

Lake: Nominees for the district’s teacher of the year award have been announced. One teacher from each of the district’s 48 schools will be considered. Three finalists will be announced in December, and the teacher of the year will be revealed Jan. 28. Daily Commercial.

Marion: Fifteen students and two employees at Emerald Shores Elementary School have been put under quarantine after a coronavirus case connected to a kindergarten class was reported. Last week, the district reported 30 positive coronavirus tests in 17 schools, resulting in 336 students and 18 employees going into quarantine. WKMG.

Leon: The parents of a 5th-grader are alleging that the girl was run over by a golf cart at DeSoto Trail Elementary School in 2019, and are suing the school board and the employee who was driving the cart. The lawsuit claims the employee was in the golf cart when he saw the girl behind him, and reversed the cart and ran over her twice. The suit also claims the cart had no working backup alert. The district had no comment. WCTV. Tallahassee Democrat.

Okaloosa: The sixth week of the school was the worst so far for the district, with 45 students and 18 employees testing positive for the coronavirus and 705 students and 38 teachers being placed in quarantine. Since schools started, 1,644 students and 84 employees have been isolated. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Alachua: School board members will meet twice Wednesday, once in-person and once on Zoom, to discuss rezoning to fill an elementary school projected to open next August. Students at four to nine other elementary schools could be affected by the rezoning. Gainesville Sun. Many of the 32 would-be teachers who attended the school district’s recent virtual job fair walked away with jobs as the district tries to fill 48 open positions. Gainesville Sun. Cora Roberson, who was one of the first black educators to teach white children in Alachua County and eventually became an assistant principal, has died at the age of 96. WUFT.

Martin: Some members of the community are worried that the popular Jensen Beach Elementary School playground will be moved when the school is rebuilt between now and next August. “When you work so hard for so long on a playground, it means something to you,” said parent Jill Richardson, who helped lead the drive to raise $150,000 to build the playground in 2014. The district’s chief operating officer, Garret Grabowski, said if the playground has to be moved for construction, the community will get back a playground that’s “as good or better.” TCPalm.

Indian River: A student at Beachland Elementary School in Vero Beach has tested positive for the coronavirus, parents were informed Sunday, requiring the quarantining of 15 students and two employees. The school was sanitized and is open today. TCPalm. WPEC.

Bay: Graduation coaches have helped boost the district’s graduation rate from 78 percent in 2017 to 82.5 percent in 2019. The coaches focus on students who deemed to be at-risk and help them get to the finish line. “Having the graduation coaches at school is just another resource, another set of caring hands,” said Monica Banton, Arnold High School’s coach. “There’s no finite job description, we do whatever it takes and we have to be willing to do whatever it takes.” Panama City News Herald.

Colleges and universities: Many current Florida teachers who are graduates of the University of South Florida College of Education said they were shocked and saddened when they heard the university was closing the undergraduate degree program. The school has supplied teachers for Tampa Bay area schools for six decades, with 3,692 graduates now teaching in Hillsborough County and nearly 1,900 in Pasco County. Tampa Bay Times.

Trump, Biden on education: President Donald Trump’s education platform includes support for school choice and charter schools, and promoting a patriotic education curriculum in schools, while challenger Joe Biden wants to establish universal pre-kindergarten and make public colleges and universities tuition-free for students with family incomes under $125,000. Here’s a closer look at their plans. NPR.

Opinions on schools: Florida is a leader for the percentage of 4th graders who achieve at the “proficient” level and above on NAEP math tests. But by 8th grade, Florida has fallen behind the leaders. And by the time students graduate from high school, Florida brings up the rear. How did this happen? It’s a result of priorities: Florida prioritizes achievement in elementary school. Recruiting and retaining the strong math teachers necessary to propel student achievement in middle and high school grades has not historically been a high priority for the state. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. My son Brandon passed away in 2017, but I’m forever grateful he finally got the chance to learn at his own pace with the help of a Gardiner Scholarship for students with special needs. In his last years he discovered a love for learning, and he found self-worth. Donna Berman, Daytona Beach News-Journal. By taking William Latson back in any capacity, the Palm Beach County School Board failed its students and sent them and their families the dangerous message that Holocaust denial and other forms of anti-Semitism will be excused and tolerated. Sharona Whisler, Miami Herald.

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