Duval’s Greene named superintendent of year, more students switch from online to in-person, and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Around the state: Florida’s superintendent of the year is Duval County’s Diana Greene, about 4,000 Lake students and 3,000 in Clay County have decided to switch from remote learning to in-person instruction, a report supports Hillsborough County Superintendent Addison Davis’ proposed spending cuts, five finalists are named for the Leon County teacher of the year award, and three complaints have been filed against newly elected Palm Beach County School Board member Alexandria Ayala. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools, and colleges and universities:

Hillsborough: The highly unpopular spending cuts proposed by Superintendent Addison Davis are necessary and should be even deeper, according to a report from the Council of the Great City Schools, an organization of large school districts hired by Davis in September. The group said the district “allowed structural imbalances in the district’s general operating fund by failing to adjust spending for losses in revenue and increases in costs, and using one-time monies to cover resulting shortfalls.” Those practices led to the district’s main reserve account shrinking by $32 million, and prompted Davis to propose eliminating up to 3,000 jobs. Teachers union executive director Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins called the report a “surface level look at things and not a deep dive.” Tampa Bay Times.

Palm Beach: A political consultant has filed complaints with three agencies against new school board member Alexandria Ayala. Richard Giorgio, the consultant who worked for Ayala’s opponent in the August primary, took out complaints with the FBI alleging mortgage fraud, with the Florida Department of State for alleged election fraud, and the state Ethics Commission for reportedly understating her assets when she qualified to run for the District 2 school board seat. Ayala and her partner bought a home outside the district she represents, but she said she lives with her mother inside the district. She called the complaints “nothing more than my opponent’s political consultant upset over another failed election effort.” Sun Sentinel.

Duval: The Duval County School District’s Diana Greene has been named Florida’s superintendent of the year by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents and Florida School Boards Association. Greene, who became superintendent in Duval in 2018 after three years in the same job in Manatee County, is the second African-American woman and 33rd superintendent to receive the award. “Her philosophy that the work of a superintendent and public educators ‘has to be done as if there is no tomorrow because we only get one chance with these kids,’ clearly exemplifies her dedication to public education,” said Michael Grego, Pinellas superintendent and president of the FADSS. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. WJXT. WTLV. School board members unanimously approved a five-day suspension for Sandalwood High School math teacher Thomas Caggiano for his Facebook posts about minorities and gay people. Caggiano, 61, has been in the district since 1995, and was in the news last year when he refused to refer to a transgender student by her preferred pronouns. He is expected to appeal. Florida Times-Union. WJXT.

Polk: The school district’s next superintendent should have experience turning around low-performing schools, be accessible to the school board and the community and have experience dealing with the coronavirus crisis, among other things, school board members decided this week. Current Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd is retiring next summer. Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: With the Dunedin Elementary School water fountains shut off because of the coronavirus, a 5th-grader has raised money to buy water bottles for every student who needed one. Alexis Blakeslee said she began the fund-raising drive because some of her classmates couldn’t afford to buy their own water bottles. WTVT.

Lee: A 14-year-old 8th-grader has been arrested and is accused of threatening to stage a mass shooting at Gateway Charter High School in Gateway on Nov. 12. After the threat was made via a text message, law enforcement officers rushed to the scene and the school was on lockdown for about four hours. “Every single threat is serious; every single threat,” Sheriff Carmine Marceno said Wednesday when he announced the arrest. WINK. WBBH.

Brevard: Anita Brady, who has worked as a teacher, administrator and principal at Ascension Catholic School in Melbourne for the past 36 years, has died after complications following a medical procedure, school officials announced. She was 65. Florida Today. The teacher who is the target of a lawsuit alleging she abused her autistic students was cleared by a sheriff’s investigation last year in a report that called the allegations unfounded. Stacey Garzione, who works at Ralph Williams Elementary School, is being sued by the parents of five students. Florida Today.

Lake: About 4,000 students who had been attending classes remotely have switch to in-person instruction since Sept. 24, according to district officials. In September, 27,934 of the 43,670 students enrolled were in classrooms, while 4,503 were learning online and 11,218 were alternating between the two. As on Nov. 19, 31,936 students were in classrooms, out of 44,086 counted, with 3,263 learning virtually and 8,862 in the hybrid program. Daily Commercial.

Clay: More than 3,000 students will return to classrooms from remote learning programs in the second semester, school officials have announced. “From the people that were surveyed and those that responded, 2,400 are coming from OneClay portal and 966 are coming from Clay Virtual Academy to brick and mortar classrooms,” said Superintendent David Broskie. “Our parents are saying, ‘we want our students to come back,’ and we’re ready for them.” Clay Today.

Leon: Five finalists have been chosen for the school district’s teacher of the year award. They are: Cherryl Christie, who teaches digital media and digital information technology at Lawton Chiles High School; SheKishma O’Reilly, who teaches 10th-grade Advanced Placement language and composition and 11th grade English III literature at the International Baccalaureate level at James S. Rickards High; Elaine Owens, who teaches kindergarten at DeSoto Trail Elementary; Althea Valle, who teaches secondary English as a second language at Amos P. Godby High; and Tiffany Ward, who teaches 8th-grade math and geometry honors at William Montford Middle. The winner will be announced Dec. 10. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. The private Maclay School of Tallahassee is opening a $7.5 million, 20,000-square-foot classroom building this week. It includes science labs, administrative offices, a common room area, a coffee shop, an art gallery and a 210-gallon saltwater aquarium. Tallahassee Democrat.

Okaloosa: Two Niceville High School students have been arrested and charged with starting a fire in a girls school bathroom this week. The 15-year-old girls have been charged with arson. No one was hurt, but the fire caused about $2,500 in damages, according to deputies. Northwest Florida Daily News. WEAR. WJHG.

Bay: All extracurricular activities at the North Bay Haven Charter Academy Middle and High School have been suspended until Dec. 14 because of the rising number of coronavirus cases. WMBB.

DeSoto: Newly elected Superintendent Bobby Bennett said he has a full agenda for his first 100 days on the job, including dealing with financial issues caused by the coronavirus and potential cuts in state funding, keeping classrooms filled with certified teachers and delivering on his campaign promise to elevate the district from the bottom 10 in academic achievement in the state to the top 10. Charlotte Sun.

Colleges and universities: Florida A&M University will start the second semester Jan. 6 with online-only classes. Face-to-face instruction will resume Jan. 19. WCTV. Calandra Stringer has been named the provost and vice president of academic affairs at Tallahassee Community College, beginning Jan. 1. Stringer, who is now the college’s associate vice president for academic affairs, succeeds Madeline Pumariega, who was recently hired as president of Miami-Dade College. Tallahassee Democrat. Developmental education reforms approved by the Florida Legislature in 2013 have increased the number of students passing general education requirements in math and English, according to a study in the Educational Researcher journal. Inside Higher Ed.

Legislative committees: Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, has selected committee chairs for the legislative session that begins March 2.  Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, will chair the Education Committee, and Sen. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze, will chair the Education Appropriations Subcommittee. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.

Education podcasts: Writer, lawyer and legal historian Natalie Wexler talks with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about what’s “broken” in the education system, how modern writing instruction should change and her concerns about taking individualized learning too far. redefinED.

Opinions on schools: There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to educating kids in-person during a pandemic. But schools and districts across the country have found things that work for them and may be options for other places as they navigate the months before widespread vaccination. Politico.

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