Broward parents resist call to return children to classrooms, top teachers named, pay delay and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Around the state: Broward parents are choosing to keep their children home from schools for safety reasons despite being encouraged to send them into classrooms, teachers of the year are named in Volusia, Marion and Bay counties and finalists are chosen in Lee, the state Department of Education’s inaction causes Orange County’s teachers to wait an extra two weeks for pay raises, Nassau teachers reject a proposed contract with the district in part because veteran teachers were to receive token raises, Manatee school board members will consider changes to rules for speakers at board meetings, and Duval prepares to take on the sensitive subject of renaming schools. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Even as local school administrators and state officials push to have students back in classrooms, many Broward parents are resisting because they believe their children are safer at home. Only 33 percent of the district’s students are receiving face-to-face instruction, the lowest percentage in the state. “I know she might be making more progress if she were in school, but this is a global pandemic,” said Lindsay Joly, who has kept her two children home even though one is struggling. “Instead of focusing on grades and tests, we should be changing expectations a little bit and focus on surviving.” Sun Sentinel.

Orange: District teachers will get their negotiated pay raises two weeks later than scheduled because of a delay by the state in approving pay plans for two charter schools. The two schools turned in their plans in September, but one was just notified on Jan. 13 that corrections had to be made. The district then discovered its raises and back pay from the start of the school year wouldn’t be issued until the plans from the two schools were approved. The district appealed and the Department of Education agreed to release district funds, but by then it was too late for the raises to be included in the Jan. 20 paychecks. Orlando Sentinel. A charter school principal who was recently arrested and accused of failing to report suspected child abuse by an employee has been fired. Abdulaziz Yalcin, 35, had been the middle and high school principal at the Orlando Science Charter School. WESH.

Palm Beach: The school board delayed a vote on a 2021-2022 school calendar last week after parents complained about the shortened summer vacation it proposed. District officials were asked to make changes, but as teachers union president and calendar committee member Justin Katz explained, it’s not as easy as it sounds because there are so many considerations. “We’ve painted ourselves into a corner with all the things people like. Now people want to shift the time (we start), but it’s not easily done,” Katz said. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: The touchy subject of renaming schools will be on the school board agenda in February. Last June, the board voted unanimously to begin the process of renaming six schools that took the names of Confederate figures, and a month later added three schools named for leaders who committed violence against native Americans. Since then, those who favor changing the names and those who are opposed have rallied support. It’s estimated that it will cost as much as $1 million to rename Joseph Finegan Elementary, Stonewall Jackson Elementary, Jefferson Davis Middle, Kirby-Smith Middle, J.E.B. Stuart Middle, Robert E. Lee High, Andrew Jackson High, Jean Ribault High and Jean Ribault Middle. WJXT. One in five Florida girls has considered suicide and one in 10 has been raped, according to the third annual “Status of Girls” study by the nonprofit Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center that was commissioned by the Florida Women’s Funding Alliance. Minority and LGBTQ girls are at the highest risk, the study concluded. “We are talking about girls in middle school and high school across our state, in our communities,” said Vanessa Patino Lydia, vice president of research and planning at the policy center. “The level of hopelessness … was striking and I think calls attention to the opportunity to really intervene right now in the lives of girls.” Florida Times-Union.

Polk: More than 1,000 district students have been infected with the coronavirus so far in January, boosting the total since Sept. 6 to 5,410. The positivity for students has been 14.5 percent this month, compared to 13.4 percent from the beginning of school to the winter holiday. Lakeland Ledger.

Lee, Collier: Thirty Lee County teachers have been chosen as finalists to receive Golden Apple awards. A selection committee of community and business leaders will interview and observe the finalists to pare the list down to the six winners who will be honored April 16. Fort Myers News-Press. Collier school employees over the age of 65 have begun to get coronavirus vaccinations through the district’s partnership with the health department and Collier County Emergency Medical Services. Lee County school officials are still working on a plan to have their older workers immunized. Naples Daily News.

Volusia, Flagler: Frank Garaitonandia, an art teacher at Citrus Grove Elementary School, has been named the Volusia County School District’s teacher of the year. The other finalists were: Joe Biggs, a kindergarten teacher at R.J. Longstreet Elementary; Megan Martens, a kindergarten teacher at Sweetwater Elementary; Adrienne Palmer an ESE teacher at Deltona High; and Joey Powell, the band director at Silver Sands Middle. The Flagler County School District’s teacher of the year will be announced Thursday. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Volusia County School District. Volusia’s school district has reported 1,147 cases of the coronavirus since Sept. 6, and Flagler has counted 300. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A former student at University High School has been sentenced to 45 years in prison for strangling his mother in 2018 after they argued about a bad grade. Gregory Ramos, now 17, was 15 when he killed his mother, 46-year-old Gail Cleavenger. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee: School board members are expected at Tuesday’s meeting to consider new rules governing public comments at meetings. Board vice chair James Golden proposed in November to spell out the kind of comments that will get speakers thrown out of meetings, after being the target of several scathing comments at recent meetings. His initial proposal has been revised to target conduct and profane and vulgar language. “It’s one thing for you to stand before the board and say, ‘Rev. Golden, you’re a scalawag.’ It’s another thing to stand before the board and give me what the young people call a ‘middle finger salute.’ You see, that’s conduct,” Golden said. “I’m not trying to infringe on anyone’s right to speak. I am trying to curtail conduct.” Bradenton Herald. Bill O’Brien, who was the principal of Prine, Pine View and Parrish elementary schools during his tenure as a Manatee educator after fighting in Normandy during World War II, has died in Bradenton. He was 96. Bradenton Herald.

Lake: Freddie Mularsky, who taught in the Lake County School District for 30 years, has died at the age of 60. He began with the district as a substitute teacher, was hired at Leesburg High in 1982, and taught at the Lee Adult Education Center and Lake Technical College before moving to Tavares Middle School from 2001 until his retirement in 2012. Daily Commercial.

Marion: Christine Fernandez, a kindergarten and online 1st-grade teacher at Shady Hill Elementary School in Ocala, has been named the Marion County School District’s teacher of the year. Ocala Star-Banner. School buses have been running late because of a shortage of drivers caused by the coronavirus. The driver absentee rate has been around 20 percent, forcing some drivers to handle more than one route. WMFE.

Bay: Vicki Reding, a 5th-grade teacher at West Bay Elementary in Panama City, has been named the Bay County School District’s teacher of the year. Chosen as the support employee of the year was Adrianna Hill from Bay High School. Panama City News Herald. WMBB.

Wakulla: Three students have tested positive for the coronavirus, putting 47 students and an employee in quarantine. WCTV.

Nassau: About 84 percent of the teachers who voted on the proposed contract agreement between the district and teachers union have rejected it. The deal would have raised starting teacher pay by $5,000 to $45,242, but some veteran teachers would have gotten as little as $715 because the district declined to add to the money it got from the state. Negotiations will resume Feb. 8. WJXT.

Baker: A 17-year-old Baker High School student has been arrested and accused of threatening to commit a mass shooting at the school. Several students notified the sheriff’s office of the threat, made on Snapchat. WPEC.

Colleges and universities: Less than a week after a University of Florida student was struck and killed by a vehicle on a Gainesville street, the police department announced it will step up traffic enforcement in the downtown area. It was the second fatal accident of a pedestrian in the past month. Gainesville Sun. Here’s how much some Florida schools are receiving as part of the second federal stimulus bill that was signed into law in December. Tampa Bay Times. Bill Christy, the chief executive officer of Cognitive Kinetics and of Challenge North America, and Jeff Condello, the Windermere president and chief executive officer of Randall Construction, have been appointed to the University of Central Florida Board of Trustees by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Daytona Beach News-Journal. DeSantis also appointed Barbara Feingold, senior vice president of managed care of North America Dental, and Daniel Cane, CEO of the health-care software company Modernizing Medicine, to the Florida Atlantic University Board of Trustees. Florida Governor’s Office.

In the Legislature: New state employees would be required to enroll in a 401(k) program retirement program under a bill filed for the legislative session that begins March 2. S.B. 84, sponsored by state Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, would apply to employees hired on or after July 1, 2022. State employees now have the option of enrolling in the state pension system or a program similar to a 401(k). News Service of Florida.

In Congress: Transgender students would be barred from competing in women’s sports at the scholastic level under a bill filed recently by U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, a Republican from Sarasota. The bill would require schools, under federal Title IX law, to recognize athletes based on their gender at birth. “By forcing biological female athletes to compete against biological male athletes in competitive sports, we are taking away women’s opportunities on and off the field,” Steube said. Florida Politics.

Opinions on schools: School choice should not be complicated. With S.B. 48, sponsored by Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, Florida lawmakers have filed a bill to simplify what has become a complex set of programs. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. Florida’s leaders shouldn’t settle for the basics only for K-12 students. They deserve the opportunity to achieve at the highest level. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. The pandemic is out of control, and don’t take my word for it, take the CDC’s. Jacksonville has even closed the courthouse, the signs and science are everywhere, and the Duval County School District has done nothing to make its students and staff safer. Chris Guerrieri, Florida Times-Union.

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