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Teacher contract talks, Lee’s 10-year plan includes 10 new schools, pickleball as a new sport, and more

Around the state: Hillsborough teachers and the school district come to an unusually quick contract agreement, Broward school board members want to give teachers 5 percent raises but also are considering asking them to pay part of their health insurance premiums, Collier teachers are being offered 8 percent raises but want more, Lee County is planning to build 10 schools in the next 10 years to accommodate enrollment growth, Orange County schools will open a free preschool in the fall at an elementary school in Eatonville to help students prepare for kindergarten, an Okaloosa County School Board member is resigning to become a high school principal, and there’s a push to add pickleball to the list of sanctioned high school sports in Florida. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Superintendent Howard Hepburn has been asked by school board members to find about $100 million in budget savings in order to finance 5 percent raises for employees. One area that appears targeted by the board is free health insurance for school employees. The district spent $235 million this past school year for health-care, and costs are expected to go up $13 million next year. A report suggests the district could save $24.7 million by having employees contribute. Sun Sentinel. A science teacher at Parkway Middle School in Lauderhill was arrested Tuesday and accused of possession of material depicting child sexual conduct. Deputies said Quinton Womack-Wedlaw, 25, had images of child pornography on his phone. District officials said Womack-Wedlaw was hired in January, and “for the upcoming school year, he will be reassigned away from the school and students pending the outcome of the case.” Miami Herald. WTVJ. WSVN.

Hillsborough: Teachers and district officials reached a quick contract settlement on Wednesday, a change from the protracted negotiations in past years that often extended past the winter break. Eligible teachers will receive $500 raises and $1,500 bonuses, and veteran teachers who aren’t eligible for raises will receive $2,000 bonuses. More money could be available for raises if voters approve a property tax increase in November for school operating expenses, including pay supplements to make pay competitive with neighboring school districts. The deal must be approved by the union and the school board. Tampa Bay Times.

Orange: A free preschool opens in August at Hungerford Elementary School in Eatonville, a move that school and district officials hope helps students get better prepared for kindergarten. “It’s not just academic,” said Hungerford principal Letecia Harris. New students also “are lacking in social and even life skills. You can ask them a question and they don’t even know you’re asking a question.” Orlando Sentinel.

Duval: The school district has reached a settlement with a Douglas Anderson School of the Arts student who filed a lawsuit claiming the district didn’t do enough to protect her from sexual harassment and abuse by former teacher Jeffrey Clayton. The longtime music teacher pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct with the student was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. WJXT.

Lee: A new school district plan anticipates building 10 schools at all levels over the next 10 years in the eastern part of the county to handle expected enrollment growth. Last year the district reported enrollment of 88,207. By 2033, it projects that to increase to 115,619, and schools are already 94 percent full. Costs to carry out the plan are expected to be about $1.4 billion. WINK.

Seminole: A 16-year-old Seminole High School student was arrested and accused of having a gun on campus. A message to parents said school officials received a tip about the weapon and found it in the student’s backpack. No threats were made and no one was injured, according to the school’s message. WKMG.

Volusia: A month after a 4th-grader biking to Sugar Mill Elementary School in Port Orange was struck and killed by a vehicle that had just dropped off a student, district officials said a plan is being put together to improve safety at the school. It begins with a traffic study and includes the removal of some trees for better visibility, more speed bumps in the dropoff line, added turn lanes and more signage. Other changes are also being considered. ShaoLan Kamaly, 10, died May 24 when she was hit around 7:10 a.m. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee: A group of moms who said they didn’t want their children to have “a typical day at school” have formed a year-round home-school called the Unschool Squad Co-op. Created in March, it already has 50 students enrolled. “With the way public school is today, you have zero control over what your kids are learning,” said one of the founders, Brandy Lemire. “So we created this co-op so we could teach the kids what we felt we wanted them to learn.” Students are being taught financial skills this month, such as how to run a business, sell their homemade items such as scrunchies, bracelets and shirts, and write checks. Spectrum News 9.

Collier: An 8 percent raise for teachers has been proposed by the district during contract negotiations, but teachers said it isn’t enough. They want the district to use $82 million of its $122 million in reserves to improve that offer. Starting teachers make $54,000, and the average teacher is paid $69,460. WINK.

Marion: School board members could not agree on how to move forward with the construction of a new high school in the Marion Oaks neighborhood that would ease overcrowding at nearby schools. The issue is the process used to choose a construction company. Superintendent Diane Gullett said the board could start the procurement process over, move ahead with the existing plan, or make changes in the process and reopen the bidding process. Another meeting is scheduled July 11. Ocala Star Banner. A school bus ran into a house Wednesday in Marion Oaks after a truck ran a stop sign and struck the right side of the bus, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The bus, which was moving through the intersection when it was hit, then ran into the home. No students were aboard. Both drivers and a bus aide were treated for minor injuries. The 25-year-old driver of the truck was cited for failure to stop at a stop sign. Ocala Star Banner. WFTV. WOFL. Spectrum News 13. WKMG. WCJB.

Leon: District 4 school board candidates Laurie Lawson Cox, the incumbent, and firefighter Jeremy Rogers, and District 2 board member Rosanne Wood and challenger Daniel Zeruto, an insurance broker, discussed what they consider the biggest threat to the district, rezoning school boundaries, school vouchers, the district’s LGBTQ guide and more during a candidate forum Wednesday. Another forum will be held today between Democratic candidates for the superintendent’s job, incumbent Rocky Hanna and challenger Genleah Star Swain. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU.

Okaloosa: District 5 school board member Diane Kelley is resigning from the board after being chosen as the principal of the Destin High charter school. Kelley worked as a teacher and principal for 36 years before being elected to the school board in 2018. She was re-elected in 2022 to a term that ends in 2026. Gov. Ron DeSantis will appoint a replacement to complete the term. Northwest Florida Daily News. The former principal of the Okaloosa STEMM Academy has been transferred to the principal’s position at the Okaloosa Regional Detention Center. Scheree Martin was removed from the academy after she reached a settlement with the Florida Department of Education over allegations that she improperly disciplined a middle school student who is on the autism spectrum. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Alachua: District construction projects are underway at Littlewood Elementary School and Westwood Middle School, according to district spokeswoman Jackie Johnson. Westwood should reopen this fall after the $36 million reconstruction, and Littlewood’s $37 million project is scheduled to be finished in August 2025. Gainesville Sun.

Hernando: Dozens of parents and teachers from Deltona Elementary School in Spring Hill urged the school board this week to reconsider the district’s decision to remove principal Debi Shellabarger after 15 years of running the school. The district has not commented on her dismissal, but Shellabarger supporters said she was let go because she may have violated district policy by compensating employees with flex time for working extra hours. Deltona, which has a special education component, has improved its state grade from a D to a B in Shellabarger’s tenure. Spectrum News 9.

Colleges and universities: A hate crime case against a Palestinian student at the University of Central Florida in January has been dropped, prosecutors say, because it couldn’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Seif Asi confronted students planting small Israeli flags on campus, accused them of supporting genocide and made a vague shooting threat. He was charged under a new law that made threatening or harassing someone displaying religious or ethnic signs a hate crime. Asi was suspended. Florida Politics. A University of South Florida political science professor and vice provost and his wife are making a $1 million estate gift for student scholarships. Steven Tauber has worked at USF for almost 30 years, and his wife Meghan Tauber is a USF alum who created the Tampa-branded apparel company Hogan Made. Tampa Bay Times.

Next school sport? Could the next sanctioned high school sport in Florida be pickleball? Its popularity in the state is growing, and Florida High School Athletic Association board member Paul Selvidio said, “I don’t see a viable argument against it. I think if the demand is there and the popularity is where it should be to sustain a sport statewide, I don’t think it’s necessary that it has to be popular across the entire state, as long as it’s popular around enough of the state.” Twenty-two high school sports are sanctioned in Florida. Naples Daily News.

NIL site goes dark: A club that formed two weeks ago to help Florida high school athletes find name, image and likeness deals was temporarily taken offline last week after the FHSAA warned athletes that accepting deals before the policy change is approved by the Florida Board of Education could result in sanctions, including loss of their amateur status. About 1,000 Florida athletes have already signed up with the NIL Club. Florida Times-Union.

Around the nation: About $190 billion in federal emergency funding was poured into public schools during and just after the pandemic to combat the interruption and loss of learning. Did it help? Two new studies suggest it did, although both acknowledge it did not solve the problem. NPR. Chalkbeat. The 74.

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