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Florida schools make time to honor top teachers, staff

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Pinellas teacher of the year, Sarah Painter, who teaches fifth grade at Eisenhower Elementary School, right, sinks into a congratulatory hug with Principal Antonette Wilson moments after finding out she is one of five finalists for Florida Teacher of the Year on Thursday, May 6, 2021, at the school in Clearwater.
Pinellas teacher of the year, Sarah Painter, who teaches fifth grade at Eisenhower Elementary School, right, sinks into a congratulatory hug with Principal Antonette Wilson moments after finding out she is one of five finalists for Florida Teacher of the Year on Thursday, May 6, 2021, at the school in Clearwater. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published May 7
Updated May 7

Find joy. That’s the message that Pinellas County teacher of the year Sarah Painter brings to her students when they struggle or despair. They turn it right back to Painter when she’s feeling down, too. No wonder she’s getting honors. Read on for that story and more Florida education news.

Some of Florida’s top education officials made the rounds Thursday to surprise finalists for the state Teacher of the Year award. Painter was one of them. Sarasota County kindergarten teacher Kari Johnson was another, the Herald-Tribune reports.

That wasn’t the only recognition going on in the schools. A Volusia County middle school cafeteria worker was named a Florida School Lunch Hero for saving a co-worker’s life, the Ormond Beach Observer reports.

Hot topics

The Hillsborough County school district still doesn’t have a financial recovery plan. But it’s getting closer.

Florida’s public universities are on track to resume pre-COVID on campus activities. The University of South Florida set June 28 as its target date.

Still want that live-remote learning option? Charter Schools USA will continue to offer it next fall in some of its schools, WPTV reports.

Change the name! Duval County residents have until the end of the week to cast their ballots proposing new names for four schools that currently recognize Confederate soldiers, the Florida Times-Union reports.

A Hendry County principal was recorded paddling a student. The local sheriff said he saw no evidence of a crime, adding that any decision on charges will come from the state attorney, Fox News reports.

The Broward County School Board approved a separation agreement with its outgoing general counsel. The lawyer blasted the board as ‘dysfunctional’ after completing the deal, the Sun-Sentinel reports. More from the Miami Herald.

Other school news

Lee County is on track to create its first community partnership school. District officials are taking community input on what they want the school to look like, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

Some Osceola County charter schools might lose their sworn law enforcement officers. School Board members raised concerns about changing security for students and staff, WKMG reports. More from the Orlando Sentinel.

The Monroe County school district has plans to build housing for some employees. The School Board slowed the process amid debate over the project cost and its affordability for workers, the Florida Keys Weekly reports.

A charter school operator made its fourth attempt at approval for a virtual school in Jefferson County. The School Board again rejected the request, this time with a state-required explanation, the Jefferson County Journal reports.

The Sarasota County school district is bulking up its student services departments. Superintendent Brennan Asplen said the additions are largely budget neutral, the Herald-Tribune reports. Some board members balked at creating more administrative jobs.

Don’t miss a story. Yesterday’s roundup is just a click away.

Before you go ... Usually we go with some light video in this space. Today, we share an open letter from a parent advocate to people who write and report about schools. Why? Because she sends an important message about who we should always be listening to. We hope parents out there will share the stories that Sarah Carpenter reminds us all are critical.