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Education bid goes awry amid allegations of favoritism

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Somerset Academy Jefferson County in Monticello, about 25 miles east of Tallahassee, has been Florida’s first all-charter school district. There's a debate over who should lead the district going forward. [Jessica Bakeman | WLRN News]
Somerset Academy Jefferson County in Monticello, about 25 miles east of Tallahassee, has been Florida’s first all-charter school district. There's a debate over who should lead the district going forward. [Jessica Bakeman | WLRN News] [ WLRN ]
Published Jan. 12|Updated Jan. 12

The big story: Florida has rules about how to hire companies to do work for the government. They’re designed to prevent favoritism and maintain a transparent process.

In seeking a vendor to steer the troubled Jefferson County school district, the Florida Department of Education ran afoul of those rules.

The initiative appeared designed to benefit a single firm, MGT Consulting, whose chief executive has ties to commissioner Richard Corcoran. It floundered when three department officials made their own bid for the work.

Political accusations have flown in the aftermath. Two officials have resigned their positions. Investigations are ongoing. And MGT looks likely to walk away. Read the story here.

Tallahassee action

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, answers questions from reporters after addressing a joint session of a legislative session, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, answers questions from reporters after addressing a joint session of a legislative session, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP ]

Gov. Ron DeSantis highlighted his education agenda during his State of the State address. He mentioned the successes of Pinellas County’s Lakewood Elementary when calling for more bonuses and higher pay for teachers. You can watch the full 35-minute address here. Or read it here.

As part of his plan, DeSantis wants to decrease spring student testing, and focus instead on progress monitoring. The Senate Education Committee advanced legislation to make his goal a reality. But members acknowledged that many details still must be worked out.

A bill to shield university presidential search records came before lawmakers for an eighth time. The Senate Education Committee favorably reported the measure, which also faced some significant opposition, Florida Politics reports.

Education-related issues are expected to remain hotly debated during the session. Republican legislative leaders are promoting several contentious measures that center on school curriculum and leadership, WFSU reports.

Hot topics

Superintendent searches: The Pinellas County School Board took a step toward beginning its search, naming veteran board member Carol Cook to lead the effort. The board also approved an increase in substitute teacher pay rates. • Broward and Miami-Dade counties also are looking for superintendents. Their approaches are quite different, WPLG reports. Miami-Dade’s rushed process has generated criticism in the community, the Miami Herald reports.

Sexual harassment: Advocates again called for the Hillsborough County school district to investigate its handling of sexual harassment complaints. Officials have offered little response.

Sex education: Don’t want your child to learn sex education in school? There’s an opt-out form for that, the Keys Weekly reports.

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Book bans: Hillsborough County’s Burnett Middle School used Ghost Boys, a novel about police brutality that some schools around the nation have removed, to help students learn more about law enforcement works in the real world, Bay News 9 reports.

Staff shortages: Northwest Florida schools are feeling the effects of teacher resignations, WEAR reports.

Other school news

Hillsborough County superintendent Addison Davis has COVID-19. The district’s central office has reported 73 staff cases this month.

Safety first. The Duval County school district adopted a new policy to send information about gun safety and storage laws to parents every year, WTLV reports. • Volusia County schools plan to change student teaming in an effort to decrease violence and other behavior problems, WKMG reports. • The Broward County School Board purchased handheld metal detectors for random searches at schools, WFOR reports.

School bus drivers face tough times. Two Lee County residents collected gift cards and donations to offer local drivers some support, WINK reports.

A group of Lake County parents is holding a gun raffle to support the Class of 2022. The school district distanced itself from the raffle, which has raised concerns in the Umatilla community, WKMG reports.

From the court docket ... A Miami-Dade County parent announced plans to sue the school district over alleged bullying of her daughter by a teacher, the Miami New Times reports.

Need to catch up? Yesterday’s roundup is right here.

Before you go ... What if Fresh Prince of Bel-Air wasn’t a sitcom? We’ll soon find out.

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