Another Florida university needs a president. Should the searches be private?

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Florida International University South Campus in Miami.
Florida International University South Campus in Miami. [ HECTOR GABINO | El Nuevo Herald ]
Published Jan. 24, 2022

The big story: Suddenly the Florida Legislature’s press to shield records from university presidential searches gained even more import over the weekend. The leader of a fourth campus in the system stepped down.

Saying he caused discomfort for a colleague, longtime Florida International University leader Mark Rosenberg stepped aside, paving the way for the Miami institution to seek its sixth president. An interim leader has been named in the meantime, the Miami Herald reports.

FIU joins Florida, South Florida and North Florida in needing chief executives.

As their trustees cast about for candidates, lawmakers are again discussing whether the best applicants will proffer themselves knowing their names will become public — including to their current bosses. The Senate version has passed two of its three assigned committees, while the House version has not yet been heard.

The argument that privacy can generate better aspirants runs afoul of Florida’s traditional transparency, an issue that school boards looking for new superintendents are grappling with, as the Miami Herald reports. (The Miami-Dade County superintendent search, expected to be decided today, also has grown particularly partisan, WLRN reports.)

Also impacting the debate is the reality that Florida State found a strong new president from Harvard just months ago, and outgoing UF president Kent Fuchs won mostly rave reviews during his tenure, during which he boosted almost all the school’s ratings. It’s unclear whether the legislation has traction. But now it has university communities from all corners of Florida watching.

Hot topics

Free speech: A federal judge put a temporary injunction on the University of Florida’s policy preventing professors from testifying in lawsuits against the state government. “I find that their chilled speech stems from their reasonable fears that the policy will be enforced against them moving forward,” wrote Judge Mark Walker, a UF alumnus.

CRT claims: The Osceola County school district canceled a professor’s training lecture on civil rights history for teachers amid concerns it would be accused of promoting “critical race theory,” NBC reports. “There’s a climate of fear, an atmosphere created by Gov. Ron DeSantis, that has blurred the lines between scared and opportunistic,” professor J. Michael Butler said. More from Salon. • The Brevard County school district rejected accusations that a planned employee training has anything to do with CRT, Florida Today reports.

Top teachers: Several districts recognized their 2022 teachers of the year, including Bay, Duval, Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties.

Staffing shortages: Central Florida schools are scrambling to keep classes covered as staff members call in sick and substitutes remain hard to find, the Orlando Sentinel reports. • Osceola County school district officials say they’re “desperate” to hire more bus drivers, Spectrum 13 reports.

Teacher pay: Broward County teachers grudgingly voted to ratify a contract with raises of about 1 percent, the Sun-Sentinel reports. “The truth is that we were advised to vote for it, because if we voted down, the board would not come back and offer us anything,” teacher Debby Miller said.

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COVID cases: Tampa Bay area school districts have begun encouraging remote training sessions as COVID numbers surge. • Some Broward County students called for a two-week return to distance learning as virus cases increase, WLRN reports. With talk of a Monday walkout in the air, district officials urged parents to advise their children to keep their advocacy to outside school hours, WPLG reports.

Catching up: The Leon County school district launched an acceleration program to help overage students get back on track with their cohort, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. “Here is an opportunity that they can prove to themselves, forget the world, prove to themselves that they can do it,” principal Benny Bolden said.

Before you go ... R.I.P. Meat Loaf.

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