Pandemic politics factor into Florida school superintendent turnover

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego is one of several school district chief executives to announce his departure during the coronavirus pandemic. He has said the pandemic challenges were not his primary motivation, but for others the situation has sped their moves.
Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego is one of several school district chief executives to announce his departure during the coronavirus pandemic. He has said the pandemic challenges were not his primary motivation, but for others the situation has sped their moves.
Published Feb. 2, 2022

The big story: Can you say superintendent search? If you’re living in several of Florida’s largest school districts, it’s become the order of the day.

Pinellas County is looking and Miami-Dade recently hired. Broward County is on the cusp after re-ranking its applicants, the Miami Herald reports. Lee County picked its new leader Tuesday, the Fort Myers News-Press reports. Palm Beach and Polk counties have seen top leadership changes in recent months, too.

Why is there so much turnover in Florida and the rest of the nation? Perhaps the pandemic has something to do with it. Over the past two years, expectations for school district chief executives have risen, and interactions with the general public have intensified.

“There was something shifting that forced us to deal with politics way more than we ever did before. Democracy is messy,” Donald Fennoy, who abruptly resigned as Palm Beach County superintendent in summer 2021, told CNN. “I think Covid brought out the hyper messiness.”

Read the full CNN report for more information.

Tallahassee action

The House State Affairs Committee advanced legislation that would bar lessons that make students feel guilt or discomfort over race. The bill passed on partisan lines, with Democrats arguing you can’t legislate feelings, the News Service of Florida reports. More from Florida Phoenix, WFSU.

The full House is set to consider scrapping school board member salaries. The bill also would make it easier to challenge books available in school libraries, Flagler Live reports.

Lawmakers have proposed expanding the state’s school free lunch program. The measure would provide free meals to students who now qualify for reduced prices, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

The Legislature passed a law last year limiting student restraint and seclusion. Both chambers are advancing measures to refine the language this year, Florida Politics reports.

Lawmakers are considering a requirement that special tax referenda be held on general election ballots only. Monroe County school district officials say that change could negatively impact their budget plans by millions, Keys Weekly reports.

The Senate is moving legislation to provide $10 million for charter school startups. It would place a third-party administrator in charge of distributing the state money, Florida Politics reports.

Today in Tallahassee ... The House Secondary Education subcommittee meets at 9 a.m. where it will consider four bills including one on school security. • The House Early Learning and Elementary Education subcommittee meets at 11:30 a.m., where it will review four bills including one on assessments and accountability. • The Senate Education Appropriations subcommittee meets at 4 p.m., where it will discuss budgets for the Department of Education and Board of Governors.

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Hot topics

Race relations: The NAACP is calling for change at St. Petersburg Catholic High School, where Black students have been targets of racist slurs and graffiti. • More threats and disruptions occurred at historically Black colleges across the nation. Another Florida school — Edward Waters University — was involved, as Bethune-Cookman University officials called the activity “terrorism,” the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. • The Flagler County School Board again rejected a resolution denouncing hate speech, Flagler Live reports.

Testing: Orange County school district leaders have called on the state to again waive the consequences associated with spring academic testing, the Orlando Sentinel reports. It joins Hillsborough and Miami-Dade counties in pushing this request to repeat last year’s state waiver.

Mask mandates: The Duval County school district extended through Feb. 15 its requirement that all adults wear masks on campuses, WJXT reports.

Jefferson County control: Local district officials told the state Education Department they’re prepared to meet requirements to retake oversight of their schools, the Jefferson County Journal reports.

Other school news

Start saving for college. The registration period for Florida’s Prepaid College Tuition Plan opened this week, WPTV reports.

Reading is fundamental. The Santa Rosa County school district is expanding its program to provide free books to all children in prekindergarten through third grade, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

What’s in a name? The Palm Beach County school district has three possible names for its newest elementary school, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Just say no. Northwest Florida law enforcement face constantly challenges as they work to keep drugs out of classrooms, a goal made more difficult by the pandemic, WEAR reports.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s the link to yesterday’s roundup.

Before you go ... Everybody’s a Tom Brady fan on the day he retires, right? Here’s his final touchdown, one more time.

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