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New College grads take final swipe at DeSantis education agenda

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
 
Gaz Miller wears the colors of the Netherlands, to represent her partner, during an “alternative commencement” Thursday, May 18, 2023 in Sarasota. Hundreds of students, family members and friends gathered at a Sarasota art gallery Thursday evening for a “alternative commencement” that gave New College of Florida graduates a chance to celebrate their accomplishments and defy the state officials who have altered the character of their school.
Gaz Miller wears the colors of the Netherlands, to represent her partner, during an “alternative commencement” Thursday, May 18, 2023 in Sarasota. Hundreds of students, family members and friends gathered at a Sarasota art gallery Thursday evening for a “alternative commencement” that gave New College of Florida graduates a chance to celebrate their accomplishments and defy the state officials who have altered the character of their school. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published May 19, 2023

The big story: The battle over the direction of Florida’s higher education system is perhaps best epitomized by the activities at New College, the tiny liberal arts school in Sarasota.

Gov. Ron DeSantis sent in six right-leaning new trustees to revamp the financially struggling school. They quickly took steps to steer New College away from the model that has drawn mostly independent-minded left-leaning students to its doors.

So it came as no surprise when the students who are graduating from the institution this spring went their own way for their commencement ceremony, rather than celebrate the staid traditional way the new leadership is pushing.

“Why would you want to shake the hands of the people responsible for this?” asked K.C. Casey, who helped organize Thursday’s event. Read more here.

In other higher education news, Kenneth Jessell was officially sworn in as Florida International University president, WLRN reports.

Hot topics

Race lessons: Asian American educators and civic activists are not celebrating Florida’s new law requiring instruction on Asian American and Pacific Islander history, NBC News reports. They have concerns about how the state is limiting lessons on racism and gender identity. • A Collier County middle school teacher will not be disciplined for putting together a “Confederate History Month” video that offended some students and parents, WBBH reports.

Superintendents: Departing Duval County superintendent Diana Greene, under fire over lax reporting of teacher discipline, faced similar complaints before in Manatee County, the Bradenton Herald reports. • An Escambia County school board member is accusing his colleagues of violating the Sunshine Law leading up to the surprise firing of the district’s superintendent, WKRG reports. More from WEAR. • Flagler County’s new interim superintendent isn’t saying whether she will pursue the permanent post, Flagler Live reports.

Book challenges: A Brevard County resident has raised objections to having the Bible in schools, saying it contains obscene materials, Florida Today reports. • A lawsuit against the Escambia County school district’s book ban procedures could open the door to similar suits across the state, WPTV reports. • The State Board of Education is set to adopt a rule to annually publish a statewide list of challenged materials, the News Service of Florida reports. Several districts already publish such lists, which are required by state law, WKMG reports.

Teacher unions: Alachua County teacher union officials said they joined a lawsuit challenging new state restrictions on their operations because the law does not treat all employee unions similarly, WCJB reports. Police and firefighter unions are excluded from the requirements.

Security: The Polk County school district is moving to have the county sheriff’s office provide all resource officers, removing city law enforcement from the equation, Lakeland Now reports. • The Lee County school board has approved allowing armed employees to serve as school guardians, Florida’s Voice reports.

Other school news

Florida government leaders like to tout the state’s No. 1 ranking in US News & World Report. WFTX took a closer look at what the ranking represents.

A Marion County 7-year-old who uses a wheelchair almost couldn’t get to school when the bus lift stopped working. A classmate helped find the solution, WOFL reports.

An Okaloosa County charter school faced questions about its financial viability. Officials said the school is meeting its obligations and working on its next budget, Destin Log reports.

The Palm Beach County school district is converting all its school nurses’ pay to an hourly rate. Some of the nurses will lose thousands of dollars in wages, WPTV reports.

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

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