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Florida education news: University mergers, lockdown decisions and a teacher’s ill-advised comments

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Students wait to board a bus during dismissal at Central High School on Monday, December 17, 2019, in Brooksville. Questions about how lockdowns are determined have recently arisen in Miami, where one school took that step after a nearby shooting, but two closer schools did not. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
Students wait to board a bus during dismissal at Central High School on Monday, December 17, 2019, in Brooksville. Questions about how lockdowns are determined have recently arisen in Miami, where one school took that step after a nearby shooting, but two closer schools did not. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes]
Published Feb. 11

CLASSROOM CONTROL: The Broward County art teacher told a late student to stop running on “Latin time,” observing that Florida operates on “American time.” The student complained. Others joined in, saying the teacher yelled at them and said things derogatory to Hispanics. The school district tried to suspend her. An administrative law judge had other things in mind.

STILL A ‘FAILURE FACTORY’? Pinellas County school district officials say long-struggling Lakewood Elementary School is on the rise. They want another year to continue their turnaround effort. Now it’s up to the State Board of Education to decide whether the district or a charter company can do a better job there.

TERM LIMITS: As Florida senators narrowly advance a bill that could establish school board term limits, two of them invoke the idea of choice. One to say term limits would provide voters more choices, the other to say essentially the opposite.

SCHOOL CHOICE: Several Pasco County parents complain when their children are placed on a wait list to attend Wiregrass Ranch High, which they attended until a recent redrawing of school boundaries. It was all a big miscommunication.

HIGHER ED BOMBSHELL: State Rep. Randy Fine proposes to merge two of Florida’s smallest universities into two of the biggest, Florida Politics reports. Florida Polytechnic would become part of UF and New College a satellite of FSU. “We have an obligation to taxpayers to generate degrees at the lowest possible cost. Unfortunately, degrees earned from Florida Poly and New College cost an order of magnitude more than they do at the other 10 universities,” said Fine, who heads the chamber’s Higher Education Appropriations committee. More from the Herald-Tribune.

LOCKDOWN DECISIONS: A shooting takes place in Miami. A boutique school almost a mile away goes into lockdown. Two closer neighborhood schools don’t. What’s up with that? The Miami Herald reports on the discrepancies.

BILLS ON THE MOVE: Another Florida House committee advances legislation to require public schools hold a daily moment of silence, Florida Politics reports. • A Senate committee offered cautionary approval of a bill that would allow college athletes to be paid for the use of their likenesses, the News Service of Florida reports.

ANGRY MOM: A Duval County mother is demanding answers after her six-year-old was involuntarily Baker Acted at school, the Florida Times-Union reports.

SEEKING SAFETY: A new high-security charter school is in the works just up the street from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

HEALTHY SCHOOLS: Manatee County opens its first school-based health clinic at Southeast High, the Herald-Tribune reports. “Having this collaborative venture on campus allows our students the opportunity to continue with their instructional day while having their health care needs met," said Southeast High School Principal Rosa Faison.

OPEN ARMS: Volusia County schools welcome 33 students arriving from Puerto Rico after earthquakes close their schools at home, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

TODAY: Senate Judiciary, 2 p.m. (SB 1476 virtual education) • House Appropriations, 4 p.m. (HB 7065 school safety)

ICYMI: Yesterday’s Florida education news roundup


  1. State Rep. Anthony Sabatini fields questions on the House floor on Feb. 19, 2020, about his proposal to ask voters to limit school board member terms.
  2. Chicken and vegetable dumplings with soy sauce were offered to students to test during the 2nd Annual Student Food Connection taste-testing, Wednesday, February 19, 2020 at Pinellas Technical College. Twenty-eight new food items were tested and rated.  Some will be added to next year's school menus.
  3. Patrick Suiters, 10, left, and Gabriel Stanford, 9, both fourth-graders at San Jose Elementary School in Dunedin, fill out a survey after tasting falafel tots and nuggets during the 2nd Annual Student Food Connection taste test at Pinellas Technical College. About 120 students tasted and rated 28 new food items that could be added to school breakfast and lunch menus next year.
  4. Pasco School District headquarters in Land O' Lakes
  5. The Pinellas County school system is offering driver education camps to hundreds of students like this one over the summer. The program will be held over two sessions at nine high school campuses across the county.
  6. Incoming Superintendent Addison Davis (center) and School Board Chair Melissa Snively (right) sign Davis' contract with the Hillsborough County School District after it was unanimously approved by the school board on February 18, 2020.
  7. Incoming Hillsborough School Superintendent Addison Davis (center), School Board Chair Melissa Snively (right) and the other board members pose as Davis signs his contract with the district on Tuesday night. The board unanimously approved the contract beforehand.
  8. Jarvis Delon West was arrested on child neglect charges after he didn't report an employee at AMI Kids who slammed a boy to the ground, according to police.
  9. Associate professor of biology Caitlin Gille leads the Pasco-Hernando State College faculty union, which challenged the school's public comment rules.  (Photo Courtesy of Caitlin Gille)
  10. Prekindergarten students at James B. Sanderlin IB World School in St. Petersburg, show the peace sign during an assembly in 2012. New state data show children in prekindergarten are better prepared for kindergarten than those who don't attend.
  11. Leon County fifth-grader Ingrid Hanley asks the Senate Education Committee not to adopt legislation that would get tougher on D-rated schools, during a Feb. 17, 2020, session.
  12. Nadia King, 6, is smiles for a photo. The special-needs student was taken from school Feb. 4 and placed in a mental health facility under Florida's Baker Act, and now her mother and a team of attorneys are asking why.