Gov. DeSantis presents $3,000 bonuses to Clay County educators who completed civics program

Zoey Fields

Gov. Ron DeSantis presented seven Clay County teachers with the Civics Seal of Excellence Endorsement, along with a $3,000 check, Thursday at Ridgeview High School in Orange Park.

The teachers received the endorsement and bonuses for going through a new training program that aligns with Florida’s revised civics and government academic standards.

In each lesson, participants study video-based lessons in history, government and political science. In most lessons, participants submit responses to reflection activities and complete interactive assessments. The course takes about 50 hours, and participants have two months to complete each assignment in order to earn the endorsement.
Gov. Ron DeSantis presented the endorsements and bonuses to seven Clay County teachers at Ridgeview High School Thursday morning.Photo byClay County District Schools

Clay County District Schools currently has 620 teachers registered to complete the Civics Seal of Excellence Endorsement course over the next coming months, Coordinator of Communications Terri Dennis said.

“Clay County District Schools remains dedicated to Civics education as we are ranked 5th in the state for Civics proficiency in 2022, and ranked 1st in the state for 7th-grade Civics,” she said.

The seven Clay County educators who received endorsements and $3,000 bonuses are below:

  • Michael Taft, Civics teacher at Green Cove Junior High
  • Brittany Bishop, 5th-grade teacher at Coppergate School of the Arts
  • Penny Turner, 5th-grade teacher at Fleming Island Elementary
  • Billie Anne Lentz, science teacher at Oakleaf High
  • Karen McCarthy, 5th-grade teacher at Fleming Island Elementary
  • Lynda Selby, 5th-grade teacher at Coppergate Elementary
  • Benita Pelzer, 5th-grade teacher at Plantation Oaks Elementary

DeSantis announced the bonuses at a news conference along with Department of Education Commissioner Manny Diaz. The new program started in January with the Department of Education offering bonuses to the first 20,000 teachers to complete the course, according to the Civics Excellence webpage.

“We think we have a responsibility to help graduate students out of our school system with a foundation of understanding what it means to be an American, a foundation of understanding what are the principles that have made our country unique and made our country great,” DeSantis said.

Right now, there are 4,500 teachers in the state who have completed the program with DeSantis pushing for funding for the initiative to be granted every year.

Thursday’s news conference came as DeSantis is moving to forbid classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades, an expansion to the House Bill 1557 “granting parental rights in education,” often dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

If approved, the new proposal would prohibit classroom teachings on gender identity and sexual orientation in all classrooms K-12, unless required by state standards or as part of health courses (which students have the option to opt out of).

The initial law that went into effect July 1, 2022, banned those lessons in kindergarten through third grade.

The proposal, which would not require legislative approval, is scheduled for a vote next month before the state Board of Education.

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Accredited journalist with experience covering a wide range of stories consisting of breaking news, city and county government, crime and courts, feature stories and local interest. Facebook Bulletin writer, reporter; The Learning Curve. Twitter: @zoeyfields0

Jacksonville, FL

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