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Florida Black history Task Force divided over altered agenda for teachers’ Summer Institute

Members of Florida’s African American History Task Force were at odds today over the state’s altered agenda for the group’s most important event of the year.

TAMPA, Fla. — Members of Florida’s African American History Task Force were at odds on Friday over the state’s altered agenda for the group’s most important event of the year. 

The virtual Summer Institute is an annual training the AAHTF offers Florida educators. 

10 Investigates reported last month that the Summer Institute had been postponed.  

During Friday’s task force meeting, we learned the Florida Department of Education changed the program’s agenda, cutting it down from two days to one.  

“For the sake of transparency, I think it would behoove us all to know the process that was followed to come up with this draft. And, forgive me, I’ve just never been on a task force before where our task is already done for us. It feels more like a ‘reaction force,’” said AAHTF member Dr. Brenda Walker.

10 Investigates uncovered in April that the Task Force had been shrinking for years. 

After our investigation, the Florida Department of Education Commissioner Manny Diaz appointed six new members. 

In June, we reported on the new members’ backgrounds. 

Five out of the six are active in Republican politics.  

Four have previously been appointed to positions by Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

Last month, the newly-appointed members outvoted the standing members to postpone the task force’s Virtual Summer Institute – a week before hundreds of educators were scheduled to participate. 

AAHTF Vice-Chair Dr. Samuel Wright was so upset, he resigned. 

“For people to get to the table, disregard what work had been done, didn’t ask any questions about looking at an agenda or what is being planned —  their first motion was to postpone it,” Wright told 10 Investigates on June 9. “I’ve had some health challenges these past three or four months. And for the life of me, I will not let people take me down by dealing with this kind of issue. So, if it’s too stressful, I prefer to get on the outside of it and deal with it that way, and not internally.” 

Credit: 10 Tampa Bay
AAHTF Vice-Chair Dr. Samuel Wright

The Summer Institute was originally scheduled for June 14 and 15, keeping with the tradition of holding it close to Juneteenth. 

The new members said they wanted to wait until after the State Board of Education reviews and potentially approves new African American History standards – scheduled for July 19 – so the Summer Institute could focus on preparing educators to teach those new standards. 

On Friday, the newcomers to the task force once again outvoted the standing members to approve the new date for the Summer Institute, Aug. 7.  

The Department of Education had already made changes to the agenda, prior to Friday’s meeting. 

Some of the sessions the state eliminated include: 

  • “The Journey to Juneteenth: Contextualizing Emancipation for Students”  

  • “Beyond Checking Boxes: Diving Deeper in African American History”  

  • “Florida & World War II: The African American Experience”  

  • What's Right? What's Wrong? What Can We Do? Voices From the Classroom,” which involved both students and teachers

The old agenda 

The new agenda 

“This is not an agenda that is set. That’s the purpose of today’s meeting,” said John Duebel, the liaison between the Department of Education and the African American History Task Force. 

The new task force members outvoted the standing members to approve the new agenda as-is – although several people, including newly appointed task force chair Glen Gilzean, said they want to ensure the Ocoee Massacre is explicitly included.

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