Boynton Beach High School’s principal is being replaced amid struggles at the school to raise student achievement and calls from community activists for a new leader.
Guarn Sims – a veteran administrator who previous led Royal Palm Beach High School, Village Academy, Lantana Middle and Boynton’s Galaxy Elementary – will take over for Fred Barch, who has been the school’s principal since 2014.
Barch will be reassigned to Sims’ current position leading the district’s adult education department, district spokeswoman Kathy Burstein said.
“Excited to Return to my True Purpose as an Educator and Administrator,” Sims wrote on his personal Facebook page Friday. “Proud new Principal of Boynton Beach Community High School. My City, My Community, My Roots.”
The move comes as Boynton Beach High struggles to raise students’ performance on key state exams required for graduation. The school educates roughly 1,700 students, nearly 80 percent of whom are poor enough to qualify for federal lunch subsidies.
Last year the school’s state grade dropped from a C to a D. This year’s state grades have not been released, but test scores indicate the school continued to struggle this year by some measures.
The percentage of students passing the state’s language-arts exam, a requirement for graduation, fell 3 points at the school this year to 22 percent, state records show.
The school’s passing rate on the must-pass Algebra 1 exam rose by a point to 19 percent but remains tied with Palm Beach Lakes High for the second-lowest passing rate among the county’s traditional high schools.
With some of the school’s scores falling, some community activists had begun calling for Barch’s removal. Last week a group calling itself the “Boynton Beach Community Coalition” sent a letter to city commissioners asking them to pressure the school district for “a new direction with better school leadership.”
“The community stakeholders feel the school deserves a proven principal with secondary-level principal experience at ‘high needs’ schools,” the letter stated.
The letter – which did not mention either Barch or Sims by name – was not signed by any individuals, but it named two activists with ties to the city as coalition participants: Rae Whitely, spokesman for the Boynton Beach Coalition of Clergy; and Michael Byrd, president of the East Boynton Wildcats, a non-profit football program.
Whitely declined to comment and Byrd did not respond to a phone message seeking comment.
Sims and Barch did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Sims has deep ties to the Boynton area. He is chairman of the Delray Beach Housing Authority and last month urged Boynton Beach city commissioners to give $10 million and a tract of city-owned to an investor group that included Sims’ church and a private Texas developer. The investor group said it hoped to build affordable housing for seniors on the site.
Staff writer Alexandra Seltzer contributed to this story.