Avossa ‘disgusted’ by child porn case; read full statement

(Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Parents and educators at Howell L. Watkins Middle School and across the district learned yesterday that the FBI is seeking to arrest a well-regarded middle school teacher on child pornography charges.

Read the full story here. 

His victims are “numerous” and so far at least a handful of them are students who are in the district’s schools now, Superintendent Robert Avossa said Wednesday.

The teacher, Corey Perry, is on the run.

Avossa couldn’t speak to the details of the investigation, but he had these words to the man and the crime:

As a life long educator I am disgusted at what I have learned. He has hurt innocent children.

“This individual has embarrassed his school, his community and his entire profession by harming the most important thing entrusted to him – our students.

“He broke a sacred and professional code and I cannot and will not forgive him for that.

“I want the community to know that our district is bursting with fantastic teachers who have dedicated their lives to protecting our students. They go above and beyond each and every day to make sure our kids have everything they need to be successful in school.

“So do not judge the dedicated professionals by the actions of one.”

On its website, the Palm Beach County School District has posted several resources for parents that address online safety and how to navigate social media and technology.

 

 

 

Boy brings knife to elementary school to ward off potential abductors

After hearing about someone trying to abduct a child in a suburban Lake Worth neighborhood earlier this week, a boy at Coral Reef Elementary decided to take safety into his own hands and packed a knife in his backpack and took it with him to school, school district officials report.

2011 file photo

School administrators discovered his concerns and confiscated the knife without incident.

“At no time did the student take the knife out of the backpack,” Principal Bobbi Moretto assured parents in a recorded phone call that went out Wednesday evening.

Moretto’s phone call made no mention of the attempted abduction reported by Palm Beach County Sheriff’s officials the day before.

But the call arrived in the evening after the school sent home a written note to parents that began: “The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office reminds parents to talk to their children about independent safety when they are playing in the neighborhood and/or on their way to or from school.”

While neither the note nor the call directly connected the child’s actions to the abduction attempt, a district spokeswoman confirmed the boy’s motivation Friday.

“His intent was to protect himself. He was afraid of what he had heard,” Amity Schuyler said.

The incident that drove his fear was reported to have happened Monday about 2 miles south of Coral Reef Elementary School in the Lake Charleston neighborhood, just east of Florida’s Turnpike and south of Hypoluxo Road.

Sheriff’s detectives say a child said he was playing in the 7300 block of Zurich Circle at about 3:45 p.m. when a man got out of a white van and approached the boy without saying anything. Further details are scant. The investigation continues.

WHAT TO DOhandcuffs

 

But the letter home to parents advises parents have a conversation with their children and hit these points:

Tell children to take action. Point out places they could seek help on their routes to and from the park and school.

Tell them to travel in a group or with a friend.

Warn them against taking rides  or changing plans without your permission

Alert them to the tricks would-be abductors use such as offering money or asking children for help.

Encourage children to tell a trusted adult when something or someone makes them uncomfortable.

And call crime stoppers if you have information about a crime… 1-800-458-TIPS (8477).

Update: Dwyer, Benjamin schools to open for class Tuesday

Update: Despite  some $500,000 to $1 million in damages from overnight storms, William T. Dwyer High will open on Tuesday, school district officials reported Monday evening. So too will the Upper School at The Benjamin School.

Read the full story that details the damages here. 

 

Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens is closed today due to storm damage. The storm tossed some metal bleachers into the road, a fence is down and sporting debris is piled against it. Buildings on campus also suffered, but officials say they are awaiting an afternoon walk-through before detailing the problems.

Expect to wait until then to learn when the school will reopen.

Meanwhile, teachers and staff are being told not to come to work because it’s unsafe. All other Palm Beach County public schools are open, though at least one other, Marsh Pointe Elementary in Palm Beach Gardens,  had some touch-and-go moments with power, district spokeswoman Julie Houston Trieste said this morning.

The Benjamin School’s upper school on Grandiflora Road is also closed due to storm damage. The lower and middle school campus remain open.

Dwyer High sits at 13601 N. Military Trail. It was built in 1990 and upgraded in 2006. In a 2016 assessment of building conditions on the district’s campuses, Dwyer was rated ‘fair’.

It is listed among the schools due to get a new roof and a long list of other repairs and replacements with money from the penny sales tax that voters approved in November.

The remains of the home team bleachers rest crumpled against a stand of pine trees at the Benjamin SchoolÕs Upper School campus in Palm Beach Gardens after the overnight storms apparently picked up bleachers from the other side of the field Monday, January 23, 2017. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
The remains of the home team bleachers rest crumpled against a stand of pine trees at the Benjamin SchoolÕs Upper School campus in Palm Beach Gardens after the overnight storms apparently picked up bleachers from the other side of the field Monday, January 23, 2017. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

For more coverage of the storm click here.

School Board’s Whitfield falls off hoverboard, breaks back

School board member Erica Whitfield read with students at Poinciana Elementary in 2015 as part of a Children's Services Council literacy event. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
School board member Erica Whitfield read with students at Poinciana Elementary in 2015 as part of a Children’s Services Council literacy event. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Posted: 6:00 p.m. Thursday, January 12, 2017


Palm Beach County School Board member Erica Whitfield is sitting very still in a recliner at her Lake Worth home, watching “The Crown” on Netflix and hoping that she will be able to move well enough to go to next week’s board meeting — which seems perhaps ambitious since she’s recovering from a broken back.

She stepped on a hoverboard the day after Christmas and fell flat on her back seconds later, shattering a vertebra slightly above her shoulder blades.

See the full story including Whitfield’s account of what went wrong here. 

See what one consumer group has said about the dangers of hoverboards here. 

 

 

 

 

PBC school district keeping an eye on the weather

Meteorologists aren’t the only ones in South Florida keeping an eye on that mass of bad weather in the tropics that could turn into something more over the weekend. Wednesday afternoon, parents received an email from the Palm Beach County School District that they too are watching.

Photo by Damon Higgins/ The Palm Beach Post
Photo by Damon Higgins/ The Palm Beach Post

The email noted:

We will continue to monitor the weather today and throughout the week, and will provide updates as needed through social media, the District’s website, and alerts through the ParentLink system. Follow the District on Twitter at @pbcsd or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pbcsd.

Parents and guardians will receive emergency phone calls or text messages using the contact information provided to their child’s school. District employees will receive emergency notifications based on the contact information provided in PeopleSoft.

Want to keep up with the weather before you find out school is cancelled or your weekend plans scuttled?

Follow The Post’s weather reporter Kim Miller on Twitter  @KMillerWeather and read her WeatherPlus blog.

 

Fire eater, cheerleaders for Clinton: A look back at 5 Avossa headaches

Avossa InterviewToday’s the last day of school for Palm Beach County’s 183,000 or so public school students. It also winds up the first school year for the district’s new Superintendent Robert Avossa. We take a look back on some of his biggest headaches this year:

West Boca High Principal Mark Stenner giving this year's graduation speech.
West Boca High Principal Mark Stenner giving last year’s graduation speech.
  1. Plagiarizing principal: Before the school year even began, Avossa faced a question about West Boca High’s Mark Stenner, the principal whose graduation speeches were nearly verbatim material from another speech – for two years in a row. A committee of Stenner’s peers recommended five days of suspension, but Avossa wasn’t happy with that, saying he wanted a 10-day suspension without pay. Then he reconsidered again and opted to remove Stenner from his job.

“I have to be honest with you, I’m not happy with the process.”  The question, he said, is can this process be viewed by the public as “people protecting colleagues”?

File photo (Meghan McCarthy/The Palm Beach Daily News)
File photo (Meghan McCarthy/The Palm Beach Daily News)

2. School bus crisis from Day 1Nearly 40 percent of the 630 school bus routes were late or didn’t show up at all. The superintendent showed up at Grassy Waters Elementary on the first day of school in August, but none of the school’s six buses did. Little did he know there was a big problem, and it was to last about six weeks. Avossa later called transportation officials “tone deaf” and criticized them for not heeding bus driver warnings about a new software program that rejiggered all the routes. He was furious they did not raise flags the new routes and being short staffed with drivers earlier.

 

“No one came and said the Titanic was sinking,” he said

Suncoast High students at Tuesday's rally for Hillary Clinton
Suncoast High students at Tuesday’s rally for Hillary Clinton

3. Suncoast cheerleaders, band play at Clinton rally: He got the heads up from Twitter. Avossa said he saw the Tweets and knew someone had violated district policy about political activity.  It was a Hillary Clinton rally at the Port of Palm Beach. Suncoast High cheerleaders and the band played for about 600 supporters as former President Bill Clinton stood in for his wife. Avossa said he was dismayed that a soon-to-retire veteran principal, Linda Cartlidge,  didn’t know better.

“Quite frankly, I’m disappointed,” Avossa said. “It’s clearly against district policy to be engaged in any political activity.”

Former stuntman Ricky "Inferno" Charles in the Atlantic High School gym, March 17, 2016, in Delray Beach, Florida, runs while on fire. (Photo provided)
Former stuntman Ricky “Inferno” Charles in the Atlantic High School gym, March 17, 2016, in Delray Beach, Florida, runs while on fire. (Photo provided)

4. Atlantic High fire-breather stunt: Kids packed the gymnasium at Atlantic High on St. Patrick’s Day for a pep rally featuring Ricky “Inferno” Charles breathing flames as another performer raced over them to dunk a basketball. The dunk worked out fine, but then screams erupted as 2,000 teens saw Charles’ face on fire. As Charles was taken the hospital, video of the flames lit up the Internet. Turns out Atlantic wasn’t the first high school in the county to host the fire-breather, but after his burns, Charles say he’s retiring from the fire business.

Meanwhile Avossa was “shocked.”

It’s “just common sense not to have any kind of fire in a school. When you put fire in a building, this is a problem.”

Palm Beach Lakes student Joseph Trahan, left, addresses the Palm Beach County School Board with teacher Malik Leigh at his side, March 16, 2016, at the school district in West Palm Beach. (Palm Beach County School District)
Palm Beach Lakes student Joseph Trahan, left, addresses the Palm Beach County School Board with teacher Malik Leigh at his side, March 16, 2016, at the school district in West Palm Beach. (Palm Beach County School District)

5. Teachers let go, geometry subs all year: Turmoil at Palm Beach Lakes: It started with a visit by high school teachers to a school board meeting to complain of a “toxic” atmosphere at Palm Beach Lakes High under Principal Cheryl McKeever. Then a student appeared in March, saying he and his honors classmates had a series of  substitutes teaching their geometry class for most of the year and they were worried they couldn’t pass end-of-year exams because they learned the bulk of the subject matter from watching videos. Malik Leigh, a teacher from the law academy, came with them.

The next day, children were called to the office and questioned. McKeever told the kids and their parents that they had run the full-time teacher out. A few months later, Leigh filed suit after his contract wasn’t renewed. His suit claimed McKeever had retaliated against a number of teachers by not hiring them back for next year. A week later, Leigh was suspended because his final exam was “inappropriate,” including questions about Donald Trump and being “screwed” if he’s elected.

 

FBI: Bomb threats to Jupiter, John I. Leonard high schools solved

handcuffs

Authorities have arrested the person they believe responsible for emailed bomb threats to Jupiter and John I. Leonard high schools and an unnamed Palm Beach County elementary school – and the culprit is not a student.

FBI officials said Tuesday that the threats, all madefrom late December to mid-February,  trace back to a 25-year-old man from Georgia who was stalking a woman who moved here.

They say Preston Alexander McWaters was using technology to pin the threats to the woman and her boyfriend. (Schools weren’t his only target, according to the FBI. Read the full story.)

That still leaves several threats to schools, including two called in to Wellington High in January, unsolved.

But Superintendent Robert Avossa said Tuesday that investigators continue to pursue those hoaxes and warned anyone who considers these mere pranks that they are, in fact, crimes.