Royal Palm Beach High’s homecoming highlight: Halftime proposal

The Royal Palm Beach High School homecoming game last Friday night, came with an unexpected highlight for graduate Paulena Wermuth.

She thought she came to the game with her boyfriend and fellow RPBHS alum Billy Munker for moral support – she thought “he was getting an award or something.”

Nope. She was getting a proposal from her high school sweetheart.

From PBP video shot by Palm Beach Post photographer Bruce Bennett.
From PBP video shot by Palm Beach Post photographer Bruce Bennett.

 

Munker, class of 2010,  took a knee during the homecoming halftime show.

Post photographer Bruce Bennett was there.

 

i-Ready or not? $5.6M software targets reading, math but doesn’t play on tablets yet

computerIdeally, i-Ready, the school district’s new $5.6 million software program, can hone in on why Johnny can’t read this passage or do that math and then give him lessons and tasks to build the missing skills.

But in the weeks since school began, a message went out to some parents that not only would the schools be using this technology, but students would have to spend time using it at home as well.  According to some reports, the message to parents  was this is a “mandate.”

And this is where trouble began. The program, at this moment, doesn’t run on tablets or phones, only desktop and laptop computers.

District administrators say there is no use-at-home mandate.

This was a case of miscommunication.

“We can’t, we wouldn’t require this at home. It’s an equity in access issue,” Deputy Superintendent David Christiansen said.

Adds curriculum director Diana Fedderman, “We’re taking this opportunity to clarify that that expectation is not realistic. We know we have children who don’t have devices at home.” The option may be available in the coming months.

Still, the backlash reached the ears of School Board Vice Chairman Frank Barbieri. And while acknowledging a “miscommunication” fueled this conversation, he said he still has concerns:

Why did staff go with a program that isn’t compatible with the most popular handheld devices? If the program was intended to be used only in the classroom, was that the right investment?  Couldn’t the district leverage the size of its impending purchase to make sure the company, Curriculum Associates,  delivered on promises to make it compatible in the coming months?

“I’m kind of discouraged that this information was not presented to the board,” said Barbieri, adding that if the program had been presented to the board’s academic advisory council these concerns would’ve been addressed before the board voted.

Christiansen and instructional staff at the district offices say they hear Barbieri’s concerns. They say they believe they have chosen the right program and are optimistic that by mid-school-year, it will deliver tablet and phone access at home.

(Note: Even software that works on all devices won’t resolve the huge issue of lack of Internet services to homes of the district’s poorest students.)

Some 33 elementary schools already had i-Ready in some classrooms in some grades last year.

They paid for it out of their own budgets. And while they used i-Ready, other schools used similar technology, each a little different from the other with names like iStation or Reading Plus.

They are all in a class of what’s called “adaptive” technology. Such technology is supposed to detect students’ strengths and weaknesses, plotting the next question based on how the last was answered.

All the while, these programs churn out reports to teachers and schools about student abilities and suggest lessons to direct the student to mastering the skills.

Because not all schools used i-Ready in the same way or in the same grades, the district doesn’t have a pile of data on how it worked across those schools, Christiansen said.

Still, Jeff Pegg, who served as principal at Wynnebrook Elementary for the past 16 years, gives i-Ready high marks.

As principal at the A-rated West Palm Beach school where more than 9 of every 10 students can’t afford lunch, Pegg used $7,200 in Title 1 money to put the program in his grade 3, 4 and 5 classrooms.

The program does have educational game apps that can be played on tablet or phone, but the full experience, including lessons and feedback that report back to the teacher, is available only on a desktop or laptop for now.

To give Wynnebrook students other opportunities to log on, the school library and  computer labs were available after school, Pegg said.

“We loved it because it lined up with the standards,” said Pegg, now an instructional superintendent.

To Pegg, the district’s move to buy the same program for all elementary schools and all grades from kindergarten through fifth grade delivers equity of opportunity for students and saves money by buying in bulk.

It also puts all the schools on the same page. Previously, 47 different computer-based programs were running in the elementary schools, the district reports.

“Many were not connected to what kids needed to learn. They weren’t standards aligned,” said Christiansen, who is working toward the district’s long-term goal of improving third grade reading scores.

Nearly half of the county’s third graders did not pass Florida’s English language arts test last spring.

The district is requiring students spend 45 minutes a week in class on i-Ready’s language program and another 45 minutes in the math program.

This is done during what teachers have long referred to as “center time” or “rotations” when the class is broken into small groups, Pegg said. The teacher works with one small group, while others are at computers or other stations throughout the room.

In August, i-Ready became one of three adaptive technology programs Florida approves to be used as a route to promotion from the third to fourth grade when a student fails the statewide English language arts test, known as the FSA.

In today’s world of online reviews of everything, i-Ready has both critics and defenders.

Criticisms, some to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt because they are keyed in by students who have difficulty avoiding run-on sentences, range from glitches during use to lame graphics.

On one teacher forum, a Hagen Road Elementary teacher that commented his students liked it. While a teacher at Waters Edge Elementary pined for more classroom computers on which to run it. But commenters also list concerns about fitting such programs into the school day and the advisability of 90-minute mandates.

Barbieri said he has assurances the approval process will be more inclusive next time. His conclusion on the program: “I believe the administration made the right decision with i-Ready.

(Due to an error in information provided, a previous version of this story stated the purchase was $5.3 million).

Goodbye helmet, pads; high school football players try tailored suits instead

Boynton Beach High football players suited up last weekend, but no pads or helmets were in sight. These suits had lapels and are to be worn with something other than cleats.

An organization called Suits for Seniors delivered the tailored attire to 20 boys who completed an eight-week program that hits on lessons of leadership, healthy lifestyles and more. For more about the program and who’s been helped so far, read this story from Palm Beach Post’s Boynton Beach reporter Alexandra Seltzer.

Christopher Thomas, an offensive lineman for the Boynton Beach high school football team, tries on his new, free tailored suit during a Suits for Seniors ceremony at the school. Damon Higgins/ The Palm Beach Post
Christopher Thomas, an offensive lineman for the Boynton Beach high school football team, tries on his new, free tailored suit during a Suits for Seniors ceremony at the school. Damon Higgins/ The Palm Beach Post

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.

 

Florida test scores, end of course exam results due this week

cap-and-diploma-533027-mSchool may be out for summer, but final grades for most high schoolers are not. They can’t be calculated until the scores come back on Florida’s various end-of-course exams, which by law must account for 30 percent of a course grade.

The courses:  Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry, Biology, U.S. History and Civics.

By law, those scores (and the Florida Standards Assessment results) are supposed to be released this week – the week of June 8.

Some have expressed concern for some of the more than 12,000 students who graduated in recent weeks. Right now, their transcripts are stamped “unofficial.” Are they able to proceed to college courses this summer without a final grade?

Palm Beach State College spokeswoman Grace Truman says they can at PBSC.

“We give them an override for two semesters because they can enroll now for the fall as well,” Truman said. “We don’t wait for them to have it in hand. In the past, we’d make them wait until Summer B (the second session of summer classes), but we don’t even do that now.”

Truman said PBSC, which began summer classes May 16, counts nearly 21,000 students enrolled this summer, a four percent growth over last year. That is contrary to what she said was a statewide trend of lower enrollments.

Florida Atlantic University officials say they too are OK with graduates enrolling in summer with unofficial transcripts.

Is there a statewide policy for the institutions in the state university system? No. Each university is handling it locally. “Our feedback from the universities admissions directors is that this is not an issue – they work with the student,” a spokeswoman from the State University System of Florida said in an email Thursday morning.

Palm Beach County schools: Five stories this week you can’t miss

The St. Andrew's School in Boca Raton. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)
The St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton.
(Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

A lot happened in Palm Beach County schools this week, from an assistant principal accused by students of sexual harassment to a principal being removed from her position.

Here are the top five stories you need to read in education from this week:

  1. St. Andrew’s School: Worker’s ‘boundary breaches’ prompted sex abuse probe

    1. St. Andrew’s School, embroiled in controversy over a secretive sex abuse inquiry, revealed Thursday that one of its employees had “breached student boundary policies” but said it was unaware of any students who had been sexually abused.
  2. Students say Pahokee High assistant principal sexually harassed them
    1. An assistant principal at Pahokee Middle-Senior High School faces termination after accusations that he groped a female student and asked another one to send him pictures of her legs.
  3. Palm Beach Lakes High principal reassigned from school
    1. Embattled Palm Beach Lakes High School Principal Cheryl McKeever has been transferred from the school after a year of acrimonious battles between her and many of the school’s teachers.
  4. Palm Beach County educator embellishes record, gets top Pittsburgh job

    1. After 18 years as a Palm Beach County school administrator, Anthony Hamlet won the top job in Pittsburgh’s public school system last month with a resume boasting a series of successes at turning around struggling campuses. But some of Hamlet’s claims about his track record in the county’s schools appear to be misstatements or exaggerations, The Palm Beach Post has found.
  5. Report: Palm Beach County schools need $1.2 billion in “critical” repairs

    1. It will cost Palm Beach County’s public school system nearly $1.2 billion to make all of the “critical” repairs needed for its growing backlog of deteriorating buildings and equipment at 196 school facilities, a new school district report concludes.

Orphaned teen now Park Vista grad; Lucas Brito seeks to fulfill parents’ dream

Lucas Brito is now a high school graduate.
Lucas Brito is now a high school graduate.

The Park Vista High class of 2016 graduated Wednesday morning, and Lucas Brito was among the more than 700 to walk across that stage. He said he planned to spend the day with family, which is short two important people: His parents. They died in March.

If you haven’t read Lucas’ story, now’s a good time…

Lucas Brito lost his parents in one instant, while he was still asleep, hours before he had to be in class at Park Vista High, three months before he was due to graduate and well before he could head down a path to becoming the first in the family to earn a four-year college degree.

In that instant, when an SUV barreled through an intersection into his parents’ car in suburban Delray Beach, Lucas’ life changed.

And it didn’t.

“When I was told, I cried for literally 30 seconds and then I had to say, ‘What’s the next move?’ I wanted to get back to school immediately, but I didn’t,” said Lucas… Read more here. 

(Bonus: A video of Lucas talking about his parents accompanies that story.)

lucas diploma

Feds direct schools: Allow transgender students to pick restroom

The Obama administration has written the most sweeping school restroom pass in decades, telling public schools across the nation Friday to permit transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that fit their chosen gender, according to reports that appeared first in The New York Times.

“There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement accompanying the directive, which is being sent to school districts Friday.

Forcing students to use facilities based on the sex they were at birth as opposed to the gender they identify would be sex discrimination and a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, according to the joint guidance release by the U.S. Deparments of Education and Justice.

The directive comes amid a battle between the federal government and North Carolina.

It also comes a day after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a civil rights complaint against the Marion County school district in Ocala, Florida over a new transgender policy that dictates students use the restroom that matches their sex at birth.

pbc student handbookThe Palm Beach County School District has not waded in to any debate about who can use which school restrooms. In the student handbook, the district states that it “prohibits harassment or discrimination against students for any reason including gender expression and/or gender identity, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, marital status, ancestry, ethnicity, gender, linguistic preference, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or social/family background.”

According to a USDOE press release, the guidance issued Friday details schools’ obligations to:

·         Respond promptly and effectively to sex-based harassment of all students, including harassment based on a student’s actual or perceived gender identity, transgender status, or gender transition;

·         Treat students consistent with their gender identity even if their school records or identification documents indicate a different sex;

·         Allow students to participate in sex-segregated activities and access sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity; and

·         Protect students’ privacy related to their transgender status under Title IX and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

The schools can take offer “additional privacy options to any student for any reason. The guidance does not require any student to use shared bathrooms or changing spaces, when, fore example, there are other appropriate options available; and schools can also take steps to increase privacy within shared facilities.”

 

 

Jupiter powder-puff update: Game day set

UPDATE May 16: The powder-puff junior v. senior girls tackle football game, with boys cheerleading will be held at the Jupiter High football field Friday, May 27, 2016 at 6 p.m. 

May 12, 2016 post: The Jupiter Powder-Puff committee – all the parents, students, community leaders interested in keeping the girls-full-tackle tradition alive – met Wednesday night and have come up with a tentative game day: May 27.

The original powder-puff match-up was cancelled by Jupiter High’s principal, but the students – both girls and boys – persisted. Now the plan is to play on the Jupiter High football field by having the town rent it. jhs field

But because there is so much to do, they do have about a week of wiggle room, according to notes from parent Lori Walsh, whose daughter is among the several girls who have worked to keep the game in play.

On the to-do list:

Schedule two practice fields, one for seniors and one for juniors

Verify background checks for parent volunteers

Finalize the insurance

Hire the referees

And much, much more.

The group meets again May 18 at 5:30 p.m. at the Jupiter Community Center

Park Vista cheerleader, autistic boy hit dance floor after viral ‘promposal’

Thousands saw the “promposal” – the viral video in which a Park Vista High cheerleader asks a boy with autism to prom in a surprise that also involved a huge cookie.

But have you seen the pictures of the date?

The Post’s Allen Eyestone headed to prom at the West Palm Beach Marriott to capture the moments for a photo gallery, and Mikal Bartosik and Jonathan Ramilo had plenty of them.

Jonathan and Mikal dance at Saturday night's prom. (Allen Eyestone/ The Palm Beach Post)
Jonathan and Mikal dance at Saturday night’s prom. (Allen Eyestone/ The Palm Beach Post)

 

Pre-prom party. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Pre-prom party. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

 

That’s all you get from me, but click over to see the whole gallery.