Are Palm Beach County schools committed to new West Boynton High? Not so fast

This is where GL Homes wants to build communities and the land it offered for schools.

Now that the Palm Beach County School Board has agreed to accept GL Homes’ offer to donate $10 million for a West Boynton Beach High and two pieces of property – one for the high school and another to the south for an elementary school – what happens next?

According to GL Homes, it’s time for both sides to sit down and craft a legally binding contract, because what the board approved last week was merely a “non-binding letter of intent.”

Opposition mounts to GL Homes’ plan to build in Ag Reserve

GL Homes officials say that contract would be contingent on the county commission approving its proposal to build more than 2,600 homes in three neighborhoods in Palm Beach County’s Agricultural Reserve.

But Superintendent Robert Avossa said this week that he’s in no hurry to knock out such a contract until he gets a better indication whether the county commission does indeed plan to give GL Homes permission to build in the south county farming region where building is limited by county rules.

Several school board members, also contacted after last week’s 6-1 vote, agree that they want to know if houses are going up before they commit to borrowing the additional millions it will take to build schools for those neighborhoods.

When will the School Board talk about this again? 

The next time they are likely to discuss the matter will be Sept. 6, when the board gets its annual review of the district’s 10-year capital plan, Chief Financial Officer Mike Burke said this week.

Until now, that plan had long included mention of building an elementary in the western reaches of southern Palm Beach County, but the district was still shopping for land on which to build. GL Homes’ offer would resolve that issue.

Also in the plans were an elementary and middle school that GL Homes was going to provide land for northwest of the new city of Westlake – but those schools won’t be needed, at least not for a while, if GL Homes succeeds in its bid to scrap developments there in exchange for permission to build in the Ag Reserve.

The plan also anticipates building a high school at Lyons Road near Lake Worth Road and another west of Royal Palm Beach.

The county’s high schools are exceedingly crowded, with 12 of 21 filled or beyond capacity. The new schools would help, but the district was also considering expanding Olympic Heights, Park Vista and John I Leonard high schools to relieve crowding, Avossa said.

A new school could eliminate the need to make those big schools even bigger he said.

But much of this planning is contingent on the county’s next move.

GL Homes is due to make its presentation to the county’s planning and zoning advisory board in December. The proposal would not come before county commissioners until early next year.

“The whole thing is very uncomfortable…I want to ensure our interests are taken care of, but I don’t like being used as part of the plan to develop community support,” board member Erica Whitfield said. “I’d be more comfortable to know where the county is going first.”

Karen Brill

Board member Karen Brill echoed those sentiments, “I don’t know if there’s any urgency in bringing a final document. My biggest concern is that neither side of the Ag Reserve zoning argument use what we’re doing to leverage what they’re doing.”

Brill said accepting the letter of intent, however, was a “no brainer.”

“We have all this building going on. The schools are getting full. Where are the middle school kids going to go when they graduate?” said Brill, whose district encompasses the land in question and who sees high schoolers in that region commute all the way to Boca Raton’s Olympic Heights High because only one other high school, Park Vista, is nearby and it’s full.

Barbara McQuinn, the school board member representing the county’s northern reaches, cast the sole dissenting vote on the letter of intent. “I really wanted to have a talk about it in terms of our capital budget. This wasn’t in our plan. I understand from boundaries (experts) that ultimately we will have kids who need (a high school), but it wasn’t in our plan.”

Should the board follow the letter of intent, the board would accept 30 acres on the west side of U.S. 441 on which to build a long-planned elementary school. It would also take 75 acres and $10 million to build a high school farther north. The latter would be included in the district’s capital budget by 2022 and built by 2024.

Building a high school can cost anywhere from $60 million to $100 million depending on how many students the campus is designed to serve.

“It’s so early in that process,” Chairman Chuck Shaw said. “Until staff has time to start the planning, it’s really too early to decide what we’re doing. Number one is, where we get the money. Then there’s site approvals. ”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When senior quotes go awry: Boca High recalls yearbooks

Boca High students take selfie before their graduation ceremony Saturday. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

When you rely on high school seniors for wisdom on the path ahead or reflection on the steps already taken, be prepared for some bumps in the road  – a not-so-wise education reporter.

Two senior quotes that made it to print in the Boca Raton High School yearbook prompted a recall of the annual tome this month and, at least for now, spell the end to senior quotes moving forward.

Principal Susie King said despite the editing process, two bits of ill-advised reflection got by – one quote was sexual in nature, the other made references to drugs. The mistakes and the effort it takes to keep them out of the book is not worth it, she said in an email to The Palm Beach Post.

Not every school in the county permits seniors to say a few words. Forest Hill High does. Suncoast doesn’t. Like Boca Raton High, Dreyfoos School of the Arts did – but students say they’ve been told  next year it won’t.

District officials say it’s up to schools and their principals to make that call.

Mary Stratos, principal at Forest Hill High, likes a good quote as long as it holds with the school’s code – no condescension, no sex, no drugs. “I plan to continue as long as appropriate precautions are in place.”

Stratos’s  favorite missive this year came from senior Natalie Abreu quoted The Little Prince: “It is only with the heart one can see rightly: what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

While Abreu tapped literature, other class of 2017 alum in Palm Beach County went the pop culture route, quoting everyone from Spongebob Squarepants – “You will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory” – to Justin Bieber, “I don’t recall.”

Megan Hostetler, a junior at Dreyfoos, said the senior quote is a rite of passage she and her friends have been preparing for since they arrived as freshmen, “Every single funny thing you say, it would be like, ‘Oh, ha ha. Keep that for your senior quote.’ “

Hostetler said she was thinking of quoting herself and referencing her gift for gab: “You don’t need to understand me to listen.”

Now her focus will be on the artsy “signature” students can design to go with their yearbook photo. But she’ll miss the quote.

And who can’t appreciate un bon mot?

The best of senior quotes everywhere

Senior quotes are internet faves. Pinterest has 25 of the best. Buzzfeed scoured social media to find its top 33 for the class of 2017. They include:

Tuesday Dermagosian noted for all: “Yes I was born on a Tuesday. No, my brother’s names aren’t Wednesday and Monday.”

Omotola Omotnugbon summed up her gradeschool experience: “I’ve learned to say here when the teacher hesitates while taking attendance.”

Or this from Jenna Allen: “When I die, I want the people I did group projects with to lower me into the ground so they can let me down one last time.”

 

Much closer to home, at Treasure Coast High in Port St. Lucie, senior Savanna Tomlinson got the most distance in the media with her sign off: “Anything is possible when you sound Caucasian on the phone.” The line did not play well, however, with her mom, according to the young black woman’s Twitter feed: “Update: My Mom is furious that I put that as my quote LMAO.”

Parental wrath is strong when the senior quotes go awry, referencing drugs, alcohol, sex and race.

A mom in Texas is threatening a lawsuit after the young man whose yearbook mug sits just to the right of her son’s used his quote to insert an arrow to his classmate’s name with the words “dis man is ugly.”

Back in Boca Raton, no one was disciplined in the matter of the rogue words, principal King said. The students said they didn’t submit those quotes and the school couldn’t be certain who was responsible, she said.

The offending quotes prompted a recall of the 843 yearbooks sold. All but about 100 came back, principal King reports. At first, the entries were covered by stickers, but in the end the school shipped 468 back to the publisher to have the pages replaced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palm Beach County boy’s service dog gets own yearbook photo

 

A boy and his dog  have landed in the pages of Frontier Elementary’s yearbook, and mom is so thrilled she’s giving the Palm Beach County school a shout-out on Facebook.

Ethan Amara sits in a blue polo, grinning, every hair in place. His service dog, Ketch, a yellow Labrador retriever, sits one school photo away, blue harness in place, also grinning, tongue out.

“You want to know how I know that my son goes to the BEST school in the Palm Beach County? I picked up his yearbook yesterday and this is what I see! I’m so very thankful for everything that Frontier Elementary School does for my son and his service dog. The staff embraced them from the minute they stepped foot (and paw) on the campus and for that I’m truly indebted to them,” reads the post by Christina Amara and shared on the school district’s website. She goes on to say the boy’s last school wasn’t as welcoming, but now he’s found one that is “heaven sent and it’s where we were meant to be!”

Ketch has been with Ethan for two years, and his super power? Smelling when Ethan’s blood sugar is too high or too low – something he can sniff out from a football field away, says mom Christina Amara.

Ethan, 8, was diagnosed a few years back with type 1 diabetes, sometimes referred to as juvenile diabetes. This is the kind of diabetes that happens when your immune system destroys the cells in your pancreas that make insulin – not the stuff of bad diets.

Ketch was born in California and trained from very young to know exactly Ethan’s scent.

He arrived while Ethan was in the middle of his kindergarten year at another Palm Beach County school that Amara isn’t calling out by name.

“From January to June, we had problem after problem with that school. If the principal could find a problem with that dog, he would,” Amara lamented. “Legally, yes, he was required to allow the dog, but he didn’t do anything else. He just made life difficult.”

Then they moved to Loxahatchee and changed schools.  And the family has never been happier.

“They’re the kind of principals that know the kids. I’ve never seen them in a bad mood ever,” Amara said.

This isn’t Ketch’s first appearance in the yearbook – he was at the end of yearbook last year, mom said. But this time Ketch’s  mug is right next to Ethan’s. Ketch even inherited the Amara name.

“The fact that they put his last name with the dog – Ketch Amara – Ethan thought that was just amazing.”

Frontier isn’t the only school to embrace a four-legged companion.

A Virginia High School also made the news this week. when Alpha, a black Labrador service dog appeared in the pages of Stafford High School alongside junior Andrew “AJ” Schalk, 16.

The teen has type 1 diabetes and the dog can tell when his blood sugar is getting too high or too low and alert his human 20 to 40 minutes before problems develop. “He has save my life multiple times already, by waking me up in the middle of the night to extremely low blood sugars, which are very dangerous,” Schalk told reporters.

 

 

 

 

Fidget spinners banned in this PBC school. How ’bout yours?

This meme of this year’s fads is making the rounds with teachers.

Earlier this month, Superintendent Robert Avossa admitted that, yes, his children, ages 11 and 14, own fidget spinners.

Every teacher in the country is likely familiar with these pocket-sized gadgets which you can twirl between fingers – so familiar that already schools across the country have banned them. (By the calculations of Alexi Roy at spinnerlist.com, that includes 63 of the largest high schools in the country.)

And at least one industrious student has opened a change.org account in pursuit of reversing that ruling – 34 supporters so far.

 

Avossa said during this public admission – really a press conference about something else entirely – there’s no district-wide policy regarding spinners. That’s a decision left with principals.

But at least one school, Palm Beach Public, has lowered the boom. To paraphrase the email to parents Friday:  If your child owns one, keep it at home, please.

It’s not as if anyone needs an excuse to get in on the trend, but the spin on spinners has been that it helps people – people with anxiety or attention deficit disorder – focus.

That spin, however,  is dubious, Duke University professor and clinical psychologist Scott Kollins told NPR this week.

“I know there’s lots of similar toys, just like there’s lots of other games and products marketed toward individuals who have ADHD, and there’s basically no scientific evidence that those things work across the board,” Kollins said.

This bit of news has yet to put a dent in fidget demand – at least not at my house, or apparently, the superintendent’s.

Slime science: Why slime is like leftover pasta

Is slime a fading fad? Maybe. (Those fidget spinners look a lot less messy.) But the one thing slime has over spinners and bottle flipping, and whatever other fad you can thing of is its potential for a lesson in applied science.

So what is the science of slime, you ask?

Read how the slime thing is playing out in Palm Beach County here. 

Let’s just assume we all know that things in this world are made of teeny, tiny molecules. Glue is what’s called a linear polymer, it’s along molecule made up from a chain of smaller repeating units called monomers.

The folks at Museum of Science, Boston, can take it from here:

(Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

“A linear polymer is like fresh cooked pasta: each noodle is separate from the other and when you go to dump it out of the container, the pasta does not hold the container shape.”

Mix the pasta, or in this case, the glue, with Borax, a mineral made of monomers of sodium borate, and they interact.  More precisely, because you use water when you combine them, you get hydrogen bonding and the long chains turn into a matrix.

“A matrix polymer is like left over pasta: when you take it out of the container it has the shape of the container, with the noodles all stuck to each other.”

Slime even has a place in Florida’s educational standards. And not just in chemistry.

Hagfish (Getty Images)

Slime is a secret weapon for a lot of animals, including the hagfish, said Alexandra Laing, who works in Palm Beach County’s curriculum department.  The hagfish can secrete stringy proteins that turn into slime when they come in contact with seawater. Word is they can mix up buckets of the stuff in mere minutes.

“But it also relates to humans,” Laing said. “We make six cups of slime a day that coats the insides of our digestive system. It’s in the lining of our nose and mouth.”

Still, it seems plenty of parents are over it.

As educational as it may be, one Michael’s clerk confided, “I have a lot of parents who can’t wait for this fad to end.”

Count mom, Latoya Mills, among them.

“It clogged my sink and got into the finish of my sofa. I can’t keep Ziplock bags in stock. All my containers are gone. I have no containers. None,” Mills said.

Who knows what’s happening in the landfill with the discarded batches.

Maybe that’s the next science lesson.

RELATED:

Slime: How tweens make it, tape it and rake it in

Is it safe to use Borax for DIY slime?

The soothing sounds of Slime. ASMR anyone?

These two PBC high schools were just named among the nation’s 100 best

Suncoast Community High School in Riviera Beach was ranked 53rd in an annual ranking of the nation’s top public high schools.

Suncoast High School and Dreyfoos School of the Arts have been named two of the nation’s top 100 public high schools in a new ranking by U.S. News and World Report.

The magazine ranked Suncoast 53rd in the nation and Dreyfoos 78th in the nation. The schools took ninth and tenth place in Florida, respectively.

Suncoast and Dreyfoos, two selective, application-only public schools, are regular presences on the closely watched annual ranking but tend to battle for the county’s top billing. In 2015, Dreyfoos edged out Suncoast to win 68th place nationally.

Overall, 12 Palm Beach County schools made it into U.S. News’ list of the nation’s top 2,000 public high schools. Of the 12, 10 are school district schools and two — G-Star School of the Arts and Inlet Grove High — are charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated.

The national magazine says its annual rankings weigh schools’ graduation rates and how their students perform on state reading and math exams, with adjustments made for the percentage of disadvantaged students each school serves. This year, the magazine gave greater weight to the extent to which schools offer students college-level courses and exams.

The nation’s best high school? According to U.S. News, it’s BASIS Scottsdale, a charter school in Arizona.

Florida’s best high school? The magazine says it’s Pine View School, a school for gifted students in Sarasota County.

Here they are in order of ranking:

Suncoast High, #53

Dreyfoos School of the Arts, #78

Boca Raton High, #566

Spanish River High, #766

Jupiter High, #902

West Boca Raton High, #1,089

Atlantic High, #1,122

Olympic Heights High, #1,142

G-Star School of the Arts, #1,255

Park Vista High, #1,334

Wellington High, #1,592

Inlet Grove High, #1,957

VIDEO: Watch clips from Melania Trump’s visit to Bak Middle School

Melania Trump
First Lady Melania Trump tours the Bak Middle School of the Arts with Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese president Xi Jinping, Friday, April 7, 2017, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The Associated Press has published video highlights of the visit Friday by First Lady Melania Trump and Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan to Bak Middle School of the Arts.

The two first ladies visited the West Palm Beach public school for about an hour. During their visit they chatted with students, listened to musical performances and were interviewed by student journalists.

As we reported Friday, the visit took shape earlier this week with a request from the Trump administration to arrange a visit to a local public school focused on the arts. Peng, a prominent Chinese folk singer and administrator at an arts academy in Beijing, had indicated she wanted to visit an arts school, officials said.

» PHOTOS: Melania Trump and Peng Liyuan visit Bak Middle School

Watch the 2-minute video below.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Presidential summit in Palm Beach

By Wednesday, the school was being scoured by security agents from two separate nations. Students began to get an inkling of who might be visiting when they saw the Chinese security officials.

In the first classroom they visited, 80 female students performed the song Astonishing, from the musical Little Women, according to pool reports. They also listened to a performance by the school’s symphonic band.

In another class, Trump and Peng reviewed students’ international relations projects and spoke with the students who created them.

At one point, Peng speaks in Mandarin with a student of Chinese descent and ends the conversation with a hug.

Palm Beach County schools, local colleges will close Thursday and Friday

storm

Palm Beach County’s public schools and area colleges have canceled after-school activities Wednesday and will close all campuses Thursday and Friday in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew.

Eight public schools will act as emergency shelters beginning at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Robert Avossa, Superintendent of the School District of Palm Beach County, speaks to members of the media about the bus situation in a press conference Wednesday, August 19, 2015. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
Superintendent Robert Avossa (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Martin and St. Lucie counties will release students early on Wednesday, while Palm Beach County schools will complete a regular day.

Public schools in Broward and Miami-Dade counties will also have a regular day of classes Wednesday.

COMPLETE LIST OF SHELTERS, EMERGENCY RESOURCES

While public school classes will end at normal times in Palm Beach County, principals have been instructed to give excused absences to students who miss class Wednesday as a result of family storm preparations.

The school district’s announcement was delivered Tuesday afternoon by Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa, who said that school activities will also be canceled on Saturday and Sunday.

The move will disrupt more than a dozen football games, along with girls volleyball, boys and girls golf, bowling, swimming and cross-country competitions.

Also cancelled: homecoming events at several high schools, including Forest Hill, Dwyer and Seminole Ridge high schools.

“Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn’t call and ask us if this was a good time,” Avossa said.

Several private schools have announced plans to close Thursday and Friday as well. Among them: The Greene School in West Palm Beach and Spanish River Christian School in Boca Raton.

Local colleges and universities are also moving to cancel classes later this week.

Florida Atlantic University has cancelled classes after 3 p.m. Wednesday and for all day Thursday and Friday. Dorms will remain open.

All non-athletic events at FAU are canceled through Sunday, but athletic teams will determine whether to proceed on a case-by-case basis.

Palm Beach Atlantic University has canceled classes for Thursday and Friday. Daytime classes on Wednesday will continue, but evening classes are canceled, the school said.

In Palm Beach County’s public schools, no school events tonight are being cancelled as a result of the approaching hurricane, but standard rain and weather delays could still develop.

Several teachers said they were upset that they would have to work a regular schedule Wednesday, saying it would make it difficult for them to make necessary storm preparations.

“Why is it that Martin, St.Lucie and Indian River counties have the sense to close schools early tomorrow?” one teacher asked Avossa on Twitter. “And yet Palm Beach County will stay open all day? No consideration for your teachers?”

Teachers union president Kathi Gundlach said that she supported the decision to keep schools open all day.

“It’s a sound choice,” Gundlach said, explaining that a half-day for the entire district would be logistically difficult.

County Administrator Verdenia Baker said that the county will open 10 emergency shelters beginning Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m.

Those shelters will include: Atlantic High School, Boynton Beach High School, Lakeshore Middle School, Forest Hill High School, Pahokee Middle/Senior High School, Palm Beach Central High School, Palm Beach Gardens High School, Park Vista High School.

A pet-friendly shelter will open at 2 p.m. at West Boynton Recreation Center.

More shelters could be opened if the storm takes a harder turn toward the county or is projected to strengthen.

“These things change,” she said. “These are all predictions.”

More coverage

Storm 2016: Tracking map, full preparedness guide

Weather Plus Blog: Latest forecast, check Matthew’s path

Interactive tracking map: See where Matthew is headed

Storm preparedness guide: How to make sure you’re safe

 

 

Scammers target college students: Pay IRS debt in iTunes cards or else – and they do

itunes-gift-card

iTunes cards are great for gifts or buying music, but if someone calls you and tells you the IRS needs you to buy hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth to pay off delinquent taxes, don’t. It’s a scam – one that has particularly targeted college students.

And if you’re thinking no college student is foolish enough to believe some cold caller demanding an iTunes payoff, you’re wrong again. Most recently, a freshman at Virginia Tech fell for it. Reporters in Dallas, Texas are catching wind of it. And even the IRS is tweeting out warnings about it.

 

The Detroit Free Press reports Maggie Passino, 20, first ignored the calls, but repeated rings wore her down. When she answered, a man claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service told her she owed back taxes and taxes for school – and if she didn’t pay them, she would be arrested.

“He said,  ‘You’re going to be receiving a call from 911 and if you pick that up, you’ll be arrested,'” Passino told the Detroit Free Press. “I’m a college student. Being arrested for a college student looks really terrible, so I was really worried. That can affect your financial aid … really mess up your life.”

Perhaps the tip-off should’ve come when the caller told her how to pay off the debt: with $1,762 in iTunes gift cards.

But Passino apparently didn’t pause. She told the paper she drove to a nearby Kroger grocery store and purchased three gift cards for $500 and $262 on a fourth using her debit card. “I was freaked out,” she told the Detroit Free Press. “It was horrible. It’s the first day of classes — and everything is already in jeopardy. … They’ve got the intimidation thing down for sure.”

The Free Press reports that once the targets buy the gift cards, the scammers ask their victims to read off the 16-digit codes on back allowing the scammer to cash the cards to accounts online.

On Sunday, the IRS tweeted that they don’t operate that way. No payments due by iTunes card, no arrest threats.

 

The IRS has previously urged the public to keep watch for phone call scams that require them to send money to avoid prison time.

Be on the lookout for other preposterous scams as well. This summer, for example, the Jupiter police warned not to empty your bank account for callers who say they’re holding a relative captive and demand cash.

Of course, not everyone falls for the scam, and at least one woman turned the game around, guilting a caller with a story of her own that made the caller so remorseful for trying to take her money that he confessed.

Read more at the Detroit Free Press.

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.