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. ”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

Palm Beach County schools raises: Who got what?

Take notes...
Take notes…

Wednesday the board approved raises for its employees. Here’s a more detailed list of who got what.

 

  • The Association of Educational Secretaries and Office Professionals
    • Retroactive to January 1, 2016
    • Raises base pay by 2 percent
    • All current employees receive 3 percent increase
  • The Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association (School District Police)
    • Retroactive to January 1, 2016
    • Maximum hourly pay increased by 3 percent
  • FPSU-SEIU (includes custodians, bus drivers, food service, paraprofessionals and other non-instructional employees)
    • Retroactive to January 1, 2016
    • All employees earning less than $10/hour will have their pay increased to $10/hour
    • Bus drivers will earn a base pay of $14/hour
    • Veteran drivers will receive an increase of $1.63/hour
    • All other employees will receive a 3 percent increase
  • Classroom Teachers Association
    • Retroactive to July 1, 2015
    • Increase by an average of 3 percent
      • Highly effective teachers will see a little more – approximately $1,700 a year, vs. $1,275 for effective teachers and new teachers who have not yet received an evaluation
      • There are approximately 4,860 highly effective teachers in the district
    • Pay for part-time work increased to $25/hour
      • Includes Professional Development Days, tutorials, Adult/Community Education classes and working an extra class period
      • First time this supplement has increased in about a decade
    • Non-Bargaining Unit employees (Administrative/Professional, Managerial, Miscellaneous, Confidential) and School-Based Administrators
      • Retroactive to July 1, 2015
      • Increase by an average of 3 percent

 

Student to school board: We’ve had a math sub all year, we want an education

 

Palm Beach Lakes student Joseph Trahan and teacher Malik Leigh.
Palm Beach Lakes student Joseph Trahan and teacher Malik Leigh. (see video here)

 

See our updated coverage of this story including what happened to these students at school the next day here.  

A sophomore from Palm Beach Lakes High and four of his classmates, all eyeing careers in the justice system, came to seek a piece of that from the school board Wednesday night. They say they have gone the entire year without a regular geometry teacher.

Joseph Trahan told the board members and superintendent that they’ve been led by a series of substitutes, who regularly relied on YouTube math videos to deliver lessons.

“We’re just given busy work and grades for our busy work,” Trahan said.

He said the group is struggling to learn the concepts. Trahan said they did horribly on the district-designed mid-term, but are getting passing grades by benefit of extra credit points that come by buying the teacher sweets or drawing pictures.

“The current sub says stuff such as, ‘I am not a teacher. I’m here to babysit you and give you grades,’ “ Trahan said. “This isn’t what we want. We want a higher education. We demand more out of ourselves… When the EOC (end of course exam – designed by the state) comes around. we’re not going to be prepared.

“Time is not something you can get back. We’ve already lost so much time. We’re so ill-prepared.  And we are looking to you for help.”

When Trahan finished, board chairman Chuck Shaw asked the area superintendent to meet with the students.

Deputy Superintendent David Christensen said after the meeting that the matter will be investigated. “We are going to immediately address it and make sure there is a certified teacher for them.”

The students, a mix of freshmen and sophomores – boys and girls – from West Palm Beach, said they have high aspirations and reached an “Ah-ha” moment not while sitting in math class, but in their Legal Concepts and Comprehensive Law class in the school’s legal academy.

They were talking about contracts and negligence, said Lemuel Gadson, 16. Gadson and the others all had to sign a contract to enroll in the legal academy and then they wondered if the school was holding up its end of the bargain.

Their legal teacher, Malik Leigh, who both teaches and practices law full time, accompanied them to the board meeting.

“Nobody can do more about themselves than they can,” Leigh said.

But they weren’t alone in their fight.

Celena Trahan said she called her son’s guidance counselor, who simply noted that Joseph was carrying a B in the class – even though Joseph said he hasn’t earned it. Trahan also called an assistant principal, but got no action, she said.

Michelle Jackson said she was willing to forgive a staffing problem for the first couple weeks of school, but by the end of first semester she worried the gap was going to cause problems for her son Marques dragging down his GPA and his readiness to take college admission tests.

“My son has now lost a whole year of his math education,” Jackson said.

Bus drivers, teachers, school staff set to see raises; Board vote tonight

 

 

060713 met school bus 2Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa is expected to announce the district has reached agreements that will land its employees – from bus drivers to principals – raises for this year.

This morning, the contracts were posted to today’s school board agenda under new business. The one contract not posted by 1:50 p.m. was the Classroom Teachers Association, but union President Kathi Gundlach says that those negotiations have also ended in a raise that averages 3.1 percent and also gives teachers more money when they tutor, do in-service work and when they work at schools where students face the additional challenge of poverty and in schools with low grades from the state.

Update: The teacher raises are to be retroactive to July 2015, Gundlach said.

For others, in the most general terms, the raises appear to be 3 percent dating back to January 2015, with some exceptions. They cover everyone from interpreters for the deaf to principals and secretaries.

Notably, the base pay for bus drivers would go to $14 an hour, that’s an increase of $1.63. The district’s transportation was hit hard this fall with a double whammy: a new computerized route system that doled out impossible routes to drivers and a stable of drivers that was 50 to 75 drivers short. Both the superintendent and the drivers pointed to low salaries as part of the problem.

 

Didn’t pass Alg 1 EOC (or the 10g FSA )? Here are your options

questions

 

Update March 2017: The testing season is in full swing with Alg 1 testing possible in Palm Beach County from April 17 through May 12, 2017. Expect results in early June.

The Alg 1 end-of-course exam (EOC) is the only state-required EOC a student must pass to graduate. Students must also take EOCs in Geometry, Alg. 2, biology and US History. The scores must weigh 30 percent of the calculation of a course grade, but a passing score is not required. (Legislation this spring proposes to cut some EOCs, but any testing changes would not be in effect this year.)

The other must-pass test for graduation: 

The 10th grade FSA ELA – that’s Florida Standards Assessment in English language arts, is the other state-mandated test students must pass to graduate.

So, let’s say you don’t pass…

WHAT’S NEXT?

Didn’t pass the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam or the 10th grade English/language arts test? These are your alternatives:

Take the same test and pass. Retakes are given several times a year.

Algebra 1: Get a comparative score of 97 on the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test or PERT mathematics assessment.

10 grade English/language arts:

Take the same test and pass. Retakes are given during the school year.

ELA: Get a concordant score of 430 on the SAT reading or 19 on the ACT reading.

Source: The Florida Department of Education.