PBC school choice acceptance emails go out Friday

The prized tickets into Palm Beach County’s school choice programs will go out via email Friday, March 31 beginning at 4 p.m. About 21,000 students applied for those seats, and just over half of them will land a seat in their first or second choice. (Corrected from earlier version that said April 1)

The district has more than 300 programs in its elementary, middle and high schools and only 11,500 seats are available in the fall of 2017, said school choice director  Pete Licata.

That’s an increase over last year that includes openings for new International Baccalaureate programs at Grove Park Elementary and Howell L. Watkins Middle in Palm Beach Gardens and Palmetto Elementary in West Palm Beach. And expansion at programs in other schools.

The district began accepting applications in the fall. The last were due in late January, and a lottery was held this month.

The emails are timed to go out after school dismisses on Friday to limit any disruption to the school day, Licata said. Everyone who applied will get an email saying either they got in to a program or are now in a ‘wait pool’.  In the coming months, as students decline to attend their chosen school, students from the wait pool for that particular program will be tapped. Students have been tapped up to the week before school begins, Licata said.

This process is not to be confused with the Controlled Open Enrollment Process that opened enrollment to schools to students outside school boundaries and even outside the district. The district reports that a list of schools available for open enrollnent will be released next week and applications will be accepted through May 5, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

Kindergarten ‘Round Ups’ have begun in PBC

The next school year doesn’t begin until Aug. 14, 2017, but for the parents of soon-to-be-kindergarteners it is time to get acquainted with your child’s school. ‘Tis the season of the “Kindergarten Round Ups” where your child can visit his or her school, meet teachers and the principal.

A handful of schools have already held their meet-and-greets, but the majority will host events in April and May.

Registration forms are on hand and

A school visit by Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa in 2015. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

can be completed at the school. (More than 50 elementary schools offer choice programs open to students who apply through a district-wide lottery. The application deadline for those schools has passed.)

Aren’t sure which is your neighborhood school: Enter your address here.  

For the round up schedule, go here. 

 

Some insight into the pursuit of the ‘right’ elementary school for kindergarten from last year’s archives: 

The scramble by parents to get their children in the right school was once part of a conversation about college or maybe high school, but these days it’s just as likely to be about elementary school.

The internet is rife with stories of parents tackling kindergarten choice with the mentality of an NFL recruiter, reducing options to spreadsheets and calculating moves from their child’s first play group. There is no shortage, also, of advice to parents on these quests and even research to assure them this is indeed an important decision.

One Harvard study found academic performance in kindergarten was among several factors that correlated to future earnings. The resulting headline in the Christian Science Monitor: Why Kindergarten is key to Financial Success in Life.

Choice in Palm Beach County schools began in 1989 with three magnet programs intended to integrate predominantly black schools suffering from cases of white flight. Only one of those was an elementary: S.D. Spady, a Montessori school in Delray Beach.

By 2005, the choices had grown to 13 elementary schools. And by this fall, that number hit 33 schools with more than 2,400 students vying for some 800-plus seats.

For the full story, read here. 

This WPB elementary teacher is a “LifeChanger of the Year”

She mentors younger teachers. She delivers meals to needy students’ homes. She raises money for the safety patrols’ annual Washington trip. She even runs a bike-repair shop to fix students’ bikes.

For these reasons and more, Palmetto Elementary School teacher Michele Mohl has been named one of 16 awardees in the national “LifeChanger of the Year” awards.

Selected from among more than 700 teachers and educators nominated nationwide, the veteran teacher at the West Palm Beach elementary school was scheduled to be surprised with the news this morning on campus, where her principal says she spends long hours volunteering her time.

“Ms. Mohl works late hours and weekends to help her students and their families,” Palmetto Elementary Principal Gladys Harris wrote in a nomination letter. “She has coordinated garage sales and school events and works with outside agencies in helping the students.

“Whether it’s for fundraising or tutoring, she is available any time during the day or night,” Harris wrote. “She has even volunteered to work during the summer to tutor students so they won’t regress.”

The “LifeChanger of the Year” awards are sponsored by National Life Group, a Vermont-based financial services company.

Mohl will receive a $1,500 prize, and a matching $1,500 donation will be made directly to Palmetto Elementary,

Congratulations, Ms. Mohl!

Here is her complete nomination letter:

Michelle Mohl is currently a Teacher on Assignment (TOSA) who goes above and beyond the call of duty. She is responsible for assisting administration and is available to assist anyone who needs her. She mentors teachers, assists the children in Palmetto Elementary’s EBD unit, and has even opened a bike shop where students are able to fix bikes and donate them to families in need.

Ms. Mohl is also responsible for overseeing fifth grade patrols and helping each of them attain their goal of going on the fifth grade Washington D.C. trip. She helps them with fundraising and finding donors who would be willing to sponsor their trip. In many ways, raising this kind of money is a full time job.

Ms. Mohl works late hours and weekends to help her students and their families. She has coordinated garage sales and school events and works with outside agencies in helping the students. Whether it’s for fundraising or tutoring, she is available any time during the day or night. She has even volunteered to work during the summer to tutor students so they won’t regress.

Ms. Mohl is also responsible for the school’s food bank. She packs meals for families every week and makes sure the food bank is stocked. She oversees and, at times, hand delivers meals to the school’s families and other local families in need. There is no one she has said “no” to. In fact, she has adopted in her heart one of the students that attends Palmetto and does everything a grandparent or parent would do for a child. Ms. Mohl organizes the holiday food and toy drive, making deliveries as needed. If they are short, she pulls out of her own pocket to cover the expenses.

She also gets her own family involved with helping the families of Palmetto. Her daughters have provided support to the school through tutoring and mentoring students. Ms. Mohl is also the SBT leader and knows the students and their families by name. When needed, she provides transportation to parents so they can participate meetings for their children. There is nothing that she wouldn’t do for the students and families of Palmetto, and for that, she is an outstanding LifeChanger!

Typo or trick? Candidate says PBC teachers union ballot likens him to Trump

Only one of these men is Donald J., but the PBC teachers union ballot renamed candidate Donald Persson (right) as Donald J. Persson, something Persson said has negative connotations for many teachers and union members.

It’s no secret that the top leaders of Palm Beach County’s teachers union are not big fans of Donald Persson.

Three years ago, the Palm Beach Central High math teacher sued the union, the Classroom Teachers Association, after losing the union’s 2014 presidential election in a controversial vote marred by recounts and mishaps.

Since then, the 58-year-old math teacher has been a self-described thorn in union leaders’ sides, criticizing what he sees as financial mismanagement and a lack of transparency in the organization, which represents roughly 12,000 public school teachers countywide.

This year, Persson is running again to be union president, and it hasn’t been a smooth ride.

First, union leaders removed him and three other candidates from the ballot after accusing them of campaign or eligibility violations.

A rogue “J” mysteriously appeared in Persson’s name on the ballot.

The candidates were all restored after the state teachers union, the Florida Education Association, said removing them for minor violations was “inappropriate and excessive.”

The following week, union leaders omitted the names of Persson and three other candidates in a message to thousands of teachers about the election, while praising four other candidates by name.

That move prompted accusations of favoritism and a rebuke from Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa, who said the message violated his agreement with union president Kathi Gundlach about use of the school district’s email system.

This week, ballots began arriving by mail to teachers’ homes, bringing with them what Persson says was the final insult – a conspicuously placed letter “J”.

While Persson’s name is correctly printed in the column for the presidential race, in two other races where he is a candidate — to be a union delegate to the state and national unions — someone put his middle initial as “J”, meaning his name appears in both places as Donald J. Persson.

“J” is not Persson’s middle initial. It’s “R”. But “J” is the middle initial of another outsider presidential candidate widely disdained by teachers and union leaders – President Donald J. Trump.

An inadvertent error? Or a dig at Persson as a Trump-like rabble-rouser?

“I’m just wondering if they’re trying to make a connection to Donald J. Trump for all the Trump haters,” Persson said. “Because it just doesn’t make sense.”

CTA President Kathi Gundlach said in an interview that at some point a union official must have added a “J” to Persson’s name on the ballot — twice. It’s the only apparent case of a error in a candidate’s name.

She said she’s not sure who did it or how it got by her and others who proofread the ballot. But she said she is sure that it was accidental.

“It was a typo,” she said. “We’re going to send out an apology. It was very unintentional.”

Julie Owen, chairwoman of the union’s election committee, declined to comment, referring all comments to Gundlach.

But Persson said he doubted the rogue letter was accidental. Last month, he said, Gundlach referred to him in a meeting as “Donald J. Persson.”

When he told her that wasn’t his middle initial, he recalled, she corrected herself, saying “That’s the other Donald.”

In an interview, Gundlach admitted that she had misstated Persson’s name in a recent meeting, and that he had corrected her. She said the reference was unintentional.

“I made an error,” she said. “I apologized at that time. It just didn’t dawn on me that we needed to recheck the documents. But it was truly unintentional.”

Persson said he hopes the rogue letter doesn’t affect the election.

“It just is peculiar,” he said. “It’s just another drop in the bucket. They’re fighting hard.”

Is this Booking.com commercial “teacher-bashing”? A PBC teacher thinks so

A screen shot from Booking.com’s “kindergarten” commercial

By now, millions of people probably have seen Booking.com’s “kindergarten” commercial, which features a frazzled teacher surrounded by a classroom of screaming kindergartners throwing balls, banging bats and playing in the classroom fish tank.

“There’s nothing more important to me than my vacation,” the teacher says into the camera, seemingly resigned to the student mayhem around her.

Milich

Alana Milich, a teacher at Palm Beach Central High School in Wellington, caught the online travel website’s commercial at home Tuesday, her second day of spring break.

Trying to relax during a week of down time, the veteran teacher became increasingly upset as the commercial played over and over.

“I don’t usually get the time to watch television,” she said in an interview, “but it’s vacation. So I’m home, cooking and indulging in HGTV.”

What she saw, over and over again, was a portrayal of a teacher as inattentive to the classroom and obsessed with her upcoming vacation.

“The commercial came on several times and irritated me more each time,” she said. “I’m so sick of teacher-bashing.”

So Milich did something about it. She put her frustrations into words and fired off an email to Booking.com, a site that allows travelers to book airfares and hotel stays.

A screenshot of Milch’s Facebook post about the commercial.

“After watching your ad several times I am moved to do something I’ve never done before – write a company to complain of the image they are portraying of my profession,” she wrote. “As a 15 year veteran teacher, I can assure you that my stress does NOT come from the students in my classroom.”

“If you want to show a teacher needing a vacation, how about showing one burnt out on caring too much?” she added. “Giving of her own time and money to her kids while an uncaring administration makes ridiculous demands on her?”

“That would be relatable and not turn off the 3.1 million public school teachers in the US.”

Milich later published her email to the company on her personal Facebook page and on an online Facebook forum for the Badass Teachers Association, a national teachers network.

Dozens of  fellow teachers lauded her efforts and said they would lodge their own complaints with the company.

Later Tuesday, Milich received a reply to her email from Booking.com, saying that the commercial “was only intended as a light-hearted bit of fun.”

The commercial was produced by Deutsch NY and directed by Jared Hess of Community Films, according to SHOOTonline.com.

Booking.com’s public relations team defended the commercial as a lighthearted attempt to underscore the importance of vacations for working professionals.

“We highly value and appreciate all professions, including teachers,” said Paul Smailes, the company’s director of U.S. marketing. “Our ad was only intended as a bit of fun about overworked and undervalued professionals and the importance of vacations in a lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek manner.”

Milich isn’t the only one who was troubled by the commercial. Peter Greene, author of the popular teacher blog “Curmudgucation” weighed in after reading Milich’s letter online.

And others have registered their objections online as well:

 

Here is Milich’s complete email:

After watching your ad several times I am moved to do something I’ve never done before- write a company to complain of the image they are portraying of my profession. As a 15 year veteran teacher, I can assure you that my stress does NOT come from the students in my classroom. My stress comes from endless meetings forcing me to enact tactics that do not help my students learn and achieve; my stress comes from not getting a cost of living raise in 10 years; my stress comes from national figures who know nothing of public education working to destabilize our system in favor of private, religious, and for-profit charter schools that are free to discriminate against differently-abled children with no penalties.

Isn’t there enough teacher bashing without you adding to the myth of the inattentive, non-caring, child-hating teacher?

If you want to show a teacher needing a vacation, how about showing one burnt out on caring too much? Giving of her own time and money to her kids while an uncaring administration makes ridiculous demands on her? That would be relatable and not turn off the 3.1 million public school teachers in the US.

Thank you,

And here is the company’s complete response to her:

Dear Dr. Alana Milich

Thanks for your feedback.

We’ll be sure to pass it on to those relevant. At Booking.com we value all professions, including teachers, and this ad was only intended as a light-hearted bit of fun. We are passionate about connecting our customers with great stays, empowering them to experience the world in the easiest, most seamless ways possible, which this advert aimed to convey.

Kind regards,


Kyrillos Saeid
Booking.com Customer Service Team

Avossa to principals: School board members are not your bosses

Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa is reminding principals not to take orders from school board members, pointing out that individual board members don’t have any administrative role in school operations.

In an email last week to the school district’s principals and department heads, Avossa wrote that state law “does not allow board members to direct staff as individuals.”

“If a board member attempts to provide you direction, please inform them of this letter and direct the inquiry to me,” he wrote.

In an interview, Avossa said that the reminder was not prompted by any specific incident. It’s the first time he’s put the warning in writing, but he said he gave a similar direction in a speech last year.

It’s an effort, he said, to avoid a dynamic “that gets us in trouble.”

Ex-School Board member Mike Murgio

It was less than two years ago that the actions of an individual school board member became an issue in one of the school district’s biggest crises in recent history – a weeks-long school bus fiasco at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year.

In that case, the botched implementation of new bus-routing software caused mangled and flawed redesigns of hundreds of routes, throwing the busing system into chaos and forcing thousands of children to miss classes or spend hours waiting for buses to take them home.

During a subsequent investigation, district officials who oversaw the botched software implementation blamed then-board member Mike Murgio, who had been privately lobbying them to create an app for parents’ to track their children’s buses in real time.

The investigation, conducted by a private attorney hired by Avossa, faulted Murgio’s “undue influence.”

“It would be naive to ignore the influential impact that the board member’s advocacy for this project had on the operation side of the district,” the investigation said.

Murgio denied that his lobbying was to blame. And indeed, the attorney who conducted the investigation admitted in a recorded deposition that he concluded that Steven Bonino, the district’s chief of support operations, was “the most active decision maker” in the botched rollout, records show.

Avossa denied that his warning was connected in any way to that event, but he said it was important in any school district to be vigilant about patrolling the boundaries between superintendents and board members. At its annual retreats, Avossa and board members regularly discuss how to balance their roles.

“The thing that gets us in trouble is when you take direction from one person,” he said, referring to board members.

Here is Avossa’s complete email:

Dear Principals, Directors, and Administrators:

This letter is intended as an annual reminder regarding the role of School Board members in the operations of the School District.

The Legislature in 2016 enacted legislation specifically providing the authority of the School Board to include “Visit the schools, observe the management and instruction, give suggestions for improvement, and advise citizens with the view of promoting interest in education and improving the school.”  However, this provision to provide suggestions for improvements is to be done by the Board as a collective body and does not allow Board members to direct staff as individuals.

Please recall that under the Florida Statutes the Superintendent has the responsibility for the administration and management of the schools and is responsible for directing the work of employees. The Superintendent also has the duty to visit the schools, observe the management and instruction, and give suggestions for improvement.

Thus, please be mindful of these provisions and if a Board member attempts to provide you direction, please inform them of this letter and direct the inquiry to me.

If you have any questions or need any additional information, please let me know.  My cell phone number is XXX-XXX-XXXX.

Thank you.

Robert M. Avossa, Ed.D., Superintendent

School District of Palm Beach County

3300 Forest Hill Blvd., Suite C-316

West Palm Beach, FL   33406

PBC teacher turns tables, gives awards to superintendent, school board

Bear Lakes Middle teacher Betty Wells hands out certificates of appreciation to Superintendent Robert Avossa and school board members. (Photo credit: a school district spokeswoman)

Without fail, the Palm Beach County School Board’s monthly evening meetings are loaded with presentations, awards and recognitions – but almost always ones dispensed by the school board or district administrators to students, educators or community members.

This Wednesday’s meeting was different. Veteran middle school teacher Betty Wells thought it was time for board members and Superintendent Robert Avossa to receive some recognition.

Veteran Bear Lakes Middle teacher Betty Wells thanks the school board and superintendent for their work. (Photo credit: a school district spokeswoman)

So the Bear Lakes Middle teacher reserved herself a spot on the board’s meeting agenda to formally thank Avossa and board members for their efforts to improve the county’s schools.

“Today is your day,” she said. “It is my goal to see that you are treated with dignity,” she added.

Speaking in front of board members and the audience, Wells reflected on her more than four decades as a teacher, saying that she chose her profession “to make a difference in the life of children.” She said she wanted to thank Avossa and the board for helping her and other teachers to do their job.

“I value you and I respect you,” she said.

Wells said she was reluctant to give them a gifts of monetary value, wary of state and district rules surrounding gifts for elected officials.

But she still put her money where her mouth is, producing a stack of printed yellow certificates and handing one to each of them.

“I’ll just give you all a certificate,” she said, to applause.

PBC teachers union notifies members about election, omits half the candidates

After trying unsuccessfully to bar four teachers from running for union president, Palm Beach County’s teachers union sent out a message last week that omitted the four candidates’ names while praising the others in the race, prompting accusations of favoritism just days before voting begins.

The Classroom Teachers Association’s message was sent Thursday to more than 7,000 public school teachers via the school district’s email system, which the union won access to after promising that the message would include only general information and “no campaigning,” district records show.

The names of four candidates for teachers union president were omitted from an official election announcement. Clockwise from top left: Paulette Ford, Donald Persson, Kevin Williams, and Justin Katz.

The use of district email to single out four candidates for having no alleged election violations – and omit four others who did – drew a rebuke from Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa, who said the message violated his agreement with union president Kathi Gundlach.

“In this case I’m personally disappointed that either she or her team stepped outside our agreement,” he said.

After several complaints, the union sent a second email on Friday that included names and biographies of all eight candidates.

In an interview, Gundlach denied writing the initial message, saying it had been authored by the union’s elections committee. But she defended the message, saying it was important to explain to teachers “that some people had no violations.”

“I’ve had people thank me because they wanted to know what was going on,” she said.

Julie Owen, a teacher who heads the union’s election committee, did not respond to an message seeking comment.

Union leaders sent out the message Thursday afternoon, two days after The Palm Beach Post published an article on its website describing the union’s unsuccessful efforts to remove four of the eight candidates from the race.

The message, sent in Gundlach’s name, alerted teachers that the timeline for the election had been pushed back “due to a number of serious campaign violations and concerns.” Voting now extends from March 15 to April 7.

CTA President Kathi Gundlach

The email went on to detail the alleged violations by four of the eight candidates, without naming them.

As The Post reported last week, Park Vista High School teacher Justin Katz had been initially removed from the race because his dues lapsed during a personal leave in 2015, which county union leaders said violated eligibility rules but state union leaders said did not.

Then, teachers Paulette Ford, Don Persson and Kevin Williams were removed after being accused of sending campaign emails to some teachers’ school district email accounts, violations that they said were unintentional.

In each case, the union’s board of directors removed the candidate from the ballot but reversed the decision after the state teachers union, the Florida Education Association, called the moves “inappropriate and excessive.”

The controversy prompted accusations that the disqualifications were an attempt to eliminate outsiders challenging candidates who are already part of the union’s leadership team.

After detailing the allegations and explaining that the four banned candidates had been allowed to re-enter in the race “in the spirit of unionism and inclusiveness,” the message went on to name the four candidates who had not been cited for violations of campaign rules or eligibility requirements:

“The Elections Committee has indicated the following presidential candidates DO NOT have any actionable election violations or breaks in membership within the last two years:  Marty Ginsberg, Suzi Grbinich, Gordan Longhoffer [sic], and David Lutrin.”

Don Persson, one of the candidates banned and then reinstated, called the email “an attack” on him and other candidates who are out of of favor with CTA leaders.

He called the move an ironic turn, since CTA had moved to bar him and two other candidates after accusing them of violating union rules by using the district’s email system to campaign.

Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

“I think it’s egregious because by naming those four she has named us as being bad guys,” he said. “So she’s doing something far worse, and I believe that definitely oversteps the boundary of the rule she’s talking about.”

Candidate Suzi Grbinich, a Wellington High School teacher, defended the decision to send the email, saying the candidates accused of violations had been the subject of news coverage and that the email would focus deserved attention on those accused of no wrongdoing.

“Those (candidates) who have not committed any violations were named,” she said. “I think membership should know of the candidates who follow the rules.”

After receiving complaints from teachers, Avossa said he conferred by phone with FEA president Joanne McCall. The FEA stepped in to oversee the county union’s tumultuous presidential election in 2014, one in which three separate elections yielded three separate outcomes, with Gundlach named the winner in the final runoff.

“I just don’t want them to go through what they went through last time,” Avossa said. “I want the teachers to feel confident that the process in place in fair.”

In a statement, an FEA spokesman said that McCall “has heard from members and others about the local election” but declined to comment on the CTA’s actions.

“FEA must remain an independent observer of the local elections, should we be called upon to decide on any further issues of contention that may arise,” FEA spokesman Mark Pudlow said. “FEA looks forward to a successful completion of the election process in Palm Beach County.”

Here is the entire email sent Thursday by the county union:

Dear CTA Members,

We have had to modify our Election Timelines (see attached) due to a number of serious campaign violations and concerns by candidates for PBCCTA President.  We had one candidate whose eligibility for candidacy was in question. After going through the process of review by the PBCCTA Elections Committee, the PBCCTA Board of Directors, and the FEA Election and Credentials Committee, the PBCCTA Board of Directors determined that this candidate be allowed to participate in the election even though he had a break in membership while on leave.  Three other candidates had campaign violations that resulted in an initial decision to remove them from the ballot.  These candidates used the district email to campaign, which is in violation of our Election Guidelines, District Policy and Federal Law.  After going through the process again of review by the PBCCTA Elections Committee, the PBCCTA Board of Directors, and the FEA Election and Credentials Committee it was determined that these candidates be allowed to participate in the election.  The FEA Credentials and Election Committee indicated all three had campaign violations and should be reprimanded.  However, in the spirit of unionism and inclusiveness, the PBCCTA Board of Directors voted to allow all candidates to participate in the election for the next PBCCTA President.

Also be aware of a survey that looks as if it came from PBCCTA, IT DID NOT.  It is full of erroneous information and was not authorized by PBCCTA. PBCCTA is in good standing with the Florida Education Association.  Previous PBCCTA administrations had fallen behind in their payments to FEA, and in fact since this administration has started we have paid back $50,000 of the balance due.  We are in dialogue with FEA concerning this issue.  Our financial statements are provided to the Board of Directors monthly and at the Representative Assembly monthly.  If you should have any questions concerning our standing please do not hesitate to call CTA.

The Elections Committee has indicated the following presidential candidates DO NOT have any actionable election violations or breaks in membership within the last two years:  Marty Ginsberg, Suzi Grbinich, Gordan Longhoffer, and David Lutrin.

The PBCCTA Elections Committee

Season 11 FaceOff finale: No win, but high praise for G-Star’s Emily Serpico

Season 11 Finale, April 25, 2017: G-Star graduate Emily Serpico came close, but won’t be going home with the top prize from SyFy’s FaceOff Season 11 all-star special effects makeup competition.

That honor – and a $100,000 prize – went to an artist named Cig Neutron, who competed previously in Season 7. This season brought back artists from previous season and let them compete in pairs for most of the season.

Serpico didn’t win, but her efforts in this last episode earned high praise. The contestants dubbed the final challenge the Kung-Funale because it required each to create a pair of characters that would film a martial arts battle in costume.

Judges admired Serpico’s nod to Asian aesthetics and the ying-and-yang auro of her duo, The Crane and The Mantis.

“I’m so proud of myself,” Serpico said as the show wrapped. She thanked her partner, Tyler Green from Season 6. “This experience has changed my life.”

For those who aren’t familiar with this particular competition, this is one in which gifted makeup artists battle to see who can pull off the best special effects makeovers. In season 8, Serpico was the youngest competitor to join the FaceOff cast – and holds that title still.

Tuesday night, three artists remained. Each was assisted by a team of former castmates from this season.

Serpico now calls Orlando home. She’s a card-carrying member of the The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees or IATSE.

SyFy’s cast profile of Emily:

The youngest contestant of Face Off to date, Emily Serpico started experimenting with makeup at the age of 14. She became a IATSE union member at 18, and now is a hair technician co-owning a wig business with her mother. Emily credits her success to her mother, who taught her hair maintenance and wig ventilation as a little girl. Within the special effects industry, Emily is passionate about painting, sculpting, and character development.

 

The semi-finals, April 18, 2017: After two rough weeks, Emily not only survives but wins the round and is the first to be named as a finalist this season. The challenge was to create a gargoyle to match an architectural style and Emily drew art deco. Her gold, eagle inspired creature impressed the judges in every way.

 

The funny thing was, for the first half of the show, Emily was in panic. At the end of Day 1, she didn’t have a face or a wings assembled. On Day 2, the three other semi-finalists showed a lot of class by gathering to offer advice on what she’d come up with so far.

“I’m so grateful they’re spending their time to help,” Emily says after their chat.

The work paid off. Judges’ take aways included:

“Beautiful lines”, “graceful flow”, “It really does convey the aesthetic.”

Episode 12, April 11, 2017: Emily lands in the bottom two looks with her Hawaiian goddess of fire, but manages to stay in the competition. She is the last woman standing and one of the last four artists heading into the final two episo: des.

Emily was frustrated early in this episode, and predicted she’d be in the bottom two. Her attempt to turn her model into a face of lava looked amateurish, she said. The judges agreed, calling it “sloppy” and noted that it lacked elegance. But it was he other all-star from season 8, Logan, who was sent home when his god of the harvest fell flat.

Emily will have to pull it together after two rough weeks if she plans to make it to the finals.

 

Episode 11, Season 11, April 5, 2017: Emily struggles in this challenge to deliver her member of an Intergalactic Congress. Her delegate is supposed to be a protector of an idyllic planet, but her world doesn’t rolls as smoothly. She switches gears quickly from plans to create beautiful princess to fashioning a tough military man.  After nearly giving up over one stumble, she plows on eventually delivering her character. She doesn’t win, that goes to Tyler. While another artist, Evan, goes home.

 

 Episode 10, Season 11, March 29, 2017: Once again Emily lands on the winning side of show down, this one pitting her team of three artists against the other remaining four. Both sides were supposed to create a coven of cursed witches – each artist responsible for their own witch.

Emily worried that her witch was too blah, too basic. “This is definitely the most worried I’ve been in the competition,” she says.

But by show’s end, her team had won.

Though it was her teammate Tyler whose work threw the decision their way, judges has some flattering comments for Emily’s creation: “She is really scary.” And this judge also liked “the creepy goiter” – these grey bulbous growths on Emily’s ashen witch.

Four more episodes to go. Can the G-Star grad make it?

 March 15: Emily and her partner Tyler are still in it to win it. Last night, they pulled off not one but two characters  – an ‘odd couple’ of sorts – that impressed the judges and fell only hairs short of winning.

Check back later this morning for full recap and pics from the show.

 

Kind of famous G-Star School of the Arts graduate Emily Serpico has returned to the small screen for a second run at the SyFy Channel’s FaceOff top prize.

Season 11 finished its seventh of 14 episodes this week, and once again Serpico is wowing the judges, earning the top look and immunity from next cut.

The season began with 16 artists and is down to 10.

For those who aren’t familiar with this particular competition, this is one in which gifted makeup artists battle to see who can pull off the best special effects makeovers. Each round has a special theme. And in season 8, Serpico was the youngest competitor to join the FaceOff cast – and holds that title still.

With a mother a wig mistress in theater, and hours logged creating monsters at G-Star’s renowned haunted house, Serpico soared to the top of the class falling short on only the very last challenge.

Serpico now calls Orlando home. She’s a card-carrying member of the The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees or IATSE.

From SyFy’s cast profile:

The youngest contestant of Face Off to date, Emily Serpico started experimenting with makeup at the age of 14. She became a IATSE union member at 18, and now is a hair technician co-owning a wig business with her mother. Emily credits her success to her mother, who taught her hair maintenance and wig ventilation as a little girl. Within the special effects industry, Emily is passionate about painting, sculpting, and character development.

I will keep updates posted in this space for as long as Serpico wins.

Avossa sums up year’s successes, challenges for community leaders

With jokes about school buses being on time firmly in the rearview, Superintendent Robert Avossa was free to boast at this year’s State of the Schools address that 21 of the county’s schools picked up their D or F grades to a C or better, the graduation rate hit an all-time high just above 82 percent and his team has made changes to the way they work with schools to continue improvements.

That’s not to say the picture is all rosy.

Most daunting, at the state’s last calculation only 52 percent of the district’s third graders read on grade level. And the majority of those who don’t aren’t in failing schools, Avossa told the gathering of about 500 business and education leaders Thursday at a West Palm Beach luncheon sponsored by the Education Foundation, the school district and the Business Development Board.

(200 students were there too. See photos below)

That makes for a long road to Avossa’s goal that 75 percent of third graders read on level within the next five years.

“You’ll see we have a lot of ground to cover,” he told the room.

To do that, Avossa said the district is using a number of strategies. Among them, the district-wide use of iReady adaptive educational software that ideally adjusts based on a student’s knowledge, meeting them at their ability and challenging them to bring them up. (The approach hasn’t been without its critics, who have spoken at board meetings about both technical frustrations and philosophical disagreements.)

(Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Avossa talked about helping teachers and administrators at the most struggling schools with some of the district’s top former principals, each given a small portfolio of campuses to advise and mentor.

Third grade is a critical year, when a child’s performance on the state language arts test means moving on to fourth grade or being held back. Rather than focusing the best teachers and biggest efforts at each school on third grade, Avossa said he wants to see those efforts spread over the earlier years from kindergarten to second grade.

Avossa also touched on programs that guide high schoolers who are poised to be the first in their families to attend college, another that connects mentors with struggling middle school students. His administration continues to seek ways to address the disproportionate number of minority students who are suspended.

When he wasn’t talking about students, Avossa was talking about the teachers and other district employees who make change possible. He talked about the pay raises approved this year, including one that brought up the pay of 1,300 of the district’s lowest earners with an hourly income of $8 and change.

He noted that starting teacher salary in the district is up to $41,000, which is competitive, but the scales becomes stagnant leaving teachers with seven to 10 years out with not much more than their freshmen colleagues.

Before leaving the stage, Avossa asked the audience to consider ways in which they and their businesses might thank a teacher.

The fun stuff

While the presentation was all business, school district officials did spice up the presentation. A drum line (loudly) greeted attendees. More than 200 students were on hand to represent their schools and show off their culinary team, robotics accomplishments, and the like. One student navigated a drone as guests mingled before lunch. Cheerleaders flipped down the center aisle after lunch.

 

 

 

Photos by Ben Rusnak /Palm Beach County School District.