No school Tuesday, Friday thanks to elections, Veterans Day


It is a very short school week for Palm Beach County students, with no classes Tuesday and Friday. For the full calendar go here. 

Tuesday, students get to stay home to make way for voters at 117 schools-turned-polling places. Teachers, however, will be clocking in for a teacher work day.

The district moved to clear students from campus on major election days back in 2010. Traffic and general safety concerns drove the move supported in the end by both school administrators and Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher.

Without students, the parking lot didn’t become a traffic jam of students and voters arriving at once and principals no longer had to worry about strangers wandering the campus.

Friday, both students and teachers have the day off as the district recognizes Veterans Day. In years past, students have had the day off, but teachers worked, but the arrangement didn’t sit well with some who spoke up at school board meetings, recalled teachers union President Kathi Gundlach.

Next up: three days off at Thanksgiving and a late start to the winter holiday, complicated by Christmas falling on a Sunday. Students end the week before on Thursday and a teacher work day falls that Friday before Christmas Eve.

Teachers are not supposed to take a personal day off on the day before or after a holiday, and there was concern that this rule could snag some folks’ travel plans, Gundlach said. The compromise is that district administrators have said they would be more flexible this year, she said.

“Is it the ideal calendar? Absolutely not, but we can’t change the date of Christmas,” Gundlach said. “There’s cooperation. We’re working to give teachers more flexibility.”







School Board race: He helps boys climb mountains, She was runaway who conquered campus tensions

Early voting in Palm Beach County begins Oct. 24 and only one seat for the county’s school board is contested. That’s the District 1 seat which runs from the north county line south to Northlake in the east – including Singer Island, and hugs the outside curves of the Acreage and Royal Palm Beach in the west. district-1

Candidates Barbara McQuinn and Tom Sutterfield were profiled for the race here.

But they had a lot to say about themselves and not everything fit into one story, so here are some things that were previously left on the cutting room floor, so to speak:

Tom Sutterfield
Tom Sutterfield

Sutterfield is a Boy Scout, literally.

Precisely, he is the High Adventure Chair for the Gulf Stream Council of Boy Scouts of America based in Palm Beach Gardens. That means he manages a serious camping trip. His favorite trip, the one he’s done three times? “Twelve days off the grid in the mountains of New Mexico.  We climbed Mount Phillips in 35 degree weather, wind blowing 50 mph, living out of a backpack.

“You stand them up on a 12,000 foot mountain where they can look over five states and they got there on their own two feet? It’s a mountain top moment,”  Sutterfield said.

The trip costs $2,000 per person. Sutterfield said he pays his own way – though he isn’t required to as the leader.

For those who couldn’t come up with that kind of cash, Sutterfield arranged a “Lake to Ocean” hike that begins on the shores of Lake Okeechobee and heads east for 63 miles through the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area, the Loxahatchee Slough and more ending seven days later at Hobe Sound Beach.

“We teach them a heck of a lot along the way. They learn they can do way more than they thought they could. They ‘re cooking for each other, putting up tents with each other and keep pushing themselves mentally and physically,” he said. “The crew works together and they push past it. Seven days later at the finish line, they’re high-fiving each other. They can’t wait to do this again. They never would’ve tried it on their own. I like to set the bar very, very high.”

“I’ve worked with some of these kids when they were Cub Scouts, helped them reach goals that seem beyond their reach. Teaching youth to reach their boundaries, that’s all valuable life lessons,” Sutterfield said.


In 2012, Sutterfield helped Lantana teen Tyler Marsh earn the rank of Eagle Scout despite challenges from cerebral palsy. Only 5 percent of all Boy Scouts earned that status the year before.

His supporters include: 

Larry and Nora Rosensweig who contributed $250. Sutterfield ran against Larry Rosensweig in 2014 for the District 4 seat. Rosensweig, former director of the Morikami Museum in Delray Beach lost in the primary; Sutterfield was beat by Erica Whitfield in the run-off. Nora Rosensweig is a retired school district veteran, inculding stint as an area superintendent.

Marco Rubio made some robocalls in Sutterfield’s favor. Said Sutterfield, “Marco Rubio is a friend and a supporter. I campaigned for him when he ran for President.”


As for Barbara McQuinnmcquinn

McQuinn is the oldest of six children and spent her childhood in Orlando. “I was responsible for our care. Mom wasn’t there. I left when I was in third grade, I was 8. I stayed as long as I could.” The authorities found her and discovered the issues at home and wound up splitting up the siblings and sending them to foster homes and McQuinn to a group home.

Throughout, she was a good student, graduating high school and then attending Florida Atlantic University – where she met her first husband.

“I thought I’d be a social worker, I’m going to save the world,” said McQuinn, who then hit more hiccups in her path. “I got married two and a half years into college. Gave up a scholarship to have my son.”

In time, she went to work part-time as a classroom instructional aid, got a degree in elementary education and began work on her master’s degree. (In her early career she was known by that first married name, Mrs. Caracuzo.)

McQuinn’s  specialty was math, first teaching the course, then becoming a specialist advising teachers across the district in math, before becoming an assistant principal at Suncoast and then returning to her former teaching grounds at Palm Beach Gardens High in her first job as Principal.

Her challenge: to conquer the chaos that followed busing students out of Suncoast and their homes in Riviera Beach into the more middle class school in Gardens.

“I knew the antagonism between the Riviera Beach students and the Palm Beach Gardens ones. My husband and I went to the churches, I did a huge amount of community outreach. I’d pick up parents if they couldn’t drive to SAC (student advisory council) meetings,” she said.

“We did have an incredible issue with discipline. Teachers did not feel at all empowered. “

She found the front office was backing up with referrals. Students in trouble for disrupting, returned to class without having their issues dealt with. School police were being called to classrooms for incidents best handled by administrators, she said.

Her answer: Insist students not return until their referral is dealt with. But first amnesty. She went on the intercom and reiterated school rules, promised to enforce them, but started by giving everyone a clean slate.

Then she and one of her assistant principals made a point of visiting every classroom, every day.

Her supporters include former students and their classmates

Property appraiser-elect Dorothy Jacks and former Gardens High alum has contributed to McQuinn’s campaign. Other former principals are supporters as well, including Glenn Heyward and Ellen Gray. And former School Board member Paulette Burdick.



School board candidate with most cash, fell far short on votes

The race to fill Mike Murgio’s old seat on the School Board is down to Barbara McQuinn and Tom Sutterfield.

Both wound up getting about a quarter of the slightly more than 26,000 votes cast, coming within perhaps 50 votes of each other, according to the unofficial, preliminary numbers from the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections.

Unofficial results reported by the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Election.
Unofficial results reported by the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Election.

Ellen Baker, a high school teacher and former elected officer for the countywide teachers union, also had a good showing – just not good enough to land in the top two.

Having an abundance of cash, more than twice any of his competitors, did not help Henry “D” DiGiacinto. At last count, the man with strong ties to two charter schools in the community, had raised more than $84,000 – including $27,800 in loans – and spent more than $55,000.    Despite that backing, he landed less than 10 percent of the vote.






UPDATED: School board candidates’ war chests fill to $169K; former charter principal leads pack

UPDATE:  The numbers below reflect what is posted to the supervisor of election’s page on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016.

The race to fill Mike Murgio’s vacant School Board seat in the county’s north end has drawn six candidates who will face off in the Aug. 30 primary, and together they’ve amassed $168,775 to battle it out, according to the most recent filings with the election supervisor’s office.

The big winner in the race for cash remains Henry “D” DiGiacinto who has raised another nearly $6,000 in the last 20 days, bringing his collection total to $87,145 – only $2,800 from his own pockets. DiGiacinto’s education career at Bright Futures Academy charter school came on the heels of several others, including time in the military special forces and in finance. (This corrects an earlier version that reported DiGiacinto worked in special services.)

Most, but not all of DiGiacinto’s contributors are local, with business or home addresses from Jupiter to Boca Raton.

Henry "D" DiGiacinti

The Money raised (Loans to self in parentheses)

Henry “D” DiGiancinti, former charter school principal, board member,  $87,145 (2,800)

Barbara McQuinn, former principal, area superintendent,  $37,625  ($12,000)

Louise “Toi” Bohne Daniels, retired teacher, $18,420,  ($2,000)

Tom Sutterfield, IT administrator who also sits on the board of a charter, $10,075 ($2,500)

Ellen Baker, a Dwyer High teacher,  $9,457 ($2,003 )

John Anthony Boggess, retired educator from Ohio,  $6,044, ($600)


Money spent

Di Giancinti $46,321

McQuinn $16,464

Daniels $6,243

Sutterfield $4,996

Baker $4,837

Boggess $3,579




With a field so wide it is likely no one will land the majority needed to claim the seat, but the choices will be narrowed to two for the general election Nov. 8.



No school in PBC Friday! But note these events first

Students have a short school week with no school during a teacher work day Friday, heading into a week off for Spring Break next week. But Friday is also the day the district has chosen to encourage parents to Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work. (Nationally, this is celebrated on April 28 this year, but that comes during Florida’s testing season.)



But before we all arrive at Spring Break…

TUESDAY Elections. Voting takes place at hundreds of spots across the county including more than 70 schools. Voters in the Boynton Beach area take note: Voting at Citrus Cove Elementary has been moved to Boynton Beach High due to a gastro illness that swept the elementary last week.  That’s precincts 3138 and 3164.

WEDNESDAY The School Board meets. A workshop begins at 4 p.m. and the regularly monthly meeting follows at 5 p.m. at district headquarters 3300 Forest Hill Boulevard.

Some highlights from the agenda:

Buses The board is set to give final approval to leasing 60 replacement buses at $7 million. It will also consider putting 30 old buses out to pasture, sending them out for salvage.

Cafeteria Royal Palm Beach High becomes the latest high school to get a cafeteria makeover using federal meals program money. The board already agreed to the &743,700 makeover, this vote approves the construction contract.  Atlantic, Forest Hill and Santaluces high schools report more students are eating lunch after what was served and how to present it was reconsidered. Next up: Palm Beach Central High, per board vote Nov. 17, 2015.

Lunch money Looks like the cost of buying a school lunch is expected to remain the same next year at $2.05 for elementary schools and $2.30 at middle and high schools. A reduced price lunch through the Department of Agriculture holds at 40 cents.







Illness sweeps Boynton area elementary school, prompts voting to be moved

sickThe county’s health officials have been notified and the school district’s cleaning crews have been deployed to battle a gastrointestinal illness that is sweeping through Citrus Cove Elementary in Boynton Beach this week.

The as yet unidentified illness also prompted the county’s elections supervisor to relocate voting precincts at the elementary, moving them to the auditorium at Boynton Beach High for Tuesday’s elections.

Concerns were raised Wednesday when absences at the school hit near 90 – far above the average 60 at the campus of nearly 1,000 students. Thursday, absences went up further to 117, said Tim O’Connor, spokesman for the state Health Department in Palm Beach County.

The health department was contacted and an effort began to sanitize rooms daily where students reported to be sick. The common areas including the cafeteria, library and water fountains are also being sanitized daily, Principal Laura Green told parents in a letter home this week.

The symptoms of this illness include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. The department continues to investigate the cause. It does not appear to be the flu, which is a respiratory illness.

The school’s doors remained open for class Friday, but parents have been reminded that hand washing with soap and water is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the illness.

If a child becomes ill, officials are asking parents to keep him or her at home until they’ve been symptom free for 48 hours.

No other school in the district has reported a similar outbreak.

Questions? Call the Epidemiology at Florida Department of Health in Palm beach County at 561-671-4184 or call the school.