PBLakes High video: Can your principal top these moves?


Update: Principal Alfonso appears to have  danced his way into a few more minutes of fame. Rumor has it that his pep rally show has landed him a spot Tuesday morning on Good Morning America. Scheduling for these things can be fluid, but it might just happen. Stay tuned.

Original post Sept. 29: Palm Beach Lakes High guidance staff have thrown down the gauntlet with the hashtag “ourprincipalisbetterthanyours”. Yup, that’s right, according to their PBLHS Facebook page, they believe their new Principal David Alfonso is better… at dancing. alfonso-mug

Their evidence, cellphone video from last week’s homecoming pep rally.

You be the judge. Do you have a principal who could do better? We’re eager to see it.


Pahokee High also seeking new principal

aocampoThe principal credited with boosting Pahokee High School’s graduation rate by 16 percentage points in the 2013-14 school year is leaving that job to work for the man who put him there.

Adrian Ocampo, a 45-year-old with 19 years in Palm Beach County schools, has been named principal at Port St. Lucie High and will report to public schools superintendent Wayne Gent.

That’s the second Palm Beach County principal Gent has poached this summer.

Last week, we reported Jupiter High Principal Dan Frank is headed north to be Gent’s Executive Director of Schools.

In January 2014, Gent riled Glades residents when he replaced longtime principal Ariel Alejo with Ocampo, who was the principal at Watson B. Duncan Middle in Palm Beach Gardens.

School Board member Marcia Andrews said Gent indicated the move was an attempt to improve the school which was struggling academically, earning a D grade from the state at the time. The problem wasn’t so much Gent’s choice, but how he made it – without community input, both Andrews and Pahokee’s mayor at the time complained.

Almost a year later, the school received a second D, but under Ocampo, the graduation had risen to 90 percent. 

“It is a small school, we have less than 100 students in our senior class so we focus on them individually. We devote a lot of resources and a lot of time. We make their graduation a priority.

“We have one guidance counselor just devoted to our seniors. You ask her about one and she can tell you everything about them. What their grades are, what tests they’ve taken, what we can do to help,” Ocampo said at the time. The following year, the school moved up to a C, and Ocampo said this week he believes based on a review of student scores it will be a high C when grades come out again this year. 

While Ocampo was celebrated for that achievement, his wife, also a principal in the district, has had a rocky year.

Atlantic High School principal Tara Dellegrotti-Ocampo was reprimanded in March for marching in through the back office of her former school and scolding a former employee. By June, she had a second reprimand in her file, this one for her role in permitting a fire-breathing stunt at a school pep rally. The stunt in the school gym went awry as the performer accidentally ignited himself in front of 2,000 students. No students were injured, but he suffered second-degree burns.

She will be staying Ocampo said. “Tara is committed to Atlantic High School and Palm Beach County. I had a wonderful 19 years in Palm Beach County. I’m looking forward to this next chapter. “

St. Lucie County’s deputy schools superintendent is also a former principal in Palm Beach County schools. In 2003, Jon Prince was at the helm of Verde Elementary and the next year moved to Palm Beach Gardens High, according to his biography on the district’s website. He worked at other schools outside Palm Beach County before landing the deputy superintendent’s job in the summer of 2015.

PBC announces 13 schools with new principals, more to come


At least 13 Palm Beach County schools will begin next year with new principals, the district announced Thursday morning. Some of these appointments were announced earlier and more will be announced in the coming weeks, district officials said. Classes begin in Aug. 15, 2015. (Bonus: See the graduation video montage of all the fun moments from the class of 2016’s big moment posted below.)

The appointments for the 2016-2017 year so far:

  • Acreage Pines Elementary School – Darline Karbowski
  • Boca Raton Community High School – Dr. Suzanne King
  • Calusa Elementary School – Dianne Rivelli-Schreiber
  • William T. Dwyer High School – Joe DePasquale
  • Everglades Elementary School – Dwan Moore-Ross
  • Highland Elementary School – Elizabeth “Ellie” Morales
  • H.L. Johnson Elementary School – Jennifer Makowski
  • Lake Park Elementary School – Michelle Gonçalves-Fleming
  • Loggers’ Run Community Middle School – Edmund Capitano
  • Meadow Park Elementary School – Valerie Zuloaga-Haines
  • Palm Beach Lakes Community High School – David Alfonso
  • Suncoast High School – Karen Whetsell
  • Wynnebrook Elementary School – Suzanne Berry


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.


3 PBC schools slated for new principals pending board OK

The school year comes to an end this week and these three schools are set to get new principals pending School Board approval at a special meeting Wednesday afternoongavel:

Wynnebrook Elementary: Suzanne Berry goes from assistant principal to principal at this West Palm Beach school.

Loggers Run Middle: Edmund Capitano leaves principal’s spot at Galaxy Elementary to helm Loggers Run near Boca Raton.

Acreage Pines Elementary: Darline Karbowski goes from assistant principal to principal.

Grove Park principal latest to fall under scrutiny; student alleges he was pushed

2012 file photo of Grove Park Elementary Principal Eric Gross (Bruce R. Bennett/ The Palm Beach Post)
2012 file photo of Grove Park Elementary Principal Eric Gross (Bruce R. Bennett/ The Palm Beach Post)

Another Palm Beach County principal is in the news – this one under investigation for allegedly pushing a student. Grove Park Elementary Principal Eric Gross remains in his principal role and was on campus Thursday.

A student says he was pushed during a meeting with Gross after school, a school district spokeswoman said. The student was on a bus that had left the campus, but returned to the school when students on the bus misbehaved.

“Upon the return to campus, an incident occurred that is being investigated by School Police,” said a school district statement released Thursday afternoon. “Because this is an open investigation, no other details can be provided at this time.” See the full story here.

In recent weeks, eyes were focused on two other principals.

Cheryl McKeever at Palm Beach Lakes High was in the hot seat after students complained to the school board that they’d not had a regular math teacher all year. The day after that meeting, parents and teachers said they believed the students were being harassed for their bold statements. Still, McKeever said she is working to resolve the issue and be a uniter at the struggling school.

Meanwhile, an investigation continues to determine who knew what when approving a pep rally act that ended in flames at Atlantic High School. The act included fire, but a mishap turned the flames onto the performer, burning him severely and sending a couple students to be checked for smoke inhalation. The buck at that school stops at Principal Tara Dellegrotti-Ocampo. (At least two other schools brought the fire-breather to perform on their campuses.)

Dellegrotti-Ocampo was also reprimanded after a run-in with a former employee at another school. The principal of that school, Everglades Elementary’s Amie Souder, aired her concerns about how district administrators about the handled that complaint – a complaint that centered on actions Dellegrotti took on the Everglades campus – and then weeks later Souder quit.

PBLakes Principal McKeever’s full statement in wake of student, teacher complaints

Cheryl McKeever (2009 Palm Beach Post file photo)
Cheryl McKeever (2009 Palm Beach Post file photo)

Palm Beach Lakes Principal Cheryl McKeever issued this statement regarding student complaints that they have gone without a math teacher all year and concerns from teachers and parents about her actions after the students complained to the School Board Wednesday night:


“As principal of Palm Beach Lakes High School, everything that happens at the school is my responsibility. I apologize to students and parents for any confusion and lack of communication as we’ve searched for a teacher who is a good fit for our school and students.


“After Wednesday’s School Board meeting, where students raised concerned about their Geometry class, I met with students on Thursday and parents on Friday. Thursday’s meeting with students was attended by two academic coaches and our ELL coordinator, while Friday’s meeting was attended by the assistant principal who oversees the math department, the assistant principal for curriculum and the mathematics academic coach, a certified teacher who will be teaching the students through the end of the school year. The District will provide additional academic support as needed.


“Students will receive individual academic plans, and updates will be provided weekly on students’ progress to build on their strengths and address their weaknesses.


“I addressed students as young adults. I responded honestly and appropriately to any and all inquiries pertaining to the Geometry class, and shared with them personal statements made by their former teacher as to why he did not want to remain on the job. If that was perceived negatively, I apologize again. My intention was to improve and provide open communication on this matter.”