The issues facing the Palm Beach County School District are myriad, as you would expect with a large urban school district employing 22,000 people, and charged with educating 192,000 students across 183 school campuses.
And in a district with that many employees and stakeholders as well as billions of dollars in revenue to account for, the most pressing issue can change on a daily basis.
On Monday, The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board met with three top officials from the Palm Beach County School District — Superintendent Donald E. Fennoy II, Chief Financial Officer Mike Burke and Board Chairman Chuck Shaw — to talk about some of those more immediate pressing issues.
It was the first time that three of the county’s highest-ranking public schools officials sat together to answer questions from the media since Fennoy took
over from Robert Avossa in March.
We talked about the need for better teacher pay and a different approach to the ongoing effort to raise third-grade reading levels, and challenged them to defend a maligned district police force and make the case for a property tax increase.
And we video-taped the meeting so that you could hear their answers,
unedited and unfiltered.
We’d like to know what you think, so please share your thoughts in the Comments section.
Our state ranks eighth from the bottom in per-pupil spending in elementary-secondary education, according to Census Bureau statistics.
Elementary-secondary teachers in Florida earn an average $49,199. (That’s $9,154 less than the U.S. average.) Teachers are going into their own pockets an average of $479 every year for classroom supplies, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Now the Palm Beach County School Board is considering whether to ask voters this fall to raise their property taxes as much as $153 million a year, primarily to boost teacher pay. The money would also help pay for the 75 more security officers needed to patrol every school in the sprawling district and for more student mental-health services — both in reaction to the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
But in November 2016, voters approved a penny-per-dollar increase in sales tax to pay for maintenance and construction projects for schools and city and county governments.
Is it too soon to ask voters to dip into their wallets again?
Kids are learning to connect with technology these days, but they are disconnecting from each other. Thus, Florida’s new law mandating 20 minutes of recess for students K-5 is long overdue.
Although the sweeping education law, based on House Bill 7069, has been criticized by many educators including Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa as it cuts public schools’ construction money in order to share with charter schools, one of its few silver linings is required recess.
Communication, understanding, and coexistence cannot be taught from an app. When I was in elementary school, negotiating who got to have the good jump rope or basketball, having monkey bar races, and playing endless rounds of tag, left us exhausted but content. We learned the importance of patience as we anticipated recess anxiously. And we worked together to remind the teacher if the lesson went into playground time.
With more public schools incorporating different levels of learning (gifted, advanced, and regular) the difficulty in course load is growing. While the boost in learning is appreciated, some of the pressure needs to be alleviated from students’ shoulders. Allowing children to put down their pencils and workbooks for a set amount of time will help them return to their studies more refreshed, relaxed, and alert.
Of course, with freedom comes responsibility; teachers will have to keep an attentive eye for any bullying lest anyone try to be the “king/queen of the swings.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids should spend at least 60 minutes exercising each day. Not only does it provide them with physical benefits, but recess allows students to interact with their peers and make their own decisions in regard to friendships, a skill they will definitely need by the time they get to high school.
When we reached fifth grade, some kids decided to think they were “too cool” for recess and would sit on the side. But once they hit middle school, it was a different story. And in high school? Those same students were asking for the return of recess.
In short, enjoy recess while you still have it, because one day you may find yourself in an Advanced Placement (AP) block classroom wishing the break lasted longer than five minutes.
Valeria Munoz, a recent graduate of Boca Raton High School, is starting college as a journalism major. She is now an intern at the Palm Beach Post