Published On: Sun, Aug 11th, 2019

Dale King

By: Dale King

Education back on front burner as schools open for new academic year

BOCA RATON – Believe it or not, schools in Palm Beach County are going to be back in session starting the week of Aug. 12.  That’s a lot earlier in the year than most systems around the national, particularly those up north that generally don’t get underway until after Labor Day. It’s even sooner than Florida’s normal openings around Aug. 20 or after.

So the summer spiffing up has come to an end, and classrooms will be filling up again. As usual, we are warning drivers to watch out for the tykes and older kids as they disembark from buses to cross the streets. Watch out for the flashing red lights on the buses and the yellow warning lamps that warn of 20 MPH speed zones around schools. 

And don’t forget. The 2020-2021 school year opens early, too.

In Boca Raton, the academic year begins on something of a mixed note at Spanish River High School, one of more than a dozen educational facilities in the county that will get a new principal this year.

The county School Board just appointed Allison Castellano as the new leader at Spanish River High, replacing William Latson, who was reassigned to desk duty in the district office after informing a parent by email last year that he could not confirm whether or not the Holocaust was a factual event.

Castellano seems a fine choice for the post. Her work records say she is a former Spanish River student and teacher. One of her children is a student there now and two of her others are alums. Castellano’s mother is a former principal in the Boca area.

It’s amazing how Latson’s email mishap ignited an international incident. We read about the situation in Israeli newspapers, and his comment about being unable to confirm the veracity of the Holocaust hit all the newspapers and cable networks. He probably gave President Trump a few days of peace as he took the weight of constant criticism away from the chief executive.

Initially, it appeared Latson would be terminated at the end of his contract, but school officials have stepped back from that conclusion. Keep watching for more details. 

The reassignment occurred during the summer, so there may be fireworks now that students, staff and administrators are back in their classrooms and offices.

Everyone flocks to Chamber breakfast

Last week’s membership breakfast of the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce drew a hefty crowd of nearly 300. The August session is usually a big draw because city officials are on hand to unveil the municipal budget proposal for the coming year.

A couple of the regulars weren’t there this time. City Manager Leif Ahnell, who normally conducts the presentation, is said to be recovering from an appendectomy. And Mayor Scott Singer was out of town, so he offered his comments by video.

So, the duty of leading the presentation in person fell to Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rodgers who did an excellent job, considering it was the first time he had addressed a Chamber gathering.

Before Rodgers reached the podium, Chamber President and CEO Troy McLellan was up at the mike, introducing folks around the dining room at the Boca Marriott.

He noted that two new CEOs were among the morning diners: Lincoln Mendez, who has just taken over as head of the partnered Boca Raton Regional Hospital and Baptist South Medical, and George Rizzuto, who just started working at West Boca Medical Center following the retirement of Mitch Feldman, who has been associated with the Tenet Health Care system as the boss at Delray Medical Center and, more recently, West Boca Medical.

Lots of other folks were in the audience, too: Deputy Mayor Rodger’s colleagues, Councilors Andy Thompson, Andrea O’Rourke and Monica Mayotte were seated around the municipal employee table.  They were joined by other denizens of City Hall and, of course, the city’s police chief, Dan Alexander. School Board member from Boca Raton Frank Barbieri Jr. was also on hand.

State Rep. Michael Caruso was in attendance with his wife, Tracy.

Rodgers handily handled a rundown of the city’s accomplishments and future aspirations. Among projects that are done or nearing completion, he commented on the new art in public places, particularly around the tunnels under State Road A1A leading to Spanish River Beach. He gave a nod to the colorful mural work that Councilor O’Rourke is spearheading as head of that committee.

Both the deputy mayor and Singer, in his video, mentioned the interest being show by Brightline/Virgin USA Trains and plans to possibly build a new train station in Boca Raton.  Brightline’s folks have already appeared before the city council and everyone involved came away with positive feelings.

Boca Raton has also hired a couple of new, specifically charged employees – a sustainability manager and the director of innovation. 

Rodgers also pointed out how proud the city is of keeping its property taxes at $3.68 per $1,000 of valuation – no change from the previous several years. He pointed to a colorful tax rate graph in a booklet distributed to all the tables showing Boca Raton at the low end of a list of other cities and towns in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Among priorities for the city’s future, Rodgers listed: Creating a technology hub for new jobs; approving a new government campus master plan; exploring Midtown opportunities; dealing with traffic and connectivity and preparing for the next financial downturn. 

Ensuring public school safety was emphasized. And after last year’s tragedy in Parkland, and the recent sudden and disastrous mass killings in Dayton and El Paso, protection of all lives of all people at all levels in an utter and absolute necessity.

Backpacks for back-to-school

More than 450 students from Pine Grove Elementary School in Delray Beach received school supplies for the year through the Boca West Children’s Foundation inaugural back-to-school event held Friday. The school supplies were provided to students at the Meet the Teacher Event at Pine Grove, which is a Title I school. 

Members of Boca West Country Club and volunteers from Office Depot filled backpacks with new school supplies. Teachers handed them out at the event made possible through funds awarded to Boca West Children’s Foundation by the Great Charity Challenge. The event was held in a partnership with Office Depot Foundation and the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County’s Red Apple Supplies Store. 

Boca West Children’s Foundation was launched in November of 2010. Its mission is to identify and fund projects assisting children and their families in need in Palm Beach County. Since its inception, the Foundation has provided project funding in excess of $6 million.

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