Showing posts with label Brevard County Public Schools. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brevard County Public Schools. Show all posts

Friday, February 16, 2018

Round 2 of Florida: Brevard County Teen Arrested For Localizing Social Media Post

BREVARD COUNTY, Florida – A Brevard County teenager suspected of modifying a Snapchat photo depicting a masked gunman with the caption “Round 2 of Florida” so that the threat appeared to be directed towards a Brevard County Public School was arrested on Friday.

The original post from South Carolina (above image) went viral across the country due to heightened public emotions as a result of the Florida school shooting that occurred on Ash Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Although the original post and threat was initiated in South Carolina yesterday by a South Carolina teen who was later arrested, the post was allegedly modified by a Canaveral Groves teen last night to make the threat directed against Space Coast Jr/Sr High School in Port St. John, Florida (below image).

Brevard County Sheriff’s investigators say that they identified a 15-year-old female student at Space Coast Jr/Sr High School as the person who localized threat by adding the text “I’m coming space coast, watch out.”

According to investigators, the Space Coast teen said that she thought it was “funny” because everyone else was doing it and the reaction it was generating.

The student was arrested early Friday morning and charged with Written Threats to Kill or do Bodily Harm. The teenage girl was then transported to the Brevard County Juvenile Detention Center.

However, Sheriff Ivey announced later on Friday during a press conference that the judge found no probable cause for the arrest because the threat was a general one rather than one against an individual as required by current Florida statutes.

Ivey said that the State Attorney’s Office is researching other possible charges to refile against the teen and that she will still be subject to disciplinary actions by Brevard Public Schools.

“We know our families are concerned, and we are grateful for their vigilance in reporting threatening behavior or social-media posts,” said Brevard Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Desmond K. Blackburn.

“We will continue to work closely with the Brevard Sheriff’s Office to protect our children and staff. Our team will keep families informed about their schools as quickly as possible by text, email, social media and recorded phone calls.”

“Round 2 of Florida” Snapchat Photo Suspect Arrested

A teenager suspected of creating a Snapchat photo depicting a masked gunman with the caption “Round 2 of Florida” was arrested in South Carolina on Thursday.

The snapchat post went viral across the country due to heightened public emotions as a result of the Florida school shooting that occurred on Ash Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“Variations of the post have continued to be circulated over social media with captions added to warn people not to go to various schools throughout South Florida,” the Broward County Sheriff’s Office stated on Thursday.

Sheriff’s deputies in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, arrested a Broome High School ninth grader who allegedly wrote the menacing caption over a photo of someone wearing a partial mask and holding what appeared to be an AR-15 rifle similar to the one used in the Broward County, Florida school shooting that left 17 people dead.

The Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office was alerted to the disturbing threat when a classmate recognized the suspect in the Snapchat post and told a parent. Spartanburg deputies later located the mask and rifle, which turned out to be a pellet gun.

The teen, whose name is being withheld, allegedly said he was joking in the post.

“Round 2 of Florida” Snapchat Post Modified To Appear From Brevard County

According to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, someone had taken the original “Round 2 of Florida” Snapchat post and modified it to make the post appear to threaten SpaceCoast Jr/Sr High School in Port St. John, Florida.

“Unfortunately, the post has now been reposted and shared countywide causing parents to be concerned about the validity of the post and threat,” said Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey.

“Please know that our agency and the FBI are continuing to investigate the “reposted” threat, however there is nothing to indicate that there is a valid threat to any of our schools. In an abundance of caution and to reassure our parents and students our agency has directed an increased presence of Deputies at SpaceCoast Jr/Sr High School where the reposted threat was alleged to occur.”

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Stray Bullets Hit Stone Magnet Middle School

MELBOURNE, Florida – Parents are upset because they were not notified by Brevard Public Schools that bullets struck Stone Magnet Middle School while students were still on campus for extracurricular activities just after 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 13, 2017.

Stone Middle School is located at 1101 East University Boulevard in Melbourne, Florida. The bullets are presumed to be strays from a shooting that occurred around the same time at Lizzy’s Restaurant which is located less than a quarter-of-a-mile from the school at 1301 East University Boulevard.

More than 50 rounds were fired at Lizzy’s without anyone being seriously injured, police say.

“Yes, bullets struck a school building at Stone Middle after school hours. No students or staff were affected,” Brevard Public Schools spokesman Matt Reed told Brevard Times

“The case is still under investigation by Melbourne P.D., So, I can’t provide further comment on it. However, we always recommend that parents share their concerns and seek answers directly with their school principals.”

Friday, February 2, 2018

Charles Parker To Run For Brevard Public School Board

Charles Parker, a resident of central Brevard County since 1980 and a teacher for over 10 years, has announced his intention to run for the Brevard School Board District 2 seat.

“My family and I are excited about this race and about serving District 2 students, parents, teachers, and the community as a whole,” Parker said. 

“Our students and parents deserve a district organization and quality school-based programs that have as a guiding foundation STEAM principles – Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math.  This will give all of Brevard’s children the opportunity to flourish in our new digital century.

“Our teachers need a competitive wage that increases reliably.  Our schools need help with time and human resources to assist all students gain proficiency in state-mandated testing.  Our community needs assurance that we are educating and graduating young people ready to work and/or attend colleges and universities.

“These will be my priorities,” Parker said. 

“I plan to have ‘meet and greet’ events in all areas of District 2, launch a website, and blast social media in the coming weeks.  And then I will knock on as many doors as I can – listening to the concerns in our neighborhoods and how they relate to our neighborhood schools.  This will usher in a new era in Viera – listening, learning, problem-solving, reforming.”

He added that his campaign will gear up over the next couple of weeks.  He will be filing the appropriate paperwork once he selects a campaign treasurer.  “The selection of a campaign treasurer is the first important decision and I want to pick someone who knows the laws and is above reproach.”

Parker currently teaches Engineering in a STEM academy at Merritt Island High School and has taught English there as well.  He was named STEM Educator of the Year by the Space Coast Women in Defense organization in 2015.  He also coaches tennis and was the assistant golf coach.

“While I currently teach in high school, I have broad experience in my years living and working in Brevard, which uniquely qualifies me for this seat.”

He has taught English and World Cultures at Jefferson Middle School and served as an intervention coach in elementary and middle schools in Cocoa, Rockledge, and Cocoa Beach – assisting teachers and administrators with strategies to help under-performing students improve their proficiency in reading and math.

Before entering education, Parker worked in the hospitality and aerospace sectors, as well as in social services – both as a minister and as a non-profit leader in foster care.  He has served on the boards at Brevard Achievement Center and the Child Care Association of Brevard.  In 1999, he received a gubernatorial appointment to the Children’s Services Council.

He also served as the Chair of the School Advisory Council at both Tropical Elementary and Jefferson Middle School.

He graduated from Warner University with a BA in Organizational Management.  He also hold a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary. Parker is adjunct faculty in the E-Learning departments at both Eastern Florida State College and Valencia College.

Parker has three sons – two who graduated from Merritt Island High School and one who is currently a sophomore there.  His wife is a former teacher and graduated from the University of Florida College of Education. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Florida Teacher Who Bit Student Allowed To Continue Teaching

PALM BAY, Florida – A Florida teacher who made national headlines for biting a special needs student was punished with a two-year paid vacation from Brevard Public Schools, a $1,000 fine from the Florida Department of Education, and seven months of probation from the courts.

58-year-old Karen Renee Williams will now be able to continue to teach in the Sunshine State after the Florida Department of Education gave her a Letter of Reprimand rather than revoking her teaching certificate in a Final Administrative Order filed in December 2017.

Williams was charged with Felony Child Abuse after she bit one of her third grade students at Columbia Elementary in Palm Bay, Florida.

She was later found guilty of a lesser misdemeanor charge of ‘culpable negligence inflicting bodily harm’ as a result of a plea agreement in January 2017.

The special needs student told Department of Children and Families investigators that Williams placed him in a bear hug and that he bit Williams’ hand in an attempt to free himself. The student said that the teacher retaliated by biting the third-grader in the back “for like a minute.”

Witnesses said that the student could be heard screaming hysterically, crying, and saying, “my back, my back!”

Williams denied biting the student when questioned by her supervisor despite there being a noticeable adult-sized bite mark below the child’s left shoulder blade, according to the arrest affidavit.

Paid Vacation, Probation, Condemnation

Although Williams was placed on administrative leave immediately after her arrest in December 2015, she continued to collect her teacher’s salary and benefits from Brevard Public Schools without working for two years. Williams was finally terminated from BPS two months after she was convicted in January 2017.

Williams was also sentenced to one year of probation by the 18th Judicial Circuit Court which allowed for early termination if she completed a 4-hour anger management course. Williams’ probation was terminated less than seven months later because she filed a certificate of completion of the 4-hour course.

After her criminal case was closed, the Florida Department of Education moved forward with an administrative complaint against Williams’ teaching certificate.

The original administrative complaint sought the suspension, revocation, or permanent revocation of Williams’ Florida educator certificate.

However, her case was later settled for the lesser punishment of a Letter of Reprimand and a $1,000 fine.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

BPS: Teacher Failed To Report Alleged Child Abuse By Another Teacher

COCOA, Florida – A Saturn Elementary School teacher was recently suspended after she allegedly failed to report allegations of child abuse against another teacher.

Rose Chinnery of Scottsmoor, Florida, allegedly failed to notify the Department of Children and Families after she received a text message on November 8, 2017, from a parent who stated an allegation of abuse by another teacher at Saturn Elementary School in Cocoa, Florida.

According to the Brevard Public School Board, all staff are required to immediately report suspected child abuse to the DCF hotline pursuant to BPS Policy 8462.

The policy notes that failure to report child abuse is a first-degree misdemeanor under Florida Statute Chapter 39. 

At this time however, Brevard County Clerk of Courts records do not reflect a criminal case being brought against Chinnery for the alleged incident.

Initially, the BPS administration recommended a three-day suspension without pay until the Brevard Federation of Teachers union intervened and had the suspension reduced to one day that will take place on January 29, 2018.

Image credit: Google

BPS: Teacher Failed To Get Prompt Medical Treatment For VPK Student’s Head Injury

Sherwood Elementary School

MELBOURNE, Florida – A preschool teacher was recently suspended after she allegedly failed to immediately send a four-year-old student to the clinic when the child suffered an injury to the face and head on the playground at Sherwood Elementary School in Melbourne, Florida.

Catherine Barhold of Melbourne, Florida, also allegedly failed to promptly notify the child’s parents and the BPS administration of the preschooler’s injury that occurred at approximately 9:40 a.m. on November 17, 2017.

According to documents filed with the Brevard Public School Board, Barhold has been disciplined for similar alleged violations in the past:

July 17, 2017 – A  Suspension for leaving a child unattended in a classroom;
May 18, 2016 – A Letter of Reprimand for lack of supervision; and
May 2, 2016 – A Letter of Reprimand for allowing students to engage in unsafe behavior.

On January 23, 2018, the Brevard Public School Board suspended Barhold for three days without pay that is scheduled to take place on January 29-31, 2018.

Image credit: Google

Brevard Public Schools: Teacher Made Sexual Gesture To Principal In Front Of Students

Riveria Elementary Elementary School

PALM BAY, Florida – A Brevard County Public Schools teacher was recently suspended after he allegedly made an “inappropriate sexual gesture” towards the Principal at Riveria Elementary Elementary School located at 351 Riviera Drive Northeast in Palm Bay, Florida.

Phillip Wachsler of Satellite Beach, Florida, allegedly made the sexual gesture behind the back of Riveria Elementary Principal Kori Hurst as she was walking out of his sixth-grade classroom on October 26, 2017.

According to documents filed with the Brevard Public School Board, several students in his classroom witnessed the sexual gesture.

When Principal Hurst summoned Wachsler to her office on November 14, 2017, to provide a written statement regarding the October 26th incident, Wachsler allegedly demonstrated the sexual gesture.

Wachsler also received a letter of reprimand on November 17, 2017, for allegedly using inappropriate language and calling student names.

After investigating the incident, the Brevard County School Board suspended Wachsler for one day without pay on January 16, 2018.

Image credit: Google

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Astronaut High School Bans Students From Buying Outside Food

President Donald Trump Eating McDonald's Fries

TITUSVILLE, Florida – Astronaut High School is clamping down on students bringing in fast food or ordering pizza instead of buying meals from its school cafeteria.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, Astronaut High School cited State of Florida policy as the reason for enforcing the ban:

“This is a very important announcement regarding policy related to food being brought or delivered to school by students and families. State of Florida policy prohibits bringing outside meals from vendors into the school that does not meet nutritional regulations. This would include pizza deliveries, fast food such as McDonald’s and Wendy’s, and other restaurants. 

If food is brought or delivered for a student, the meal will be kept in the front office until the end of the day. The student may pick it up when the bell rings for dismissal. Students may purchase their lunch in our Five Star rated cafeteria or bring nutritional lunches to school that have been prepared at home. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding as we follow state and district food and nutrition policies! GOOOOO War Eagles!!!”

Students Quickly Point Out School Hypocrisy

Astronaut High School student were quick to point out on social media that, when it comes to making a buck for themselves, school administrators and teachers throw the nutritional concerns for students out the window during fundraisers on campus and off-campus partnerships such as McTeacher’s night.

The funds raised by schools with the profits from selling the fast food to students are known as “enterprise funds” that are highly sought after by the Brevard County School District because enterprise funds come without statutory restrictions.

The enterprise funds can be spent on whatever school administrators choose, such as outside pizza ordered for faculty parties, political campaigns to increase school taxes, and even Orlando Magic basketball tickets where artery-clogging quick-service foods are served.

Some students have expressed on social media that they would show their disdain for any such fundraisers in the future because of the enforcement of the outside food ban.

Policies Likely To Change In The Near Future

Although Astronaut High School did not cite the specific state policies, the Brevard County School District and State of Florida policies currently in place were promulgated in recent years as a result of federal guidelines under former President Barack Obama’s Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act.

“As parents, we try to prepare decent meals, limit how much junk food our kids eat, and ensure they have a reasonably balanced diet,” First Lady Michelle Obama said in 2012. “And when we’re putting in all that effort the last thing we want is for our hard work to be undone each day in the school cafeteria. When we send our kids to school, we expect that they won’t be eating the kind of fatty, salty, sugary foods that we try to keep them from eating at home.”

However, President Donald Trump’s administration is moving in a direction to repeal those stringent guidelines, vowing to ‘Make School Lunches Great Again.‘ Currently, the USDA is re-evaluating how each food item is nutritionally credited into a meal for the National School Lunch Program.

Brevard County School District Policy 8400 (last revised 2014)

(C)(3) Competitive Foods

No food or beverages, other than those associated with the District’s food service program, are to be sold during the school day unless allowed by State or Federal procedures.

State of Florida Competitive Food Rule 5P-1.003 (last revised 2014)

(2) Each district school board shall have the following responsibilities:

(c) To control the sale of food and beverage items in competition with the district approved food service program in accordance with 7 CFR 210.11 (6/28/13) … Competitive food and beverage items sold to students during the school day must meet the nutrition standards for competitive food as defined and required in 7 CFR 210.11 …. Each district school board is permitted to grant a special exemption from the standards for competitive foods as specified above for the purpose of conducting infrequent school-sponsored fundraisers…

Photo credit: Donald Trump Campaign

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Brevard Public Schools Superintendent Blackburn Donates Raise To Classroom Supplies

VIERA, Florida — Brevard Public Schools Superintendent Desmond Blackburn will forego a pay raise for 2017-2018 and instead donate the money for classroom supplies for teachers at low-income schools. 

The superintendent was among the 790 school administrators, technology specialists, program directors and other non-union employees who were granted a 1.5 percent pay increase by the school board on Dec. 12. Two unions representing BPS teachers and support staff had rejected the 1.5 percent raise.

Blackburn explained his decision Thursday:

“Board members were thinking of our awesome staff when they voted to give them more money by the holidays. Incidentally, my position was on the list of those non-union employees.  Although I’m proud to have my pay linked to the people who serve our children and neighborhood schools every day, our team doesn’t need another distraction from our mission.  I’m quite certain that board members were not thinking about my pay when they made their decision to help hundreds of other hard-working employees.”

Blackburn has directed BPS’ chief financial officer to take back his raise and donate the same sum (about $3,300) to the Supply Zone for Teachers, a shop in Cocoa that is run by the Brevard Schools Foundation and is funded by donations. The Supply Zone allows teachers from 22 of Brevard’s highest-poverty schools to pick up free supplies such as pencils, paper, markers and backpacks for their students.

Blackburn encouraged others in the community to donate money or school supplies to the Supply Zone at the following address:

Supply Zone for Teachers
1225 Clearlake Road
Cocoa, FL 32922

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Kennedy Middle School Teacher Arrested For Battering Student Who Wanted To Use Restroom

ROCKLEDGE, Florida – Dawn Marie Krell, a teacher at John F. Kennedy Middle School, was arrested on Thursday after allegedly battering a student who wanted to use the restroom.

According to the police report, the dean of Kennedy Middle School was notified of a disruptive student in Krell's classroom around 3 p.m. on Friday, December 15, 2017. When the dean and principal approached the classroom, they saw the student standing outside the classroom door. The door was open and students were inside the classroom.

When the dean asked what was going on, the student said that he asked to use the restroom but was denied several times by Ms. Krell. The student said it was an emergency but Krell told the student to go outside the classroom. The student said that Krell then followed him as he walked out of the classroom, placed both of her hands on each of the student's shoulders, and forcefully shoved the student up against a wall while saying that the student was disrupting her classroom.

The student said that he told Krell that he was not being disruptive, but that he just had to use the restroom. The student then managed to push himself away from Krell.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Superintendent Dr. Brian Binggeli Abruptly Resigns From Plano School District

Superintendent Dr. Brian Binggeli abruptly and mysteriously resigned from the Plano School District on Tuesday, just two years after he had left Brevard Public Schools in the wake of a multi-million dollar software purchasing scandal.

Bingelli’s resignation in Plano comes just days after BPS and the software contractor announced a settlement encompassing the scandal.

Binggeli’s resignation also coincided with another surprise resignation by Plano School District board member Greg Myer. A spokesperson for the Plano School District told the Dallas Morning News that “the only thing [the resignations had] in common is the timing.”

Binggeli’s termination agreement from the Plano School District discharges him from “… any and all claims, actions and causes of action of any nature whatsoever related to Binggeli’s employment with District…”

The agreement defines claims as ” ….  any and all theories or recovery of whatsoever nature which each Party may have asserted, or could have asserted, against the other Party, regarding any issues related to Binggeli’s  employment with District, whether known or now unknown ….”

Despite announcing a resignation in the middle of the school year, the Plano School District will pay Binggeli $307,000 in accrued vacation time plus nine months salary, CBSDFW reported.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Florida Lawmakers Propose CPR Training For All Florida High School Students

VIERA, Florida – Florida State Senator Debbie Mayfield and Representative Thad Altman introduced legislation that would require all Florida high school students to undergo CPR and AED training prior to graduation.

Sen. Mayfield and Rep. Altman attended an event on Tuesday announcing the legislation at Viera High School along with Lexi Sima, a Viera High student, and her father Shawn Sima.

Approximately two years ago, Lexi went into cardiac arrest at a gym and was revived by CPR and an AED. This prompted her father to become an advocate for implementing training at the high school level.

Brevard County Public Schools became the 11th district in Florida requiring CPR instruction for graduation. The training will be incorporated into mandatory health classes and will use kits provided by the American Heart Association. The kits include tools which teach CPR skills, AED use and choking relief.

Viera High’s student government association will be leading a grassroots effort to get a statewide resolution passed in December and will be mobilizing all the other SGA chapters throughout the state for phone-banking and meeting with their local legislators to support the bills.

Photo credit: BPS

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Melbourne High marching band selected for Washington, D.C. parade

MELBOURNE, Florida – Melbourne High’s Pride of Mel-Hi Marching Band will perform in the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 2018. The school was one of only 13 bands from across the nation selected to participate.

The two-hour procession will travel along Constitution Avenue and marks the conclusion of the four-week long Cherry Blossom Festival. The festival takes place in March and April and commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Tokyo to the nation’s capital. The parade draws an on-site audience of more than 150,000 people and is nationally syndicated to an estimated 82 percent of U.S. television markets.

“I am incredibly proud and honored to be a part of this special group of people,” said Joshua Sall, Melbourne High director of bands. “The Melbourne High School Pride of Mel-Hi Band, Melbourne High School, the parents and community are an incredible group of people who came together to help us achieve this awesome honor.”

Approximately 196 people, including students, staff and chaperones, will travel for this opportunity. It will cost the band more than $125,000 to make the trip. To help with the associated costs, the band created a fundraising campaign which can be found at

“We are so excited to travel up to our nation’s capital and represent Mel-Hi, the city of Melbourne, and Brevard County Schools. The students and I are absolutely thrilled to have this honor,” said Sall.

For more information or to contribute to the fundraising effort, visit or contact Joshua Sall, Melbourne High director of bands, at [email protected]

Photo credit: BPS

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Brevard Public Schools Settles $4.5 Million EDR Software Scandal For $50,000

BREVARD COUNTY, Florida – Brevard Public Schools announced that it has settled its lawsuit with Harris regarding a multi-million dollar software contract made with Harris’ predecessor, Educational Data Resources, for $50,000. The school district paid over $4 million to EDR for enterprise software that never became fully functional.

Hush Clause

The settlement also provides that neither party can disparage the other, their predecessors, employees, subsidiaries and parent companies.

In accordance with the settlement agreement, BPS released the following restricted joint statement Tuesday with Harris School Solutions:

“Harris, the new owner of the EDR software products and the new Board for Brevard County Public Schools each found themselves in an unenviable position in 2015 having inherited a less-than-ideal situation with respect to the EDR software products.  Harris, to its credit, attempted to address the issues it discovered after its acquisition of the EDR software products; however, due to the rapid changes in technology, the software which was contracted for in 2013 is, in the present, out of date. Therefore, the Board has decided to go in a different direction with regards to its software acquisition. The parties have officially come to an agreement on how to best deliver value to Brevard County Public Schools, its students and the taxpayers of Brevard County while closing this chapter and moving forward under the circumstances. This will ensure BPS has access to much needed software and maintenance, giving it adequate time to acquire and integrate a new fully functional software system which will bring Brevard Public Schools into the present, user-friendly technology era.”

Red Flags Were Known To BPS As Early As 2014

An operational audit published in January 2014 by the State of Florida Auditor General raised red flags about payments made by Brevard County Public Schools (BPS) to a software vendor because there was no documentation evidencing that BPS actually received deliverables from the vendor for those payments.

“The District made payments of $600,000 and $2,250,000 in April and July 2013 based on a payment schedule. However, District records did not evidence the deliverables received for these payments,” the 2014 audit noted. “Without documented receipt of deliverables before payments are made, the District may not receive all the services for which it was entitled.”

Despite those warnings raised by state auditors, BPS Assistant Superintendent of Finance, Judy Preston, continued to authorize payments totaling over $4 million to the software vendor, Educational Data Resources, LLC (EDR), in 2014 and 2015. Those payments were ultimately found to be improper by a second audit conducted in July 2015 by Widerman Malek, PL, a  Melbourne-based law firm hired by BPS to conduct an external investigation, because EDR had failed to deliver the software to justify those payments.

$8 Million Price Tag Lacked Documentation

The 2014 audit also concluded that BPS failed to appropriately document how the School District arrived at a price tag of $8 million for the no-bid software contract with EDR because the cost estimates of each software component were not detailed:

“Although we were provided a summary worksheet that identified the ERP implementation or maintenance costs for eight other school districts, the cost information was not current (the timing of these ERP implementations ranged from 1996 to 2005) and was not supported by documentation affirming the reliability and comparability of the cost information.

District records provided for our review did not include current cost estimates for the desired system components and functionalities to be used in its direct negotiations with its existing ERP software provider. Given the extensive complexities and costs of ERP systems, utilizing independently developed cost estimates for the desired system components and functionalities along with the expected timeline for implementation and training would have provided more complete evidence upon which to negotiate for this procurement.”

Citizens Raised Similar Concerns In 2013

Very similar concerns regarding the pricing and proper identification of products and services in the software contract were raised by the Brevard Parents Action Committee (BPAC) in a July 2013 Opinion Paper, which was also presented to BPS staff and School Board members:

“BPS has not conducted a cost/benefit analysis to determine whether the EDR LLC software upgrade is a sound investment decision. There appears to be no research done on alternative products to that of EDR LLC … There is no apparent effort made by BPS to contact other potential suppliers to determine if there is a better solution available … Based on information provided, BPS made a single contact outside of their district to Miami-Dade a handful of days prior to the software purchase appearing on the School Board’s agenda for vote. Our opinion is that this is woefully inadequate to justify an $8M agenda item expenditure.”

Former Superintendent Dismisses Auditor General’s Recommendations

Although similar doubts regarding the contract were raised by both the Florida Auditor General and BPAC, former Brevard County School Superintendent, Brian Binggeli, remained defiant.

“The District has noted the observations and recommendations of the Auditor General; however, the District reiterates that it was fully compliant with all legal requirements and acted in the best interest of District stakeholders regarding this strategic business decision,” Binggeli wrote in a response to the state audit which was copied to all of the School Board members in January 2014.

“The Auditor General agreed with the District that the State Board of Education Rule 6A-1.012(14), Florida Administrative Code, provides for the purchase of information technology systems software through direct negotiation and contract with a provider that best fits the District’s needs, as determined by the School Board,” Binggeli stated.  “The District maintains that effective and appropriate due diligence was completed prior to making the decision to move forward with amending the current contract, ultimately extending the unique partnership with its current provider.”

$4.1 Million Later, Superintendent Says Mistakes Were Made

Eighteen months after Bingelli dismissed the Auditor General’s recommendations and $4.1 million in additional BPS payments were made, Bingelli told the School Board during a workshop on June 23, 2015:

“… I’m going to tell you that we made some implementation mistakes as we went forward. First of all, right out of the gate, we accepted and built a contract that was built as if the product was implementation-ready. Now, there were modules, they worked, but as you are going to see in a minute, you know if we truly were going to have something a robust K-12 Enterprise system, it wasn’t implementation-ready.

I talked to this with Gino [Butto, Assistant Superintendent of IT] a little bit.  You know, what would have been more appropriate, of course, is a smaller amount up front, and then benchmarks, and, you know, product development, and targeted payoffs for those modules as they come on board. As opposed to, we paid a lot more up front. And then had to keep working to make sure. Even though the modules were there, there was going to be a lot of customization work that was going to be needed …”

“Contracts should’ve been better. No question,” Bingelli admitted later during the workshop.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Brevard Public Schools Teacher of the Year Finalists Announced

VIERA, Fla. – Six Brevard Public Schools teachers were named as finalists for the 2018 Teacher of the Year distinction.

The finalists are Amanda Howell, Oak Park Elementary; Brandon T. Jenkins, Heritage High; Kristina Latraverse, Columbia Elementary; Connie Royster McLellan, Manatee Elementary; Michael Sperr, Kennedy Middle, and Amy Teed, Jackson Middle. 

The finalists were selected out of 90 candidates by a panel of judges comprising principals and teachers from all over the county. The candidates were measured against a rigorous set of criteria that includes teaching philosophy and practice, leadership, professional development and parental engagement in the learning process. 

The 2018 BPS Teacher of the Year will be chosen by a committee of education and civic leaders and will be announced at the Applauding Brevard’s Champions (ABC) Awards Gala on Jan. 24, hosted by the Brevard Schools Foundation. Community Credit Union is the premier sponsor of the event, which will be held at the King Center for the Performing Arts in Melbourne.

Additional information on the six finalists follows.

Amanda Howell, Oak Park Elementary

Gifted Student Program teacher Amanda Howell is in her 12th year with BPS and her second year at Oak Park Elementary. The Mims’ school is her home base and where she works with GSP students, but she also travels to other district schools to support their gifted and ESE programs. In addition, Howell serves as a hospital-homebound teacher and Odyssey of the Mind board member, tutors students-in-transition and is the assistant coach for Space Coast Jr./Sr. High’s JV softball team.

Brandon T. Jenkins, Heritage High

Director of Bands Brandon T. Jenkins has been at Heritage High in Palm Bay during his five years with BPS. Since Jenkins assumed leadership of the band program, it has more than quadrupled in size with approximately 130 current members and seen an increase in assessment scores from poor and fair to superior. He has created multiple instrumental ensembles at the school and uses technology daily to aid in teaching and enhancing the classroom experience.

Kristina Latraverse, Columbia Elementary

Kristina Latraverse, an art teacher at Columbia Elementary in Palm Bay, has worked for the district and the school for three years. To improve the first impression of the school, Latraverse and her students created 523 ceramic flowers and installed them along the front walkway. She is also dedicated to creating connections between the school faculty and families, and uses social media and a blog to involve families in their child’s creative projects, and to connect with renowned artists and authors. 

Connie Royster McLellan, Manatee Elementary

Connie Royster McLellan’s has spent 15 of her 21 years with BPS at Manatee Elementary in Viera. The Kindergarten teacher is passionate about recognizing and meeting the individual needs of students and providing them with opportunities to succeed. McLellan also is the coordinator for the school’s photography club, leads charity projects and serves on many district committees.

Michael Sperr, John F. Kennedy Middle

Michael Sperr has been a music educator at Kennedy Middle in Rockledge for seven years and a BPS teacher for 10. He has led his school’s ensembles to earn multiple superior assessment ratings and increased the amount of students participating in Brevard All-County Band from three to 18. Sperr has served on several district curriculum-writing teams as well as leadership teams that foster excellence in new teachers.

Amy Teed, Andrew Jackson Middle

Amy Teed is currently in her 11th year with the district and sixth year at Jackson Middle in Titusville where she teaches three math courses. Teed has achieved significant learning gains with her students whose abilities range from struggling to gifted. She also is part of the district’s middle school math curriculum team and leads a group designed to reward students for meeting academic goals.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Florida Governor Rick Scott Proposes To Give Teachers $350 To Buy School Supplies

Governor Rick Scott announced that his 2018-2019 budget proposal will include $63 million for teacher supply grants. This proposal is an increase of nearly $18 million, or $100 additional dollars per teacher. These annual grants are used by educators to purchase classroom supplies needed for the school year. 

Currently, Florida teachers receive $250 annually for classroom supplies. The Governor’s proposal will increase this funding to $350 annually. That’s in addition to annual bonuses of $1,200 or $800 that teachers will see this year (depending on a teacher’s evaluation).

“I have the opportunity to travel to schools and meet with our hardworking teachers, and yesterday, I was fortunate to meet with our Teachers of the Year to hear how we can make our schools even better,” Governor Rick Scott said. 

“Teachers are heroes to our students and I’m committed to championing policies to continue to help them. We have worked every year to ensure that Florida’s teachers have the resources they need to help our students succeed. Far too often, teachers are forced to reach into their own pockets to buy supplies for their classrooms and I am proud to propose additional money for this critical program. Teacher supply grants allow our educators to secure the tools they need in the classroom and we will continue to fight to ensure that every Florida teacher can focus on student success.”

This year, the Governor secured the highest per-pupil funding in Florida history which follows multiple years of Governor Scott securing historic funding for education.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Campus Charter School In Port St. John To Close October 27

PORT SAINT JOHN, Florida – Campus Charter School announced that it will close in the middle of the Fall 2017 semester, which means that over 100 Brevard County school students will have to find another school to finish out the semester and school year.

The school had been open for 15 years in Port St. John, Florida, but dismissed its management company due to mismanagement of funds in 2014 and suffered subsequent financial difficulty and possible closure.

“We opened this school year with high hopes of a great year ahead and peace about our future. We were expecting high enrollment and the start of our VPK program,” the school wrote in a letter to parents. “Unfortunately, we have found that our enrollment at Campus has declined instead of increasing as expected.”

Campus Charter School’s most recent State of Florida school grade was a ‘C’.

“Brevard Public Schools’ staff and administrators are available to help families with this transition and answer any questions,” Brevard Public Schools spokesperson Jennifer Wolfinger wrote in a statement in response to the news of the closure.

Image credit: Google

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Palm Bay Teacher’s Aide Charged With Molesting Student

PALM BAY, Florida – A Palm Bay teacher’s aide has been arrested and charged with lewd and lascivious battery on a victim 12-16 years of age and distributing obscene material to a minor.

According to Palm Bay police, 35-year-old Alana L. Chasky had a relationship with a student from Riverdale Country Day School, a  separate Day School that has a contract with Brevard Public Schools but is owned and operated by Behavioral Education Services under the umbrella of Universal Health Services.

According to investigators, the student’s mother became concerned that Chasky and her son were having an inappropriate relationship after she caught Chasky dropping her son off after school and learned that Chasky was also seen by other witnesses picking up the boy from his bus stop.

Palm Bay police initially investigated the mother’s concerns in July 2017, but did not have enough evidence to corroborate a sexual relationship.

In September, the mother told police that she finally had evidence of the relationship and presented text messages between Chasky and her son that referred to sex between the two.

Police were also given video of the two in Chasky’s bed and another still photo of the two together in their underwear.

The student told investigators that the sexual relationship lasted from February 2017 through September 2017.

Chasky was booked into the Brevard County Jail under a $65,000 bond.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Pay For Most Brevard County Public Schools Teachers Could Grow More Than 4%

VIERA, Florida – Teachers rated “highly effective” could see their pay jump by an average of $1,975 for 2017-2018 at Brevard Public Schools. Teachers rated “effective” could receive $1,431 more in pay, on average.

Those increases of 4.1 percent and 3 percent, respectively, would come from a combination of a proposed salary raise and annual bonuses funded for three years by the Florida Legislature.

The school district proposed the raise as its “best and final” offer at a bargaining session with the Brevard Federation of Teachers on Monday, October 16, 2017. However, the union did not accept that and other terms and declared an impasse.

Although smaller than the 5 percent raise the BFT once called for in negotiations, the proposed 1.5 percent average salary increase would be the fifth straight annual raise for teachers. The trend:

2013-14:  4.53% raise
2014-15:  2.12%
2015-16:  5.1%
2016-17: 1.3%
2017-18:  1.5%

Today, the average BPS teacher salary is $47,723  a year or $4,772.30 per month based on a 10-month contract.

The raise proposed by the school district would have to be ratified by the BFT membership and approved by the five-member School Board.

“The Board gave us an awful salary proposal,” said Brevard Federation of Teachers President, Dan Bennett. “They know last year’s raise was paltry and they agreed to make a plan to do better this year. Somehow they did worse.”

Teacher Pay Compared To All Brevard Workers And Retirees

The average annual salary for all 200,000 workers in Brevard County is $46,520. But because most adults work 12 months a year, that only amounts to $3,876.66 a month for the average worker in Brevard. In 2016, wages for all workers in Brevard grew an average of 1.6%.

The raises given and offered by the BPS administration to teachers over the last five years are also triple the rate that 158,000 retired and disabled Brevard County residents have received with their COLA increases during the same time period.

Teacher Evaluations Heavily Skewed Towards ‘Highly Effective’

On average, the estimated 4,436 teachers rated “highly effective” on evaluations (about 90 percent of all faculty) would receive an average annual raise of $775.  In addition, highly effective teachers will receive state bonuses of $1,200 each.

The estimated 478 teachers rated “effective” (10 percent of faculty) would receive an average annual raise of $631.  Effective teachers also will receive state bonuses of $800. The bonuses are funded by the Florida Legislature for the next three years.

Teachers rated “needs improvement” (less than 1 percent of faculty) would receive a cost-of-living raise of $200 but are not eligible for bonuses.

“The matter of [annual contract teachers’] job security is just as egregious. No, I will not just trust the district – and every principal in the district – to do the right thing and recommend teachers who have good evaluations,” Bennett said.

“Back before we had any protections, I saw dozens of highly effective and effective annual contract teachers simply let go at the end of the school year. Some were sick. Some were pregnant. Some were just told they “didn’t fit.” Often no explanation was offered …. The world of annual contract teachers certainly improved when we got the protections currently in our contract. There’s no good reason the district cannot help us on this matter. And yet, they expect me just to trust the district and not make waves.”

BPS Administration Budget Priorities

The District says that the proposed 1.5 percent raise comes in a year when all “new” operating dollars at the Board’s disposal come from budget cuts to administration and support divisions, not from growth in property taxes or money from the Legislature.

The School Board’s priorities call for spending about half of that $6.73 million on raises for teachers who have been rated effective or highly effective, one-third on raises for support personnel, and the remainder on strategic initiatives to improve service to students and families.

Those strategic initiatives include suicide-prevention programs, reopening an elementary school in Titusville, and new busing for students to choice programs.

Additional Benefits For Teachers

The additional pay isn’t the only benefit Brevard teachers have received through agreements between the School Board and BFT. Outside of this year’s collective-bargaining, the parties have agreed to:

Eliminate time-consuming “professional grown plan” portions of evaluations to give teachers more time for instruction or planning.

More flexibility to carry-over unused “comp time” from year to year.

In addition, BPS this year opened three health clinics where teachers and staff can receive free primary and urgent care.

Teachers also received an entire paid week off due to Hurricane Irma because BPS will not have any make-up days at the end of this school year.

“Morale in the workplace is important. Being able to pay bills is important too. And no, “not making up hurricane days” does not count as a raise,” said Bennett.

Image and video credit: BPS