The following article was submitted  to Bocawatch by a concerned citizen…

Speaking as a 32-year resident of Boca Raton, I bring forward a matter of Public Concern for which our local residents, our international community and our beloved snowbirds should be aware and concerned.

In April 2016, the School District leadership made the decision to close three Adult and Community Education programs in Palm Beach County. (Boca Raton Middle School and Spanish River High School in Boca Raton, and Roosevelt Middle School in West Palm Beach) Only one, Boca Raton Community High School will remain within the city limits to serve all residents from A1A east to Lyons Road west, and from the Broward County line south to Atlantic Ave in Delray Beach to the north.

Unfortunately for residents and City officials, no public forums were held to address the potential impact this decision would have on adult and lifelong learners within our school community. No stakeholder involvement was considered.

As community members became aware and made inquiries, School District officials responded that program closures were a result of budget deficits. However, in September 2015, the School Board approved the 2015-2016 Budget detailing a reserve of $19,700,000, in workforce development (carryover) funds reserved to enhance and expand adult education program offerings. This accumulated reserve was detailed after all adult education programs funded across Palm Beach County. The program closures are clearly not the result of a workforce fund deficit.

The community needs to know, program closures are a direct result of a “behind the scenes” capital construction project placed on the April 20, 2016 School Board Agenda. This item recommended that $17,000,000 of reserve workforce development program funds redirected for capital construction of a new Adult Education Center in West Palm Beach and other facility renovations. The current Adult Education Center is a 40-minute drive (one–way) from Boca Raton.

State and Federal laws governing the use of workforce development funds clearly state that capital expenditures are unallowable.

If the District’s goal is to build a new Adult Education Center in West Palm Beach, then utilize appropriate “Capital Outlay” funds”. If appropriate Capital Outlay funds are not available, delay the project until the proposed Tax Referendum balloted for the purpose of school construction is presented before the voters. Let the voters decide.

For many years, the City of Boca Raton has had a wonderful relationship with the School District of Palm Beach County. The Inter-local Agreement dates back to the early 1990’s and allows for cooperative City and School facility sharing to provide a variety of recreational programs serving thousands of resident youth each year.

Community schools lease space for community fundraisers, business meetings, homeowner associations, church services and more, resulting in additional revenue for the school center and overall School District operations to offset utility costs.

This year alone, the Adult & Community Education Schools (3) within the City of Boca Raton served over 3060 adult education learners (English & GED). Many of our students lack adequate transportation and walk or ride bikes to attend classes.

Another 2,500 residents enrolled in community interest classes (Yoga, Computers, Ballroom, Photography, etc.). And, thousands of residents attended campus functions and events facilitated through lease agreements on Boca Raton campuses.

It’s a simple idea.

Residents who receive a direct educational benefit from their local community school are more likely to volunteer, donate and support future educational initiatives and referendums to maintain those schools.

The question remains. Will voters support another school tax referendum when no consideration nor opportunity for resident input was provided prior to making a decision to close two Adult and Community Education programs (Boca Middle and Spanish River High), both within the city limits of Boca Raton?

The failure to consider the ramifications of program closures without community input casts a dim light on the School District’s vision statement that“… envisions a dynamic collaborative multicultural community where education and lifelong learning are valued and supported…”

Residents are urged to contact School Board Members, ask questions and voice your concerns. These are your tax dollars and you have a right to know.

Chairman: chuck.shaw@palmbeachschools.org

Vice Chairman: frank.barbieri@palmbeachschools.org

Board Member: marcia.andrews@palmbeachschools.org

Board Member: debra.robinson@palmbeachschools.org

Board Member: karen.brill@palmbeachschools.org

Board Member: erica.whitfield@palmbeachschools.org

School Board Meeting Agendas: palmbeachschools.org