RPB Council Awards $10,000 In Scholarships To Local Grads

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council awarded 10 scholarships of $1,000 each last week to graduating seniors selected by the Education Advisory Board.

The recipients included Susmi Chowdhury, Andre Ferreira, Sara Iman, Zerin Islam, Odalys Vieda and Nia Williams from Royal Palm Beach High School; Elisabeth Anne Christie and Aagam Vakil from the Dreyfoos School of the Arts; and Cher Marie Nicholson from the King’s Academy.

At the May 21 meeting, Councilman Jeff Hmara, liaison to the Education Advisory Board (EAB), thanked the board members for their work over the past year.

“They took on some really significant issues this year, and I think they’ve done it in a very professional and thoughtful way,” he said. “As always, we appreciate their work on the scholarship selection process. We started off with 52 scholarship applications, went through all of them and ranked them and identified the 14 finalists, then spent a Sunday afternoon being impressed by all of them, as you can tell, to come up with these 10 recipients.”

He especially thanked Chairman Lynn Balch for his leadership and each of the members for their contributions, as well as secretary Jacqueline Davy.

Hmara said that at the last meeting of the EAB, Palm Beach County School District lobbyist Vern Pickup-Crawford gave a presentation about issues that will affect education in the area, including changes to standardized testing under the Education Accountability Act.

“One thing it does is it requires a third party to take a look at these standardized test results to see whether they seem to be valid,” Hmara said. “That will have to take place before these test results are used for school grades or for teacher evaluation.”

Crawford added that the amount of testing will be limited to 5 percent of the school year. “I’m sure that’s a substantial reduction,” Hmara said.

Crawford also noted that a more balanced approach to student evaluations will be required.

“There will be three components, each of equal weight,” Hmara said. “One will be the FSA (Florida Student Assessment) test results. Another will be the principal’s evaluation, and then the teacher’s evaluation. All of those taken together will evaluate the student’s performance. Of course, without a balanced budget, of which there isn’t one yet, the student funding issue remains uncertain. Crawford said the legislature is expected to adopt a budget that provides about a 3 percent increase over last year’s budget, which will cover enrollment growth.”

In other news, Hmara added that the directors of the Palm Beach County League of Cities had a special meeting recently to select a replacement for Wellington’s Dr. Carmine Priore, who resigned May 1 from the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics, and picked former North Palm Beach Mayor Judy Pierman, who will complete Priore’s term, which expires in 2018.

Hmara also attended the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council meeting on May 15, where Ron Book, executive director of the Florida Regional Councils Association, reported on state changes to regional planning councils.

A bill passed and signed by the governor reduced the number of regional planning councils from 11 to 10, and limited the review of developments of regional impact by the planning councils.

“Book went on to say that smart developers will work with all local governments affected by their proposals for development,” Hmara said. “We’ll see if that turns out to be the case.”

Hmara said Book also discussed the current state budget stalemate, which led to an abrupt end of the regular session after a deadlock over Medicaid expansion issues and a special session due to reconvene on Monday, June 1. He pointed out that the state legislature is not allowed to pass a continuing budget resolution as Congress can.

“If the legislature cannot agree on a budget, the logical default would be to adopt the same budget as the 2014-15 budget,” Hmara said. “There are a couple of guesses as to how this might play out. We’ll just have to wait and see. Clearly it will have big impacts on things like FDOT funding, school funding and a lot more things, but that will be addressed in the June special session.”

Vice Mayor Dave Swift reported that the Florida Department of Transportation will host a public hearing on the design phase of the State Road 7 extension to Northlake Blvd. at the South Florida Fairgrounds on Wednesday, June 3 at 5:30 p.m.

“Although this meeting is largely procedural, I would expect probably a large crowd from the City of West Palm Beach to attend as another opportunity to oppose the project and get press headlines,” Swift said. “As vice chair of the Western Communities Council, I’d like to ask our elected officials and concerned Royal Palm Beach residents to attend this meeting to show our continued support for the project. I expect there to be representation from our neighbors in Wellington, The Acreage and Loxahatchee, as well as Royal Palm Beach,” he said.

Councilman Richard Valuntas added that he had attended the Palm Beach County Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting on May 21 and that the SR 7 extension was still in the Transportation Improvement Program, although it has met with opposition from West Palm Beach representatives.