Royal Palm Beach’s Education Advisory Board enjoyed more than just a presentation by Royal Palm Beach Elementary School Principal Tracy Ghettie on Monday, Nov. 14. The bells of the Bobcat Ringers also gave a beautiful performance of the national anthem.
Ghettie began by introducing her school’s first Dwyer Award-winning teacher, Katherine Kovalsky, the music teacher at RPBHS. “When it was announced, you would have thought we were at a rock concert,” Ghettie said of the cheers and shouting that came in celebration of the achievement.
Kovalsky then stepped up with 10 students ready to perform “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which is one of three pieces they shared at a Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 15. At that event, the Bobcat Ringers also performed “Aura Lee” and “America the Beautiful.” Between songs, the students change positions so they can play different bells — both high pitch and low pitch.
“One of the things that makes Royal Palm Beach Elementary very special is that many of us have our own children who attend school at Royal Palm Beach Elementary,” Ghettie said. “My family is all Bobcat alumni. Every year, we have a special parade, and we invite all of our Bobcat alumni who are graduating either from high school or college to walk the halls, and it really is one of my favorite days of the year. Staying connected to our students long term is very important to me.”
The major goals at the school this coming year is to reach a minimum of 80 percent of the kindergarten through second grade student body to be reading on grade level, and for a minimum of 75 percent of the third through fifth grade students to reach grade level success in both math and science.
The school is connecting with the community through programs such as the national Read for the Record program and Relay for Life at the South Florida Fairgrounds.
She noted that Councilman Jeff Hmara and his wife Carolyn came and read to all of the Bobcats on Oct. 27 as part of Read for the Record. “We live-streamed the read aloud of Nigel and the Moon to the entire school. About 700 students got to hear the read aloud,” Ghettie said.
Hmara followed up to note that officials from the Village of Royal Palm Beach read to more than 1,700 students in total as part of the program, and every year the village continues to receive an honorable mention for its initiative and hard work. He also took a moment to thank the school for its Veterans Day program.
“I’m a Vietnam vet, and we are known for not being welcomed home,” he said. “But when all the kids were there saying thank you, I choked up. I cried. There is my welcome home, finally. It’s a great school. Truly the happiest place.”
Ghettie repeatedly referred to her school as “the happiest place on earth,” and the staff continues to provide initiatives to help keep both students and staff healthy and happy. One such program is the Bobcat Golden Ticket. Substitute teachers, who often receive the most difficult behavior from even the best students, are given the opportunity to choose a student who is most helpful and makes it a great day for learning. The ticket is celebrated on a special display at the school and on social media.
Ghettie then described other special recognitions such as Possum Positive Referrals to recognize those students who make selfless choices and Woo-Hoo Academic Referrals for high level and achievements. Students of the month — who emulate the school motto of “Be safe. Be respectful. Be a learner.” — receive a certificate, a paw print medal and a coupon for free pizza. Bus drivers can give out bus tickets that students can cash in for treasure box prizes.
“Bobcat tickets are awarded all day long, and every Friday morning we choose six winners from K-2 and six from third through fifth grade who get special recognition,” Ghettie said.
Students also start each week with Mindful Mondays to start conversations with teachers and each other. On Tuesdays, the kindergarten students through second graders are faced with logic challenges, while Thursdays provide the higher grades with brain teasers and math riddles that they work as a team to solve.
Implementing these tactics has led to big improvements in student behavior throughout the school.
Board Chair Jennifer Sullivan asked Ghettie to be sure and provide their social media tags for platforms such as Facebook and Twitter so the advisory board could continue to spread the word about good things happening at the school.
Regional Superintendent Valerie Zuloaga-Haines gave an update on schools in the village and shared that the only physical damage caused by the recent storms was to foliage. “The students did lose two days of instruction, but our calendar has allowed for it, so they are not going to have to make up those days,” she said.
She provided highlight photos from elementary and middles schools showcasing the fun had in October, including trunk-or-treat celebrations and storybook character parades. Zuloaga-Haines congratulated Crestwood Middle School student Ava Mata for being chosen to represent the district in the 2023 Art in the Capitol Competition. The eighth-grader’s work will be on display in Washington, D.C. On the high school level, RPBHS placed second behind Suncoast in the Math Academics, and RPBHS student Alex Casal made the national team as well.
Newly re-elected District 6 School Board Member Marcia Andrews expressed her joy at being back for another four-year term.
“It’s a pleasure to be here and say thank you for giving me the honor to serve our children,” she said. “It’s a blessing and a privilege to be on the team again. I’m thrilled to be working with them again. I’m excited to get to work. I feel like a new student, and we are starting fresh.”
In other business, Sullivan announced that the Royal Palm Beach scholarship application process will open on Dec. 16 through the village web site. Applications for the program are due Friday, Feb. 10.
New Board Member Kathleen Greer was also welcomed, along with her service dog Bo.
“I’ve been in Royal Palm Beach for about 10 years, after I retired from teaching and from the military,” Greer said. “So, this is my way to get back into the education field without spending all the hours a full-time teacher does. I’m happy to be here and working for you.”
The next Education Advisory Board meeting is set for Monday, Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. It will feature a presentation from Principal Tsiri Miller of Western Academy Charter School.