H.L. Johnson Updates RPB Ed Board On Progress At The School

Royal Palm Beach’s Education Advisory Board heard a presentation from H.L. Johnson Elementary School Principal Crystal Amado Kucharski and Assistant Principal Danielle Agudelo on Monday, March 13.

H.L. Johnson’s Jaguar cheerleaders were ready to bring the school spirit to start the meeting. Their cheer club, made up of kindergarten and first graders, performed practiced cheers, while the second through fifth grade cheerleaders filled the side room with pom-poms, chants and a choreographed musical performance.

Kucharski shared some background on the staff and students at H.L. Johnson, the village’s oldest elementary school. The average teaching experience of staff is 14.9 years, and the average years working at that school directly is 11.5 years. “Most of our staff has been there a long time,” Kucharski said.

The elementary school is consistently growing, with current enrollment at 819 students. Last year, the school had 789 students, up from 768 students the previous year. The two choice programs available are STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) and Cambridge International, and both contribute to the growth in student population.

“Staff helps our AICE program make sure K through 12 in Royal Palm Beach has Cambridge,” Kucharski said. “We are hoping to build capacity in our schools and provide a K through 12 continuum.”

This path involves students feeding from H.L. Johnson into Crestwood Middle School and then Royal Palm Beach High School.

The A-rated school remains a K-5 Everglades School, and while the Green School of Excellence program has ended, H.L. Johnson continues to expand its offerings.

“H.L. Johnson is the first Palm Beach County school to be issued growers’ permits,” Kucharski said. “That was last year, and we are renewing it this year. We will be at the green market in April, around Earth Day, and we will sell our plants that we grow. We are really excited.”

She went into details about previous FSA testing results, which is transitioning to the BEST program this year. On the first day of school, committees and teams were put together to create an action plan for the year. The plan is based on an anonymous survey completed by both students and staff, called the School Effectiveness Questionnaire (SEQ). Any category receiving less than 90 percent satisfaction was addressed.

For example, teachers were looking for more input in decision making regarding selecting and hiring staff.

“Immediately, that’s an easy fix, right? So, I invited more staff members to be a part of the interview process and looking at résumés. We’ve done that all year,” Kucharski said. “From that point, we moved into topic areas. We talked about safety, relationships — creating, building and deepening — clear and shared focus, high standards and expectations for all, high levels of communication and collaboration, solution-based, talked about our new BEST standards that are on everyone’s minds at this time, and then construction.”

Kucharski stressed the importance of students, parents and staff feeling safe. Funded by the school district, all staff now wears a crisis alert badge to show where they are on campus, which also allows them to alert administration immediately. A variety of new tactics are being tested this year to address the overall climate of the school.

“This is the year to be a risk-taker. We are not getting a school grade. What really works, what doesn’t work anymore? Education has changed. So, let’s really reflect and look at that,” she said.

The construction refers to ongoing work on an older, single-story building on campus. That building is in the process of getting new floors, LED lights, new ceiling tiles, all new bathroom fixtures and new window shades. The project is in phase two of nine total phases. The entire school is also getting fresh interior paint and new furniture.

School Board Member Marcia Andrews was present and impressed at the strategies that H.L. Johnson has in place.

“The information that you gave tonight was so good. I like that you used those surveys. The surveys for the students, for your parents for your teachers — and you actually implement your programs based on ratings that you’re getting. You are listening to the voices of the stakeholders, of your children,” she said.

In other business:

• Central Region Superintendent Valerie Zuloaga-Haines announced that all elementary schools will host kindergarten roundups in the same week, and Royal Palm Beach schools chose Wednesday, April 12 as their day to welcome new families. Cypress Trails Elementary will begin at 8:30 a.m., Royal Palm Beach Elementary begins at 9 a.m. and H.L. Johnson will start at 6 p.m.

• The Education Advisory Board is ready to meet the 13 village scholarship candidates and interview them in person on Saturday, April 1.

• Chair Jennifer Sullivan thanked Vice Chair Meghan Crosby for her service. This was her last meeting, and Paula Wilson will be officially on the board at the next meeting. A new vice chair will be appointed at that time. The next Education Advisory Board Meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 8. There will be no meeting in April.