Archive | Catholic education

Growing up as an immigrant fueled this Catholic school principal’s passion

Vikki Delgado tries to create a welcoming school environment at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic School.

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Vikki Delgado remembers the difficulty her father experienced when he settled the family of six in America.

Living as a Cuban immigrant, he faced backlash. But he sought to bring his family out of Cuba in 1959 just as Fidel Castro was coming to power.

“There was pushback,” Delgado said.  People thought “my dad was coming to take jobs away. That somehow opening doors to others is going to take something away from them.”

“You would see signs against Cubans,” she added. “I saw how polarizing that can be.”

The family of six settled in Miami in 1968 after spending a few years in Ohio. He left his home of Cuba right as Fidel Castro emerged in power in 1959.

Arriving in the United States at the age of 3, Delgado did not know a word of English. She began to learn the language at the age of 5 through TV programs such as Captain Kangaroo.

In her 20s, she saw the nativist backlash against the Mariel Boatlift and race riots in Liberty City. Such events affected her deeply.

Delgado is now the leader of St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic School in Delray Beach, Fla. The strife she witnessed in her youth fuels her drive to create a school where all are welcome. Like in Florida Catholic schools as a whole, the student population at her school has grown increasingly diverse.

When she first became principal at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic School in 2008 there were few minority students at the school. Continue Reading →


Like public schools, Fla. faith-based schools grapple with security costs

WEST PALM BEACH – Like traditional public schools and charter schools — and other faith-based schools — many Florida Catholic schools are struggling to fund added security measures.

Catholic school leaders have received help from the church, but they say they still struggle to cover the costs of school resource officers and other enhancements.

In the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach added a policeman on campus from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. in addition to a regular policeman who is on campus in the afternoons from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. That pushed daily security expenses to $500 per day.

Rev. David Carr, president of Cardinal Newman, said the additional security expenses will add a new strain to the school’s finances over a full 180-day school year.

“For the next school year that will mean $90,000 for security which is not included in next year’s budget,” he said. “We are concerned about funding for security.”

The struggle to fund additional security mirrors the struggles school boards around the state have faced as the figure out how to hire additional officers or armed guards. The Legislature mandated armed security officers at public schools and provided funding to help defray the cost. But private schools must respond to similar public concerns with their own funding sources. Continue Reading →


Fla. Catholic schools address student mental health

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The student’s behavior changed after he broke up with his girlfriend. He became withdrawn from friends and family and gave up playing tennis, a sport he loved.

Spiraling into depression, the mock scenario depicted the student leaving a disturbing note in a friends’ locker and for his girlfriend.

This was a scenario outlined for teachers at Cardinal Newman High School. They were learning how to intervene in a potential suicide and spot the signs leading up to it. The training, sponsored by a grant in Palm Beach County, was intended to help their faith-based private school respond to students’ mental health needs.

Teachers learned to spot warning signs, including anxiety, change in behavior, academic performance, and non-verbal changes.

“We are learning from the previous incident that recognizing signs early and reaching out to help students that may be in a crisis is important to defusing any further escalations and a lot of times it is just reaching out to someone that might make a difference,” said Christine Higgins, principal at Cardinal Newman.

Cardinal Newman is one of the first Catholic schools in Palm Beach County to implement mental health training. At the same time, Cardinal and other neighboring Catholic schools are making sure each of their students are nurtured, so they may be able to prevent them from acting out in a destructive way. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Task force findings, cop talks, term limits and more

Security task force: Almost four months after 17 people were shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, a Broward County school safety task force recommends 100 ways to improve security for schools. Among them: installing portable metal detectors at Stoneman Douglas this fall and considering them for all schools, putting coverings over windows in doors, keeping classroom doors locked at all times, increasing the height of all outdoor fences, requiring ID badges for all students and staff, and reviewing the Promise program, which was created in 2013 as a way to offer alternatives to arresting students. The committee members also joined local officials in calling on the Legislature to boost funding for school safety. Sun-Sentinel. Miami HeraldWSVN. Politico Florida. WLRN.

A cop reflects: Scot Peterson, a Stoneman Douglas resource officer who did not enter the building where confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz was killing 17 people on Feb. 14, is haunted by that day, at times justifying his decisions (“How can they keep saying I did nothing?”) and at times questioning them (“Why didn’t I know to go in?”). He has considered changing his name or moving out of state, but knows there’s no escaping the infamy. “It’s haunting,” Peterson says. “I’ve cut that day up a thousand ways with a million different what-if scenarios, but the bottom line is I was there to protect, and I lost 17.” Still, he believes there is little or nothing more he could have done. Washington Post. Parents of students killed at Stoneman Douglas express outrage at Peterson’s comments. “I’m tired of him trying to paint himself as the victim,” says one, Fred Guttenberg, the father of 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg. “He is not a victim. He created victims. He keeps referring to them as his kids. They are not your kids, Scot Peterson! You let them die!” Miami Herald. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Teacher wins Tony, spelling bee, security and more

Teacher wins a Tony: Melody Herzfeld, the one-person drama department at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who saved 65 students during the shooting rampage at the school Feb. 14 by barricading them in a closet, wins a special Tony award for educators. The award is given annually to U.S. teachers who have “demonstrated monumental impact on the lives of students and who embodies the highest standards of the profession.” She wins $10,000 and a pair of tickets to the Tony ceremony and gala. Sun-Sentinel. New York Times. Associated Press.

National spelling bee: Two Florida students spell their way into Thursday’s finals at the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C, before being  eliminated. Simone Kaplan, a 12-year-old 6th-grader from Davie who attends St. Bonaventure Catholic School in Broward County, was eliminated in the ninth round when she spelled the word carmagnole as carmagnol. Marisa Langley, a 14-year-old home-schooled 8th-grader from Tallahassee, was eliminated in the eighth round when she spelled the word hausen as housen. The champion is Karthik Nemmani of McKinney, Texas. The 519 spellers who started the competition included 31 students from Florida. Associated PressScripps Howard Spelling Bee. Miami Herald. Sun-SentinelPalm Beach Post. TCPalm. Continue Reading →


Study: Students in Catholic schools show more self-discipline

Students in Catholic schools are more self-disciplined than students in public and private schools, a new report finds.

The study, commissioned by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, compared children who attended Catholic schools with similar students enrolled in both public and other private schools.

The study includes three key findings:

  • Students in Catholic schools are less likely to act out or be disruptive than those in other private or public schools.
  • Students in Catholic schools show more self-control than those in other public and private schools.
  • Regardless of demographics, students in Catholic schools show more self-discipline than students in both public and other private schools.

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Florida schools roundup: State budget signed, safety in schools and more

Scott signs budget bill: Gov. Rick Scott signs the $88.7 billion state budget, dismissing pleas from Florida’s school superintendents for a special legislative session to increase funding for schools. The budget includes new money for K-12 schools, mostly for school security and mental health counseling for students, and a boost in the amount Bright Futures scholars receive. Associated Press. News Service of FloridaMiami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. GateHouseCapitolist. Gradebook. Politico Florida. Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, says legislative leaders are considering allowing school districts that don’t want to arm school personnel to use any money left over from the marshals program to hire resource officers. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. The new funding formula takes $56 million in state money that in the past would have gone to larger school districts and is redirecting it to smaller ones. Miami-Dade, for example, will receive $7 million less. Tampa Bay Times. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, criticizes the state’s school superintendents for complaining about the state’s K-12 spending, saying those who are “grossly mismanaging their budgets” should resign. Bradenton Herald. Scott vetoed a $1 million item for Okaloosa County schools to buy buses that would help ease traffic congestion near Hurlburt Field, headquarters for the Air Force Special Operations Command. Here’s a full list of the $64 million in projects that Scott vetoed. Northwest Florida Daily News.

School shooting developments: Mental health records show that Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School officials were worried about Nikolas Cruz’s fascination with guns, and banned him from practicing his shooting with the Junior RTOC or carrying a backpack on campus 18 months before the massacre that killed 17 at the school. Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press. The Coconut Creek police officer who arrested Cruz describes his search and his shock when he found the accused school shooter. Sun-Sentinel. More than $4 million has been raised for the victims of the Parkland shooting and their families, and the Broward Education Foundation has appointed a steering committee to determine how to distribute the money and who will receive it. Sun-Sentinel. Deputies at Stoneman Douglas High are carrying AR-15 rifles at the school, but concealing them in backpacks so as not to alarm students. Sun-Sentinel. A Lighthouse Point man becomes the first person in Florida to have his firearms and ammunition seized under the state’s new law addressing gun restrictions and school safety. Sun-Sentinel. The fiancee of a teacher killed in the shootings still struggles to comprehend what happened. Palm Beach Post. A sculptor is planning a 15-foot memorial to the shooting victims at the Parkland school. Sun-Sentinel. Five Stoneman Douglas High shooting survivors appear on 60 Minutes and give Florida lawmakers a C or C-minus grade for their response to the tragedy. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Three other survivors take their message for increasing gun regulation to the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press.

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Florida schools roundup: School safety, budget, new superintendent and more

School safety bill: After a second straight day of eight-hour debates, the Florida House approves the school safety bill by a 67-50 margin. The bill now goes to Gov. Rick Scott, who said he would review it line-by-line and talk to families of the Parkland shooting before deciding whether to sign it. The bill provides $67 million for a program to train and arm select school employees who volunteer for the duty, requires a three-day waiting period to purchase guns and hikes the legal age limit to buy rifles from 18 to 21. It also sets aside $300 million for mental health services and security programs in schools, and $26 million for tearing down the building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where the shooting took place, and building a memorial on the site. Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press. Tampa Bay Times. Tallahassee DemocratPolitico Florida. Palm Beach Post. GateHouse. Officials in 10 of the largest school districts in Florida say that even if Scott signs this bill, they are not likely to take part in the program to train and arm school personnel. Tampa Bay Times. A cursory review of state records shows at least 19 times that school workers who could be armed under this bill have threatened or hurt students or used firearms illegally. In 13 of those cases, the workers threatened to shoot students. Tampa Bay Times. The Haines City Police Department and Florida Highway Patrol will provide officers for every school in Haines City through the end of the school year. Lakeland Ledger.

Budget deal: The House and Senate reach an agreement on an $87 billion state budget that boosts spending for education and school safety. The last hurdle to the deal was the Senate agreeing to adopt the House’s formula to reimbursing hospitals for Medicaid expenses. The final vote on the budget is expected Sunday or Monday, since the law requires 72 hours between an agreement and a vote to give legislators a chance to read the bill. The Legislature had been scheduled to conclude Friday. News Service of FloridaSarasota Herald-Tribune. Miami Herald. Associated Press. The deal also adds $25 million to provide Gardiner scholarships to more children with special needs. There are about 1,300 children on the waiting list. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the program. redefinED. The state’s K-12 schools will get $120 million in construction money for charter schools and $50 million for district schools under the budget agreement. Politico Florida.

New superintendent: Donald Fennoy is named superintendent of the Palm Beach County School District. The school board chose Fennoy, 41, the district’s chief operating officer since May 2016, over two other candidates to succeed Robert Avossa, who is leaving in June to take a job with an educational materials publishing company. The district is the 11th largest in the country with 190,000 students, and has 25,000 employees. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel.

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