As I scan the Flagler County jail docket, which the local newspaper prints each Wednesday, I’m not surprised to see a certain former student’s name listed among the several dozen people booked last week. He amassed dozens of behavior referrals when he attended Matanzas High School and failed my class and several others. I’d seen his name in the docket before. This time, charges included the sale of a schedule II substance, grand theft auto and possession of marijuana.
Every now and then I see a former student’s name listed, including one last month who’d been labeled “gifted,” when he’d sat in many of the same classes with my own daughter years ago. How sad to see people, especially those with potential, waste their lives. But even worse is realizing that I, and many teachers of these students, predicted such outcomes years ago, despite all-too-frequent parental reluctance to see what we’d clearly foreseen. The telltale signs of rough waters ahead manifested themselves in and out of the classroom in frequent, and none too subtle, ways.
Those former students’ names I see in the docket typically had juvenile records, too. Most of the time their names weren’t published as minors (though local police routinely release the names of minors charged with felonies). But we teachers could easily discern who they were. How could we not, when their parole officers showed up on campus, or when they missed class to go to court?
It’s not uncommon for juvenile offenders, even those who’ve committed serious crimes, to sit in public school classrooms. The law permits many underage criminals to continue attending school alongside the well-behaved and law-abiding youngsters –-your children and mine. That’s because the crimes they commit almost always occur outside of school hours. So school administrators’ hands are tied. The law limits what they can do.
In neighboring Duval County for example, a 14-year-old recently beat a classmate so brutally (an event captured and shared using cell phones) that the victim suffered a fractured skull. But it happened off school grounds. So the perpetrator is being allowed to return to school. (A circuit judge banned the attacker from attending any public school in the county, but an appeals court suspended the order.) In a televised statement, Duval Superintendent Nickolai Vitti said, “I don’t think we should use the bad decisions that children make outside of school as an example or scapegoat to make a message…. It’s a tough decision, but my role as superintendent is to support the law.”
The bully’s attorney agreed, telling CBS “Our goal is to return our client, a child, to a public school, so she can complete her studies for this academic year.”
Fortunately, in Flagler County, we have an “alternative school,” Everest, previously called Pathways, which some (but by no means all) of the most behaviorally challenged middle and high school students now attend. The district plans to close Everest if voters don’t approve a property tax of 50 cents per $1,000 of taxable value on June 7, at an average annual cost to homeowners of less than $50.
In online and public forums, I’ve been dismayed to hear and read comments some have made supporting the proposal to close Everest. But if Everest closes, the truth is that most of its students will return to “regular” classrooms –and will sit in seats next to your sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, younger siblings or your grandchildren.
Some of these youths seriously impede the learning environment. During my eight years at Matanzas, I’ve seen it happen in my own classroom and countless others, where we’re expected to “control” a teen –whose own parents cannot or will not. The significant amount of time we must allocate to dealing with the misbehaviors of insubordinate and unruly kids detracts substantially from the time we spend with your children, the kids who really want to learn, the youth who deserve an education.
Over the years, more than a few juvenile offenders have appeared on my rosters and those of my colleagues. I’m not talking here about teens who’ve smoked a little pot, or gotten into a relatively minor scrape or scuffle, or been caught in flagrante delicto. I don’t condone these activities. But those sorts of students are suspended and inevitably return to the fold within a week or two. I’m talking about those who’ve already earned designations such as “juvenile sexual offender” –or far worse.
I remember a few years ago a girl in my seventh period English class. Her mother had requested a teacher who was “stern and strict” and who would offer her child “routine” and “structure” because she’d had “some trouble” in the past. That’s all the information I received. Teachers rarely get the full story, as kids’ privacy rights trump my rights to know what I’m dealing with–as well as your rights to know who’s occupying the seat next to your innocent son or daughter.
I later found out she’d been incarcerated for nearly three years. You don’t have to be brilliant to figure out that she must have done something really serious to merit such a long stint behind bars. I almost didn’t want to know what. Yet, she proved to be a bright gal, participatory and eager. I hoped she’d succeed, and spent many afternoons after school giving her extra help. I treated her like everyone else, with respect and dignity, not letting what I knew of her past cloud my judgment.
But it didn’t take long before she began cutting classes, earning detentions, Saturday school, and in-school and out-of-schools suspensions. She was caught with tobacco. She earned referrals for cheating and being rude to her teachers. She got arrested for assaulting her mother when they fought over who smoked whose cigarettes. One day she showed up with glassy, bloodshot eyes, started shouting uncontrollably when I asked her to take her seat and begin her work, then stormed out of the room, pelting me and her shocked classmates with a barrage of profanities. A few days later, she was gone — a runaway, someone said.
The following year, a dashing young man was added to one of my sophomore English classes a few weeks after the school year started. Noticing he was a few years older than the others, I was told he’d failed several classes due to his frequent, unexcused absences, attributed to some vague “home issues.” I suspected he’d been in trouble with the law, but didn’t know the details. One day, a colleague told me to check out a certain website saying, “I think you’ll recognize someone on it.” At home that same night, I did–and was greeted by the boy’s mug shot. Under his name it read, “Juvenile Sexual Offender.” Reading the details, I learned he’d been found guilty of sexual assault–on a girl under the age of 12! And yet here he was, in my classroom, surrounded by attractive females. Would you want your daughter or granddaughter to be one of them?
In the routine pattern that typically emerged amongst the smattering of juvenile offenders assigned to my classes, he completed no homework or reading assignments. When he did attend school, he came without pens, pencils or notebooks, no matter how many supplies I gave him. He violated myriad school rules, resulting in weekly detentions and in-school suspensions. He racked up a few dozen referrals in a matter of months. More than once I and his six other teachers and other staff members attended before and after school parent conferences to discuss his lack of progress and poor behavior. Each time we listened to his tearful mother bemoaning the “raw deal” he got, lamenting that she’d “tried everything” and “nothing works.” Eventually, after several teachers questioned why his antics hadn’t landed him in alternative school, the boy signed a “behavior contract” wherein he and mother acknowledged that one more infraction would result in his placement at Pathways (now Everest).
That happened within hours after he signed it – whereupon his mother immediately withdrew him, purportedly to “homeschool” him, rather than allowing him to face the consequences of his own poor choices and misbehavior.
I believe all students are entitled to a free and appropriate public education, and that all students can learn–but not at the expense of disrupting the learning experience of dozens of the other kids I teach who truly want to take advantage of the educational opportunities which we, as taxpayers, ensure they get each day.
Newtown and other appalling events have caused many of us to question whether we are doing enough, or spending enough, to keep our children safe. But perhaps the greatest threats aren’t posed from anomalous psychotic gunmen. The biggest threats could lurk in our very own schoolyards–or soon may, if we leave them with nowhere else to go.
Jo Ann C. Nahirny, a 1985 graduate of Columbia University and a National Board Certified Teacher, teaches English at Matanzas High School in Palm Coast. Reach her by email here.
Thank you for such a compelling, revealing, and frank editorial on what is really happening in the classroom. Thank you for the courage to tell it like it is.
As a teacher, within a very short time teaching in this district, I was physically assaulted by two different male students – young men. One threw a text book at me, another sprayed lab materials on me. Fortunately one went to Pathways. The other – I have since seen him charged with carjacking and other felonies. I can take care of myself – to some degree. But trust me, these types of students pose other serious harm, including sexual harassment to female students in and out of the classroom.
I do not fully understand the requirements of the law to keep these students in class, but I do know that our schools and everyone’s children will be safer if our alternative school is maintained and not eliminated because of budget cuts. Without the aternative school, there will be higher costs – of the precise nature, we cannot be sure, but it will not be good.
Cudos! Very well said!!!!
Sue Dickinson says
Jo Ann, Thank you so much for painting the real picture of what our teachers and administers face everyday. Very well said. Without Everest these students could face expulsion and will be out roaming our streets without any supervision. What will happen to the crime rate in Flagler County?
Brad W says
Now I’m really beside myself. I thought the worst thing was this article being written by a teacher. Now we have a school board member cheering this type of horrible behavior on? Very very disappointed.
Austin K. says
I am so sorry that you can not handle what ACTUALLY happens in a classroom. This is what students, teacher, administration have to work with each day. It’s not every day that you will hear an eyewitness account of what transpires in classrooms are you work online in the comfort of an environment that you have more control over. Let’s just let you go work into a classroom with a student of which JoAnne has described above, or a student that Ms. Dickinson has attended an explosion hearing for, and see how you react. Step into their shoes and reconsider!
Brad W. I so agree with you on this one…
A felon should not descriminate one against another. It is simply a lable. We should not be labeling the students, “felons” or “gifted”. It is a shame people have to judge in that manner. Ones mistakes do not make the person a bad person. Everybody makes mistakes. It’s a part of life, they live and they learn. I am all for closing the alternative school, as I believe they should be treated just as fairly as any one else enrolled in school.
I don’t ever recall reading a more cynical description of children written by a “Teacher” in my entire life.
I never heard of the Everest Alternative School until I read you article. You make it sound like the children that attend Everest are hardened criminals and instead of it being staffed by Teachers it is staffed by prison guards.
So after reading your rant I looked up the Everest Alternative School. It currently is staffed by one Administrator, 5 Teachers and one support staff member. There are 58 students attending this school.
45% of the students come from impoverished homes and 1% of the students cannot speak English.
Apparently you did not bother to do any research on the “Goal” of the Everest Alternative School as set by the Flagler School Superintendent and the Board of Education. That goal is an intensive 45 day period to attempt to figure out what is bothering these children and instill in them a more positive attitude toward learning so they can be returned back into the normal school system. You apparently would much rather these children be locked away in this alternative setting for the remainder of their school careers. That could be 5 years.
I can only hope that the Administrator of the Everest School and the 5 Teachers who attempt to fulfill the goal of the alternative school do not read your rant because i am 100% positive they would find it totally insulting. They go to work each day as educators hoping to help these problem children and will now read how you and other Teachers who apparently have to much time on their hands are searching the internet for information to immediately destroy their efforts and hard work through gossip and innuendo.
Now I seem to recall reading a book a few years back in which the author described he spent most of his high school career smoking marijuana on a daily basis with his buddies. Why he even described how they would sit in a van and close all the windows while they smoked marijuana hoping to trap what they had exhaled in the van so they could inhale it over and over again. Later in his book that author admitted that while attending Columbia University in New York City he not only continued to smoke marijuana but he also used cocaine. Today we address that man as Mr. President.
Now you say you teach English. Perhaps I could recommend some summer reading for you. You could start with “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens. Then read his novel “A Tale of Two Cities.” When you are finished with those two novels may I suggest you get a copy of “How the Other Half Lives” by Jacob Riss. Since you went to college at Columbia you will find Jacob Riss very interesting. The setting of Riss book is New York City. Finally may I suggest you read the classic “Catcher in the Rye.
Now before I go I need to give you some advice. These students you fear so much are not angry children but rather children with a deeply ingrained sense of guilt that has become unbearable shame. Now I should not have to tell a “Certified” Teacher with so many years of vast experience that with the proper support and guidance most of those children can be shown “They were never guilty to begin with” You must learn Ms.Niharny that one does not get to pick the parents or circumstances they are born into. Now if you are not comprehending what I am attempting to teach you I strongly suggest you take a ride over to the Everest Alternative School and sit down and ask those Teachers to explain it to you.
“Cyn·i·cal” contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives; Doubtful as to whether something will happen or is worthwhile.
J Pelling says
Seems to me, IMO, that you were far too bust reading the works of Charles Dickens and J.D. Salinger — no doubt unknowns to a “Teacher” like JoAnn Nahirny — to actually read the contents of the article. You realize it was about he possible consequences of a property tax not being approved, right? It had nothing to do with cynicism toward the troubled population of Everest classes.
Or are you perhaps a bizarrely literate Everest student? The commenter doth protest too much, methinks.
That’s a Shakespeare reference, by the way; maybe you’ve heard of him.
What I protest is Ms. Nahirny attempting to use fear tactics to get tax payers to vote Yes as to the tax increase on June 7th.
I for one find it totally unnecessary that any fear tactics be used to gain approval fro the school tax increase.
As I have posted numerous times in the past I fully support this rather small tax increase and will Vote Yes on June 7th but not out of fear.
I will Vote Yes first and foremost because I believe the educators of Palm Coast are doing a fantastic job and have through their efforts during some very difficult financial times in the past 5 years and despite budget cuts have not only maintained the school system but have improved it. So my Yes vote on June 7th will be my way of saying Thank You to the Teachers of Palm Coast and that would include Ms. Niharny.
As a taxpayer I pay very close attention to the ranking of the schools of this community. Right now I see “A” ratings for the schools. I see the high schools rated in the top 10% of the high schools in the State of Florida. I also see that Palm Coast high school are rated very high nationally.
I will vote Yes on November 7th because it is the correct thing to do to further the stabilization of the Palm Coast community. As I have posted in the past real estate prices have stabilized and rising slightly and that families are once again buying homes in the area.
I will Vote Yes because this is not the first major recession i have had to live though in my lifetime and I know that during times of financial crisis when any group of employees is cut to the bone and asked to maintain “Production” that they can only be asked to do so for a very short period of time until despite their dedication they begin to experience what is called “Burn Out.” I believe at this point that Palm Coast does need to hire additional Teachers and bring back a school Psychologist in every school building.
I will vote Yes because I do believe that bringing back the 1 hour a day extension of the school day will be good for the schools, the community and most of all the students.
I will vote Yes because the Flagler County Sheriff who’s job is to know what is necessary to maintain safety in the schools is advising that having one Police Officer in every school is what is needed as evidenced by today’s event where if Officer Randi had not been there who knows what might have occurred. I also believe that placing the right Police Officers in the elementary schools will have a positive effect on young children and hopefully start the process of restoring not only respect but faith in Police Officers and that they are not the enemy but are society’s protectors.
I will Vote Yes on June 7th because of what is occurring on the national level. I totally disregard any belief that school enrollment in this nation or this community will continue to decrease. Changes in this nation’s immigration law is coming which means the “Fourth Wave of Immigration in American History ” is on the immediate horizon and large numbers of immigrant families will be coming into this nation.
I will Vote Yes because I believe the School District and School Boards are properly planning with this 4 year tax increase. The last thing I like so many others want to hear is a plan for a 1 year tax increase with the possibility of their having to come back next year for another increase. By making the commitment that this will be the last request for a tax increase for the next 4 years will give we and taxpayers 4 years of no further school tax increase security.
Last but certainly not least I will vote Yes because this is not about pay increases for our Teachers. They will experience rising costs for their Health Care insurance like everyone else in this nation as the Affordable Heath Care Act is implemented. That $2500 raise we read Governor
Scott is giving Florida Teachers I am sure will barely cover those increases. So “No” this is not going to put any money in our Teacher’s pockets. I wish it was. However what i can give our Teachers and their students is additional help in the hiring of more Teachers, a few additional school Psychologists and keep the Resource Officers in the schools.
But one thing I will never do is Vote Yes Out Of Fear. My Yes vote will be out of gratitude to the Teachers of this community. They have earned that the last 5 years during some very difficult financial times.
I once had to attend a seminar when I was working. The moderator gave us the task of listing 10 people (Who were not relatives) who had a positive effect on our lives. When I finished my list there were 6 Teachers on that list. 3 elementary school Teachers, two High School Teachers and a college Professor. They are all gone now having been called home. So if for no other reason I will Vote Yes on June 7th and dedicate my vote to their memory. As they say we are required to “Pass It On.”
J Pelling says
Yes, yes, all very admirable and I can understand your philosophy. However, you can’t call it “fear tactics” when, in fact, Mrs. Nahirny is merely stating the truth of what will happen if the tax isn’t approved. Not only did she warn about the very real danger of closing Everest, in terms that would leave no question of that impact, but you did nothing in your very first, quite honestly inane, response to make clear the feelings you conveyed above. I’m not about to hunt down every one of your FlaglerLive posts on these matters before I respond to what I see. I’d have no time to enjoys the works of Jacob Riis, otherwise.
I could not have written this better myself.
Well butter my butt and call me biscuit ! You mean there are actually young people who are not criminals ?
I’m just amazed…..And I was under the impression that FPC was a correctional institution for youths.
I presently work at Flagler Palm Coast High School. I have also taught at Matanzas High School. You have absolutely no idea about what you are talking about.
Head Football Coach
There is a simple and rather novel idea. Rather than expecting the taxpayers to pony up the revenue to “house” these offending juveniles, why not take advantage of the justice system and allow them to be “housed” in a place where they can be controlled on a daily basis? There are parents who as you say either cannot or will not control their child. Those children, in some instances, go on to commit crimes. There is a place for criminals and it is called jail. What was the old theme from Baretta? Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time! Time to apply that.
I believe you are ignoring the fact that it is not up to the school district to send the students in question to jail. For these students, the law has already decided NOT to send them to jail. In these cases, the school district’s hands are tied – the students must be allowed an education, by law. Either in Everest, or one of the regular schools. These students are certainly troubled, in in some cases probably should have received some jail time. These students are not going to simply mix into the regular schools and straighten up on their own. They are going to need more time and attention than can be given at the regular schools, and that is the point of Everest.
These offenders don’t belong in school, period. You are a fine teacher, Ms.Nahirny, but if you are teaching under these circumstances, we the parents have let you down.
We’re sending our tax dollars to Washington, to an entity that has become so big we don’t even know what it is doing…most likely sending it’s staff to meaningless conferences at some luxury location. Meanwhile, this is going on here.
That money needs to be spent here, in our home states, on our own children. It is long past time to change our juvenile justice system and not reward these offenders with school. We have mixed our education dollars with that which should be coming from the criminal justice system and called it an “alternative”. It is not working.
It’s time to stand up and put these offenders where they belong and it’s time to bring this money home, where we need it the most.
Laws are written by nonsense idiots, now you’ve got the results.
FL informed voter says
I admit that I don’t know the answer to solve this problem. But, are we obligated to force these seemingly incorrigible kids to attend school? Why is the school board mandated to provide a special place for these kids anyway? They have clearly shown that school isn’t the type of environment fit for them. We shouldn’t have to worry about our kids at school being with felons and sex offenders as you described in the article. If these kids already ruined their education by their own actions, then why should we as taxpayers be made to pay for a special school for them? It seems like rewarding the bad behavior. No parent would EVER knowingly tolerate an adult sexual offender in the same room every single day with their child in a barely supervised environment. Why would a juvenile be any different? Bad actions cause bad consequences.
Seminole Pride says
Back in my day we did not have alternative Schools. I remember seeing those who did not care about school, sleep all day in class. Now when I go back to my hometown, I see them now and then living on the streets, and pushing a grocery buggy with everything they own to there name. They were given many changes, but they chose this kinda of life.
kids will be kids….
Tax Payer says
I agree with the Alternative schools in the system. It is needed to help some of the kids through or they will be on the street causing reel problems. But did you know that the Alternative school is moving from the current location to MHS? A new I-cube technologay school is going to be in it’s place at FPC.
“Kids will be kids” may apply in some cases, however, I do not want my children’s educational experiences to be distracting and possibly harmful especially when these are the years that count the most for their futures.
And current School Boards making the wrong cuts,will be School Boards!
You say that you predicted the outcome of your students that are in jail now. But did you ever try to turn them around? Talk to them? Or did you just give them a referral and kick them out of your class. Just curious.
The Author Responds (JoAnn Nahirny) says
Sam and IMO:
As the article states, and if you will re-read it, you will see that I spent a great deal of both TIME and MONEY on these students. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t encourage these students, attend their parent conferences, phone parents, speak to administrators, provide support, and much more. Anyone who knows me knows I am here early in the morning every day and stay late every single day working not just with these students but with many capable, hardworking others, too, putting in anywhere from 50-65 hours per week… and more…
The overwhelming majority of my students succeed and meet the high expectations I set for them. Others just don’t care no matter what I or any other teacher tries to do with or for them. You can’t force someone to work, to pay attention and to succeed. Most students respond. Some students don’t –or won’t. I describe a few of these types of students in the article. Some wind up in alternative school or jail. Then there are those who continue to sit in our classrooms, disrupting others, making it hard for everyone else to learn. Most negatively impacted are learning disabled students; these types of constant interruptions and distractions prevent them from succeeding, from passing tests, and getting an education.
If you speak to any administrators at my school, particularly our Dean of Students, who handles discipline, he would tell you I write fewer behavior referrals than 95% of the teachers in our school. And the referrals I write are for those I’m forced to write to comply with district-enacted policies: being out of dress code, using a cell phone in class, or cutting class, etc…
In writing this article, I actually I picked a few of the more “tame” examples to discuss. That is to say, I deliberately didn’t write about my former student who is now jail for attempted murder. He will spend the rest of his life behind bars for shooting at the father of his girlfriend (articles were published documenting this very real case, by the both the local media and on FlaglerLive, covering his arrest, trial and conviction, so you’ll know I”m not making this up.)
Would you feel very comfortable “talking” to someone like this and trying to “fix” his mistakes? Guess what? I did! Frequently. So did several of his other (mainly much physically smaller and physically weaker female) teachers. This student often came by my room to see me before and after school to just talk to me, or to ask me for pencils or a notebook… and I always had time for him. I never knew if he had a gun or other weapon on him. But I knew he had prior arrests, and knew he had restraining orders against him though, keeping him away from certain other females. But he had free and unfettered access to me and to my colleagues. I tried to teach him to the best of my ability, as we all did, with respect and kindness.
But nothing I did, could or would have prevented him from trying to kill the grandfather of the child he and his girlfriend created. All of his teachers and many of the staff knew he was a troubled young man, knew of his issues, and we all knew he had a criminal past… but what, exactly, could any of us have done differently to prevent him from making the choices he made? We tried to offer an education to him. We reached out to him. I can’t think of anything else personally that I could have done differently? Heck, I even prayed for the kid… I pray for my students almost daily! What was I supposed to do? Adopt him???? In point of fact, I’ve already been a foster parent and had troubled youngsters live in my home — seven different foster children have lived with me and my family on and off for periods ranging from a week to almost a year, in the past when I was younger and healthier!
So I think I have really tried to make a difference in and out of the classroom. How many readers have been foster parents, or guardian ad litem volunteers? Not many, I’d guess…
In conclusion, my job is to teach –and teach I do; however, my father was a trained police officer in Newark, NJ; theoretically, there should be a big difference in our careers… It can be hard to teach when having to also police simultaneously…
I don’t know how this TEACHER is still able to teach after writing this article. She is in essence saying a person can’t change and these kids are pretty much throw-always. We all know times have changed and kids have matured fast in the wrong way for various reasons . But if you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen. That biased “I’ve seen it all mentality won’t help anybody”. What teacher gets to pick their students??? Maybe these kids don’t need someone like THIS teaching them anyway. The gripe should be with her superiors and the parents not an article about a bunch of confused teens and pre-teens. Nice example, because you can’t get the immediate results you want, step on it throw it away. We would all have to move to another planet with that attitude if we all gave up on our fellow man. I don’t get it.
It is beyond me how one could get the impression, from reading this article, that Jo Ann Nahirny has not tried to help her students. She was supporting the school, and the new tax. What she was stating was merely fact. If someone commits a felony, they are a felon. There is really no other way around that. She was not talking bad about her students. So, before you go making ignorant comments about something you have no clue about, go ahead and do some research first. Or perhaps, reread the article three times for understanding.
I do not agree with this tax. I also do not agree with the atlernative schools. I do not want these criminals in class with my daughters either. The alternative schools are not the same and they do not do the same work or the same amount of work that my daughters would have to do. They are simply in the alternative schools so that they have someplace to go and to “get them” thru school. How about if we make the parents accountable for their children and let them be homeschooled and away from the ones who want to learn.
Nancy N. says
Homeschooling requires having a highly engaged, stay at home parent with a high level of education to be successful. If these kids had that, they likely wouldn’t be at the alternative school to begin with.
Those who are so critical of Ms. Nahirny’s point of view have obviously never met her or read some of her other opinions published here. A more gifted and caring teacher can’t be found in our system. She wrote in favor of keeping the funding for Everest Academy, not opposing it.
When a school system is strapped for funding as ours is, the first place to cut is the school with the fewest vocal parents and supporters. Everest doesn’t have an athletic team, a PTA, or any other group that would protest its closing. Only Jo Ann Nahirny has spoken up for these children.
Everest Alternative School is more than a school for criminals. Actually, there are few charged criminals. Many of the students who attend Everest do come with a bundle of referrals and are placed here for behavior concerns. They are troubled teens. However, as stated in another comment, there are teachers, administrators, and support staff that work their tails off everyday to provide an education for these children – CHILDREN. Some of which, have made changes in their life because of Everest/Pathways and have tasted success. Many thrive on success at Everest because they can receive counseling, substance abuse help, there are small class sizes which provides more teacher-student instructional time, and most of all the elimination of drama that often lingers the halls of the larger schools. They find the support and care at Everest that most do not get at home. Success for these students comes in many forms. For some, it is the elimination of drug use, others it is attending school regularly, or raising academics, and yes, for some it is not getting arrested or violating probation. Reflecting on this school year, currently at Everest there has not been one physical fight for middle or high school students and less than a 10% turn-over transition rate. It was stated at a school board meeting, that we are aiming for 100% graduation rate. Many of the students at Everest (former Pathways) graduated because of the accommodations the alternative school setting offers. If we, as the next premier learning organization, are putting kids first, doesn’t that include all kids… even those that attend Everest? If anyone does not know what hard work goes on at Everest by students and staff everyday, then I suggest you stop by before commenting on such a school.
Jon Redd says
So all of you who are criticizing this teacher??? After what just happened in the very school she is talking about? A “kid” a “student’ willing to assault a cop and another student in clear view of dozens of witnesses? This is what teachers supposed to put up with? Paid to deal with?Fights? Putting innocent other students in danger? She is opening your eyes… but some are too blind to see, or just don’t want to know. She clearly knows what she’s talking about, as more of the type of criminal behavior she is describing just happened AGAIN. She isn’t off base, clearly! Any of you want to teach? Any of you want to be in a classroom with 26-30 kids? You should thank these teachers. My hats off to people who work with teens. I know I would not have it in me or have the saintly patience to do what they do. Two teens in one house enough, can’t imagine that many at once!
Ms. Nahirny I do appreciate your article, and did not feel that it was criticizing any teacher at this school and/or any other for that matter. As a matter of fact, few people truly understand what is done at Everest.
Teachers here have to abide by ALL district rules/policies and then some. Teachers follow SSS Benchmarks and are responsible for FCAT scores just as any other teacher (they too have teacher evaluations). This is not a school where one takes a vacation; this is a school where a student has to earn his/her grades and be eligible to return to his/her school; this is a school where there are certified teachers teaching in their respective fields.
These students will attend their “zoned schools,” and/or be expelled. Does it matter who they are and/or what they have done? Do they not have a right to an equal education?
What about the teachers? Where do they go from here? Are they ALL going to have positions next year, or are they going to collect unemployment? How can this district/board members look at a teacher and say, “sorry but you have to go?”
I am always shocked when I hear such negativity towards any school and/or our teachers. I was surprised to hear for example that Volusia County has a job fair where only “new teachers” qualify to attend but not “veteran” teachers because they would have to pay them more?
Let me think, would I rather my district use tax dollars to hire “new” teachers or “veteran” teachers? Which would you prefer teach your children?
it is easy for people to be on the outside looking in. Mrs. Nahirny from my understanding was an advocate for many of these children whom she attempted yet her article does tend to shed bad light on what is going on. How many of the youth at our schools are convicted felons that are attending school and did not attend Everest? I am sure beyond a shadow of a doubt they are there, don’t fool yourselves. It is just because you cannot see a juvenile record that those numbers will not be evident.
Everest has students who are attending there do to no fault of their own. Some of them dealing with situations beyond their control and the accusations and instability of other students. What about parents who do try and go through the channels to get help for their child and ask the school to intervene before something happens and go above and beyond to request a plan to be put in place and the school agrees but then drops the ball on their part. Yes parents can instill good values and do their part at home and the school can still lack in their job. We as parents can only do our best at home to help our children but when they leave our front step we can only pray that they follow trough. We cannot be in the classroom with them so communication is imperative for us to know when things go awry so we can help. There is a reason they coined the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child”.
As an educator and a parent it is sad to see so many turning their backs on mainstreaming students back in to help them become successful. If a child is making poor decisions, singling them out is not the answer. This can often lead to isolation and make matters worse. Many of them are reaching out. How many of you are sitting next to a convicted felon at church, or at work? In the line at the grocery store? Would you know who they were? Did anyone consider that to be convicted as a sex offender all it takes is a17 year old boy dating a 15 year old girl who’s parent deems it “wrong” if they have consensual relations? Yes there is worse, but do you truly understand what those laws and labels do to people. Yes there are those who should be labeled as such but how many of you dated someone just 2 years older in school? Did you think they could be deemed a felon for a little high school “romance”?
This goes way beyond what is seen from the outside. It is easy to judge when you have not walked in another’s shoes.
Brad W says
Interestingly enough through this whole tax debate many have brought up the fact that education leads to less students committing crimes. And here you are telling us how many criminals our schools have produced. Yet as a community we spend the most on our schools and have schools rated pretty high in the nation. So there goes that theory right out the window, huh?
There is one thing I’ve also learned in life is that when any side resorts to fear tactics to get their way (especially in the political arena), they know what they are selling you is wrong AND they have idea what they are talking about. Let’s not talk about the fact that the school is a financial drain and talk about alternatives that are financially responsible. Heck, let’s have a “highly trained professional” teacher get out there and try and scare the heck out of parents to get a “yes” vote and increase those people’s taxes.
I’m trying to see how much you care about the students here. Perhaps you think the best solution to problem students is a deserted island similar to how communities treated lepers ages ago? Instead of addressing the problem, just get rid of it right?
I have to say, Matanzas Woods is pretty dear to our hearts because our daughter graduated from there. It’s sad you would be so disrespectful to your peers, students, and the community to take the time as a local teacher to write something so vile.
Thank you for supporting why we need to vote no and increase the accountability in our schools.
Now Brad anyone who has taken high school English and been assigned to read William Golding’s Lord Of The Flies knows exactly what would happen if we sent problem children to a deserted island to fend for themselves.
I say we let everybody roam together, in the free country of America…or what once was….
Wonderful, so all the bad can corrupt the good? I think not…
I think it’s sad that Everest may close. However, parents need to be more accountable for their child’s actions & choices at a MUCH younger age and maybe they wouldn’t turn out this way. Then we wouldn’t even need a school like this. I have taught for several years and I have seen many a student that I see heading down that path. Some parents SHOULD NOT be parents! Discipline your child…..you might be amazed at the results!
Lets not forget 2011 incident where the same situation happened a student who was not in alternative schooling at Matanzas attacked another student and beat-down a Career Flagler deputy. Two differences, that kid was white and he didn’t get tased, punched , head locked or pepper sprayed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqjMQHw_sp4
Never fails all these commenters always want to play “tough on crime and on bad kids” whenever the subject at the moment is something they can distance themselves from without having to look at the bigger problem. I can guarantee if that were your kid you would blame Obama or Trayvon Martin and make every excuse in the world how he or she was bullied, or has Autism or Asperger’s or whatever fake excuses are used for people to protect their own. If you are a Teacher, teach. Don’t try and assume the role of Michele Phifer in the “Movie Dangerous Minds” Or sally Struthers attempting to give support to every unstable kid you think you need to reach out to. The Teacher who is the Subject of this article acts like she taking in stray puppies. By the way the student she so much feared was an adult when he decided to shoot his girlfriends father. The mere fact that it was mentioned that HER father was a cop in Newark is code for “I know an animal when I see one”. Do your job and teach. If a kid acts up follow protocol and have them removed. We all know the next step in this City is a Juvenile Detention Center. So yeah, your babysitting prospective criminals until the ball starts rolling, this is the system that your part of it’s nothing new elevate some throw the rest away. Where would we be if everyone gave up like you??? I ask myself where would I be if I had a teacher like you taking out of both sides of their mouth? You claim your heart is in this but obviously strings are attached. Kids can see a fake a mile away. Just do your job.
I take great offense at what Anonymosay has to say. People with autism and Asperger’s are hardly ever perpetrators of violent crime. It’s exactly the opposite. They are much more likely to be the target of violent crime. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s better off not saying anything at all. The IGNORANCE of people in our community are what teachers are trying to eliminate, and our schools are doing their best to EDUCATE the public despite federal, state, and local cuts and restrictions.
The fact that the student was tased this week has nothing to do with race. The “white student” you mention from the 2011 incident was not tased because SROs were not allowed to have tasers on them at the time. That is the incident that sparked the change in policy that allowed the deputies to once again carry tasers.
I fully agree that violent children should be kept away from students, who really want to learn. I attended elementary, middle and high school in Europe, and kids, who disturbed others would be immediately expelled from regular schools, and sent to those ”special” schools. As a result, I’ve never, in my entire life, seen a fight at school, nor any misbehaving students. I’ve never seen a police officer in my schools either, as there was never any need for one. If one doesn’t want to learn, it’s his or her own decision. Students should be held responsible for their actions, and if they turn down the privilege of education, we should keep them away from those kids, who do want to make the school time productive.
Jo Ann says
It’s true Brad, I’ve never seen such indoctrination for a tax as much as this in my life. If it wasn’t so laughable – it would be criminal. How dare Jo Ann C. Nahirny use such a poor excuse to snooker and hoodwink Flagler County taxpayers to vote for a poor excuse to promote the .05 mil.
Do you get the idea that Coleen Conklin and others are in the thick and thin of their political career to have this legislation, at all cost, no matter what the voter thinks, to pass hell or high water.
We can’t allow these people we elect to push more taxes on us every time they demand more money!
I already voted NO and encourage other voters to do likewise. Send a clear message to this School Board.
Jennifer S. says
i have yet to be able to decide which way to vote on this issue. i am by nature very supportive of anything that will better the education of our republic. but i don’t get the sense this has to do with improving education. it seems more like a maneuver to play on the upswing in our collective mania du jour of violence & fear something we’re gonna start dropping g’s by fightin’ or winnin’ (however you tend to play your games of war on this or that as we do these days) in the old school style way, you know on the play ground. games of hot potato & cartwheels to collect any lose change conveniently available to fall to the ground before schools’ out for summer.
i also smell the political tactic afoot of ensuring a vote for more money by employing fear, to cut where services are critical and limited in nature, to go after smaller groups with inherently less support within the community.
thus far i have nothing but this article to use to deduce knowledge regarding the author & without wanting to seem as critical …hypo or otherwise coming from the perspective as the teacher who stresses this scenario of having danger and evil incarnate sitting right next to young, attractive, studious, fertile women who likely curtsey and say in unison “good morning, mrs. narnia” in sing-song like voices… & oh did i mention these young girls are daughters? yours, mine, ours?
i dunno… suspicious combination of tactics indeed…
I still dont think that taxes should be increased one more cent. We are all paying for education of all kids. Are we now being asked to coddle those with issues because they dont want to get educated? Parents should be responsible for their little creations good or bad. Thats what parents should do. These issues
will get progressivly worse because we keep bending to a minority of people who keep passing the buck and throwing money at quick fixes. Disipline, accountability, and unity will solve this problem not more money.
Hey, wait a minute. If you lose these students, there goes State funding. One minute the school system is crying about State funding per child and now you want to get rid of them. You want to start a new Technology track for $250,000 but you don’t want these types of students. What is it?
Personally, the State Department of Education and the Inspector General for the Florida Dept. of Education should be called in to investigate both, the Flagler County Superintendent’s Office and The Flagler County School Board for malfeasance and misfeasance. Maybe they can help you out but the cow is dry here in Flagler County. Vote No!
How much more disciplined & accountable can you get? Bottom line: flagler county schools are functioning at $55 million dollars LESS per year than they were in 2007. Florida’s poster child was just bragging about how great (cheap) it is for taxpayers in our state, with no state income tax. Get a grip. Services cost money and it’s ignorant to think people will work for free. The system is plenty flawed. What system isn’t? But all the school board member’s & administrator’s salaries in the district won’t even come close to that mark.
I speak for the trees! :)
@ songbird. Really? Did you get just as offended when Mr. Asperger himself Adam Lanza wiped out nearly thirty people. That’s more in one shot than most serial killers. the point I’m making is every time one of your precious all American psycho paths slips through the cracks and knocks off multiple people like what’s been happening lately, people still find a way to humanize them with colorful disorders when in fact the dude is just nuts and playing too much Call of Duty. But because their face is a face you would see in your own family portrait you say “it’s the disorder”. As soon as the “code comments” about animals and thugs, THEY need the key thrown away and so-on get posted nobody’s dumb it’s understood once again the usual suspects are the scape goat. Guess what while you’ve teaching your kids to watch out for the kids from the hood, twenty something year-old male Caucasians have been going nuts and the under privileged and minorities aren’t the target.
Scare tactic at the most highest! I’ve read Jo Ann’s articles in the past. She has had some insightful points. I am very disappointed however with this editorial. This so called expose is void of reality. It is just pessimism and negative judgements. It’s disappointing! Truth is these schools have been a school to prison pipeline for far too long. This retributive system is unhealthy for our society and for our kids and has landed many of our youth in a direction to fail. Pathways or Everest( Whatever) equates to zero tolerance by a Flagler School system that refuses to be tolerant to many that have issues that can be remedied. They have failed many children. Speaking from experience I am so happy I removed my son from this fly trap. That is because I was there to intercede on his behalf. Unfortunately there are so many parents that have been victims of this system themselves or have their butts in a wrench that squeeze the effort out of them. It is easier to put kids away and have them pay for not following the so called rules. One shouldn’t paint themselves as an angel and write should words in the guise of a worthy cause. I would like for the School Board to not threaten its constituency with removing programs and other items to muster votes. Also I suspect the fear by some members regarding re-election. It’s politics! The reality is there is little money spent on these programs. Lets cut from the top and work our way down. By the time you get to what is being threatened the problem will be solved. Everest is a waste. Not that there aren’t bad apples but forgetting isn’t a crime and respect is a learned response. Instead of the security scare give these kids something to do, somewhere to go and some one in their corner. I supported fully the renewing of the tax in the last referendum. I cannot support this one. It’s bogus!
To be honest, when you talk about this issue with those that work within the district, one would agree that the 0.5 mil (or really just an additional 0.25 from what you are currently paying… or 1.99 each month..) is not going to affect the decision of closing Everest. It is believed by many that the school will be closing or highly restructured to eliminate additional costs. The 0.5 mil vote is really quite more for our children. The art programs, technology, elementary buses to those less than 2 miles, etc. I HIGHLY recommend to anyone that if you are undecided that you attend an informational meeting or seminar. The school board has many scheduled and it is very informative… very! The topic of Everest is not one to be focused on. There are so many more activities and resources that will be affected. Again, it is not 0.5 mil… it is an additional 0.25 mil from what all Flagler County tax payers are currently paying or about 1.99 each month for a total of about 24 bucks a year. Attend a meeting!!
@ nope says. I don’t recall saying the 2011 case had to do with race. I’m saying a lot of commenters out in the Flagler County blogosphere or not, like to pick and choose their opinions and words of punishment for people they can’t and don’t want to relate to. You can say all you want “that was the incident that caused tasers to be carried”. They were going to carry tasers and guns sooner or later, fast forward Sandy Hook. The fact is neither the deputy or the teacher in 2011 used any brute force whatsoever to subdue the teen that everyone forgets about in 2011. By the way John Landi this current deputy was a state champ wrestler and he’s barely 40 years-old. Everybody is quick to fight fire with fire, what’s funny is for the average citizen in this country everyday YOUR one step closer to being on the end of a cops taser or worse.
Palm Coast Mother says
Seems to me you all have forgotten about the recent fight in the cafeteria of the 18 year old attacking the 15 year old. My daughter was in the cafeteria that morning. You have all forgotten about the rape of the 14 year old girl that took place at MHS earlier this year. That kid was charged with burglaries in the B section. If he’d have been made to enroll at Everest instead of being allowed to leave FPC for MHS, she would have been safe from him and the resulting death threats she was treated to following the incident. Yes, I personally know her and our family has since 6th grade. Or the other youtube video of a fight at MHS from a couple of years ago. Hmmm, if these kids were sent to Everest where they get more monitoring and one on one time with this smaller classes or whatever it is they do there, these issues would not happen as frequently as they do. I for one, do not want my daughter wondering if something is going to happen to her at school. She’s been through enough in her short life. I will be voting yes in the hopes that Everest stays open as an option for these kids, however, just in case, my daughter will not be attending either high school next fall. Instead, she will be attending virtual school. Mrs. Nahirny I have heard many great things about you. Thank you for your article and your view points. It is truly a shame that more people don’t have the sense to read your words without attempting to read into your words. Linda, the first responding teacher, thank you for your view point as well. More teachers need to come forward with their stories so the school board will see how every important it is to keep Everest open. Good luck to both of you.
Regretful decisions says
I bet that the school board/district will REGRET their decision on closing Everest as violence/crime rises throughout our schools next year. Then what will they do? Try to reopen Everest? No one in his/her right mind would want to work there after all this negatively. A teacher will always be worried about his/her job every year!
Sherry Epley says
VOTE NO! This is an extremely complex issue that cannot be solved by throwing even more tax money at it!
While dicipline, learning/work ethics, respect. . . all “character” traits begin at home, our students spend much more of their waking hours at school, than at home. The influence of the school environment is tremendous, in many more ways than the “lesson plan”. Unfortunately, it seems that our school system. . . as a whole, and nationwide. . . has drifted completely away from any sort of diciplined, professional learning environment. Through the last 30 or so years, it has gradually become the new generations of entitled Children (using their parents authority) who now actually have an unbalanced influence in all aspects of school policy. Teachers and principals can no longer require students to behave and pay attention in class. Most students (and even some teachers) show up even dressed in a way that is disrespectful to the institution. That teachers are under paid, considering their required level of education, is a reflection of our very poor esteem for profession. I could go on and on with more examples, but hopefully you get my point.
We have perpetuated the “black hole” of not realizing, and truly understanding that educating each and every child to their fullest potential is the ONLY path to creating the best future for our country. There is NO SUCH THING as “over education”. . . a phrase we have all heard during political discussions. Saying that, our teachers and administrators are now “bound” by the structural regulations that have evolved over recent years. Teachers have the burden of educating our future generations within the many constraints, while receiving little respect from students, parents and the tax payers. . . YET they have little true AUTHORITY to do their jobs well. Any management consultant would tell you that this imbalance spells disaster for any professional organization.
None of these systemic problems will be solved by closing schools and the other cut backs that have been happening, or by creating more taxes for our citizens. Tha analogy that comes to mind is giving a child a check, instead our loving attention and solving problems together.
We should not be turning our schools into armed fortresses just to please the NRA!
Again, when our school board sets the good example of trimming their own inflated salaries, and those of the high level administrators, and when I see school taxes used more for core educational needs, I will be more willing to vote in favor of a tax increase.
Voting Yes says
Great article! We need Everest, an more resource officers in the schools.
The only thing worse than having inadequate options is having no options. Children deserve to have a safe place to learn and a chance to breathe easy during the day. They should not have to be victimized by the cruelty, incompetence and apathy of others. We owe it to them, and to ourselves, to take a careful look at the full scope of the problems described above and come up with the solutions necessary to safeguard their safety–and our’s. Kiddie criminals become adult criminals. Don’t think being short-sighted and tight-fisted with your money in this regard will serve you well. Why not appoint a volunteer task-force, comprised of parents, teachers, law enforcement and administrative officials to study the issues and come up with some recommendations, to be presented at a public forum for further consideration? These problems won’t disappear magically on their own!
Brad W says
So what is it we are “investing in” again? I should vote to increase my taxes for a local school system that produces enough horrible kids that we have to build them their own school? This is our future leadership we’re “investing in”?
Brad W…let me attempt one final time to advise why this tax vote is a good deal. However this time let me advise you and others what we are facing.
We are not in any ordinary recessional type of economy.
The Federal Reserve has printed 3 trillion dollars in new paper currency. This has devalued the U.S. dollar to almost making it extinct. The European Union, China, India and Russia want to go back on the the Gold Standard. That is coming. They want every currency in the world to once again be backed by how much gold a nation has. Why? Because it prevents a nation from printing worthless paper money to purchase goods/services or pay off debt. It’s a pretty basic concept but let me try to explain it so everybody will understand.
The U.S. went completely off the Gold Standard in backing U.S. dollars in the Nixon administration. Since Nixon we have based on currency value in petro dollars. (oil) OPEC led by Saudi Arabia joined together with the U.S. to maintain the value of the dollar by manipulating oil prices. The dollar is now basically worthless. So the era of the petro dollar is over.
Now the U.S. government reports it has 8000 tons of gold in Ft. Knox and in vaults in various Federal Reserve Buildings. 8000 tons of gold is 16 million pounds of gold. or 256,000000 ounces of gold in vaults to back the value of our currency. Gold prices closed today at $1,382 an ounce. OK if my math is correct that would mean the Federal Reserve should have $353,792,000,000 in paper money in circulation.
However what has occurred is the Federal Reserve has printed another 3 trillion in paper money and we don’t have another 80000 tons of gold to give that 3 trillion dollars any real value.
Now you could post back but the U.S. has a GDP of 14 trillion dollars per year and other assets. My response would be we no longer have a super power manufacturing sector, what do we make except weapon systems and cars nobody wants? Our 19th and 20th century infrastructure in this nation’s major cities is crumbing before our very eyes. The cities of Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, St. Louis etc are bankrupt. 11 States led by California are bankrupt. The family farm system which this nation had always put on a pedestal is basically gone. Imagine that BradW the U.S. has to import food! Yes of course we should not have too. The 2010 census tells us more people were 65 years and over in 2010 than in any previous census.
Between 2000 and 2010 mthe population 65 years and over increased at a faster rate (15.1 percent)
than the total U.S population at 9.7 percent. We have 10.9 million people on Social Security Disability, 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring on Social Security each day, we are down to 1.75 full-time private-sector workers in the United States last year for each person receiving benefits from Social Security, we have a Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment rate of 7.5% (however other non government think tanks set unemployment at 16.3%), an estimated 45 million people receiving food stamps. Obamacare kicks in in less than 7 months. We are 17 trillion dollars in debt with an estimated 60 to 120 trillion in unfunded liabilities in the near future, and we’re spending 30 to 50 percent of our tax revenue on debt service payments as we may enter into a bond market crisis.
So Bernanke’s Quantitative Easing IV is the last stop on the train. After QE IV the era of 0% federal reserve loan rates to banks will abruptly come to an end. Thus low interest rates to borrowers will abruptly come to an end.
Bernanke will leave office in 2 months and whoever the next Treasury Secretary is will begin the process of slowly but surely raising the Fed’s interest rates to the banks which as I said will raise interest rates to borrowers, be they business loans or personal loans.
So let’s top this all off with what is now a 1200 page Immigration Reform Bill that is going to be a boom to our economy? Boom? So what jobs are going to be created for these immigrants? Guess “We have to pass the bill to find out.”
So where does all this information leave us? If I typed the words “Wiemar Republic” would you understand that? No. OK the era of inflation if not hyper inflation is coming. Matter of fact it is already here. Sure gasoline prices seem lower than the beginning of the year but have you been to the supermarket lately? Housing prices are slowly beginning to rise? Mortgage rates are still 3.65% for those with a excellent credit score but have a credit score less than 699 they are already in the 4% bracket. In 2 or 3 years they will be 8% to 12%. Nonsense you say? You would be wrong BradW. I’ve seen it before and not so long ago.
So much to comprehend but yet it is all incomprehensible. So much turmoil that is incomprehensible. So much rebuilding of a nation to do and no money to do it. I can post the things I have posted above but simply cannot wrap my arms around any of it. The numbers are just to huge to do that. It’s like are there and “Constants” left in life. You set up a budget, then adjust that budget only to have the federal, state or local government throw you a curve ball that forces you to budget again, hope you can adjust that budget if necessary. But some things inn a budget are “Constants.” You know your mortgage payment, car payment, insurance payments etc. So where am I going with all this?
Right in front of every taxpayer in Palm coast is a “4 year Constant!” I vote Yes and the schools cannot come back for another bite of my apple for the next 4 years. Not until 2018! What do I get in return for this minute tax increase? The knowledge that Teachers like Ms. Nahirny and other Teachers will stay in their classrooms for the next 4 years. I cannot guarantee that with inflation coming down the tracks at 150 mph but I can pray and hope that for less than $2.00 or even $5.00 a month for those who have higher assessed valued homes she will still be teaching in 2017, we won’t be closing entire schools down as inflation rises the costs of maintaining them. See Brad I concluded a long time ago that the 1/2 mil is proper planning by the School Board knowing we are about to enter an inflationary economy. There is no escaping that. I have been there before. When you print 3 trillion dollars in paper currency resulting inflation is a “Constant.”
So being a former Boy Scout (so long ago) I advise Vote Yes “Be Prepared” for what is surely going to affect us all. Inflationary costs.
So I ask you and others BradW to please reconsider your thoughts on this vote. Please do not burden the parents and students with year after year of concerns as “The Carnivorous Termite of Inflation” destroys what is now an excellent school system the one “Constant” their children currently have in their lives.
BradW could i please offer you some suggested reading material.