West Palm girl among top finishers in essay contest on violence, bullying

 

DTWT 16 Emily Briceno
Emily Briceno

A West Palm Beach resident and 7th grader at Conniston Community Middle School is among the top 10 students to be honored May 10 at the Do The Write Thing Challenge Awards Luncheon at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

Emily Briceno, who was 3rd runner-up for girls, wrote about how an armed robbery at her home affected her and how it helped her decide she wants to help others.

From the thousands of participating students, Kirsten Brown, a seventh grader at Don Estridge Middle School in Boca Raton and Quinton Williams, a sixth grader at Howell L. Watkins Middle School in Palm Beach Gardens, were selected as Ambassadors from Palm Beach County.  Brown and Williams will travel to Washington. D.C. this summer to represent Palm Beach County during National DTWT Recognition Week.

The 2016 Do The Write Thing Challenge is part of the National Campaign to Stop Violence.

Oxbridge Academy leadership probed; CEO sent on leave, investigators on campus

 

050116 WPB Oxbridge 10

Palm Beach billionaire Bill Koch, who has poured more than $75 million into Oxbridge Academy, has stepped in to commission an ex-FBI agent, forensic accountant and employment lawyer to investigate the private high school he founded five years ago.

In response to Palm Beach Post reporting, Koch’s team has been interviewing teachers, parents and administrative staff to assess concerns about turnover, firings, accusations of sexual harassment and an emphasis tilting from academics to athletics.

For a look at Oxbridge and its turmoil, go to ….. http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/tales-of-sexism-high-turnover-prompt-probe-at-koch/nrD53/.

 

Investigators on Oxbridge Academy campus

Robert Parsons.jpg
Oxbridge Academy president and CEO Robert Parsons has been placed on paid leave, pending an internal investigation.

An investigative team hired by Oxbridge Academy founder and chairman Bill Koch has descended on the school to interview employees and parents.

The investigation, prompted by Palm Beach Post reporting, is looking into employee allegations of financial misdeeds, sexual harassment and favoritism, and of a toxic employment culture incubated by high turnover and an active rumor mill.

The school notified parents and staff that an investigative team consisting of a former FBI agent, a forensic accountant and employment attorneys will be interviewing employees at least three days a week. They began Tuesday.

050116 WPB Oxbridge 10

The investigation is being conducted at Koch’s direction and results of interviews will not be shared with anyone other than Koch and his attorney.

The school’s board last week placed President and CEO Bob Parsons, Athletics Director Craig Sponsky and bookstore manager Ulle Boshko on paid leave, pending the investigation.

Boshko, formerly the school’s comptroller, in February filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the school, alleging that because she refused Parsons’ sexual advances, she’d been demoted and that Parsons and Sponsky had reduced her responsibilities.

Stay tuned for detailed coverage in PalmBeachPost.com.

Clearing the way for Wawa Market

Wawa

Calm down, everybody, Wawa’s on the way.

The heroes of the hoagie world say it’s looking like a 2018 opening for the Wawa Market across from Palm Beach International Airport, at Belvedere Road and Australian Avenue.

No more details yet from Wawa itself, but the owner of the 8.5-acre site, Tampa-based Brightwork Real Estate, has begun land work on the brownfield site.

Brightwork principal Austin Simmons said Monday that earth-movers are sorting and relocating the construction debris that was buried at the former landfill. Much of it will be reused rather than carted away, he said. Concrete, for example will be crushed and re-used as a base for the roadways. “Smart re-use” saves carting costs, of course, but also saves landfill space.

Simmons said his development firm is preparing the entire site, part of which Wawa will take over to build the sub shop and a 16-pump gas station. No decisions  yet on the rest of the property, where the developers are considering putting hotels and a grocery.

The land-clearing will take several months, Simmons said. It’s hard to predict exactly how long, he said. “As we go through that site — we investigated it prior to construction — but a site like this, as you move the dirt you continue to investigate it. We’ll find more concrete we didn’t expect.”

Koch puts Oxbridge CEO on leave, pending school probe

Robert Parsons.jpg
Oxbridge Academy President and CEO Robert Parsons is on leave, pending an internal investigation by the school.

Oxbridge Academy, the high school founded by Palm Beach billionaire Bill Koch, placed its president and two other staffers on leave Friday amid a Palm Beach Post investigation into allegations of a toxic employment environment including sexual harassment and high turnover.

In an interview Friday afternoon, Koch said he set in motion “an exhaustive investigation” and placed President and CEO Robert Parsons, bookstore manager and former comptroller Ulle Boshko and one other unidentified staffer on paid leave for an indefinite period, pending investigations by a team that includes an ex-FBI agent, a forensic accountant and a lawyer.

Boshko filed a complaint against the school in November with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging Parsons demoted her to the bookstore when she refused his sexual advances. That case is still pending.

“I am happy to see that Mr. Koch is taking the necessary steps to root out the inappropriate behavior and excessive favoritism that took place at Oxbridge,” Boshko said. “I do understand that Mr. Koch’s interest is to protect the students and the reputation of the school first but hope his moral judgment also protects those who come forward, as I did, to reveal the truth and prevent situations like this from happening in the future.”

Parsons, a former U.S. Naval Academy chief financial officer, was hand-picked by Koch to lead the school and earned $694,000 in 2014, according to the latest public filings by the school. Parsons did not return requests for comment, but at a special board meeting called by Koch on Thursday, “Bob Parsons  responded carefully and comprehensively to each allegation,” according to Oxbridge publicist Carey O’Donnell.

Multiple employees — past and present — have told The Post that a combination of swift and frequent firings, allegations that Parsons favored attractive staff members with attention and steep raises, and a shift in emphasis from academics to athletics have created a fearful, rumor-filled atmosphere for the school staff. The Post plans to publish its report next week.

Read the full story.

County bookmobile hits the road

 

bks

A launch ceremony for the county library system’s new bookmobile will be held today, Thursday, at the Main Library, 3650 Summit Blvd. at 9:30 am. The bookmobile was made possible through a donation of $245,500 from an anonymous donor through Friends of the Library.

The private donor said he was inspired to donate to the library by the example of businessman turned philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, who built public library buildings throughout the United States in the early 20th century. The bookmobile was donated in honor of FDNY 343.

The bookmobile will travel throughout the county, from Belle Glade to South Palm Beach, Jupiter to Boca Raton.

 

 

 

Flagler Bridge will close Sunday as rebuild progresses

BrianLee

 

You’ll need to find another way to the island Sunday night.

The Florida Department of Transportation says Flagler Memorial Bridge will be closed in both directions and traffic will be detoured from 8 p.m. Sunday, April 24 to 6 a.m. Monday, April 25.

The closure will allow workers to pour a new concrete deck on the replacement bridge west of the Intracoastal Waterway.

While the bridge is closed, all vehicular traffic will be detoured to the Royal Park Bridge.  Marine traffic will not be affected.

For information about the Flagler Memorial Bridge Replacement Project, call Public Information Officer Tish Burgher at (561) 702-9096 or email her at Tish@qcausa.com.  Information can also be found on the project website: www.flaglerbridge.com.

Come and get ’em: West Palm Beach is giving away trees

nature trees sun

Get a tree for free, West Palm Beach residents.

The city is giving away trees this Saturday, April 23, at Howard Park, 1032 Parker Ave.

The giveaway is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The city and its Office of Sustainability hold the occasional tree giveaway as part of an effort to increase West Palm’s leafy canopy. For more information, go to wpb.org/sustainability or call 561-804-4994.

 

SleepOut set for United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches tonight

SO 16 Armando
Armando Fana and The Lord’s Place CEO Diana Stanley with SleepOut 2016 mascot “Sleepy the Sheep.”

The Lord’s Place ninth annual SleepOut event to bring awareness of homelessness will feature West Palm Beach Director of Housing and Community Development Armando Fana to sing John Lennon’s Imagine. It’s part of a program that is the centerpiece of the SleepOut, to be held at the United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches at 6 tonight.

Fana will join others in the program, including The Lord’s Place Chief Program Officer Daniel Gibson, who in a previous career was a professional actor/singer, along with The Lord’s Place Director of Human Resources Jan Phillips, whose voice has been featured at each of the SleepOut events, as well as clients and additional staff members and community members including Legends Radio hosts and cabaret singers Jill and Rich Switzer.

For info about SleepOut and how to participate, visit www.SleepOut2016.org

 

West Palm may cut downtown lien to allow new apartments

Evernia lot
The property is across from the upcoming All Aboard Florida station and a few blocks from city hall.

Making way for an 8-story downtown apartment building and garage, the city commission is considering forgiving $203,500 in liens that had accumulated on the property.

The property at 427 Evernia St. first was cited in 2006, for being in disrepair, needing paint and for graffiti. The warehouse in question was demolished in 2009 and the site is now a vacant lot.

New owners plan a 316-unit apartment building, which the city administration says “will improve a blighted area downtown.”

The commission was to vote Monday to release the liens and just charge a $5,000 administrative fee. The vote has been continued until a future commission meeting.