Big Crowd at Olympic Heights for School District Forum

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An estimated 400 people showed up to the school district’s event at Olympic Heights High School on Lyons Road north of Glades. The meeting was for discussing the school board’s Resolution on Accountability. Slides from the presentation are at the bottom of this article.
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The resolution has mysteriously disappeared from the school district website, and of course they ran out of English language copies of it. Plenty of Spanish language ones were available. However we were able to find a copy of it online at Diane Ravitch’s blog.
The resolution is lengthy but basically it seeks to limit the impact of testing on education. We give credit to the school district staff for keeping their presentation reasonably brief, and then allowing the audience members to speak.
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Many of the audience commenters were teachers, though there were also students and parents. The group below spoke toward the end of the event.
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An Olympic Heights junior, below, spoke early on.
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And this 5th grader spoke well about the pressure of testing and the uncomfortable experience it has been for her.
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There were other kids in the audience:
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One of the teachers who spoke identified himself as the chair of West Boca High’s Language Arts Department, Noel Levin.
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Generally the speakers read from prepared statements and were well received by the audience. The main complaints seemed to be about testing, curricula, and teacher pay. The “Common Core” buzzword came up repeatedly.
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It seemed that a couple of things were missing. First, while the complaints were coherent, there did not seem to be a clear solution. Second, the resolution and much of the comments addressed federal and state issues beyond the power of the school board, but there was virtually no presence from state and federal officials.
There was one exception to that, as State Rep. Irving Slosberg took the microphone and gave a rousing speech encouraging people to vote out Rick Scott and the Republicans in Tallahassee and “change the management” in state government.

Irving Slosberg (far left); School Board candidate Tom Sutterfield 2nd from right
Irving Slosberg (far left); Board candidate Sutterfield 2nd from right

We spoke with Slosberg outside. We asked whether the problems people are complaining about (testing, curricula, common core, etc.) were brought about by both parties and he didn’t answer that directly. He focused on teacher pay, blaming Republicans for it being so low. We also asked about Charlie Crist’s role in the FCAT and Slosberg said that was in the past. He clearly did not like our questions and stuck to his partisan message. Regardless, we appreciate that he showed up and so did the audience.
A few other state and federal elected officials live close by but didn’t come. Early on we “tweeted” to Ted Deutch and Kevin Rader on Twitter but they did not respond.
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Slides from the presentation are below:
[gview file=”http://westbocanews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/slides.pdf”]

Kevin Rader: State Representative

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I met Kevin Rader this morning at Palm Beach Bagel in The Reserve (441 and Clint Moore). He was very impressive. I’ve been interviewing candidates for various offices and Rader is probably the most knowledgeable of all of them.
Earlier I met with Joshua Izaak, who is running against Rader in a Democratic primary. Their election is August 26th. We also published an article by Izaak on education policy. There is no Republican candidate and no others we know of.
Ideologically Rader and Izaak are roughly the same – liberal Democrats. The difference comes down to knowledge, experience and realism. Rader has all three on his side. We talked about a number of issues and with a couple of exceptions he knew them in great depth.
Perhaps most important is that Rader understands his role. He’s in the minority in the legislature facing an large Republican majority. In that situation he knows he can’t enact much legislation and can’t outright stop the Republicans if they’re determined. Instead he realizes his tremendous power to ask hard questions. I’ve been in that situation myself on my hometown town board.
Rader also has a deep understanding of insurance issues because he works in that field. He says most of his work is in an unusual niche – beekeeping insurance.
In our earlier interview Izaak criticized a moment Rader had on the House floor. Here it is:

Rader didn’t flinch and he had a better answer for me than he had on the video. The condo association at Century Village asked him to propose the amendment. He explained the finer points of why the amendment would have made things better. It didn’t seem like a huge issue.
What’s important about this is that Izaak accused Rader of being affected by special interests in the insurance industry. That didn’t make a lot of sense as it just changes what the insurers are selling to whom. Rather Rader admits he was influenced by the condo association, which is also a special interest in a sense but not a terribly offensive one by the standards of most people.
Also, in simple terms, I just liked the guy. There are some key issues where we disagree but he was completely honest and didn’t try to please me by softening his positions.
When I asked about guns Rader didn’t hesitate to say he would ban AK-47s, for example. The ensuing conversation showed he knows almost nothing about firearms. He didn’t know that typical hunting rifles are more powerful, nor that rifles are rarely used in crimes. He wasn’t sure if he’s ever even fired a rifle. Rader also referred to the Sandy Hook shooting as the main reason for banning such guns, as if the deaths of twenty white schoolchildren are somehow more important than the thousands of black and Hispanic victims of all ages that don’t make the national news. On the bright side he seemed open to a discussion of the drug war’s role in causing violence.
When I asked Izaak about the gun issue I didn’t feel he was honest about his real views, and he still didn’t know anything about firearms. There’s no Second Amendment supporter in the race so this issue should not be decisive for any voter.
The big differences come down to knowledge, experience, and realism. For those reasons West Boca News endorses Kevin Rader for State Representative.
With that said, the conversation reflected an underlying problem with our political system. Rader is a consummate insider. He believes the system works better when insiders run it. He spoke approvingly of the nature of that system, where those who play the game are rewarded and others are not. While we don’t like it, we appreciate his honesty about it. We also doubt that Izaak would do anything to change it.
See the Kevin Rader website or his campaign Facebook page for more.

West Boca High Grad for State Rep: Joshua Izaak

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Okay, so we’re not exactly Joe Biden fans. But Joshua Izaak is a fan, and that’s probably not a bad thing in a Democratic primary race. Izaak is running for State Representative in District 81, which runs west of the Turnpike from the county line up to Wellington. West Boca has a big chunk of the voters, possibly a majority within the district.
We met Mr. Izaak in Mission Bay Plaza, as you can see below.
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Sometimes we get criticized for doing too many negative stories, or mentioning the arrestee’s high school in the headline of a crime story. This is one of those moments we get to do the reverse – a positive story about a local kid.
Mr. Izaak attended Water’s Edge Elementary and Loggers’ Run Middle Schools. He spent a year at Olympic Heights and then West Boca High opened near his home in Boca Falls. His academic accomplishments go up from there, graduating from Emory University and recently from law school at the University of Florida. He’s now 25 years old.
His Democratic political resume includes internships with Ted Deutch who was a State Senator at the time, and with Congressman Robert Wexler. If you read the About page on his website, it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t just sip the liberal Democrat Kool-Aid. He chugs it.

During Joshua’s second summer in law school, he worked at the Democratic National Committee in the Voter Protection Department. Joshua worked to combat Republican attempts to restrict access to the vote through discriminatory laws aimed at reducing voter turnout. Joshua also worked to find solutions in response to the conservative Supreme Court’s decision to strike down portions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Ideologically he’s not my guy. But he’s running in a primary against a Democratic incumbent with no Republican in the race, so it’s not about ideology or party.
During our conversation he was particularly motivated about education. He’s passionate about schools based on his own experience in the ones our kids go to. And contrary to what we expect from his liberal Democrat credentials, he’s strongly against Common Core and high-stakes testing. He wants to decouple school funding from test results.
I challenged him on that from a political standpoint. As we recently reported, West Boca schools do well in such testing. So our schools benefit from the link between testing and funding. Izaak stuck to his guns. The problem, as he sees it, is that schools teach to the tests instead of just teaching so even the kids in the “winning” schools suffer.
Speaking of guns, Izaak criticized Kevin Rader for voting to expand the Stand Your Ground law to protect warning shots. We will be meeting with Rader on Monday and will ask him about that. Izaak is thus positioning himself to the left of Rader on “gun control.” That’s not something that persuades me but might be effective in a Democratic primary.
The two other big distinctions Izaak draws between himself and Rader deal with special interests and access. He feels Rader is affected by special interests, especially in his own industry. Rader works in insurance and Izaak criticized him for an amendment that would shift the burden of dry wall replacement from condo associations to individual condo owners. That might not seem important until you realize how many votes are in Century Village and similar housing in our district.
After the interview I asked Izaak to provide a link or other support about this amendment. He sent me this YouTube video which shows Rader on the floor of the House presenting an unimpressive defense of his amendment.

As for access, Izaak said that Rader is not sufficiently responsive to voters in the district. We’re not sure how to measure that but we’ll ask Rader about it anyway. He certainly responded quickly to our request for an interview.
Despite some disagreements, I was impressed with Izaak. He’s smart, well-educated, passionate, and energetic. He’s the kind of success story we’re happy to see coming out of our local schools and we hope to see more like him.
We should note that although it’s a Democratic primary, Republicans can vote in it because there’s no Republican candidate in the race. The primary election is on August 26th.
Update: We just found a video of Izaak speaking about his campaign.

Disclosure: We also live in Boca Falls, though in a different subdivision and we’ve never met or even heard of Izaak or his family before. We also live around the corner from Ted Deutch and we have met him and his wife, but only briefly.

Primary Voting Tuesday August 14th

There are a number of party primary and non-partisan elections tomorrow. Please make sure you vote. Even if you are not registered in a party, you can vote in the non-partisan elections.
Here are some helpful links:
Polling Places
West Boca Precincts start around precinct 5108 and a big group starts at 5128.
Sample Ballot
Key races for everyone include several judgeships. Both Timothy McCarthy (Circuit Court Group 2) and Peter Evans (County Court Group 4) had some fairly negative ratings from the Palm Beach County Bar Association. Some would say that’s a good reason for voting someone else in.
We’ve discussed the Property Appraiser race in the last few weeks.
For Republicans, the most prominent primary is the US Senate race. Connie Mack has shown himself to be a real reformer in his stint in the House. One big concern is auditing the Federal Reserve and Mack is on board. His main opponent, Dave Weldon, talks about entitlement reform but in his time in the House he voted for many of the programs that are devastating the federal budget now. We’ve seen a lot of nasty negative advertising against Mack and it looks like dirty politics. I met Weldon recently and he seems like a good guy but it’s not clear if there’s any substance.
Also for the GOP, Melanie Peterson and Geoff Sommers square off in a primary. Two good people. Sommers appears to have better fundraising. Peterson is stronger on substance. Peterson has also been targeted for nasty negative mailings which are formatted an awful lot like the mailings coming from Sommers. One has to wonder if Sommers is playing games, but he is a personable guy. Peterson also responded to our West Boca questions. Sommers did not.
On the Democrat side, incumbent Steve Perman faces a primary from Kevin Rader. Perman is a pleasant guy we see a lot in West Boca. He did respond to one of our West Boca questions. Rader has not responded to us, and we have yet to see him anywhere. The winner will face James Ryan O’Hara in the general election in November.