Last week we shared a Facebook video of a fight in South County Regional Park. The video had been posted by Shakeel Munshi and a reader tagged us in a comment. The video shows his daughter being hit by two or three other girls while several other kids watch. Mr. Munshi’s post claims that she “was getting bullied … because she was Muslim.” In his original post (before he edited it) he also claimed that it happened at West Boca High School, that his daughter was wearing an anti-bullying t-shirt, and that she did not fight back. Mr. Munshi’s Facebook video now has over 2.7 million views. It went viral because of his lies and that led to a surge of phony outrage from around the world. We received numerous comments, negative reviews, threats, etc. from just about everywhere. The City of Boca Raton and their police department were wrongly targeted by this mob, even though the incident happened outside city lines and had nothing to do with them. The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office and the school district were also besieged by the mob. The father’s lies contributed to all of this. First of all as we learned from numerous sources and now confirmed by the Sheriff’s investigation, this had nothing to do with religion. The Sheriff’s office sent out an update this morning:
PBSO deputy met with West Boca Raton High School officials and confirmed the identity of all the suspects involved. The suspects and their families have been interviewed. All participants agreed the fight was over “a boy” and “a video that was circulated”. All parties AGREED to meet and to fight and a specific location and time. PBSO Deputy is preparing paperwork to charge the suspects involved with Simple Battery. Once complete, the investigation will be submitted to the state attorney’s office. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE OF A HATE CRIME.
It should be noted that generally the police and schools are required to protect the privacy of minors. We do not expect that they will publicize the kids’ names, the specific charges filed against them, nor the results of any court proceedings or school discipline. It is also unclear whether the “victim” will also be charged since the evidence indicates she agreed to meet and fight and there is video evidence of her fighting. Among other lies, the father’s claim that she was wearing an anti-bullying t-shirt was obviously false. In the video you can easily see that she’s wearing a Bulls Football t-shirt. The West Boca High football team is known as The Bulls.
He has since edited his post to remove that claim. He continues to maintain in his post that his daughter did not raise a hand to fight back: “She didn’t picked up a hand because don’t want to fight back.” This is also a lie as demonstrated in a video showing a different angle of the fight:
If you look at Munshi’s video post again, you can see that the video was edited. It starts after the beginning of the above video so you don’t see her fighting back. And it also leaves out a portion between when his daughter is on the ground and gets back up. We still do not have a full video of this incident so we don’t know what really happened – and neither does the horde of trolls, social justice warriors, etc. Another lie was the original claim that it happened at West Boca High. Anyone familiar with the school would recognize from the video that it was not on school grounds. We are told this happened in nearby South County Regional Park but we still haven’t gotten a straight answer as to where this was in the park. And his claim that all girls were from West Boca High appears to be inaccurate as at least one of the other girls is reportedly a student at Olympic Heights High School. Mr. Munshi even misled us about his own location, offering to meet with us at his home in West Boca. But from an NBC Miami report he wasn’t even in the country at the time. We have published a number of teen fight videos over the past few years. None of them got this much attention, but none of them made phony claims of racism or religious bias. Some of our sources indicate that Ms. Munshi was bullying one or more of the other girls in the video. At the same time we have another source that tells us one of those other girls has a history of misconduct. Again, we don’t know what the truth is. And neither does the unruly online mob. One key ingredient to the video’s virality is the depiction of Ms. Munshi as a completely innocent victim. Any suggestion that she was at all responsible for anything that happened, regardless of its truth, was met by a rage from the online mob. The simple reality of this incident is that it wasn’t much different from the other fight videos we’ve shown. It does not appear that Ms. Munshi was seriously injured. There was no report that she was taken to a hospital or even that she needed to see a doctor. The “simple battery” charge mentioned by the Sheriff means no serious injuries. Had there been serious injuries the charge would have been aggravated battery. One big difference noted by many is that three girls were hitting Ms. Munshi, rather than it being a one-on-one fight. Everyone agrees that this was wrong. Everyone agrees that the fight itself was wrong. But any questions raised about Mr. Munshi’s lies or the “innocent victim’s” role led to false claims that the questioner supported violence. This is, of course, nonsense. It is a common ploy for political partisans of all stripes to use (or manufacture) an innocent victim in order to support whatever agenda fits their goals. What’s particularly disturbing to us is how this incident has painted West Boca High kids as racist or prejudiced. We know a lot of kids in West Boca including the area high schools and younger kids. It is our general experience that they are almost entirely unbiased when it comes to race, religion, LGBTQ issues, etc., and certainly less biased than many adults in the community, in the country, and around the world. The biggest social issue they confront is the stark contrast between rich and poor that one sees in Boca Raton, with some kids living in multi-million dollar mansions in gated communities while others live in trailer parks. The kids seem to handle that well too. There’s also the gifted vs. non-gifted classification in the elementary and middle schools, which translates into Honors and AP classes for the gifted kids and regular classes for the non-gifted. Again in our experience the kids handle this pretty well. It should be noted that some in the online mob asserted that West Boca News was biased in some way, in particular biased in favor of the Sheriff or the school district. Anyone who actually follows us knows that we have had significant disagreements with both over the past several years. Our two most popular videos on the West Boca News YouTube channel are of confrontations with PBSO:
A few days ago the Palm Beach County School District issued a misleading press release. The release falsely suggested that recent state legislation could negatively affect the district’s credit. It led with this big headline:
HB 7069 Could Result in Credit Downgrade
This headline was followed by this opening sentence:
Stable credit ratings for the School District of Palm Beach County and other large school districts could be at risk …
Referring to a recent statement by Moody’s, a credit rating agency, Superintendent Avossa was quoted in the press release:
“This independent analysis by Moody’s highlights one of our real concerns with this new law – the financial effect that it will have on our District, and on school districts throughout Florida,” said Dr. Robert Avossa, Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent.
These scary statements are objectively false when it comes to our school district. Even if the claims are true that the district would lose $230 million to charter schools over the next 10 years, that number is dwarfed by the $1.3 billion the district claims will be raised by the so-called Penny Tax that was approved by voters in November. Moody’s most recent rating of the district was in September of 2016, meaning any reevaluation of the district’s credit would take into account a net gain of over $1 billion. It is true that Moody’s suggested the charter funding law could affect credit ratings for some districts. But that statement did not take the Penny Tax into account. Avossa and the district staff all know about that tax increase and that there is no credit rating risk for our district. We contacted the district to give them a chance to explain and defend this. The response from Leanne Evans, Treasurer is below. We do not find this satisfactory but readers can form their own conclusions.
HB 7069 requires the District to share the capital outlay tax revenue on a per student basis. The calculation takes the full amount of the capital tax revenue then deducts the amount the District needs for debt service (principal, interest and fees) based on debt outstanding on 3/1/17. The District’s capital plan assumes the taxable values will increase annually at an average of 4.5%, so the base amount to be shared will increase annually. At the same time, the District is paying off debt so the amount of debt service will decline. With those two variables, the amount we expect to provide to charters will range from $10.6 million in FY18 up to $32.7 million in FY27. The expected loss of $230 million over ten years assumes the percentage of students attending charters in Palm Beach County remains constant. If that percentage changes, the amount transferred to charters will also change. The sales tax is dedicated to specific projects over the next ten years. Most of the sales tax money will be used for deferred maintenance and school buses. It will allow us to catch up on work that was postponed during the financial downturn and when the legislature reduced the District’s taxing authority by 25%. There is other work in the District’s capital plan that was to be funded with other funds, mainly local property taxes. This includes ongoing maintenance work so the sales tax would not be needed at the end of 10 years. The loss of $230 million is significant and will jeopardize that plan. The District is working to revise the capital plan and clearly identify the reductions that will be needed due to HB 7069. Moody’s Investor Service issued the comment to advise investors of the challenges that all Florida School Districts will face due to HB 7069. The revenue stream used to make debt service payments is now less predictable. Additionally, they are concerned about the ability to provide the ongoing maintenance, technology and transportation for students. As revenues are reduced, they consider this to be “credit negative” just as an individual’s credit score may be reduced if they experience a pay cut. However, in a similar way an individual could use financial companies similar to Nova Credit (learn more here) to help build their credit, there are ways for us to build our own so we are not affected by any negative credit that may come our way. The School District of Palm Beach County is fortunate to have the support of the community, as demonstrated by the approval of the sales tax. We expect Moody’s and the other rating agencies will take that into account when they review our credit rating later this year but also expect they will question our ability to properly maintain our buildings when the sales tax expires in 2026.
We also reached out to West Boca’s school board representative, Frank Barbieri. We were told he was unavailable for comment.
The State of Florida has released school grades for 2017. Most schools in West Boca maintained their A grades. The one clear drop was in East Boca, where Boca Elementary fell from an A to a B. Among elementary schools, Coral Sunset improved from a C to a B, while Hammock Pointe and Sandpiper Shores both improved from B to A. All other elementary schools in West Boca were A schools before and kept that grade. Other than the Morikami Park magnet school, Waters Edge Elementary had the highest scores. This may be due to its large gifted program. Among non-magnet middle schools, Boca Middle improved from a B grade to an A. The three West Boca middle schools all maintained their A grades. Eagles Landing had the highest overall score but Omni and Loggers were close behind and outperformed Eagles in some areas. The big news for high schools was Olympic Heights improving from B to an A grade. And in bigger news to some, Boca High outscored Spanish River. That scoring looks odd to us as Spanish River had better scores in a number of topics and a slightly higher graduation rate. West Boca High’s overall scores were a bit higher than Olympic with a notable edge in science, though the two were close on most subjects.
We had the pleasure of speaking yesterday with Janah Brooks Golden about her unusual path from Spanish River High School to a successful career in Hollywood. We thought her story might be helpful to local youth and their parents. Known as Janah Brooks Adickman when she was at Spanish River, is now a casting producer in Hollywood, California. She contacted us about a show – The F Word with Gordon Ramsay – she is working on right now for Fox Television. The show will feature families of four (or teams of four) who are amazing home cooks with no professional experience. The original purpose of our contact was her effort to get the word out to those who might want to be on the show. You can apply directly on their The F Word Casting website. The deadline to apply is April 7th so move fast if you’re interested. Her path to this career is not what we would have guessed. Ms. Brooks Golden graduated from Spanish River High in 2003. She went to University of Florida, completing a Master’s degree in Special Education in 2008. She thought she wanted to be a teacher but along the way she realized it wasn’t right for her. She worked for a while with her father’s construction company (Ross Adickman is a founder and the CFO of Amicon). While doing that her love for food led her to start writing a blog about food, food shows on television, and cooking. Her sister was living in Los Angeles and invited her to come out and “see what it’s like.” Two days after she arrived she found a job teaching cooking at Sur La Table. Then she got another job working as a personal chef for an celebrity she would not identify. She had various other jobs, sometimes three at the same time. A friend was doing casting for a well known cooking show and introduced Janah to the world of reality TV casting. That led to doing casting for 13 seasons (two a year) for the show Cutthroat Kitchen, and for other shows including NBC’s Biggest Loser, Bravo’s Recipe for Deception, Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games and Iron Chef Gauntlet (airs in April). That friend who helped her get started became her wife in 2015 and is also her business partner in their company, Front Foot First, which does reality TV development and casting. Of course she’s only getting started, now in her early 30s. She hopes to have a longstanding career creating groundbreaking content. And she still has a passion for food. I asked her where she likes to eat when she comes back here. One restaurant stood out in her mind – Mario’s Osteria. She ate there a lot while she was growing up – then it was closer to Town Center. Other Boca favorites include Sushi Ray, Trattoria Romana and Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza. In Miami she likes Alter with Chef Brad Kilgore and Eating House (Giorgio Rapicavoli). Janah’s advice to kids (and parents) is simple: If you’re not happy with what you’re doing, move on to something else and find your path.
Written by Jacqueline Faustin, a senior at West Boca High, and a member of the school’s musical theater troupe. Marquee Theater Company proudly opened their latest performance, Dreamgirls, at the West Boca Performing Arts Theater (in West Boca High School) this past Saturday, January 21, 2017. Director Andrew Shultz and choreographer Ben Solmor did a noteworthy job accurately and respectably chronicling this captivating tale. Dreamgirls depicts the story of three women who all search for happiness and success in the music industry. With the help of their manager, they get the chance of a lifetime performing as backup singers for a national star. As they delve deeper into the twisted music industry, they abruptly learn just how high the cost of fame truly is. The up-and-coming Marquee Theater Company is fortunate enough to have an across-the-board strong cast for this show. Their authentic energy, palpable throughout the entirety of the show, never faltered. This unique attribute was most definitely thanks to Alex Lugo (Deena), David Berry (Jimmy Early), and Kendra Williams (Effie). All mentioned characters exhibited remarkable stage presence that made a lasting impact on the audience.
Dreamgirls is on for two more shows at West Boca High – Friday, January 28th at 8 pm and Saturday, January 29th at 2 pm. Buy tickets online at the Marquee box office.
Alex Lugo truly is meant for the stage. Her presence alone creates an appealing and captivating ambiance; the audience can’t help but admire her as she effortless sings and gracefully acts. She has the inimitable talent to truly bring out empathy from the audience, making them really feel for her character. David Berry presented a hilariously eccentric, yet charming charisma with his role as “Jimmy Early”. He kept his energy level high throughout the duration of the show, and this could be seen specifically in his number, “The Rap.” His character indubitably created a comedic relief for the show. Kendra Williams stole the show with her performance as “Effie.” Williams, whom has been previously seen as Joanne in Rent, has an unequivocal aptitude for the theater arts. She portrayed her character with such emotional depth and authenticity that it is hard to believe that she, herself, is not Effie. Her show-stopping performance of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,” the closing of Act I, had the entire audience on their feet with profuse applause before she was even finished belting her last note. The ensemble importantly added magnetism to the show. Though some characters lacked believability, overall, they truly enhanced the large group numbers. Harmonies were beautiful when they were not too soft to hear. Their costumes and wigs added to the credibility to the show without drawing too much attention from the characters themselves. Dreamgirls is a show that you do not want to miss out on. Its entrancing storyline was notably told through a cast full of impressive “Dreams.” Marquee Theater Company may be up-and-coming, but it definitely is not one you should look past.