Palm Coast Schools need a Warning Label!

Maybe its in the expensive Palm Coast water… or some allergy to the massive Palm Coast landscaping infrastructure or just an outgrowth of zero  accountability common to local government entities in Palm Coast Florida. Whatever it is;  its terrifying because your children are at risk.

The largest employer in Flagler County is County Government.  Flagler County is similar to Greece in which 3 out of 4 workers in the County work for the government. The property owners pay for all of it. This scheme was conceived by ITT when it built Palm Coast in the 1970’s and 80’s.

Palm Coast was a “planned” community in which business and government were carefully sequestered.  ITT had no competition and didn’t want any.  It was designed by people who knew nothing about business or economics or building but wanted to sell cheap timberland and the northern coastal swampland to suckers from “up North’. It is also why you can’t drive anywhere without getting into a snarl of traffic. Then there are the elderly who truly intended to hit the brakes but just slam on the gas pedal when that Osteoarthritic trick knee throws a rod.  Mr. Toad has at least a few wild rides a day, occasionally through a store front or the Friday morning farmers market.

It was built as a facade. It featured concrete block ranch homes, marshes and bulkheads filled with sandy loam, and lots of landscaping. Landscaping was a scheme unto itself, like a bouquet of flowers used to perfume a skunk. Everything was geared to selling retirement homes to the not so well off. And it was done in the golden era of Florida real estate, in the age of Caveat  Emptor, more commonly known as “let the buyer beware.”

Homes were built before the ground settled and so this new Florida Levitt town concealed  its cracked foundations and sinkholes under a blizzard of advertising brochures dropped on the New York and Jersey City suburbs.  So began the ITT underground railroad retirement community.

The only businesses that exist are landscaping, and service companies that serve the retiree and real estate markets. In 2006, I think 2 out of 3 persons in Palm Coast were selling real estate. But the good times ended. Construction is now flat since the flipper boom town came to a screeching halt in 2008.

Floirda now has laws about residential real estate disclosures described in Johnson v. Davis  449 So.2d 344. (Fla. 3d DCA 1984) but  Flagler County and Palm Coast seem to get a pass when it comes to their schools.  Newcomers are merely flashed a colorful brochure that says the schools are wonderful even though they aren’t.

Flagler County Schools should come with a red warning label glued to the side of the buildings

The issue of minors being sexually preyed upon by teachers seems very material to any home purchase especially for a young family moving to Palm Coast and expecting to attend a school where their children can obtain life skills and be safe.  But when  it comes to schools and government in Palm Coast, beware what they don’t tell you in the brochures. 

If you were simply to read the school websites, you would get the idea that all is well and the schools are terrific. The same message is portrayed in the Palm Coast City websites.  Life is just wonderful so they say. But is it wonderful if you send you child to school and they are targeted by a predator and sexually molested by a teacher?

Don’t get the impression that Palm Coast is alone in this mess; they’re not. Adjacent Counties have had their problems too but Flagler is a small district by comparison and the crimes here have been particularly disturbing.  If not for the diligence of local law enforcement, none of these sexual offenders would have been apprehended. They would still be preying on your children year after year, perhaps smug that they could get away with it.

This kind of thing requires disclosure. Families that move to Palm Coast should be informed in real estate contracts and rental contracts that a problem exists. People have a right to disclosure of any hidden known material dangers that might adversely affect their investment or their children’s safety. This might qualify as a Stage Created danger under section 1982 of the Federal code.

Nothing could be more heartbreaking than to send your child to school and have them picked off by some cleaver teacher predator that reduces the sacred teacher student trust relationship into a sexual party for the teacher.  I’m sorry if these words seem harsh but this subject is the harshest subject I can think of and to sweep it under the carpet would be wrong.  But that is exactly what the School Board does with this.  They act like it’s not their problem.  It needs to be aired; it needs to be disclosed and it needs to be stopped.

Read and weep for the children… they were sent into a trap. Websites, newspapers and the government brochures promised a wonderful school system experience and they delivered your children to the wolves, never disclosing that they had experienced problems in the past, and never addressing how they had remedied the problem. Clearly the School Board failed in its duty to protect your children. Why should they skate responsibility? They make policy; they are the oversight or the negligence for a failure to act. It is not enough to fire a predator, the school has to have policies to protect your children and avenues by which the children can report teacher conduct without fear.

Read and weep for the children…

James Wolfe: Palm Coast high school Teacher captured in a Flagler County Sheriff’s sting operation, admitted having sexual relations with a 16 year old. The incident occurred two years ago and Wolfe was arrested in August 2013.  He is presently out on bond. If convicted he could go to prison for 15 years.

Antonio Izquierdo:  Palm Coast High School Teacher was convicted of having sexual contact with a 16 year old male student. The incident occurred in January of 2008 and the former teacher was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Amberlee Evonne Meeker, an elementary school teacher and Palm Coast resident was arrested in January of 2012 on for solicitation of a minor by computer and disseminating obscene material to a minor under 16.  She was extradited to North Carolina. She worked in a South Daytona Elementary school until resigning. Though not an employee of Flagler County, was arrested in Palm Coast on an indictment from North Carolina. Apparently she had an interest in working for Flagler County School District.

Daniel Joseph Biles,  a teacher’s aide in the Flagler County School District, was arrested and charged with ten counts of possession of child pornography.  April 2012.

Steve Knob, a 25 year veteran Teacher and Band Director was using his school computer to surf porn.  He got caught after the computer crashed and had to be fixed.  November 2011. The trouble with this story is that although the infraction was victimless, the school district attempted to cover it up.

At first Knob left his job under the guise of “family health problems” which was a  false cover story.  He received a quiet reprimand by the District but his record was disguised so he could seek other employment at another school district if he wished. In other words, the fix was in to not fully disclose this information to another school district or private school employer. While this may have been pure foolishness by Knob and deeply regretted by him,  this is a material issue that any future employer would want to know.  It reflects poorly on Knob’s judgment but it demonstrates the blatant dishonestly of the School Board to hide the information from another unsuspecting school district.

While Knob is the least offensive of the misconduct so far reported at the Flagler School District, the School Board should resign because they attempted a soft coverup. This is in violation of the Sunshine Laws and is a scourge to the parents who send their children to these schools. This is an example where the best interests of the students were disregarded in favor of protecting a teacher from an irresponsible act and covering it up. That is simple garden variety dishonesty by public officials; and they all knew about it and were good with hushing it up. But the truth surfaced and the back peddling began.

I believe Mr. Knob to be a good man though lacking in judgement. But the School Board conduct in this case was to cover it up and that is a breach of the public trust. There must be some accountability. We don’t want School Boards reaching for a coverup when something is embarrassing to them. We don’t want spin;  we want the facts. We don’t need a bureaucracy protecting itself, especially one that has a history suggesting that it needs very serious oversight.

If Wolfe is convicted, it will get very very expensive. Why? Because five years earlier, a similar incident occurred. And as far as I know, several of the same Board Members remain on the School Board which will interest Plaintiff’s attorney.

Whatever policy was installed to prevent another incident, it didn’t work and the same Board members from 2008, had a duty of oversight which clearly failed.  Maybe they had short memories.  Teacher Child molestation is not something many would forget.

Some Board members think their tenure is a permanent lifetime position, some think it is a family chair, some think it is a kind of quasi employment arrangement.  Results speak for themselves.  The ship has gone down again, and the School Board bears responsibility because in the end, this blunder, this lack of oversight will cost the taxpayers a bundle if Wolfe is convicted. It could cost millions to the taxpayers. Penn State settled the Sandusky case for $59.7 million.

If Wolfe had any red flags or other students come forward, then those “long sitting” School Board Members will have to atone for what went wrong. They can’t just sit there and watch egregious episodes like this occur on their watch and laugh all the way to the bank and point fingers at school administrators. It was their duty to protect the children and they failed in that duty. They failed miserably. They collected a paycheck and did nothing to protect the children.

The buck stops at the School Board. It will be their mismanagement, their useless lack of oversight that has brings this raining down on the taxpayers again because Plaintiff’s attorney is going to look to the past. These Board members can’t just sit there and blame everyone else.  They have been there for years, some for more than a decade.  They need to resign. This matter is serious  and more serious because it happened in 2008 and now again. Where were the safeguards?

Policies will be examined and they will be put under a microscope to see how they were implemented. Teacher training will be an issue and Board action will be examined. In fact Board action will be examined in all cases. Any violations of procedure could result in in personal liability for the Board members themselves.  It is not enough for the Board to act shocked and to point fingers at administrators, the Board sets policies and somehow, we are back in a situation where a student has suffered what appears to be sexual abuse as a minor. Heads must roll this time and those heads should be the School Board members themselves not some administrative scapegoat.

Weep for the children, not these politicians on the School Board. Their negligence is going to cost you plenty.  This is too awful, too egregious to continue without real accountability.  The School Board hired these teachers.

There needs to be a special prosecutor appointed by the Governor and a full investigation. School Board members; your resignations please.

 

 

 

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