Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Excerpt #4: Post reporter Scott McCabe about Lake Worth High School: “Project Lake Worth”, the Unity Wall, and our 4th annual Street Painting Festival.

Below is the final excerpt.

To read Excerpt #1 in its entirety use this link:

“For what had begun six years earlier [1989] as a search for a way to save the high school had flowered into a movement to save the city itself — Project Lake Worth.”

Excerpt #2:

“Despite the rumors of Project Lake Worth’s imminent demise, Joe Egly, its former president, vows to keep it alive — no matter what it takes.”

Excerpt #3:

“Project Lake Worth brought people together who would otherwise have never met and made things happen,” Kathy La Croix said.*

A pull quote about Project Lake Worth
in Excerpt #4 below:

But as the city has come back to life, Project Lake Worth has struggled. . . . Meetings once were packed with
125 members; now there’s
about 23, Dale said.†

Read more about Project Lake Worth from Post
staff writer Scott McCabe, datelined:

Sunday, February 14th, 1999.

Click on newspaper clipping from 18 years ago:
 From the timeline. 1997: “Project Lake Worth board members assume same roles for Lake Worth Community Development Corp.” 1999: “Housing stock: still about 50 percent rental.

Excerpt #4:

     A 1,000-foot wall in the Osborne community, raised to separate blacks and whites, was transformed into a symbol of unity when [Exec. Dir. Kathy] La Croix introduced an artist to residents who wanted to erase a symbol of bigotry.
     The artist covered the graffiti with a mural designed by students to depict their vision of unity.
     The downtown, meanwhile, started to come to life. Now, with only one vacancy, it bustles. Organizers of the fourth annual Street Painting Festival, held under the umbrella of Project Lake Worth, say their biggest concern is that they’ve grown too big.
     The festival has grown from 10,000 visitors five years ago into the city’s signature event, with about 100,000 expected next weekend.
     A new $10.2 million Southgrade [public elementary school] opened in October. Northgrade has begun reconstruction. Last month, a new $11.6 million Highland Elementary opened, ending its reign as the county’s most crowded school.
     At the high school, enrollment is up to 2,800. [Principal David] Cantley’s turning away students. There are 3,000 applicants vying for 150 magnet school slots.
     But as the city has come back to life, Project Lake Worth has struggled.
     Meetings once were packed with 125 members; now there’s about 23, Dale said. When there were committees, there is only a chairman.
     “There were disagreements and controversy and people went their separate ways,” Egly said. “Things couldn’t get done.”
     He can’t point at one single cause for the decline.
     When the meetings moved from mornings to nights to accommodate the public, some founders, like Gleason and Cantley, dropped out. Their evenings already were full.
     Project Lake Worth’s mission became so broad it no longer qualified for the narrowly defined public and private grants available.
     Subgroups tackling specific problems spun off on their own. Romano’s and Crocilla’s§ [city-wide] clean-ups, for instance, evolved into the Trojan House, a program that gives students academic credit for renovating city-donated homes.
     The Business Council broke away to become the Downtown Homeowners Association.
     The Street Painting Festival organizers were upset last month when Project Lake Worth board members wrote to say they would take out $2,500 from the festival’s account to pay Project Lake Worth’s insurance and administrative costs.
     “There was a lot of bad feeling,” said event founder Erin Ehman, who agreed to pay about $1,800 to cover the insurance.
     Next year, Ehman said, the Street Painting Festival will apply for its own tax-exempt status or use the city’s. 
     Despite the setbacks, Egly has a plan.
     Board members have taken over the faltering quasi-governmental Lake Worth Community Development Corp., which can more easily obtain grants because it focuses on housing.
     That also gets La Croix involved again. The former executive director of Project Lake Worth, who declined to be photographed, is now one of the CDC’s four paid employees. The two groups share office space.
     Project Lake Worth retains its nonprofit status, making it a sponsor for others seeking tax-exempt donations. Police have asked for help with a burglary study grant, Egly said.
     “Retreating?” Cappella said. “We’re attacking in a different way.”

The end.

So. What happened to Project Lake Worth?

Will try and delve into that more later on. But two things are for certain: Project Lake Worth was a spectacular success after it formed in 1989. It withered away in 1999.

Most everyone agrees in 2017 we need more community and public involvement in our public schools to get attendance up, help struggling and at-risk communities, and raise scores across the board. The political leadership needs to come from City Hall. About two years ago there was a Lake Worth Education Council; however, there’s been little activity in many months.

But there are other groups and efforts presently that boldly carry on like the Neighborhood Assoc. Presidents’ Council and the Little Free Libraries all over the City. PBSO, which took over for the LWPD in 2008, has their anti-gang and school initiatives as well.

There are groups outside the City supporting Lake Worth High School (e.g., in Atlantis and elsewhere out west) composed of former Lake Worth residents — many of whom are Lake Worth High School alumni — who moved out of the City in the 1980s and 1990s. Everyone appreciates all their hard work, but having some take up residence here in the City once again would send a powerful message.

If you didn’t know, two former Lake Worth mayors live within the walls surrounding the City of Atlantis.

There remains much hard work to be done in our public schools, all the public schools, not just Lake Worth High School but in the elementary schools too. Maybe it’s time for Project Lake Worth II? But this time make it more sustainable, professionally run and organized, more consistent and more exciting too so it doesn’t fall apart in just 11 short years.

Ideas anyone?

*Kathy La Croix was executive director of Project Lake Worth in 1998; hired in 1993 for project.
David Dale, former president of Project Lake Worth.
Parent Jody Gleason was a member of Project Lake Worth; later became a member of the PBC School Board.
§“Romano” is former Lake Worth Mayor Rodney Romano; “Crocilla” is Gerry Crocilla, a former teacher at the high school.
PBSO took over for the LWPD in 2008.
Joe Cappella, Realtor and founding member of Project Lake Worth.

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