Petition calls on Osceola School Board members to act like adults, not children.

POINCIANA – In the field of education, children are sometimes called on to stop being childish, and start acting more like adults.
But what happens if the target of that kind of criticism isn’t children at all, and there’s a petition circulating calling on the adults – specifically, the members of the Osceola county School Board – to quit behaving like children?
Wendy Farrell isn’t quite sure, but she sure hopes to find out.
“They’re becoming more like a soap opera, which isn’t what it should be,” Farrell said.
Farrell lives in Poinciana and runs a business there called Signature Promotions. She’s now part of a group circulating a petition calling on the school board to do a better job of representing the citizens of, and schools within the borders of, Osceola County.
“We are launching this petition to let the Osceola County School Board know that we believe that they have not represented the best interests of our children/students’ education,” the petition reads. “We believe that their actions have breached the public trust and negatively impacted our community and its reputation.”
The public is called on to “Take action now and pledge to join the fight to put our students and their education first and to demand that our School Board does the same. Let them know we will not stand by and allow anyone to jeopardize our children’s education and opportunities for future success.”
Farrell said the decision to launch this petition was partly influenced by the decision in March of Superintendent of Schools Michael Grego to resign from the job that he’s held for less than three years — in order, he said, to spend more time with his family.
Farrell said she was disappointed at his decision because she felt Grego was making real progress in improving Osceola County’s schools.
“The petition was brought to me by some parents in St. Cloud, and they wanted me to spread the word here,” she said. “I agree with the thought process. It wasn’t about allegations, it was ‘Can we please get back to the children and the education.’ That’s all we’re trying to do, is focus on learning.
“Mike’s reasons for leaving are Mike’s reasons for leavings, but if you watch the school board meetings, you know there’s only so much people will take.” she added. “A lot of parents and a lot of people in the community didn’t want him to go.”
Farrell speculated that Grego might have decided to leave because of the infighting among school board members, which she said defeats the purpose of aiming to improve education.
“It’s just not a very good example,” she said. “It just doesn’t look good. How on Earth are we expected to attract a reasonable superintendent to replace Mike when you’ve got all this squabbling during the meetings? It’s a distraction away from the important things. People have actually become proud of this school district now, and we want to get the focus back on the school system, back on the kids, and in the meantime we need to get back to schools.”
It’s particularly disappointing, she said, since local schools – including the ones in Poinciana – are getting much better, with rising FCAT grades.
“The results across Osceola County have been amazing in these past few years,” she said. “Poinciana High School went from an F school to a B school. Poinciana High was always the black sheep, and we’ve been able to bring that school up the B it is now. From Poinciana’s perspective, I think everybody is happy with the way our schools are going.
“Before Michael came on, it was all about getting kids to Level 3 FCAT scores and that was it,” Farrell added. “Mike came in and said ‘We need to be pushing all the kids all the time.’ I think we were a bit too focused on our underachievers, and our overachievers were switching off.”
In addition to convincing the school board members to put their entire focus on education, Farrell said Osceola County needs to do a much better job of letting the public know what the district has accomplished.
“People are now proud of their schools,” she said. “It’s not about mudslinging. We just want them to know this is what parents want, they want the focus back on the important things.”
The same goes for news coming out of the schools, she added.
“All too often, it’s always the negative,” she said. “If there’s anything negative in the schools, we hear about it. Everyone wants to hear about controversy and bad news. But Poinciana High from an F to a B is a tremendous achievement, so we want people to see what’s going on at the school now. It’s a total transformation.”

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Barbeque to eat, music to listen to, and a tax plan to ponder at the Keep Your Whole Paycheck BBQ.

SANFORD – On June 12, there’s going to be a barbeque held in Sanford, along with plenty of entertainment.
“We’re going to have two bands there for some variation, a really neat magician doing card tricks, and we’re going to have a raffle with a money tree hung with lottery coupons, so somebody could win a good chunk of money,” said Larry Walters.
Money, as it turns out, is the central theme of the “Keep Your Whole Paycheck BBQ,” which will be held at the Route 46 Entertainment District at 4316 W. State Road 46 from 3-6 p.m.
“The Keep Your Whole Paycheck BBQ is a fund-raiser, not a teaching event,” Walters said. “It’s an area where we hope to bring in people who are supporters and we hope to bring enough of those in so we can pick up a few thousand dollars. It’s basically to give us a boost up financiallly so we can do more to get our message out.”
The food and entertainment comes along with a little bit of politics as well, from a Florida-based organization called the Florida Fairtax Educational Association, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that Walters heads up. It’s a Sunshine State affiliate of a national organization called Americans for Fair Taxation, which was started in 2003 on the premise that American businesses and the U.S. economy were being weighted down by a burdensome tax system that is too complicated, has too many loopholes, and that nobody truly understands. A better solution, Americans for Fair Taxation has proposed, is a simple national sales tax that replaces both the federal income tax and payroll taxes used to fund Social Security. Businesses would no longer have to deduct taxes from their workers’ paychecks, and employees would keep every dime they earn — except, of course, for what they decide to go out and spend it on.
“They did a bunch of research and came up with a bunch of information on how the income tax system functions in our country and what’s the most detrimental thing about it,” Walters said of the national association. “They decided what we’d like to do is come up with a better solution for funding the government, something that’s more transparent. What came out of this workshop was a national sales taxes.”
FairTax is the Florida affiliate, and Walters said “Our mission is strictly to educate the public and our elected representatives on the fairness of this.”
The proposal is to create a national sales tax where people pay 23 cents out of every dollar they spent.
“If you take the raw cost of a good or service, it’s 30 percent,” Walters said
Walters said the current tax system is too cumbersome and hurts the overall business climate in this country.
“One of the things the research discovered is under the income tax, we pay more because of taxes imposed on businesses,” he said. “In essence a business or corporation is a collection agency for the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). Taxes are assessed to a business or corporation. A tax assessed to a corporation is calculated to be one of the elements of the cost of doing business. When the cost of doing business is calculated, then they’ll determine what their cost is going to be. So they’re a pseudo-collection agency for the IRS.”
Another problem, he said, is that Congress is constantly rewriting the tax laws, creating new tax breaks or loopholes for particular interest groups.
“The income tax is very easy to manipulate,” he said. “Today, for example, the income tax is over 71,000 pages of codes and regulations,. The income tax started out as a simple tax, but now it’s up to three tax brackets and has been amended more than 14,000 times in the last 20 years. In 2010 alone, there were 509 amendments to the tax code. It is so complex that literally no one can comply with it.”
Florida currently has no income tax and a statewide sales tax, but Walters said Florida shouldn’t be considered a model for the nation.
“Even though Florida has a sales tax, they have a lot of exemptions to it,” he said. “Under our proposal, nothing is exempt except used goods and tuitions and fees for some kind of education. That’s an investment in human capital. Otherwise it would be a flat percentage applied to everyone, including the underground economy. There’s no multiple taxation on anything under our system. That simplifies collection. That includes the ability to administer and monitor what’s going on with the businesses in your state.”
Critics have accused a national sales tax of being detrimental to low income families that need to spend their entire paycheck on goods and services, and who might otherwise pay nothing at all through a graduated income tax system. But Walters dismissed those claims.
“Under the fair tax, it’s basically a progressive tax because people who are wealthier spend more, so they would be paying more,” he said. “Being cognizant of that regressive nature of the sales tax, the fair tax is an effort to have a tax system administered equally to all participants. You pay at the cash register as you go. You keep your whole paycheck”
Even with eliminating payrolls taxes, Walters said the association’s research shows that “Social Security would be funded by the 23 cents out of the dollar national sales tax. The calculation of the sales tax was done so that it is revenue neutral, and under the Fair Tax proposal, our economy and our GDP (Gross Domestic Product) would grow almost 10 percent greater than under the income tax, regardless of what the financial situation was at the time.”
Walters said he hopes a good crowd turns out for the Keep Your Whole Paycheck BBQ, and that people keep an open mind about the Fair Tax plan.
“We’re getting a very, very good reception from those who can think about it a little,” he said. “Where we get the opposite, we’ve got those who are ignorant and don’t care about it and don’t want to change things and are happy with the devil they live with.”

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Orlando institute, specializing in health care programs, welcomes in the public with an open house.

Centura Institute held an open house on Tuesday to remind the public that they exist. (Photo by Brek Dalrymple)

ORLANDO – Usually when people hold an open house, it’s to sell their home by showing off just how nice it looks inside.
When Centura Institute held an open house on Tuesday, it wasn’t because the commercial property was for sale. Rather, they wanted people to know they exist — and have plenty to offer.
“We’ve been here for 12 years – a long time,” said Danielle A. Brown, the campus executive director of the business at 6359 Edgewater Drive. “We try to do open houses once or twice a year, and it’s basically to bring more awareness to us.”
That awareness, she added, isn’t necessarily for lack of clients. Centura has classes for students who want to enroll in one of four programs: medical billing and coding, medical assistant, massage therapy, and practical nursing. These programs, Brown said, are a reminder that health care is still a growing field in an otherwise weak economy, and students can take their new skills anywhere in the country.
“There is still a need for all of those types of positions in this economy,” Brown said. “Those jobs are transferrable. You can use those skills anywhere you go. We have seen our students go from struggling to support their families, to being very successful.”
Centura Institute trains students for a career in the health care field, one of the few industries – education is the others – that has managed to continue creating new jobs even in the midst of the steep economic downturn in 2008 and 2009.
Brown said students can get a degree, then expect to find themselves in demand pretty much anywhere in the U.S.
“This is a very transient state,” she said. “The United States – period – has a need for health care.”
Knowing that there are still more unemployed people than jobs being created, Brown said people should take a serious look at health care as their future.
“We get people right out of high school, to people who are 65,” she said. “It’s never too late to go back to school.”
Katie Stone is one of those students. She recently completed Centura’s massage therapy program, and has no regrets.
“It’s an awesome program,” she said. “There’s an opportunity for you to master an art, because it truly is an art. It’s as ancient as some of the oldest civilizations. Massage therapy has been going on since the start of time.”
That program lasts 11 months, said its coordinator, Michelle Alley, and students are always ready to welcome the public in so their can do some – well, homework of sorts.
“We have a student clinic and they do free massages for the public,” Alley said. “It’s part of their curriculum. It’s the last thing they do before they graduate. And we have some very nice treatment rooms here.”
“I think it’s a calling,” Stone added, as she stood outside in the institute’s parking lot under a blue tent, offering massages to the people who showed up for the free food and opportunity to learn more about the school’s programs.
It’s also a great career option, Stone said.
“You can work on your own as a therapist, or in a clinical office,” she said. “You can work in hospitality, or you can work with pregnant moms, or with chiropractors. There are a huge number of options.”
That’s exactly the message that Centura hopes to get out to its prospective students, Brown said.
“When you leave here, you will be ready to take your licensing exam,” Brown said. “Massage therapy is all about holistic health. The message therapy program is really exciting. You can go into a medical field like chiropractic or you can work at the hotels.”
Centura Institute was started in 1977, although the Orlando campus opened much later, in 2001.
But even with 12 years behind it, not everyone knows Centura exists – hence, the open house.
“We use it a couple of times per year to remind people that we’re here,” Brown said. “We usually do it to get the community back here. It creates awareness of their own health.”
It also gives the public a chance to meet the Centura instructors, she said, and find out what the average student is like.
“It’s an opportunity to see someone like them and know that they can do it,” Brown said. “It’s important for people to know that regardless of their past, they can start from scratch.”
To learn more about Centura Institute, call 407-275-9696.

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