I have a few comments about the recent melee (i.e. near riot) that took place last Friday at Weston’s Cypress Bay High School (CBHS), among the largest in the nation with over 4,300 students.
If you hadn’t heard, there was a food fight in the school cafeteria during lunchtime that erupted into a chaotic frenzy and spilled out into the courtyard. Thousands of students gathered to witness the commotion and fracas, as one student, a 17 year old, was arrested for allegedly striking a school official and he now faces felony charges. For the rest of the school community, the incident remains an embarrassment coming at the end of a school year that unfortunately saw a fair share of unwanted media attention.
Let me first say that Cypress Bay is a top high school, producing outstanding college-bound students every year. It is far from a “troubled” school, as it was referred to in Saturday’s Miami Herald headline. They may have faced their share of challenges this year (sex scandals and food fights will attract headlines), but to label it “troubled” is a bit unfair, no? For what it’s worth, Cypress Bay has earned an ‘A’ grade for 8 of the last 9 years and the last 3 in a row. That’s far from “troubled”. I had the privilege of working with several 12th graders who are bound for great schools like University of Chicago, UPenn (Wharton), Cal Tech, NYU, University of Florida, Elon University, The Pratt Institute, and University of Richmond, among many others. And those are just the dozen or so kids I personally worked with — about 98% of the 1,000 12th graders are college-bound.
The problem with CBHS, and the reason this incident got so out of hand, is that the school is simply too large. The administration and faculty don’t have the manpower to control a student body of over 4,000 when they get rambunctious and prank-happy on a Friday in May. Frankly, I give credit to the school, its students, Principal Neely and his staff for maintaining order during the other 179 days of the school year. Friday’s episode could have happened anywhere, but the images that circulated among social media in recent days revealed a chaotic sea of teenage outburst. This could have been an Ultra Music Festival without the beating bass.
What does this have to do with college planning? Despite it’s terrific record, the US Department of Education notes that only 60% of CBHS seniors completed a FAFSA this year (as of April 26). This means that, notwithstanding the noble efforts of the college counseling office, the message is not getting through to the minions that every applicant should complete a FAFSA in order to qualify for aid and some scholarships, including Florida’s Bright Futures. The conclusion is that the BRACE office, like the rest of the adminstration at CBHS, is simply overwhelmed. Friday’s episode is just a symtom of a much bigger problem.
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