de Groot: Make School System More Transparent




It seems like I’ve known John de Groot forever.  When I came to the Fort Lauderdale News as a kid in the 1970s, de Groot was already a star.  A series he wrote was instrumental in cleaning up Broward’s corrupt and inefficient government



I looked up to him because, wow, he had kicked ass and taken names.  He had gotten things done.  He even had a piece of the Pulitzer Prize for the Kent State shooting coverage.



In a business filled with eccentrics, he was really eccentric. At one point he lived with a pet lion.



His sources included cops and criminals. He was a real newspaper man who buried himself in his subjects.



He once walked into the newsroom toting with a rifle. We thought ol’ de Groot had finally flipped, and the reporters scurried out of the room.  We filed back to our desks when word came he was writing a column about gun shows and wanted to get it right.



De Groot always had a soft spot for the underdog, especially alcoholics, which was half the Fort Lauderdale News staff at the time.



Once some younger reporters went out to lunch and we decided to play a trick on our boss, de Groot. A wino approached us asking for money. We told him to see a guy named de Groot in the Fort Lauderdale News building and he would give him $20.



We got back from lunch and there was de Groot, sitting on the city desk talking to a disheveled wino.  That guy may have gotten his $20, but he had to listen to de Groot’s counseling for over an hour.



De Groot later went on to write a column in the Sun-Sentinel which offered penetrating looks into Broward County life.



During his time at the Sun-Sentinel, he lived a newspaper writers’ dream:  He wrote a play called “Papa about Ernest Hemingway which ended up on Broadway.



Now retired, de Groot still wants to kick ass and take names.  His been doing a fine job in The New Times, but he says he wants to expand to on occasion.



Here is his first offering, an open letter to School Board member Robin Bartleman:





Robin Bartleman

Broward County School Board

Member at Large


Dear Mrs. Bartleman:


Consider this a challenge from a cynical old newspaperman curious to see if you’re one of those rare elected officials who backs up her words with action.


Now according to the Miami Herald, the senseless shooting death of Amanda Collette — the 15-year-old ballet student gunned down on the campus of Dillard High School — has inspired you to do a better a job as you begin your new term as one of nine elected officials in charge of Broward’s massive public school system.


Thus, exactly one week after Amanda was shot to death by an emotionally disturbed fellow student at Dillard you announced to your fellow board members and the Miami Herald:


“In memory of Amanda (Collette) and the children of the Dillard community, I will ask myself every day, “How can we do better?’


Naturally, the built-in bullshit detector I acquired during four decades

as a newspaperman leads me to wonder if your words were heartfelt or just another catchy sound bite for the media.


Which means the ball’s in your court and it’s all up to you.


How so?


You see, as an elected official in charge of one of the nation’s largest public school system, I’m assuming several things like:


(A)   You’re ACTUALLY are concerned about violence in our schools.

(B)   And hence, school violence is something  you and other school officials throughout Florida including Broward should be on top of.


Which is why I’m hoping you’ll put your money where your mouth was the

other day and ask a few hardball questions in need of a few intelligent answers.


Now, for the record, the Florida Department of Education and virtually all the state’s public schools have tracked school violence for years.


But all this stopped after the 2005-06 school year.


Hence, for example, a policy-maker concerned with violence in our public schools could easily obtain the following data for the 2005-06 school year:


District Totals – Weapons Confiscated from Students

Florida           3,647              (An average of  26.3 per day)         

Broward           398               (An average of 2.2 per day)

Dade                324               (An average of 1.8 per day)


                        District Totals Incidents of Student Violence & Fighting

.           Florida           63,808            (An average of 354.5 per day)

            Broward           3,936            (An average of 21.9 per day)

            Dade              17,105            (An average of 94.5 a day)


But vital data like the above is not being kept by the state anymore.


In other words, the above scary numbers aren’t available to you or the people of Florida anymore.


Which should piss you off especially if you were genuine in your public anguish following the murder of your student Amanda Collette last week.




Again, assuming you were not bullshitting us about the death of Amanda, let’s say that (as a public education policy maker) you wanted to take a closer look at school violence in the district to determine the level incidents involving violence and fighting by Broward’s high school students and the administrative response to their behavior.


If so, you would have been able to come up with another troubling “Top Ten list based the following data for the 2005-06 school year:  


                        Incidents of Student Violence and Fighting on Campus

                                 Versus Student Suspensions 2005-06


                                                Incidents             Student Suspensions

                                                                        In School        Out of School

1. Boyd Anderson    123                   203                 104                            

            2. South Broward      90                     388                 177

            3. Dillard                     89                         2                  396

            4. Deerfield Beach    71                     269                  215    

            5. Miramar                  59                     552                  209    

            6. Flanagan                 53                       Not Reported         

6. Hallandale               53                    161                  130

            7. Blanche Ely             49                     77                   135

            8. McArthur                  45                   565                   145

            9. Stranahan                36                   605                   240

            10. Western                 34                   368                   160

10. Everglades            34                   531                   231


Average For All

36 High Schools          35                   220                   127                



Clearly, the obvious anomalies and disparities in the above data suggest a

clear need for a more in-depth study of school policies regarding campus violence.


But again, key data like the above data is no longer being gathered to help you and the scores of other elected Florida school board members monitor crime and violence on in our public schools.


Which means Florida‘s Department of Education has implemented a policy that’s keeping you and your fellow school members in the dark when it comes to the safety and welfare of the 2.6 million children enrolled in our public schools.


Which sucks — from a public policy and transparency standpoint..


Hence,  this cynical old newspaperman will be curious see just what the hell you’re gonna do about all this given how your murdered student Amanda Collette has been in the ground for less than a week.




John de Groot           


9 Responses to “de Groot: Make School System More Transparent”

  1. tinytim says:

    I used to read your column all the time.
    It’s good to see you back, John.

  2. golly...buddy says:

    First Sam Fields and now John DeGroot. Who’s next? The ghost of John Lomelo. You and your washed up friends need to get a life.

  3. YMMV says:

    Shanannagins. The report for 06-07 can be found here:

  4. PTAmom says:

    The violence in the schools has gotten real bad. Somebody has got to pay attention. My son was beat up in the bus line and nobody in administration wanted to pay attention. I called Mr. Carter and he brushed me off. I called Phyllis Hope and never got a call back. You are right. Parents have to know what’s going on.

  5. Sol Wallace says:

    Don’t hold your breath Mr. de Groot? The school system doesn’t really want anybody to know what’s going on. They hide everything they can and disrespect the parents.

  6. Beth The Bounty Hunter says:

    My exact response to the person who wrote in above me. If you don’t think those reports aren’t fixed you’re a fool….The amounts reported are only about ten percent of the actual bullshit that goes on inside those closed campuses with closed mouth principals who don’t want to make their school look bad.

  7. Beth The Bounty Hunter says:

    And P.S. I like John DeGroot he is a very bright man.

  8. Jack Moss says:

    Good for Sam Fields and John DeGroot for continuing their decades of contributions. There is something that can be learned from the old timers, but I forget what it might be.,

  9. deGroot Returns With Blast Against Hospital District’s Lobbying : says:

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