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Cerabino: Paying the price for school spirit at Lake Worth High

You’ve got to hand it to former Lake Worth High School principal George Lockhart.

He’s certainly a guy who isn’t afraid of thinking outside the box.

Like getting the high school teachers who worked for him to do his middle-school son’s online algebra homework. That’s so far out of the box that it nearly got Lockhart fired.

But when it comes to Lockhart’s variety of fresh thinking — which also includes grade-fixing and an allegation of secret off-the-books suspensions — my favorite was his idea to charge students $1 to attend pep rallies and other special events during the school day.

Charging students to attend at-school events is something you might expect if the Palm Beach County School District was experimenting with a Mafia magnet school.

“You wanna show your school spirit? Then you gotta cough up a simoleon, or you can fughedaboudit.”

(Note the vocabulary enrichment opportunities.)


Lockhart allowed students to miss class if they paid $1 as admission to attend two pep rallies, a fashion show and a wrestling match, a school district investigation found.

Lockhart’s school then used deceptive accounting measures to conceal these school fundraising ventures by reporting that the money collected from the students as admission was from sales at the events, investigators found.

I guess you can argue that if you’re looking for peppy students at a pep rally, getting them to pay to get in would be an effective way to raise the level of enthusiasm. They have, as folks like to say these days, skin in the game.

Think of it as just another way to show your school loyalty.

I know. I know. That’s not the more plausible explanation why students paid.

It probably has nothing to do school spirit, an eye for fashion or an urge to watch wrestlers.

I suspect a lot of students were coughing up the cash because the dollar was simply the cost of legally skipping a class.

Like I said, some inspired thinking.

It’s too bad Lockhart got nabbed so soon. If he would have had a few years to fine-tune this fund-raising strategy, Lockhart may have structured a payment plan that optimized the collections.

After all, one dollar sounds cheap for getting out of a bad class.

I’ll bet some high school students might be willing to pay as much as $5 to miss a lesson on a geometry proof or a quiz on a Jane Austen novel. There could be a whole economics lesson on how to optimize the shakedown of students.

The collections could be structured the way airlines sell seats on planes, where you pay extra for the amenities.

“For an extra $3, we can offer you a more-room hall pass after the event, which also will get you out of that Earth Science class the next period. Or if your budget allows, you can go first-class with an early dismissal for $10.”

“Or maybe you’d like to give blood?”

Blood’s the ultimate hall pass.

When I was at the U.S. Naval Academy, weekends for underclassmen started on Saturday afternoon. But if you gave a pint of blood on Friday, you could start your weekend on Saturday morning — a whole four hours earlier.

In numerical terms, that was one hour of freedom for every 4 ounces of blood. A real bargain.

We had an expression for this arrangement: vampire liberty.

So while Lockhart was a creative thinker who strayed outside the box, at least he wasn’t out for blood.

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