Elementary school assembly singling out low-scoring Black students in Bunnell sparks investigation

District officials say assembly was aimed at improving student scores

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – An assembly last week at Bunnell Elementary School held for “African American students that scored below a three on testing” has sparked an investigation by the county over what happened, according to a report from News4JAX sister station WKMG.

The release shows that the assembly included 4th and 5th-grade students, and Jason Wheeler, the district’s communications coordinator, confirmed that it was his understanding that the assembly only included African American students.

Flagler County School Board Chair Cheryl Massaro told WKMG that the assembly was aimed at motivating “African American students that scored below a three on testing” to work harder in school, though she said she wasn’t sure what might have been said during the assembly.

Furious parents, however, said what their children were told was unbelievable, including one parent reporting that their child was told if they didn’t perform well in school and go to college they could end up in jail, shot or killed.

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Those parents, it turns out, didn’t know about the assembly until their children started talking about it.

The district provided WKMG with a PowerPoint presentation used in the assembly, which includes a slide titled, “The Problem.” That slide lists the following statements:

  • “AA have underperform (sic) on standardized assessment for the last past 3 years.”
  • “We only have 32% of our students who are at a Level 3 or higher for ELA/Math.”
  • “We are supposed to have at least 41%.”

WKMG reached out to district officials to ask what “AA” stands for, though no explanation has yet been provided. (Click here to view the full PowerPoint presentation used in the assembly at the bottom of WKMG’s story.)

Interim Superintendent LaShakia Moore said in a statement that she sat down with the school’s principal, Donelle Evensen, to discuss the assembly.

I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with Bunnell Elementary Principal Donelle Evensen following an assembly of 4th and 5th-grade students. We have been able to talk about what led to this assembly and steps that were or were not taken before or after it.

In speaking with Mrs. Evensen, it is clear there was no malice intended in planning this student outreach. However, sometimes, when you try to think “outside the box,” you forget why the box is there.

While the desire to help this particular subgroup of students is to be commended, how this was done does not meet the expectations we desire among Flagler Schools. We want our parents and guardians to actively participate in their children's educational successes. Without informing them of this assembly or of the plans to raise these scores, our parents were not properly engaged.

I will continue working with Mrs. Evensen and her team to find more appropriate ways to affect change on their campus, even as we continue to investigate this particular issue. I’m also asking anyone in our community who may have questions, please contact Mrs. Evensen at Bunnell Elementary or myself.

That said, from this point forward, all of our schools will engage our parents, no matter what group or subgroup their children may be in, in our continued efforts to raise achievement among all students.

Statement by Interim Superintendent LaShakia Moore

The presentation also includes solutions, including steps like having students work harder to perform better academically.

A “F.A.S.T. Challenge” was also mentioned, which states that students will compete in ELA and math subjects to win a meal from McDonald’s.

No additional information has been provided at this time, including what content in the assembly might have sparked the investigation.

District officials confirmed that Evenson is not facing any disciplinary action at this time.

About the Authors:

Anthony, a graduate of the University of Florida, joined ClickOrlando.com in April 2022.