Principal for a day program links leaders, kids

Wednesday, November 13, 2002
Palm Beach County Palm Beach Post
By Katie Mee, Staff Writer

Palm Beach County Judge Charles Burton
Judge Charles E. Burton

County Court Judge Charles Burton began the morning of Nov. 6, enforcing laws much different than those he typically handles in his civil trials.Judge Charles Burton teaces kids for a day.

"You have your late bus pass?" the Judge questioned a late Carver Middle School student.

"Tuck in your shirt," he teased another.

The judge, made famous during proceedings over the recount of Election 2000, put aside his robe and gavel for the day to see what it's like in the shoes of Dr. Ian Saltzman, principal of Carver Middle School.

"He told me I'd need Rollerblades and he wasn't kidding," said Judge Burton. "The guy never stops. He's all over the school, in and out of the classrooms. I don't think he spends one moment at his desk."

Judge Burton was one of 19 local business leaders who acted as principal for a day to promote partnership between schools and business in Delray. The program, in its second year, is called PENCIL, or Public Education Needs Civic Involvement in Learning.

This wasn't Judge Burton's first time in a classroom. He's taught in many elementary, middle and high schools throughout the county.

"I enjoy doing this sort of thing and talking with kids. It's great to visit schools on a basis that has nothing to do with campaigning," he said.

On an average Wednesday, Judge Burton can be found inside his Delray Beach courtroom ruling on civil cases. This particular Wednesday he was finding it tough just to keep up with Dr. Saltzman.

"I don't know how he does it. He knows the names of all 1,400 students," Judge Burton said. "I'm learning what a difficult job he has, but also how well he does it. It's very impressive to see his energy, concern and how well disciplined the students are."

He visited two social studies classrooms and one career education class, where he was faced with all types of questions.

The simpler ones included, "how much money do you make," and "how do you become a judge?"

But they got more intriguing.

"Why can a kid be tried as an adult," asked one eighth-grade student.

"If we have the right to assemble, why do the cops not allow us to hang around outside the movie theater," another questioned.

The Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Court judge got a chance to ask some questions of his own.

"So, who are the most famous and important judges in our country's history?"

That was all too easy a question for this group, or so they thought. The classroom rang in response with shouts of "Judge Judy," "Joe Brown," and for their new friend, "Judge Burton."

The staff seemed to agree with the latter.

"Judge Burton, I just had to meet you and shake your hand," said language arts teacher Helena Sliney. "I watched you on TV. I don't know how you stayed so patient during that recount."

The day ended with each acting principal sharing experiences at a town meeting at the Delray Beach Marriott. It was there that proof of the program's importance was made clear. Relationships between the schools and leaders exist well beyond one day.

Bruce Nelson, CEO of Office Depot and principal for his second year at S.D. Spady Elementary, presented the school with a check for $15,000.

"He learned that the school's chorale group had been invited to sing at Carnegie Hall for a Christmas performance, but needed $25,000 to get there. (That was) an amount they weren't going to be able to reach," said Shelly Weil, chairman of the Delray Beach of Education. "This morning he gave them a company check for $10,000 and a personal check of $5,000. It doesn't get much better than that."


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Updated 12/11/2003