Puletti lauds calm graduation, responds to complaint

LABELLE — Hendry County Schools Superintendent Paul Puletti said graduation went off without incident at Clewiston High School after damages of roughly $12,000 were inflicted when some seniors turned vandals one night.

All the students were allowed to walk across the stage at the ceremony May 17, but some were prohibited from addressing their classmates as planned. Around 20 of the 30-some seniors involved were top students who had attended the Collegiate Academy, school officials reported.

“The students paid their costs, they did their community service, and graduation came off without incident,” Mr. Puletti said. “I think the students in the class showed a lot of integrity and class by taking a difficult situation and making for a very pleasant graduation evening for themselves and their parents and the community.”

Regarding the complaint that 2012 CHS graduate Joshua Deese addressed to the Hendry County School Board at its meeting May 21, and why no board members or administrators responded to his allegations of discrimination based on sexual orientation, Mr. Puletti’s office pointed out that it was simply a public comment made on a non-meeting agenda item.

“We’re required by law to offer the opportunity to anyone from the public to speak to the board, and he used that opportunity,” the superintendent said. Asked if the district had any official response, he replied, “No.”

Mr. Deese had called for the resignation of CHS Principal Roberto Sanchez based on three incidents; however, Mr. Puletti said only that Mr. Deese’s final claim, that his employment application was turned down as part of a pattern of anti-gay discrimination, was unfounded.

“The one thing he kept saying was that he was not hired as a teacher. Mr. Deese does not have a degree yet. I can’t hire him as a teacher if I wanted to. I’m not saying I don’t want to, but he’s non-degreed, so he can’t teach.”

Mr. Deese said he does have an associate’s degree from Palm Beach State College and several credits toward a bachelor’s degree that he earned at the University of Maryland, but that he will be leaving Clewiston soon to finish his degree at the University of California-Riverside. He said he was only seeking a short-term substitute-teaching position.

Will he return to Hendry County after he has his degree? “Probably not,” Mr. Deese said.

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