Superintendent regrets Passover remark

You would expect as superintendent of schools, Dr. Art Johnson would know how to choose his words carefully so as not to offend any particular religion or ethnic group.

But here's what happened Wednesday night. Near the end of the school board meeting Wednesday night, one of the school board members Debra Robinson brought up the issue of FCAT, the achievement test that students take each year, and that it will fall on Passover, one of the holiest times of the year for Jewish people.

"FCAT, starting next year, is scheduled during Passover, and so..."  said Dr. Debra Robinson.

"I'll do everything I can to try to get that changed. I mean, cause that is a serious issue.  I can tell you in North Florida that is not an issue. But in South Florida it definitely is," Dr. Johnson said.

"But it's an issue no matter where you are,"  Dr. Robinson responded.

You heard that right. That was Dr. Art Johnson, Palm Beach County superintendent of schools, who seemed to be saying that Passover does not mean much to people in North Florida, and it's insignificant because there aren't a lot of Jewish people there.

"I should not have said it.  ... Slip of the tongue," he said.

Looking back on what he said, Johnson now says his remarks at the school board meeting were inappropriate. "That was probably not one of my smarter statements."

Dr. Johnson says he was merely trying to say that he has lived in North Florida and that in his experience, Passover is not widely observed there.

He says he could understand how the Jewish people might take offense with what he said Wednesday night.

We checked with the Anti-Defamation League to see if they had any reaction to what Dr. Johnson said.

They sent us a written statement saying there are Jewish populations throughout Florida, and they hope the state legislature can resolve any conflicts with FCAT and Passover in 2011.