By: Sharon Aron Baron
Back in January 21, 2014, the City Commission agenda was missing a very important item on it. It was something that City Manager Michael Cernech planned on discussing at the meeting, had spoken to the Mayor and the commissioners about in great detail, but slipped it in at the very end as item number seven.
This was the day he would get the ball rolling for the charter high school in Tamarac.
Quickly and quietly – until it would snowball into a mega complex with a parking garage smack in the middle of a park, it would eventually divide residents against their elected officials, who looked them in the face and told them they legally couldn’t discuss it with them.
But there was no way residents would know that a future charter school was being discussed at the meeting, unless they were watching. Of course, the “City of Transparency” doesn’t allow public comment in their workshops like others, so if you were there and wanted to say something, you were out of luck.
Cernech asked the commission for permission to put out a request for proposal. This way he could see if a charter school company had interest in our community.
That’s like dumping the chum out of the bucket to attract the sharks. Of course they’re going to bite.
“If there is interest, we can discuss that and see if we want to pursue that, and if there’s no interest, then there’s just no interest,” he said.
Commissioner Glasser: “I think it’s a long time due. If we have the property and it’s feasible and workable, then I’m all for it.
Commissioner Gomez: “I’ll look forward to getting more information.”
Vice Mayor Bushnell: “In almost nine years here, I’ve seen the average age go from 64 to 47. We are becoming younger and younger and shipping our kids to other cities, so I think it’s a great opportunity.”
Mayor Dressler had no comment and Debra Placko was not yet appointed.
Dressler, Glasser and Bushnell all voted yes to put the item on the consent agenda. Gomez voted no.
So what happened after Academica came back and answered the RFP. Did Cernech return to the commission to see if they wanted to pursue it? Where is the agenda item for this?
He doesn’t need to put it on the agenda, because our City Manager either was emailing the commission or speaking with them individually. This way the public never knew that it was decided, without so much as gauging the public’s interest, that they should move forward.
Now how’s that for transparency?
From the January 21, 2014 City Commission Workshop
Dressler: There is no item number 7 on the agenda but I am going open up the floor for Mr Cernech.
Cernech: One thing I wanted to bring forward to you this morning and this is something I’ve spoke to you about individually – not as a group and that has to do with the city of Tamarac to improve educational opportunities from within the community. As you know we have three outstanding public schools in the City of Tamarac: Tamarac Elementary, Challenger Elementary and Millennium Middle School. We have for as long as I’ve been here, as long as anyone can remember, have had the desire to have a high school in the City of Tamarac, and I’m not talking about a store-front high school, or a Diamonte’s converted high school I’m talking about a real legitimate bricks and mortar type high school.
In ultimately trying to meet that goal, we have over the years been met with varying degrees of not success up to and including the last time when the Caporella project was developed, we were in the process of buying that property and donating it to the school district, for them to build a high school at the time. That obviously didn’t happen and the city was unsuccessful in purchasing that property for a reasonable price and the high school eventually went out to become Coral Glades High School.
As I discussed with each of you last week, there are a number of charter school companies actively seeking high school/middle school locations throughout Broward County and locations for a high school campus or a middle/high school campus are hard to come by. They are few and far between. There are at least five companies that are actively seeking locations for a school.
Two of those companies, Charter Schools USA/Renaissance are already actively educating our students in our community along University Drive. Attracting a high school is difficult because there are a number companies that want to do it. It’s very difficult to be transparent, to sit down with one or the other and do that dance, and so what I would like to do is to add a resolution to tomorrow’s agenda authorizing us to put an RFP out on the street to seek proposals from these companies to find a school for the City of Tamarac.
The reason why I propose the RFP is that it allows anyone that is interested to submit a proposal which I think is a good and a transparent way to do business. I also think it’s the best way for us to dip our toe in the waters so to speak and see if there’s any interest in our community, because there very well could be interest from several companies, or there could be no interest at all. If there’s interest, it would be good to know that, and then we could have some discussions about whether or not we might move forward or not. If there’s no interest, then we’re going to continue to not be successful with that goal but I don’t think at this time we can decide either way whether there’s interest or not without putting something out there to let people know that we’d like to hear from them if they’d like to make a proposal, as they say “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
I’ve talked to each of you individually about it. I’m suggesting it to all of you as a group, we’ll put a resolution together tomorrow asking for the authority to put that RFP out and to try to get a gauge of whether there is in fact interest in our community. If there is interest, we can discuss that and see if we want to pursue that and if there’s no interest, then there’s just no interest.