By: Sharon Aron Baron
Since March of 2014, we have been reporting that someone at the City of Tamarac wants a charter high school built but no one at city hall is coming forward with who it is, and why they requested this without any fact-finding work before courting schools.
What’s even more baffling is that all of it has been swept very quietly under the rug starting out back in January 21, 2014 when City Manager Michael Cernech casually slipped this into the workshop agenda seeking a request for proposal (RFP) for a new high school without even line-itemizing it on the agenda as an item number, nor was it ever amended to include this item.
Fast forward to last Wednesday evening when several residents from Kings Point senior community in Tamarac spoke out during the public comments section at the City commission meeting about a new charter school being built in their neighborhood at the sports complex.
The charter high school was brought to the residents attention for several reasons: one, a letter went out from a parks and recreation staff member who was coordinating a meeting with coaches at the sports complex in the neighborhood with the principal of the Doral Academy Preparatory School of Miami. Second, a meeting that was held with several residents with Commissioner Diane Glasser at the Tamarac Diner with the principal of the charter school.
After that breakfast, word quickly spread to Kings Point residents that are closest to the sports complex, and many couldn’t figure out why they weren’t told of the school, and why a commissioner, whose constituents consists primarily of retirees, would entertain charter school officials.
In the request for proposal by the City of Tamarac, the City wants to lease out 7.445 acres that is currently at the Sports Complex located on Nob Hill Road and NW 77 Street. This is land that is currently utilized as the skate park, basketball courts and tennis courts. According to the City Manager, subject to the approval of a charter school, these three things could all be subject to relocation, depending on a location decision.
At Wednesday evening’s City Commission meeting, Mayor Harry Dressler assured the speakers from Kings Point that this wasn’t an item to appear for an upcoming vote and that staff asked for the RFP.
But why would staff ask for an RFP and who made this order? Who gave this direction?
Tony Sutera President of Kings Point Southhampton community said that he felt disappointed to hear that Commissioner Glasser had a meeting with constituents about the charter school and he knew nothing about it. He was concerned that the residents in Yardley, Belfort and the others weren’t notified about it, and was concerned about the traffic issues if a new school was built.
Steven Levine, of Southhampton said his concern was the safety of the senior population after the students were dismissed. He also said he believed Tamarac was a green city and believed building a school at the Sports Complex would take away those green spaces.
Barry Aronson of Southhampton said he was overwhelmed when he heard the news. “We live in a high density area and adding a school to the park with so many additional people is beyond my belief. I can’t understand the thought of it.”
Stan Rosen, President of building F in Southhampton told the commission, “I give you my word that school will never, never, never, get built. If we see one piece of equipment we will picket the place. Nothing is going to go in, nothing is going to go out. You ask us to leave, we will not leave. You call the police? Fine. They want to put us in jail? Fine. Tamarac will be known nationwide as the city that puts their senior citizens in jail.”
Harry Higgins, President of Belfort representing 800 units who is also a player-agent for the Tamarac Little League expressed concern about the parking and how it will be impacted with a new school.
Norton Blumberg told the commission that he was confused. He told the commissioner on the dais, “About three to four weeks ago at the Tamarac Diner Commissioner Diane Glasser presented charts for a new school, with her were the architects. You people don’t seem to know a thing about it. How can that be? I don’t understand. If Ms. Glasser has the plans, if Ms. Glasser has been in contact with the developer or the architect, then something is going on and you are being foisted upon….Something is wrong in this commission.”
“Were you at that meeting?” asked Commissioner Glasser.
“I was not at that meeting,” said Blumberg.
“Then you don’t know whether I was involved or not. I went as a city commissioner to see what was going on so that I could report to my people and what to do. I wasn’t there one way or the other except to hear what they had to say.”
“Oh ok, thank you very much for that explanation.”
“So you weren’t there and you don’t know. You got that from someone else.”
“There were only five people there.”
“I know that”
“And you had the architect there.”
“Who invited the architect?”
“Time out for a second here,” said Mayor Dressler.
“I have no idea,” said Glasser.
One of the residents that did attend the meeting with Commissioner Glasser contacted me, however, he asked that I not use his name. He told me he heard about the meeting through someone he knew at Kingspoint who called him the day before and asked if he could attend a breakfast meeting.
He went into the the backroom at the Tamarac Diner where there was a presentation by the principal of Doral Academy Preparatory School and the architectural firm or the architect.
Commissioner Glasser introduced herself to him. He said the commissioner was clearly interested in it, and he said it just seemed like she knew a lot more than I did going in.
He said there were ground plans and architectural renderings for a combined middle and high school. It would sit on both the footprint of the skate park and the tennis courts on Nob Hill Road with access on both Nob Hill and 77th Street.
“These were very well-thought out plans and they had answers prepared.” he said. “This was a finished presentation. This didn’t happen off-the-cuff.”
I wrote to City Manager Michael Cernach who assured me that they did not have an agreement with Doral Academy and that the current principal of the academy would be attending outreach meetings.
“The proposal isn’t about overcrowding it’s about choice,” said Cernach. “Doral Academy provides one of the best college preparatory academic experiences in the State of Florida and this proposal is about providing residents with another choice. I would encourage you to take a look at what Doral Academy has been able to achieve as a college preparatory education option for families.”