Top 5 Things the City Isn’t Telling You About the New Charter School

Photo by Ann Price Photography

Photo by Ann Price Photography

By: Sharon Aron Baron

Residents in Tamarac believe in education and don’t have a problem with  schools, but they do have a problem where the proposed 1,200 student charter school will be located and how it will affect our under-enrolled public schools.

The location for the Doral Academy Preparatory School is slated for the Sports Complex which is home to the skate park, basketball, tennis and other recreational activities, and even though area schools are under-enrolled,  no study has ever been done to find out if another school was actually needed in the community.

After discovering that the Doral Academy Preparatory School was being proposed, residents, especially those from Kings Point have had no updates from the City. Remembering that Tamarac “Commits to Transparency” I knew that I would have no problem finding answers.

Nothing’s going on with it.

When I emailed City Spokesperson Elise Boston, I was told there was “nothing yet to report” which basically means there was “nothing for us to report to you”.

She elaborated a bit more and told me it was in the “discussion” stage which basically tells me that something’s being discussed with someone. Right?

But who?

Her answer?

“It’s a multidisciplinary discussion with the goal of reaching a mutually beneficial conclusion.”

What?

It seems as though Boston was doing her job well at warding off any annoying questions.

Figuring the “City of Transparency” was coming up a little short on their motto, I did a public records request to find out what actually was going on.

Here’s the story:  After several meetings including one attended by hundreds of angry residents back in January, nothing’s going on with the charter school, that is, nothing that should concern pesky people like me who asks too many questions.  For instance, there is a feasibility study, a lease to negotiate, a traffic study and plenty of emails from the City Manager to the Commission and staff.

But there’s another reason they don’t want me or the Sun Sentinel knowing anything: They don’t want to rattle those pesky folks at Kings Point. You see, the City Manager was on the defensive back on December 4, because Tamarac Talk wrote yet another article about the charter school, City is Moving Forward with a New Charter High School and No One Cares

“As expected, Sharon Baron launched her offensive this afternoon in typical fashion and so in the event you get any calls, emails, questions, etc… the attached information will prove to be useful.” And he attached an informational sheet with all of  the great things about the school.

I guess I should wear my big mouth with a badge of honor here because I know I personally annoy everyone on the commission and possibly in City hall. As Oscar Wilde said, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”  Sadly, they used to love me when I was working to recall a former commissioner who was a thorn in their side.  How soon they forget.

Who’s really pushing for this charter school?

No one wants to tell you this, but I will. There is no one else who is pushing for this more than City Manager Michael Cernech, winner of the Palladium Award and Assistant City Manager Diane Phillips. Cernech is the one who brought the idea up about a charter school – off agenda during the January 21, 2014 workshop as agenda item number seven, which wasn’t even on the agenda, nor was it ever amended to include this item.

Phillips doesn’t show any impartiality either stating in an email on December 19, 2014 “I continue to believe this is a wonderful opportunity for our children and the community at large.”

If I’m not mistaken, our Assistant City Manager doesn’t event live in the City, so I’m not sure whose children she’s referring to here.

The Mayor and City Commissioners know more than they are saying

Mayor Harry Dressler told the audience at Kings Point on January 21, 2015 that he has no knowledge of plans for a charter school, nor holds a position on it. Therefore any questions regarding it would be premature.

But this isn’t quite true because on December 4, 2014 the City Manager was keeping the Mayor as well as the rest of the commission in the loop about the new Charter School:

“As I discussed with each of you this week we are working with Doral Academy on doing some community outreach. A meeting was held in King’s Point for some of the leaders in that community. We are working on getting Doral Academy together with some of the coaches in our sports leagues to alleviate fears about disruptions at the sports complex if this project goes forward. Now that I have spoken with each of you I wanted to distribute some general information about Doral. You can see from the content of both pieces just what a great program Doral offers.”

So Dressler did have knowledge of the Charter school in advance of this meeting.  However, if only residents had asked him questions the next day he would have had even more to share with the Kings Point residents after he received this memo Cernech dated January 22:

2015 State Conference Winners from JP Taravella DECA - 20 of the 51 students won trophies and qualified for International Competition in Orlando at the end of April.

2015 State Conference Winners from JP Taravella DECA – 20 of the 51 students won trophies and qualified for International Competition in Orlando at the end of April.

“Earlier this afternoon I received a document from Doral which is the basis for a ground lease and moving the project forward. It is a 60 page document that I have not had a chance to review, but will do so over the weekend. This is the document which either gets us to you with a recommendation or ends the discussion due to not being able to successfully negotiate an acceptable deal with Academica/Doral. Also, I have instructed staff to have two studies done by outside consultants. The first is a traffic study for the Sports Complex targeting the use of the property as an 1800 student station middle/high school. This will provide us with specifics regarding traffic, parking and other vehicular issues related to the school, the site, and the surrounding roadways. The second is a Charter School feasibility study. This study will answer a lot of the questions raised about the need for more academic choices, the existing demand for better educational choices and the appropriateness of what we are reviewing and recommending if we reach that point. Next week I’m going to ask each of you to tour Doral Academy at your convenience if my review of the proposed agreement leads me to believe we might be able to reach an agreement with Academica/Doral based on the structure of the proposal they have provided.”

Mayor Harry Dressler replied:

“The feasibility study is very important metric for me. The percentage of Tamarac kids plus staff kids is very important. Why would we go to all the trouble and grief to provide a public school for non-Tamarac kids ? Enjoy the weekend!!!”

City Manager update on February 14 to the mayor:

“Doral Academy – We received a lease agreement from Doral which has consumed a lot of time over the last 10 days. We are meeting with them next week in an attempt to understand and clarify a number of issues related to what it is we are all trying to accomplish. Our progress has been slow at this time, however, we have had a number of questions answered in ways which make me think we might get a deal in front of you for your consideration. Doral is preparing to do student outreach, but has held off at our request until we have a higher comfort level that a deal is imminent.”

The mayor knows exactly what is going on and is copied on updates from the City Manager.  This isn’t going to be a vote that he decides the day it hits the agenda.

The City Wants High School like Coral Springs but….not like Coral Springs

JP Taravella District Runner up in tennis who advance  to Regionals.

JP Taravella District Runner up in tennis who advance to Regionals.

City Manager Michael Cernech writes that he had lunch with City manager Erdal Dönmez of Coral Springs and discussed Charter Schools. The City of Coral Springs has an A-Rated Charter School and wants to move theirs into a City Park which will also be leased from the school. What makes their school so different from ours is that the City of Coral Springs holds the Charter and does a lot of work to oversee it, unlike the Tamarac Commission which will essentially be hands-off once it’s built.

Coral Springs Charter School doesn’t report to the school board, they report to the City Commission and they work tirelessly with them on their budget during quarterly meetings. Day-to-day operations of the school are contracted out with Charter Schools USA.

Tamarac wants no part in a municipal run school or overseeing a school like Pembroke Pines Charter School. Even though JP Taravella is our high school, the commission chooses not to make educational or time investments to the school.

Outstanding Senior Leaders with Principal Cerra: Alexandra Gleicher, Adele Oliver, Josh Cerra and Shiselle Povedano

Outstanding Senior Leaders for 2015 at JP Taravella with Principal Cerra: Alexandra Gleicher, Adele Oliver, Josh Cerra and Shiselle Povedano

Our City Manager writes that he discussed problems plaguing Taravella, but has he ever offered solutions?

He will not appoint an Educational Advisory Board which could become the City liaison to get involved and help our hometown school.  After all, many of our children attend JP Taravella.

Our City doesn’t even feel it’s important enough to put a School Resource officer in every school – unlike Coral Springs.

Would our own City Manager enroll his own children in Doral Academy once it’s built?

Not a chance.

His children attend Broward County Public Schools in his hometown of Parkland.

JP Taravella has an award winning drama department and their production of Ragtime was chosen as one of five full length musicals to be presented mainstage at its Festival 2015 in Tampa this month.

JP Taravella has an award winning drama department and their production of Ragtime was chosen as one of five full length musicals to be presented mainstage at its Festival 2015 in Tampa this month.

So why is our City suddenly in the school business when they know, or care so little about the public schools that we have now?  Is it because JP Tavavella is located in Coral Springs and not in Tamarac? School boundaries are not divided along city lines. Coral Springs has students attending Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School which is located in Parkland, yet the City Commission still treat it like one of their own City schools  – because it is.  If it is in their boundaries, then it gets their attention and their commissioners attend their sporting events, plays, and even the 25th Anniversary event that was just held in March.

Does anyone actually believe that that because Doral has the word “preparatory” in the name that it’s a college prep school?  Haven’t they figured out that this is a marketing tactic?  All public high schools are prepping children for college and offer college advanced placement  (AP) courses, therefore, they are “prep” schools.

There is no guarantee that Tamarac kids would get first shot at seats

Only in municipal-run charter schools like Pembroke Pines and Coral Springs Charter can they first pull students from their own Cities before allowing others to enroll. Doral would not get those same benefits.  Unless, of course if the Broward County Public School Board agrees. Knowing how Broward Schools feels about charter schools in general, I don’t see them bending any rules for a school that is taking more students away from nearby under-enrolled schools.

Here are the rules:

A charter school may give enrollment preference to the following student populations:

1. Students who are siblings of a student enrolled in the charter school.

2. Students who are the children of a member of the governing board of the charter school.

3. Students who are the children of an employee of the charter school.

4. Students who are the children of:

a. An employee of the business partner of a charter school-in-the-workplace established under paragraph (15)(b) or a resident of the municipality in which such charter school is located; or

b. A resident of a municipality that operates a charter school-in-a-municipality pursuant to paragraph (15)(c).

5. Students who have successfully completed a voluntary prekindergarten education program under ss. 1002.511002.79 provided by the charter school or the charter school’s governing board during the previous year.

6. Students who are the children of an active duty member of any branch of the United States Armed Forces.

Nowhere will they give preference to those that live in Tamarac.  Welcome commuters from Sunrise, Lauderhill, North Lauderdale, Lauderdale Lakes and Coral Springs!

And Finally – They have prepared answers in case you call about the school

Back in December the City Manager’s office went into full PR mode to make sure that anyone that called the City would have all the “right” answers about the charter school. They prepped all of the departments to report everyone that called:

“Please review the email below along with the attached FAQs relative to the Charter School.  Please keep a log of callers (name, phone number, address, reason for call) and forward that list to me by close of business each Friday.  If you do not receive any calls, please send me an e-mail advising me of that as well.   Thank you.”

What will the City do with all of those names that they are taking down as documentation.  Sure they are public records, but will this list go to the commission before a vote is taken?  Are they returning their calls? Or maybe they will be some of the lucky ones that will be invited on the tour of the school set to take place any day.

About Sharon Aron Baron

Sharon Aron Baron Sharon Aron Baron is the Editor of Talk Media and writer for Tamarac Talk and Coral Springs Talk. Tamarac Talk was created in 2010 to provide News, Views and Entertainment for the residents of Tamarac and to give resident's a forum. We are not affiliated with the City of Tamarac. That's why this site can be occasionally opinionated and obviously open.

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  • Shoe’s On The Other Foot

    Sharon: I noticed you state that many of “our children” attend Taravella. I am not sure whose children you are referring to here as I think you elected to have your kid bypass Taravella and attend Douglas High School in Parkland. A little hypocritical don’t you think?

    • No, I don’t think you understand boundaries obviously. You see, my child isn’t in the JP Taravella boundary. Check the Taz zones. I did a reassignment which I’m very public about.

      • Shoe’s On The Other Foot

        I understand boundaries. If your kid wasn’t zoned for Taravella I assume he was zoned for Piper or maybe Boyd Anderson. Most of “our children” do attend Taravella or Piper. You are the one extolling the virtues of Taravella yet you decided to have your own kid bypass Taravella and attend Douglas. Or are you saying your kid couldn’t get into Taravella? My point is that you shouldn’t be throwing stones at other people who want school choice because you sure don’t live in a glass house.

        • Bypass? I don’t even live near Taravella. I’m over on the east side. My daughter attended several years in Tamarac schools (I had to reassign to these too) where I was very involved on the SAC and SAF – which by the way were under-enrolled so by reassigning her to them, we essentially kept teachers from being out of a job. Broward County does offer school choice which is great…so let’s not put more charter schools here when we have so many great under-enrolled schools we can all choose from.

          So by the way, which schools do your children attend?

          • Shoe’s On The Other Foot

            To answer your question my son graduated from the Broward County public high school he was zoned for. However your question is a red herring. The issue is you extolled Taravella in order to take a gratuitous shot at the city staff. What is amusing is that if you took Nob Hill Drive to get your kid to Douglas from the Woodlands you actually did bypass Taravella. Your hypocrisy grows like Pinocchio’s nose.

          • Oh now I’ve figured out who you are…this is one of our staff members (I don’t want to name who you are in order not to embarrass you). OK. I understand.

            OK you are wrong again. Since you don’t live in Tamarac, learn your way around. I take the turnpike and two… I don’t make money from the city live somewhere else, now that’s hypocritical. If you are one of our top staff members, you should live here and really learn about our city.

          • Shoe’s On The Other Foot

            I guess we will just have to agree to disagree about the charter school.

          • Sure thing. Enjoy your daily commute to work here.

            Oh yes, and thanks for reading. I think it’s great for a person in your position to keep informed with what citizens of our City really want.

  • Ryan Gates

    The lack of transparency here is unacceptable. Our representatives need to share information with the public and news outlets.

  • commenter8

    Mayor Dressler delivered FALSE statements to the people while looking them straight in the eye?!? Gee, who could’ve predicted that??? Maybe, just maybe, all the people who voted for his highly qualified and HONEST opponent, Mike Gelin!?!?!

    Can anyone explain to me why so many people were actually stupid enough to vote for Dressler? They must have all been humming the Sheryl Crow lyric “Lie to me, I promise I’ll believe! Lie to me, but please don’t leave…”.

  • English Speaker

    I am a resident of the Southampton Community here in Kings Point.

    I can give you at least fifteen reasons why Doral should not be built in the Sports Complex. Starting with where are these kids supposed to go to get their exercise? Come sit in our parking lot and hear the screams and excitement emanating from the park most every evening. Second, we have an endangered “burrowing owl” community living in the park proper. Third, what a great mixture teenaged drivers who think they can do no wrong versus many timid senior drivers who are not sure what to think. I could go on and on but you get my point.

    No, we are not bitchy seniors who have no care for the younger generation. We are caring, interested citizens that have years of experience in knowing what is right by using our common sense.

    I know that the land lease will get Tamarac a lot of money. That assumes that Doral stays in business long enough to pay the lease. Is this what the leaders of Tamarac are interested in the almighty buck???

    The city manager started his address to us folks in Kings Point that morning by stating. There is only one place in all of Tamarac to build the Doral Academy that is the Sports Complex”. As a matter of fact the RFP clearly states this.

    Mr Dressler was not being forthright with the citizens of Tamarac when he claims he has no knowledge of the Doral Academy. His signature, as mayor, is on the RFP. Is this political speak? I would expect better from our mayor and commissioners after the checkered history of their predecessors.

  • Fundraising…

    What is up with The Doral Academy, Inc. fundraising? They spent $1,267,545 to raise $1,267,545 for
    a net of $0. See page 23. They claim they did no mail, email, internet, phone, or in-person solicitation; no government or non-government grant solicitations; and no special fundraising events (page 22). They are supposed to call out the two biggest events separately in column (a) and (b) and the rest in (c), but all they have is one entry. Doesn’t sound like whatever they are doing is very productive.

    http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/650/650944569/650944569_201306_990.pdf?_ga=1.174481505.2108772180.1423661746

    The year before they spent $1.04M to net $5,789.
    http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/650/650944569/650944569_201206_990.pdf?_ga=1.203270354.2108772180.1423661746

    Two years ago they spent $340K to net $2,863.
    http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/650/650944569/650944569_201106_990.pdf?_ga=1.170372195.2108772180.1423661746

  • Fundraising…

    Maybe this would answer Dressler’s question.
    From THE LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF FLORIDA – FINAL REPORT – STATEWIDE STUDY ON SCHOOL CHOICE AND CONSENSUS REPORT ON CHARTER SCHOOLS – dated April 20, 2014. http://origin.library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1103316066537-1070/LWV+Final+Report+Statewide+Study+1-3.pdf

    “Serve Unmet Needs. In Dade, elementary and K-8 Charter schools in low-income neighborhoods are starting with an advantaged population not indicative of the cities’ populations. City-wide Kindergarten Readiness examination shows that on average 67% of kindergarteners have school readiness skills while charter school preparedness scores average around 76%. This difference brings into question admission procedures. Many schools are filled with students not representative of their communities. Big business charter companies with multiple locations (Mater Academy, Somerset Academy, Doral Academy, etc.) and more funding own over half of the charter schools in Miami-Dade. Of the big chain charter schools (58), 38 are in low-income cities. Of the 38 only 15 provide access and opportunity, meaning 39% of the big charter company schools supposed to provide access to the poor are not.” (emphasis added)

    Do a search on Academica and Doral for other information in the report.

  • Fundraising…

    I wonder when the Inspector General will complete their evaluation of the audit of Doral Academy, Inc. performed by Miami-Dade Public Schools. The audit says it was forwarded to the Inspector General for their independent evaluation.
    https://algaonline.org/DocumentCenter/View/2446

    MINUTES OF THE SCHOOL BOARD AUDIT AND BUDGET ADVISORY COMMITTEE OF
    MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS – December 3, 2013
    – “Mr. Salver strongly stated that the outstanding issues need to be resolved and the
    report (disappear) finalized.”
    http://mca.dadeschools.net/AuditCommittee/AC_Jan_28_2014/item2.pdf

    MINUTES OF THE SCHOOL BOARD AUDIT AND BUDGET ADVISORY COMMITTEE OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS – May 13, 2014
    – Discussion about communicating to parents that Doral College is not accredited. (page 7)
    http://mca.dadeschools.net/AuditCommittee/AC_June_24_2014/item2.pdf

    The loan from Building Hope will increase from 7% to 12% in 2015. (page 8)
    http://www.doralacademyprep.org/ourpages/auto/2013/7/22/57049101/2014%20-%202015%20Doral%20Academy%20BOD%20Minutes%20WEB.pdf

    Details about the loan are here on page 30 of both years.
    http://www.myflorida.com/audgen/pages/chschools_efile%20rpts/2014%20doral%20academy%20high%20school.pdf
    http://www.myflorida.com/audgen/pages/chschools_efile%20rpts/2013%20doral%20academy%20high%20school.pdf

    They are giving (in-kind contribution) Doral College rental space. (page 29 of 2014 audit)