By: Sharon Aron Baron
During this same time last year, the City of Tamarac wanted to build a charter school inside of the Sports Complex against the wishes of many residents.
The city manager’s contention was that it would provide a middle and high school for residents of Tamarac, except that JP Taravella High School, which was located only three miles away in Coral Springs and Millennium Middle School, located 2.5 miles away in Tamarac were both under-enrolled.
Doral Academy, which is owned by Academica, met all of the requirements of City’s request for proposal, and was negotiating a lease to build the school in the park close to Kings Point.
Later during packed meetings, residents not only pointed out that the schools were under-enrolled, they said that Broward County Public Schools offered school choice, which allowed parents the freedom to send their children to schools anywhere in the County, therefore, there was no need to take away park space and lease it to a for-profit company. But our city manager insisted that Doral Academy was a “Prep School,” something far different than a typical high school.
Let’s be clear. All public high schools are “preparatory,” meaning they prepare students for college. Also, charter schools are no different than public high schools, and cannot pick and choose the students who attend. Our city officials wanted this to be a “Tamarac charter school” where our kids could get first dibs on seats. We made it clear that if the city wasn’t going to hold the charter, they couldn’t have preferential treatment in holding spots for Tamarac residents, as this was against State law. Two examples of schools that do hold the charters are: Pembroke Pines and Coral Springs. When the city manager realized that Academica was unable to change State law, the deal was off.
Since then, the State Department released their 2015 school scores and JP Taravella received an A, which is up from a B. This is incredible news for Principal Cerra, the teachers and the students. Great job.
What’s Changed Since Then
Ever since the charter school debacle, you would think that our city leaders would have kept up some semblance of partnership with our schools, right?
Still no one on our commission has made a motion and appointed an Education Advisory Board. This is no joke. Lauderhill, Sunrise, Coral Springs and Parkland has one. Last April, the Mayor Harry Dressler said he’d like to see more students get involved with government. The city manager even agreed.
What’s been done since then? Nothing. No children lead the pledge or ever attend our meetings. High school classes aren’t sitting in learning about government. Instead of inviting COP volunteers as seat warmers for the State of the City address, the mayor could entice local high school students by offering service hours.
This is the city that thinks it’s more important to have an Art Committee than an Educational Committee. The average age of our city is getting younger, and we need to step up and form a liaison with our schools, and reading stories to children is nice, however, that is not moving our kids forward.
Make a motion. Is there anyone that has chutzpah on this commission?
The Cities of Coral Springs and Parkland offer high students scholarships and fund them through an annual MLK Golf Tournament and Parkland Dash. I suggested to our commission in December that we should fund college scholarships by charging extra on our annual Turkey Trot and use the proceeds for scholarships students. Two of our Principals that I copied thought this was a great idea. What did our commission say?
College, trade school, and culinary school. They are all expensive for the average family, and any type of financial help can make a difference. It’s an investment in our future, and you never know when a former student will one day come back and lead our city. For instance, Coral Springs has two former high school students: Vice Mayor Dan Daley and Commissioner Larry Vignola on their commission who are mentors to many high school students today.
The investment we make into our children and their education will pay us back tenfold, and will make our City even greater. Let’s learn from the charter school issue which brought us all together and move forward by making education great.