Some Coral Gables High School parents are fighting against the “surplus” of a computer technology teacher they say has inspired their children beyond the call of duty.
They are also convinced that losing teacher Michael Van Dyk could signal the end of the computer technology portion of the school’s Academy of Business, Management and Information Technology.
“If Mr. Van Dyk goes, IT goes. But computer programming is not ‘surplus.’ It is not an elective and it is necessary in the world in which we live. We’re concerned that colleges will not look at our school as a place to recruit talent if the program is gone,” said parent Laurie Overholser Baad.
Principal Adolpho Costa met with a group of nearly 30 parents and students recently to explain his decision and to promise them that although Van Dyk will be transferred to another school — not laid off or fired from his job as a Miami-Dade teacher — the school’s computer tech program will not die.
According to Costa, the decision was based on numbers that do not justifying the academy’s six-teacher staff.
Enrollment for the academy, including some classes taught by Van Dyk, had been decreasing over the last few years. Making matters worse, none of Van Dyk’s students have taken year-end certification tests in the last two years, Costa said.
“There are not enough students. It’s not financially sound,” Costa said.
Costa said cutting Van Dyk was based only on seniority as mandated by school district’s contract with the teachers’ union, the United Teachers of Dade. With only six years at the school, Van Dyk was lowest on the academy’s totem pole.
“Personal feelings and emotions are not part of the decision making process. The computer science program will not die at Coral Gables High School. I will find an alternative way,” Costa said.
The cost for a part-time teacher will be about $10,000 Costa said.
By contrast, the salary range for Miami-Dade public school teachers is between $38,500 and $68,225.Costa plans to replace Van Dyk with a part time adjunct professor of computer sciences from either Miami-Dade College or Florida International University. He said this alternative will benefit students more, because they could dual-enroll with the colleges for college credit. He also said his plan will help revitalize the program.
Parents were not swayed. They want Van Dyk.
“Are you aware of what he does for students? He changes lives. He is dedicated to them,” said parent Andrew Chung.
Recent Coral Gables high graduate Evan Baad, son of Laurie Overholser Baad, said Van Dyk did the most important thing a teacher can do for students: inspire.
“It’s great when a kid can spend an hour and a half a day learning what they want to be for the rest of his life,” Evan Baad said.
Parents cited numerous awards won by the school’s IT program students in just the past year: first place in the Florida International University Programming Competition; fist place at the University of Florida Programming Competition. And at the Future Business Leaders of America District Competition, the school took first place awards in Network Design, Database Design, Desktop Application Programming and Intro to Technology Concepts.
Chung noted that Van Dyk, who is steering clear of the parent protests, was at the time of the meeting — and without pay — helping students with projects for an FIU summer tech program.