Friday night Miami Senior alumni were invited back to their alma mater for fun and networking in Little Havana -- plus a tour of renovations at the historic school.
The get-together is just one way the Miami-Dade school district is working to tell voters about its proposed $1.2 billion bond referendum. The question will be on the Nov. 6 ballot: Do county voters want to borrow money to upgrade school buildings and technology?
Expect information at school open houses, business groups, home associations, a dedicated website and on social media. Even a smartphone app is in the works to give neighborhood-by-neighborhood impact and continuous updates.
“This is not about convincing,” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said of the educational campaign. “This is an honest story of where we were, where we are and the possibilities for the future.”
The bond referendum aims to provide needed renovations at nearly 300 schools and close the digital learning divide among students. Nearly half of the Dade schools are over 40 years old and technology can vary widely. The bond seeks to modernize classroom technology across the district.
Carvalho said the district will follow a grass-roots approach, starting with information at open houses and a detailed website. Launched this week, the site lets people see the work planned at their home schools.
Separately, a political action committee called Building for Tomorrow formed this week to drum up political support for the construction bonds. It is chaired by Antonio Argiz, chairman and CEO of the Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra accounting firm who was honored last fall for his philanthropy.
“We are striving obviously to maintain a clear firewall between administration, management, the school system and the marketing functions that rightly fall under the committee,” Carvalho said.
The bond issue has a good chance of passing, despite lingering economic woes, said Dario Moreno, a political science professor at Florida International University and pollster.
Why? The presidential election will draw a lot of Democrats. Carvalho, known for his political savvy, has laid the groundwork with business groups and board members. He also has burnished his reputation, improving the district’s relationship with the Legislature and balancing budgets in tough times.
Moreno said tax-wary voters have some appetite to help kids, just as they did in 2008 with the hearty renewal of The Children’s Trust.
“So far, I don’t see any organized opposition emerging. If it doesn’t, then I think it will probably pass,” Moreno said.
Voters will get the final say, he said.
“However, I do still think there could be a political backlash against the School Board members who voted to put this on the ballot. They will face a very different electorate in their re-election in August 2014 than in a November election.”
School Board Member Raquel Regalado understands that the bond issue, or anything resembling a tax, is a big concern to voters.
“That is why we are placing it on the ballot and demanding transparency,’’ she said. “Unlike recent unpopular taxes or bond issuances, this is not money to the general fund, or for employee raises. This is self-help strictly for facilities and technology.”
Carvalho has pledged to create safeguards to make sure the program delivers fairly and on time, including new ethics rules and procurement procedures for minority businesses.