After months of “tiptoeing around” the Miami Dade County School Board for help to repair two schools, the North Miami Beach City Council voted on a different strategy.
On Tuesday night, the council unanimously agreed to draft an ordinance to create a permanent education committee, one it hopes will better advocate for their causes.
Two months ago, City Manager Ana Garcia appointed Candido Sosa-Cruz, from the city’s Code Department to make a physical assessment of the city’s schools. On Friday, her office will send Superintendent Alberto Carvalho a letter detailing “our expectations for a better school system inside and out.”
“I’m a Miami Dade public school graduate and I’ve worked with five different cities in the county and I have to say I’m really disappointed that our schools are in such poor physical condition as they are,” Garcia said.
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Top on the list are the “ deplorable “conditions at John F. Kennedy Middle School and North Miami Beach Senior High School. The schools are adjacent to each other between Northeast 167th and 171st streets. Although both schools belong to the school district, most of the city’s children attend those schools.
“When I attended JFK, we use to call it ‘Jail for Kids’ because it looked like a prison and it hasn’t changed,” said Councilwoman Barbara Kramer. “ It’s horrendous. It looks like a third-world country except with floors.”
Council members have complained for years about the shoddy school grounds, poor ventilation in the hallways, dingy carpeting, peeling paint and the scent of mold.
Last year, the school district rolled out a $1.2 billion plan to repair more than 300 public schools that were in need of modernization and repairs. But Councilwoman Marlen Martell said school bond money has only been designated to remove the portables at JFK and North Miami Beach Senior High and nothing else.
“I met with the principals of both schools and they’ve made a huge turn-around but there’s a lot more to be done. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve even redone the road in front [of JFK] but I’m kind of mad at myself because I didn’t get involved earlier. As a mother, going to drop off my daughter every single day and seeing that school, I beg each and everyone one of you drive by,” said Martell.
Councilwoman Beth Spiegel questioned the practicality and scope of forming a new committee, especially since the city already had a school board representative to work with.
“Until we flesh out exactly what it is we want this committee to do, I’m not in favor of it,” said Spiegel.
But Spiegel went along with the vote after Councilman Frantz Pierre reminded everyone that the status quo wasn’t working.
“The key word is advocacy. When we had to put flashing lights at Greynolds Park, it took three years until the city intervened to make it happen. When we had flooding problems at Oak Grove (Elementary) only until the city intervened, we didn’t have that (fixed.) Don’t expect principals to make things happen. We need to have a united voice to say we need our fair share,” said Pierre.
In other news:
▪ The council approved an agreement to create a program to provide services for crime victims. The Florida Attorney General’s office’s Victims of Crime Act Program and North Miami Beach will collaborate and have $58,000 along with matching funds not to exceed $14,502 from a law enforcement trust fund.
▪ The 7th Annual Domestic Violence Walk will take place Oct. 18 at the Gwen Margolis Amphitheater, located at 16501 NE 16th Ave. The 2-mile walk begins at 5:30 p.m. Check-in begins at 4 p.m. Pre-registration is available at www.safespacefoundation.org.
The next City Council meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 17011 NE 19th Ave.