Business Monday

CEOs believe community should be involved in making public schools better

A group of volunteers and executives from the Early Learning Coalition at the government center on Thursday, June 8. As students celebrated the last day of school and headed out for the summer, The Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe partnered with Miami-Dade County Public Libraries and Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation to ride aboard the Early Learning Coalition Express from Dadeland South to Government Center giving metro riders, boarding and onboard the train, free children’s books and summer reading tips to remind them of the value of reading and encourage they read with their children throughout the break.
A group of volunteers and executives from the Early Learning Coalition at the government center on Thursday, June 8. As students celebrated the last day of school and headed out for the summer, The Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe partnered with Miami-Dade County Public Libraries and Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation to ride aboard the Early Learning Coalition Express from Dadeland South to Government Center giving metro riders, boarding and onboard the train, free children’s books and summer reading tips to remind them of the value of reading and encourage they read with their children throughout the break.

This week’s question to the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable: Though Miami’s public schools have made great progress, the need for quality public education at the primary and secondary levels is still cited as a headwind on business panels. What suggestions do you have for raising the bar for ALL public schools?


I am huge fan of Superintendent Carvalho and believe his accomplishments these past seven-plus years have been phenomenal. There is always room for improvement but, my advice is to stay the course. Why steer west when north seems to be working so well.

Steven N. Adkins, president and CEO, Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce


Continue to invest in our teachers. Encourage parents to get involved and stay involved in their child’s education — it’s a team effort. Involve the local business community and entrepreneurs in curriculum development or other areas that require input.

Ron Antevy, president and CEO, e-Builder


We are strongest when our workers are well-educated. Three things can get us there. First, Miami needs to invest in preschool programs and quality child care. Second, any business owner knows that better compensation brings better performance… our teachers need to be compensated like our future depends on it, because it does. Finally, our public education needs to offer better job training, and more emphasis on critical thinking.

Maria Arizmendi, behavior analyst and president, Progressive Behavioral Science


We need principals with strong leadership skills and talented teachers to shape the future of our students. But school principals and teachers can’t do the work alone — they don’t operate in a silo. We need our communities / our neighborhoods to become involved and take ownership of our K-12 public schools. The business community should lead the effort, because it is in our best interest to ensure our students — and future workforce — have the right skills to help our businesses remain competitive and thriving in a global economy.

Noah Breakstone, founder and managing partner, BTI Partners


Florida does not pay public school teachers well. The best teachers can make more and enjoy a better lifestyle elsewhere. For example, as indicated in a recent Miami Herald article, a public school teacher with 10 years of experience in the Atlanta public school system receives significantly higher compensation than does a teacher with the same experience in the Miami-Dade public school system. This could be addressed through more competitive compensation of teachers in the Miami-Dade school system based on performance criteria.

Bowman Brown, partner and chairman of the Executive Committee and the Financial Services Practice Group of Shutts & Bowen


I suppose that empowering teachers and making them feel proud should be a country-priority (not only in Miami). I think that the U.S. has the most efficient system when you talk about universities. But there is a lack of funds for public schools, and there is even a part of the society doesn’t see public schools as a priority. In my humble opinion, education is the one thing that a country must provide: a good public educational system to help our children be the best men and women that we can afford.

Ismael El-Qudsi, CEO, Internet República/


As a business owner, I cannot hire someone if they lack basic grammar and educational training. This training starts in elementary school. As a family lawyer, I’ve served as a guardian ad litem where I speak to teachers, counselors, and parents to determine what would be in the best interest of the child. I have noticed, in too many situations, that children are behind in their reading or math levels, but do not have access to tutoring programs and their parents do not have the time or the ability to help them. I would change the school district to implement a free tutoring program for children who need it.

Patricia Elizee, managing partner, Elizee Law Firm


That is one of the most important questions facing our community today. We need to prepare our youth for the future in order for them and our community to thrive. Frankly, we should approach this as an existential question, not a rhetorical exercise.

Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.


The community has to be involved and supportive of the education system. Absent improvement, it will be an inhibitor to business development. At Miami Jewish, we have a vibrant volunteer and internship program. We take our position in the community very seriously and invest time in it.

Jeffrey Freimark, president and CEO, Miami Jewish Health


M-DCPS has shined in recent years. To continue raising the bar and providing our children with the best possible education and prepare them for the workforce of tomorrow, it is incumbent on the business community and the community at large to become involved and be the solution they want to see.

James Haj, president and CEO, The Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County


I find this question to be inherently flawed, in that the bar already exists, and is already high. Our state — and nation — is dealing with a multifaceted challenge that includes an erosion of respect and admiration for the teaching profession. Couple that with dwindling funding for public schools, this is not a problem that we can simply shake a stick. It’s the entire community’s responsibility to ensure that our public schools do not exist in a vacuum, including unwavering support from the business and healthcare communities, law enforcement, and most importantly through family involvement in education. Studies have shown that no matter the socioeconomic strata in which a child is raised, a robust support system will help that child thrive academically and socially. We must all work together to restore the respect that the public education system had a mere generation ago. Lest we forget, without teachers, no other profession would exist.

George Hanbury, president and CEO, Nova Southeastern University


I do not buy into the premise that Miami-Dade’s public school’s are a “headwind.” One of the greatest aspects of the Youth Fair is our partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. We exhibit and judge tens of thousands of outstanding student projects each year. We award college scholarships to help students achieve their dreams for higher education. Miami-Dade County’s socio-economic pendulum swings wide, therefore, the financially strapped public schools shouldn’t be blamed for all the ills. I believe early education is the only way to level the playing field for many disadvantaged children, those who already have fallen behind before starting school. If w can invest in programs that will give these children a fair start, it’s more likely they will succeed later in school and in their jobs.

Bob Hohenstein, president and CEO, Miami-Dade County Youth Fair and Exposition


As business leaders, we know that our talent is at the core of our operations, and it is important that we invest in our people. But these investments should not begin when we hire them. As a community, we should invest in people at every educational level. Great public schools and public universities can give us a competitive, cost-effective workforce from the onset. We need to uphold public schools to a high set of quality standards and ensure they have proper funding, focusing on educational, after-school activities and programs.

Arden Karson, senior managing director, CBRE


Our school system’s leadership under Alberto Carvalho has been amazing. Our children are the most important part of our society, so ingraining our public schools into our communities and making the school system our top priority is critical. We also need to build up our colleges and universities to create a more skilled workforce. That’s going to get more corporations to move here. One of the key reasons corporations aren’t moving here is because we have a very low percentage of graduate students. Look at cities like Seattle and Portland, which have the highest percentage of graduates per capita. That’s what we need to strive for.

David Martin, president and co-founder, Terra


Raising educational performance is a priority in cities across America, and Miami is no different. Fortunately, we’ve made great strides under Superintendent Carvalho. Seven of our magnet and charter high schools were recently ranked among the top 100 schools in the country, including MAST Academy on Virginia Key. The next step is taking the best practices from our top schools, and applying those methods countywide. At the same time, the private sector should continue supporting nonprofits like City Year Miami, and public school teachers should be better compensated. We need to encourage talented people to enter the profession, and then incentivize performance once they become a teacher.

Aabad Melwani, president, Rickenbacker Marina and managing principal, Marina PARC


I strongly believe that the earliest years of a child’s life set the tone for their educational careers. As a community, we need to make larger investments in early childhood education and ensure that all families, irrespective of socioeconomic status, have access to tools and information that can positively impact the developmental growth of their children.

Kevin V. Michael, co-founder and managing partner, Invizio, LLC


Well, this happens to be my “sweet spot,” since I wrote my doctoral dissertation on this exact topic! Raising the bar requires looking at school culture and the teaching/learning process. To achieve equity in educational outcomes, school leaders must understand habitus and how to cultivate mindsets for learning. I encourage them to consider the findings of Jeannie Oakes, Carol Dweck, and other scholars on improving educational outcomes for students, teachers, and leaders within all public schools. But to truly be effective, we must work together. Students succeed and contribute to society when K-12, colleges, and universities continuously collaborate and communicate. When we are aligned, we streamline the process and make it easy for students to continue their education and enter the workforce prepared. Between dual enrollment, 2+2 articulation from state colleges to universities, and our articulation agreements, I think Florida does an excellent job of this and is constantly trying to create a seamless transition between each level of education.

Avis Proctor, vice president of academic affairs and president, North Campus at Broward College


As someone who went public high school and a public university, I’ve benefited tremendously from the quality of public education, but there’s always room for improvement. I am a strong believer in the power of incentives to attract and retain the best talent in the education field.

Matthew Rieger, president and CEO, Housing Trust Group


Educating our children requires the support and the collaboration of everyone in our community. One vital thing we can all do to enhance the educational experience and opportunities for our children is to be involved, to remain present and to keep the lines of communication open. It’s important for parents and teachers to understand and embrace the notion that the task of educating our children is a joint one and one where everyone must remain active. I think more teacher and parental collaboration, communication and community, can go a long way in helping our public schools rise to meet the challenges of educating the next generation.

Jackie Soffer, co-chairman and CEO, Turnberry Associates


Today’s public schools are where the talent is coming from in South Florida. New World School for the Arts illustrates this talent — these students and their education must be our community’s top priority. As business leaders, we need to work closely with schools in our community to interact and share real world experiences and instill a strong work ethic. It is important for resources to be refocused all the way around.

Ivannia Van Arman, executive director, Lincoln Road Business Improvement District


The Miami Herald CEO Roundtable is a weekly feature that appears in Business Monday of the Miami Herald. Recent questions have included:

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