Education

The Miami-Dade County school district is looking for a new nonprofit to manage WLRN

Miami-Dade County Public Schools owns the broadcasting license for WLRN, 91.3 FM.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools owns the broadcasting license for WLRN, 91.3 FM. Miami Herald file photo

The Miami-Dade County School Board is soliciting bids from nonprofit groups interested in managing WLRN, South Florida’s sole public radio news station.

The proposal seeks to outsource media management services for the district, which will continue to own the radio and TV station’s broadcasting license, with hopes of creating a firewall and putting to bed a historically tense relationship between the district and station.

The school district has mulled over its options with Friends of WLRN, the station’s fundraising arm, for years. Maintaining the status quo, selling the broadcasting license and overhauling and expanding a community advisory board were all deemed unfeasible. A request for proposals was quietly posted online last week.

Wanted: A nonprofit that has managed media entities and has experience with noncommercial stations and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), National Public Radio (NPR), Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CFP) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a five-year term. The RFP stresses a cost-neutral agreement subsidized through new grants and funding opportunities and expanding of existing donor network, a “comparable level” of existing employment arrangements and ensured journalistic and editorial independence.

While some employees are under the school district’s management, newsroom employees are under contract with South Florida Public Media, a subsidiary of Friends of WLRN. WLRN and the Miami Herald have a news partnership, with journalists of both organizations working in either newsroom and sharing some news content.

Proposals are due by 2 p.m. July 25 and, if selected, can go before the School Board for approval in August. District spokeswoman and chief communications officer Daisy Gonzalez-Diego says the school district retains the right to reject any and all bids.

“This is not something we’re putting out to remove employees or making people lose their jobs,” Gonzalez-Diego said at a pre-bid conference Monday morning. “We’re not in the business of laying people off or firing people.”

Only one representative from WLRN and school district staff from communications, legal and procurement departments were present Monday. A reporter from WLRN was also present.

Friends of WLRN Chairman Dwight Hill, who did not attend the conference Monday, called the bidding process “a logical outcome” — one that he hopes Friends will be a part of.

“We believe that the stations are a community asset and they should be as such, kind of governed by that,” Hill said. “The school system should be focused on educating Miami-Dade County. There’s a financial burden on the school system that they could eliminate.”

He said Friends is planning to create a new nonprofit that will keep the current Friends board while assuming financial and management responsibilities and adding board members from Monroe and Palm Beach counties. WLRN’s signal spans from Key West up to Jupiter, yet only members from Miami-Dade and Broward sit on the board.

Hill said he wasn’t sure if the proposal to be submitted to the School Board would also include WLRN’s TV station.

“We’re acting as if a good forthright proposal on our part could be a winning solution,” Hill said.

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