Education Advocacy Update – January 2017

In just the first 30 days 2017 has brought many developments on the education advocacy front. Through the coordinated efforts of BHA and our Urban Core stakeholder partners, the subject of quality education has been front and center both north and south of the Miami River.


Miami River North

Kicking off the New Year (January 5th) with an all-star panel discussion on “Education and Schools in the Edgewater and Downtown” were our friends to the north, BNA. The expert panel included school board member Dr. Dorothy Bendengross-Mendenhall, Florida Representative for District 112 Nick Duran, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Gonzalez, Lisa Martinez representing MDCPS, Alyce Robertson of Miami DDD, City of Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez, and the Omni CRA’s Executive Director Jason Walker.

IMG_2765Moderated by Michael Gongora, the panelists discussed the current state of downtown schools, and ideas and solutions for bringing sustained educational excellence to the area. The panel also addressed questions and entertained ideas from the audience allowing residents and other stakeholders to have their voices heard on this important issue.

The key takeaways from the meeting were:

  • There will need to be a combined community effort (i.e. parents, kids, community, schools, municipalities, business community, etc.) to improve the quality of education in the urban core (“It takes a village to raise a child.”)
  • The City of Miami needs to revitalize its Education Committee (adapt City of Miami Beach and/or Coral Gables models)
  • MDCPS will submit for school board approval item F-3, discussions to develop MOU regarding public/private partnership with Omni CRA to expand IPrep (additional student stations) on MDCPS’s four-acre downtown lot

F-3 Omni CRA


Miami River South


Southside PTA representatives Elena Bondarenko and Rebecca Carter

Representatives of the Southside PTA provided the BHA board at its last meeting (January 17th) an update on their school’s issues. Renovation continues at Southside Elementary School on Building One. The hope is to have the work completed soon to allow for overcrowding relief and to accommodate anticipated increased student enrollment based on the school’s recent K-8 designation.

Meeting attendees were informed that the discussions between MDCPS and the City of Miami to build a new school and fire station at the site of Fire Station No. 4 were shelved given the difficulties with such a project. In the meantime, MDCPS is working on a new public/private partnership that would involve Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami, and Related Urban Division, as stated in school board item F4:

That the School Board of Miami-Dade County, Florida, authorize the Superintendent to finalize negotiations and execute an agreement between the School Board (“board”), the Related Urban Development Group (“developer”), the Miami-Dade County Public Housing and Community Development Department (“county”) and the City of Miami (“city”), and to provide a collaborative framework between the parties to develop a future educational facility at the site of the affordable and workforce housing project the Gallery at West Brickell located at the northwest corner of S.W. 2nd Avenue and S.W. 10th Street under which the following outcomes would be achieved:

  • Educational facility capacity amplification to serve the Brickell area, generally south of the Miami river;
  • Use of the Southside park facilities by students attending district schools in the Brickell area; and
  • Affordable and workforce housing opportunities for district employees at the Gallery at West Brickell

The school board item was passed unanimously on January 25th with the caveat that more detailed information must be submitted by district staff to the board before final project approval. As past BHA president Ernesto Cuesta said about the newly proposed project, “This is good news for all families living in the Brickell Area.” BHA supports the current efforts and we are hopeful of the timely resolution of this pressing community issue.

F-4 BRICKELL School Board Item 1-10-17-Final