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President’s Column: Education Takes Center Stage

This issue of BHA News contains news of progress made in important areas on our agenda. The first is in education, a critical topic. Having quality public school options in the neighborhood is key to a thriving, diverse and sustainable community.

We’re vertical but not different

While Brickell is a unique neighborhood, we’re really no different in that regard. We want our children to be able to attend a good school in the neighborhood.

The photo above—despite its lackluster composition—is a great photo. It signifies leaders in our community are hearing our voices about education needs. It shows community citizens advocating for improvements and solutions, and being heard. It shows us coming together.

These folks were on the stage at Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus to serve as part of our Education Forum panel in May. As I identify them, you’ll get an idea of those involved in finding solutions and options to what is a challenging, but nonetheless urgent need.

Starting on the far left, Elena Bondarenko from Southside PTA has been advocating for conversion of the school to a K-8 for nearly three years. A skilled attorney, she and several other parents have led the charge on making the formal application to Miami-Dade Public Schools, which we hope they will act on soon.

Next is Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, who has been our Senator in Tallahassee and as part of the Dade Delegation, one on whom we depend to bring State money home.

Standing next to me is School Board Member Dr. Martin Karp, a seasoned Board member who has Southside in his domain. He has always been helpful to us. We look forward to his leadership as we move forward to complete the renovations needed and expand the school to serve more of our children.

Victoria Kenny is next, principle of Brickell and KB Moms, a stalwart community advocate with a specialization in early childhood, and great BHA partner.

School Board Rep Raquel Regalado is next. She has been a champion for Downtown and Brickell’s need for neighborhood schools. Students in District 6 attend Southside, although the school falls under Dr. Karp’s domain.

Shown speaking is our Miami Commissioner Ken Russell, who is providing leadership on this issue and in whom we hold a lot of hope for finding solutions with MDCPS.

Next is Representative José Javier Rodriguez, District 112 Rep, who has been a defender of Brickell needs in Tallahassee, again, key to funding for our public school district.

Next is Dr. Richard Soria, president of Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus and who opened up the MDC facility for this important Forum. We are thrilled to have Dr. Soria’s involvement.

And finally, our moderator extraordinare, Michael Góngora, who generously gave of his time to facilitate our Forum discussion and keep us focused. Thank you, Michael, you never disappoint!

Our July BHA meeting was announced as a follow up to the Forum, and was packed, testament to our residents’ concerns about education options. We’ll continue to work with all entities, and Superintendent Carvalho’s Chief Strategist Lisa Martinez, to see the needs of Brickell fulfilled. Thank you all for your dedication.

I invite neighbors to get involved. Contact BHA’s Advocacy Director Sam Joseph at sjoseph@brickellhomeowners.com.
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In other areas where our advocacy has seen results, we have seen significant improvements to the Brickell Avenue median south of 15th Road, including colorful flower beds at several spots and new plantings.

Grass and groundcover continue to present challenges. Raphael Gonzalez, Operations Coordinator for Miami Public Works, reported they are trying other shade-tolerate grass types and the use of perennial peanut as an alternative groundcover.

Mr. Gonzalez also reported that some of the Oak trees that appear sickly have been “inoculated.” He is monitoring their reaction, and looking “forward to their improved health.”

BHA is hoping to see similar progress on median and sidewalk improvements on northern Brickell Avenue from 15th Road to the Brickell Bridge.

Looking ahead, I hope to see all neighbors at Pooch Parade Oct. 29 and the Holiday Celebration in December! •