Mayor Ed MacDougall’s State of the Town Address on Nov. 8 was presented appropriately at Cutler Bay’s new high school, Centennial, which was the main focus of the event.
More than 250 people — including town officials, Centennial principal Yamila Carballo, teachers and other school staff members, students and parents — packed the auditorium of the school, located at 8601 SW 212 St., for the 7 p.m. event. Mayor MacDougall skipped a prepared speech and spoke extemporaneously about the school and other subjects.
“We had two of the high school students there, the first year — ninth grade,” MacDougall said, speaking a few days after the event. “They put up all of the AV; they did all the videos; they emceed it; they did the tours, did the food. They virtually did everything. It was amazing. It was choreographed by their teacher, Justin A. Koren, who is the lead teacher for magnet programs there. He’s just fantastic.”
Some of the expected topics of the address were touched upon, including work on Old Cutler Road and Caribbean Boulevard, crime, what the town’s reserves are, what the millage rate is, and taxes, but the main thing was the new high school.
“Just a general conversation about everything,” MacDougall said. “We don’t have any controversies.”
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell was there and a few other dignitaries. Marshal Ruffo, who heads the Centennial Ocean Academy of Science and Technology (COAST) program attended and participated.
“He was in the first graduating class of the MAST Academy in Key Biscayne and he showed the COAST program here, MacDougall said. “He’s a just fabulous guy. Probably to me the most interesting part of the night was the kids and where they came from. All of them are from Cutler Bay. One of them had been headed for MAST Academy, had been on the list for two years and they had to do the interviews. And there was a young girl in ninth grade and she said she had to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning just to get there on time and didn’t get home until after dark.”
MacDougall said that the Cutler Bay girl found out about the new school and transferred in, along with other students from the MAST Academy, from Palmetto, Southwood, and all of the different schools that are outside of Cutler Bay. That was the point of creating a community high school, the mayor said.
“The school is geared toward academics,” MacDougall said. “We have no sports; it’s strictly academics. It’s a school choice because there are great sports programs at Southridge and great swimming programs at other schools. If someone is geared toward academics, then this is their school. Then our next focus, of course, is Cutler Ridge Middle School. We have a lot of great plans for that one.”
MacDougall said that the next task that he will personally take on is to make sure the town provides a school for those kids who are not college bound, with good trades backgrounds. To that end he is working with a number of industries that can hopefully be brought in to partner with Miami-Dade County Schools to create a good trade school with environmental sciences for trades.
“Our focus is on environmental issues, with PACE and all the other environmental programs we have set up, and education,” MacDougall said. “That’s our main focus. Anything else — parks, roads, police — that’s our duty as far as I’m concerned. We’re supposed to do a good job with those. But Cutler Bay’s main focus is better schools.”