As every year, Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) School Board Member Raquel Regalado, jointly with the City of Miami, started off the new year with a toy giveaway for Miami-Dade elementary students. More than 200 toys were given to boys and girls in Pre-K and Kindergarten at Shenandoah Elementary School. A surprise visit by Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar cheered everyone and helped teach students about the significance of the Three Kings tradition.
Reflecting on 2013, Regalado met very important goals toward optimizing education for M-DCPS students of all abilities.
On April 2 – World Autism Awareness Day – Regalado secured a donation from the Humana Foundation in the amount of $10,000 to create new sensory rooms for special needs students. The donation served to open new sensory rooms in three Miami-Dade elementary schools – Auburndale, Hialeah Gardens and Kensington Park. A sensory room is an attractive space equipped with resources – such as bubble tubes, swings, musical objects, fiber optic strands, massagers, aroma diffusers, projector lights and more – to help the student who needs to awaken the senses as well as the one who needs to lower anxiety levels. Upon receiving therapy in this space, special education students will demonstrate better behavior and academic progress in school, as their senses will be better synchronized and they will make better sense of the world around them. Regalado continues to work toward bringing this important resource to more M-DCPS.
Considering digital literacy a fundamental skill for this generation, in June Regalado asked the school board to discuss a partnership with the Office of the City of Miami Mayor to establish a pilot program with the City of Miami for M-DCPS students to have free and easy access to instruction on coding.
After a series of mistakes by staff of the Polk County School District led to the collection of biometric information of students without the consent of parents or top school officials, Regalado in July asked the Miami-Dade County School Board to approve establishing a policy about the use, maintenance and destruction of the biometric information of students, which includes physical and/or behavioral characteristics that are digitally scanned as a means of identification in K-12 school systems.
Continuing with the fight to keep students free of drugs, in September Regalado asked the school board to study the feasibility of randomly drug testing M-DCPS students participating in extracurricular activities at the high school level. Regalado committed herself to raising the private funds necessary for these drug tests, provided that the district through its police department ensures that all coaches and teachers involved in extracurricular activities at the high school level make a presentation to students about the dangers of drug use.
Human trafficking, lack of gun safety, and substance abuse are alarming problems in the United States. Aiming to protect students from such, Regalado conducted eight town hall meetings throughout October in Ponce de Leon, Citrus Grove, Shenandoah and Riviera middle schools, and in Miami, South Miami, Southwest Miami and Miami senior high schools. Expert speakers included former elite junior, college, and professional tennis player Sally Greer and 2013 L’Oreal Woman of Worth National Honoree Lauren Book.
As the use of electronic cigarettes has grown and with M-DCPS lacking a clear policy about the possession of e-cigarettes by students and teachers, in December the school board approved Regalado’s board item to ban the use and/or possession of e-cigarettes on all school board properties and/or sites where educational instruction is offered and to disseminate educational materials and other forms of outreach for parents, administrators, teachers and students on the lack of regulation and potential misuse of e-cigarettes.
In November and December, Regalado’s District 6 joined efforts with the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) and Shake-A-Leg Miami to bring students with autism a fun-filled experience to enhance their awareness of their environment – PROJECT SAIL. Third to fifth grade students enrolled in the self-contained autism spectrum disorder classes at Kensington Park Elementary participated in six 2-hour sessions of marine activities throughout beautiful Biscayne Bay. The sessions, which took place November 6, 13, and 20 and December 4, 11, and 18, fostered positive self-esteem by focusing on the particular abilities of each boy and girl. Embracing the theme of nature, the program’s curriculum included, but was not limited to, science, reading, math, writing, social skills, life skills, music, photography, art, water activities, and environmental education based learning, such as sea grass walks.
Shake-A-Leg Miami is a nonprofit organization that offers therapeutic activities in a marine environment to children and adults of all abilities. Launched 23 years ago, the program has succeeded in bringing kids with special needs the opportunity for leisure and social participation outside of school. For more info about this program go to http://www.shakealegmiami.org/about-us.htm CARD is an outreach center that for the past 23 years has been dedicated to providing families affected by autism with resources specific to their needs. To register for CARD visit http://www.umcard.org/contact/
A month into the year 2014, M-DCPS Board Member Raquel Regalado continues to work restlessly to ensure safe and resourceful school environments where all students may acquire the skills necessary to excel in a highly competitive global economy.