Miami Beach Senior High has a long and storied history as the only public high school to serve Miami Beach and the greater island communities. Since 1926, “Beach High”, as it is affectionately known, has produced highly successful alumni in the areas of law, medicine, athletics, and the fine arts. Starting in the 1990s, the school fell into disrepair and was in desperate need of new buildings. At the same time, the school’s overall academic performance declined, and in 2007, MBSH earned a “D” grade from the state of Florida. Staff and student morale was at an all-time low.
By the end of the 2006-07 school year, buildings were being demolished to make way for construction of a brand new campus. A new principal was appointed, and expectations were huge. Dr. Rosann Sidener came to Beach High with strong knowledge of the community, having filled the role of Assistant Principal at Nautilus Middle School in her early days as an administrator. She immediately sprang into action and met with community leaders, teachers, students and parents to assess their needs, assembled a new administrative team, and rolled up her sleeves to get to work. The administrative team crafted a two-week intensive curriculum- planning institute for teachers and trained them in the use of student performance data to drive instruction. Professional development for teachers as well as school wide attendance and discipline initiatives continued throughout the school year, as administrators worked closely with teachers, students and parents to create a culture of success. All this occurred while classes forged ahead in the midst of the noise and dust from the construction project. In one short year, the renewed emphasis on instruction and increased student performance resulted in Beach High earning its first “B” grade. A complete transformation was underway at last. The construction was finally completed in 2010, providing new clean and buildings with state-of-the-art classrooms, including science and business labs as well as studios for film, music and art. In the past four years, the school has worked diligently to overcome its biggest challenge: a shrinking budget. Beach High has partnered with many local businesses and agencies to provide students with greater resources and opportunities, and to solicit volunteers who serve as mentors and academic tutors. The PTSA plays a key role in the school’s success by providing grants to teachers to fund classroom projects. Dr. Sidener creatively tackled the budget challenges and refused to lower expectations. She capitalized on the talents of her faculty, restructured the entire school into interestbased academies, and led Beach High as it earned certification as an International Baccalaureate World School. She expanded student performance in college level courses through the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program, and enrollment in Advanced Placement courses more than doubled.
Two years ago, the state of Florida recognized that FCAT scores alone do not tell the whole story of a high school, and created a more in-depth grading system that takes into account student participation and performance in advanced coursework such as Advanced Placement, IB, Dual Enrollment, and industry certification. High schools are also expected to raise their graduation rates each year and assist the lowest-performing students to graduate on time with their peers. Miami Beach Senior High developed a “graduation task force” comprised of administrators, counselors, and the college advisor, to go the extra mile to personalize the school experience for the at-risk students and help them graduate with their class. In the past two years, the graduation rate at Beach High has increased by twelve percentage points, out-performing many high schools in the state. Now, the entire faculty works tirelessly to make the high school experience more personalized for every student. Each year, the faculty sets new goals for greater achievements and seeks innovative ways to make high school meaningful for all students. Beach High truly believes in a culture of success.
Two weeks ago, Miami Beach Senior High finally earned the “A” it has been striving to achieve. It is the school’s first ever “A” designation. As Principal Sidener explains, “Miami Beach Senior High School has a long history of academic excellence. This community produces outstanding young people and enjoys strong support from parents, the city and local businesses. We are proud to return Beach High to its glory days, a school renowned as a world-class educational institution.” Dr. Sidener credits the hard work of students and teachers for the school’s success. The key is to focus on creating a culture of success where every student is challenged to achieve his/her potential – whether that means college-level study, the International Baccalaureate Programme, Advanced Placement, industry certification or remedial reading. The entire school community constantly reviews individual student performance data to track progress and make adjustments to the curriculum so all students experience success. It an ongoing process that many people at Beach High describe as a labor of love.