Dr. Larry Feldman, the vice chair of the Miami-Dade County School Board, met with parents and other concerned residents on Wednesday, Aug. 10, during informal sessions in both Palmetto Bay’s Village Hall (at 10 a.m.) and Cutler Bay’s Town Hall (12:30 p.m.).
Feldman, his chief of staff Jackeline Fals and community involvement specialist Erz Munsie brought informational materials and posters for the presentation to bring everyone up to date on how key school programs are continuing, even in the face of budget cuts by state and federal lawmakers.
Feldman addressed their concerns with great enthusiasm for the solutions they have devised for the coming school year and his determination that all children’s needs are met.
“We’re keeping the arts; we’re keeping the teachers,” Feldman said. “The only thing I am concerned about is maintaining the high level of services for our special needs kids.”
Feldman explained that the school board is coping with reduced funding partially by cleaning out the “downtown staff” and sending them out to the schools to fill needed positions instead of hiring new people. He also assured parents that the popular magnet programs, although undergoing changes, will continue.
“The reason that the districts are scaling back the magnet programs is because after those three years the federal government could no longer fund it and we have to take over at a much higher cost, both for teachers and for the program for kids,” Feldman said.
“So what they’ve moved to instead of total magnets is now we do magnet by programs so that if we get a grant and it lasts, great, but we’d rather lean toward academies, because academies are funded within the system, it frees up the principals to use more latitude and we provide them with the curriculum.”
Feldman said that some magnet programs in schools that have been successful with them will continue, and that 42 percent of all Miami-Dade County students currently are enrolled in a magnet program of some kind.
The magnet course themes are Careers & Professions; International; Liberal Arts; Mathematics, Science & Technology; Montessori, and Visual & Performing Arts. Feldman also announced 18 new magnet academies, including: Arthur and Polly Mays 6-12 Conservatory of the Arts, Booker T. Washington High Academy of Engineering, Centennial Middle Centennial Ocean Academy of Science & Technology, Cutler Ridge Middle Criminal Justice & Forensic Science Academy, and others.
One of the new programs Feldman was excited about is the new Medical Academy for Science and Technology (MAST) through Homestead High School that will use a retrofitted version of the former Homestead Hospital as a state-of-the-art facility.
Cutler Bay resident Raquel Lockwood was impressed with the session and with Dr. Feldman.
“Awesome,” Lockwood said. “He’s great. I’m so pleased with the job he’s doing, and the school board superintendent is wonderful, especially after the problems with some of the previous ones.”
Palmetto Bay Mayor Shelley Stanczyk thought the presentation was effective and asked Feldman to come back for regular updates.
“I’m very pleased with the way the meeting went,” Stanczyk said. “I’m glad that Dr. Feldman is getting out and meeting with parents. They’re making some very clever and creative changes to the programs that they’re offering, and I think it’s good.”
Cutler Bay resident Louise Lockwood said that they were very close to having a charter high school in Cutler Bay, and that she hopes that the town council and the residents will support it. Dr. Feldman pointed out that charter schools still operate within the public school system.