Reflecting on Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ 10 years of challenges and accomplishments, I am grateful for the opportunity to serve a community of educators and partners who are committed to opening a world of opportunities for our students.
I am proud of our classroom teachers and school site leaders, who each day inspire children throughout our community, shifting the trajectory of student achievement, cementing a winning approach to teaching and learning, and strengthening business operations and the district’s financial solvency.
While we faced challenges along the way, our workforce remained resilient. I had then, and still do now, full faith in the skill and commitment of our team of educators and employees, and in the dedication and strong policy guidance of our School Board.
Just 10 years ago, the school district was near bankruptcy. Many of our facilities were in serious need of renovations, the graduation rate was 60.5 percent, and nine struggling schools were at risk of being closed by the state. Those were tumultuous times, but we were able to transform our school system.
Accomplishments followed, including winning the Broad Prize for Urban Education in 2012, achieving systemwide accreditation, consistently leading the nation in student performance on national and state assessments, achieving a historic 84.2 percent graduation rate, raising Advanced Placement exam passing rates, and increasing choice options to nearly 1,000 programs.
This year, for the first time in our history, M-DCPS has become an A–rated school district, and for the second year in a row there are no F–rated traditional schools.
It’s not only in the classroom that we have excelled. In November 2012, we asked voters to invest in the future of our students and schools and they did – overwhelmingly passing a $1.2 billion General Obligation Bond. More than 400 school projects have been completed with dozens more underway. During the economic recession, we steadied and improved the district’s finances and obtained upgraded credit ratings from Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s.
When tragedy struck a school just 40 miles to our north, we rallied community support. This year, schools opened with a professional law enforcement officer in every school and enhanced security measures in place. However, with the understanding that so many times the tragic outcomes of violent acts could have been prevented if the signs of trouble were recognized, we have invested $6 million in a new Department of Mental Health to address the social and emotional needs of our students.
All that we have accomplished together has been made possible by the outstanding work of our teachers. They are among the finest educators in the world, yet we have been unable to compensate them in the manner they so richly deserve. This November, our community will have an opportunity to invest in retaining our teachers by making an informed decision on Proposition 362, a proposed .75 mil ad valorem levy to improve compensation for teachers and instructional personnel while increasing safety and security staff.
I have faith that, once again, our community will step up in support of our schools, our teachers and our children. The return on this community investment will be realized ten-fold, as doors open to a brighter future for every M-DCPS student.