Second town hall meeting set to discuss high school

By Gary Alan Ruse….

A large crowd attended the first meeting on Aug. 18.

The issue of a high school in Cutler Bay, which was the subject of a town hall meeting on Aug. 18, will be discussed again during a second town hall meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 7 p.m., in the Town Council Chambers, 10720 Caribbean Blvd.

Mayor Ed MacDougall said he was impressed by the success of the first meeting, which he felt accomplished what town officials wanted — to make sure that the school was something the residents of Cutler Bay wanted.

“The first meeting was exceptionally well attended,” said MacDougall during an interview on Aug. 25. “We had well over a hundred people, it was standing room only. We gave a presentation of the facts we had found so far on having a municipal charter high school, and after the presentation we just took comments most of the night.

“The overwhelming majority, with only maybe one or two exceptions, were completely in favor of a charter high school and they wanted to have one in Cutler Bay.”

MacDougall said that the other points he took from the meeting were that the people want a choice in education, wanted to make sure that the high school was made available to all residents, whether they were renters or owners in Cutler Bay, and wanted to know how a charter school would be administered.

“We weren’t there to give them all of the answers, since we just didn’t have all the answers,” MacDougall said. “We needed to find out what they wanted. At the second meeting we’re going to provide many more answers to the questions and some options that we’re developing as far as where we would have it.”

The mayor said after that he would prefer a referendum to let the people of Cutler Bay make the decisions, something he had promised voters.

Council member Mary Ann Mixon expressed the same views about the meetings regarding the school.

“My main concern is encouraging people to attend — the more people who show up and give us their feedback the better,” Mixon said. “I loved the last town hall meeting. It was incredibly informative because we got to hear directly from the people. I implore the people to come and tell us what they want. Because after all, I didn’t get elected to voice my own opinions; I’m there to fulfill the wishes of the people.”

Vice Mayor Ernie Sochin had the same impression of the first town hall meeting and its importance to the community.

“The overwhelming response seemed to favor a ‘choice’ mainly conceived of as a charter school,” Sochin said. “For example, of the 2,262 students eligible for Southridge Senior High 1,158 chose an alternate. That’s 51.2 percent.

“Many questions were asked at that meeting and in our efforts to hear first from the public, not many were answered. We hope at this next meeting to provide answers and get more input. It is a long road to travel but I think the results will be a better education for Cutler Bay children.”

There is currently no high school in Cutler Bay and no indication that the Miami-Dade County School Board plans on building one in the near future, especially with the recent budget cutbacks. Mayor MacDougall believes that a municipal high school for Cutler Bay residents will be better for students and parents who now have to travel outside of the city.

“My mission and the mission of this council is that we want to be a town of higher education, of quality education,” MacDougall said. “Obviously better parks, safer streets and better roads are our duty and obligation to provide, but we also want a city of educational opportunities for our kids. It will impact the quality of life in such a way that I believe it is a decision that can only be made by the people. I’m very excited about it.”

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