By William Gjebre, BrowardBulldog.org
Days after a statewide grand jury blasted Broward school officials for mismanagement, a separate report by a School Board committee painted a picture of broken promises and equipment, lack of updated educational materials and safety issues at Hallandale High School.
The latest critical report comes from the Diversity Committee of the School Board of Broward County, which sent a team to the school Dec. 8 after parents complained.
A similar committee visited the school a decade ago and reported many of the same problems. According to the new report, “The site visit team was visibly upset by the facility’s conditions and commented that not much progress has been made in 10 years.”
Hallandale High, 720 NW Ninth Ave., has approximately 1,500 students — 66 percent African-American; 31 percent white; 25 percent Hispanic; 1 percent Asian; 86 percent of the students are on a free or reduced-cost lunch program.
The committee recommended speedy action to correct new and long-standing problems.
“Due to prolonged years of neglect and lack of resources to this school, the site visitation recommends immediate attention and prioritization to Hallandale HS, especially in the area of facilities,” the report said. A copy of the report was provided to Broward Bulldog by Mike Butler, who operates the blog, ChangeHallandale.com
Superintendent of Schools James F. Notter did not respond to repeated requests for comment on Hallandale High left at his office and the district’s public information office.
School Board member Ann Murray, who’s District 1 includes Hallandale High School, could not be reached for comment on Friday. Her district office staff said she was out of town. She could not be reached on the District cell phone number provided by staff.
“I’m very upset,” said Committee member James Sparks, who also was part of a committee formed in 2000 to monitor improvements at the school. The 2000 improvement program was reached as a result of an agreement with the School Board.
Sparks and other parents east of State Road 7 charged that schools in the older coastal areas were not being maintained.
“I couldn’t believe the state of the school,” said Sparks of his recent visit. He said he’s heard some improvements have been made since the December visit, but not enough.
Two other parents who went on the inspection, Cynthia Oliver and Phoebe Robinson, also said too few corrections had been made over the years.
“We’re still fighting the same things 10 years later,” Oliver said. “We can’t get past the lack of equality. This is why we can’t move forward. This is the same fight as in the 50s.”
Robinson added, “These are the same items there were years ago.”
She said that at meetings since the visit, District representatives reported problems at Hallandale High involved “budgetary issues” and it was a matter of when money would be available.
“They have finished some but not all” of the needed corrections at the school, said Robinson, adding the district officials “already knew the things that had to be done.” She added, “It’s not a priority for them.”
A community meeting on the issue is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday (Feb. 28) at the Hepburn Center, 750 NW Eighth Ave., Hallandale Beach. Oliver said Board member Murray asked for the meeting, which is expected to be attended by other District officials as well as city representatives.
“We hope to get some answers”, Oliver said.
Among some of the observations listed in the report were:
- “The automotive class is in dire need of repairs/upgrades to technology. One site visit team member said it was like an auto shop in a third world country. There is no hose for equipment in this class, and there was concern for safety due to too-short, frayed power cords.”
- “In the ESE class, the teacher has a laptop; however, there are no other computers in the classroom. Numerous laptops are in need of repair. Laptop batteries (290) don’t work and the wiring is old and frayed, sometimes shocking staff.”
- “The foundation of Building 2 (a portable) is separating from the building.”
- “In the main building, stairs are worn and the walls need re-plastering/painting. The elevator is aged. The site visit committee was especially upset about the science labs being insufficient for learning. Gas was not hooked up, cabinets had been taken out, and there are no exhaust fans.”
- “In the biology classroom, the eyewash sprayed water everywhere. Safety equipment is ineffective….There is a big prep area in the kitchen, where most equipment seems to be working; however, part of the floor is flooded near the steam kettle.”
The team, accompanied by District staff during the December visit, also noted: the lack tutoring materials; broken weight room equipment posing a safety hazard; outdated equipment in the media center; poor disability access in the gymnasium and auditorium; broken lockers; the ceiling falling apart in the boys’ locker room; a need for new auditorium lighting and sound system; computers that can’t use new software in the television production classroom and; aging textbooks and dictionaries.
Members also observed “there was a strong odor upon entering the school building.”
The school district is already under pressure from the Statewide Grand Jury on Public Corruption’s reported this month about “malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance” and “gross mismanagement” by the Broward County School Board and senior management . Much of the grand jury report dealt with district construction projects.
In one part of the report, the grand jury said, “…the Board has authorized the spending of billions over the last 10 years and has saddled Broward taxpayers with $2 billion in long term debt, and yet we have thousands of empty seats at under enrolled schools in the eastern part of the county and critically overcrowded schools in the western part of the county and no concrete plans to address the problem.”
Sparks, Oliver, and Robinson all said attention needs to be refocused on schools in eastern Broward, including Hallandale High.
Reporter William Gjebre can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org