Broward school district starts long-sought repairs and upgrades at neglected Hallandale High

Acting Principal Anthony Dorsett

By William Gjebre, 

While Broward County public schools has begun making long-awaited repairs and upgrading educational equipment at rundown Hallandale High, community activists and the city’s mayor say a lot more has to be done. 

The district began the initiative after public exposure of shabby conditions and inadequate educational materials and equipment at the school. Reports last month by Broward Bulldog and WFOR-CBS4 came days after a grand jury blasted Broward school officials for mismanagement. 

“A short time ago we couldn’t get anything done; now we are moving,” said James Sparks of Concerned Citizens for our Children. He is also a member of the district’s Diversity Committee that threw a spotlight on the problems at the school in a recent report. Click here to read Broward Bulldog’s story about that report. 

Sparks made his comments on Monday as he and another community activist, Phoebe Robinson, met and toured Hallandale High with Acting Principal Anthony Dorsett. 

“While I’m happy they (workers) are here, it looks like a lot of patching,” Sparks added. “I want to see everything finished.” 

Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper agreed, saying the school needs a complete “makeover,” including new science facilities. Years ago, she said, the school was supposed to be leveled and a new one built, but that never occurred. 

The Diversity Committee’s report “proved” that for years the district simply left conditions at Hallandale High to deteriorate, the mayor said. Cooper added that the school district cancelled a meeting with the city about the school for today (March 30, 2011) and has not rescheduled. 

On their tour, Sparks and Robinson were shown where holes in the walls of the boys’ locker room were patched and where ceilings were re-plastered and painted. Missing tiles had been replaced, but didn’t match with some areas having three different color tiles. 

Of the mismatched tiles, one worker said he uses what’s given him. He added that some walls behind the shower tiles “may be shot” and eventually would have to be torn out. 

“They should do it right so they don’t have to do it again,” said Robinson. 

Cracks remain in the walls in locker room areas. Still, Sparks said the place “looks a lot different” since the fix-up began within the past month. 

“We’ve had electricians, plumbers, carpenters, masons and painters and they are working,” said Principal Dorsett, acknowledging the work began after the public exposure of the problems. Dorsett said the school also received a visit last Friday from Superintendent of Schools Jim Notter, who since has announced his retirement. 

“He was concerned,” said Dorsett. “He wants to make it (Hallandale) compatible with other schools” in materials and facilities. 

Aside from the patching, repairing and maintenance, Dorsett said a number of measures have been completed in the past month to address some of the issues pointed out in the Diversity Committee report. 

These include: the addition of a vehicle lift for the auto shop; placement of two computers for students in each of three special education classrooms that previously had none; acquisition of 32 laptop cards to make older computers compatible with new software; repair of 11 desktop computers; and replacement of worn floor pads in the weight room. 

Other measures are also underway. Dorsett said they include ordering new weight room equipment; obtaining estimates for new lockers in the boys’ locker room; repairing the acoustics in the auditorium; asking for bids to improve auditorium lighting; directing the science department to provide a list of materials for all science classes; fixing eyewash stations in the science classes; and locating canopies to provide cover from the main building to portable classrooms. 

Dorsett said there may also be funds available to reconfigure the media center, which Sparks said has outdated equipment and materials. There were only seven working computers there. However, media specialist Margaret Kolodziej showed the group a newly delivered cabinet with 25 laptops and power strips. “This is wonderful,” she added. 

Kolodziej said 11 existing desktops have been repaired and she has put in a request for 35 new desktop computers. 

Spark said the district needs to commit to more than patchwork projects. For instance, he said the district ripped out gas, water and electricity in order to remodel 18 science classrooms. But the work was never completed. 

Instead new desks were put in the science rooms and students use a video program to simulate lab work.  “They have to fix the science labs,” Sparks said. “They left them undone. They took the money to go elsewhere and we have not heard anything” about completion. 

Dorsett said there no plans yet for redoing the science labs. In addition, Dorsett said no work has been done to refit bathrooms to meet federal guidelines for handicap accessibility. 

Phase I of the school’s stadium project has been completed, but there are no directions to start the next two phases that will include construction of tennis courts and a pavilion; handball courts; basketball courts; and a softball field. 

“There is an effort being made,” Sparks said. “But is the effort going to be finished? We want to see the projects finished.” 

Sparks also said the school needs consistent leadership from the school’s administration and from School Board Vice Chair Ann Murray, whose district includes Hallandale. In recent years, he said, there have been four different principals and four different board members. 

Murray said Wednesday that she has not seen the report outlining the rundown conditions at Hallandale High vowed to seek corrective funding, including money to remodel science classrooms gutted of gas, electricity and water stations for experiments. “I realize it’s an old school but we will continue to improve it,” she said, adding that about $10 million has been spent on Hallandale High’s physical plant since she was elected in 2008. 

Murray has been steeped in controversy recently for a derogatory word she used about blacks while working as a transportation supervisor in 2007. She apologized for those remarks last week, and told Broward Bulldog she will not step down even though a community group has asked her to do so. 

Sparks said Murray should do “whatever is needed to bring the school equal to other schools in the district.” He added that the $10 million she spoke of included much needed work to maintain the school, including $3 million for a new air conditioning system.

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