Update: The Miami-Dade School Board Wednesday unanimously approved a new plan to improve failing schools in predominantly African-American neighborhoods.
The proposal, introduced by board member Steve Gallon, also gained the backing of residents and community leaders in the northwest section of the county. School Board Chair Larry Feldman said he hoped the strong showing of support by the board and the community will result in an initiative that will become “blue print” for the improvement of failing schools everywhere.
By William Gjebre, FloridaBulldog.org
Newly elected Miami-Dade School Board member Steve Gallon is proposing to focus the district’s attention on improving failing schools in some of the county’s poorest locations, often in predominantly African-American neighborhoods.
Gallon, who campaigned on a promise to throw a spotlight on failing schools, has an item on Wednesday’s School Board agenda to address schools that have received repeated “F” ratings as well as those that have received a “D” under the state’s rating system.
The new school improvement proposal for failing schools is reminiscent – on a much smaller scale – of an initiative undertaken while Rudy Crew was superintendent of schools in Miami-Dade more than a decade ago.
Crew’s effort, which began in the second half of the 2004-2005 school year, entailed a large number of schools, with substantial district funding, during a period of intensive state scrutiny of failing schools. Known as the School Improvement Zone, the plan was abandoned after several more years with questionable results.
Gallon’s proposal, which makes no mention of specific funding support, calls on the Miami-Dade School Board to actively monitor the progress of the undertaking through the review of plans and programs, and other actions to bring about improvement.
While acknowledging that “the district as a whole has done well,” Gallon said in an emailed response to questions about his proposal, “there remain pockets of persistent underperformance in certain sectors of the community.”
He said his item was not “to indict the District for past performance” but “seeks to serve as a renewed call for action” for improving “F” and “D” schools.
A number of those failing schools are in District 1, which Gallon represents, and District 2, represented by board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall.
Gallon pointed to the following schools needing attention: Carol City Middle which has received five consecutive “F” grades; Brownsville Middle, which has received three “F” grades in a row, and North Dade Middle, which has received two consecutive “F” grades.
He listed four other schools with “F” grades: Skyway/Dr. Frederica S. Wilson Elementary; Poinciana Park Elementary, and Earlington Heights Elementary.
All seven schools are in School Board Districts 1 and 2.
“There needs to be a sense of urgency around addressing the needs of these schools in the areas that were enumerated and must include strategies that are inclusive of parents and stakeholders in the broader community,” Gallon said in his written response.
“This item is not simply about District 1 and 2,” said. “This item is about the collective responsibility and commitment of a united School Board that is charged with educational oversight of a unified school district. The approval of this item will further bolster the Board’s conversation and commitment to all schools and all children irrespective of voting districts or zip codes.”
Gallon called for a “review of the resource allocations in schools to ensure equity and the support structure to ensure effectiveness and impact.”
The School Board, he said, should “play a role” in monitoring the initiative “because what gets monitored gets done.”
Gallon’s item, which seeks board support for enactment, calls for the Superintendent to:
*Provide a status update, at the Feb. 15, 2017 School Board meeting, on the Districts’ F schools, including improvement planning, intervention and support, leadership, teacher quality and support, professional development, curriculum, resource allocation, technology and parental and community partnerships;
*Provide monthly status updates to the School Board on the progress of the F school improvement plan; and
*Initiate a framework and process to establish a District Advisory Board to provide input and support to the schools that earn two or more consecutive letter grades of F based on the annual state assessment.