By Jennifer Levin, Commissioner
(Monday, November 16, 2015) – The need for sufficient schools to serve our children in Sunny Isles Beach is obvious from the City’s growth and projected growth with the completion of additional residential projects. Many parents are looking for educational options for their children that charter schools can help fulfill by providing curricula not found in other schools.
As your Commissioner, I have supported the Norman S. Edelcup/Sunny Isles Beach K-8 by, among other things, acting as a volunteer teacher of civics and legal studies, arranging a Law Day event for 150 of our NSE/SIB K-8 students at Government Center, and voting in favor of acquiring the property to the north of Government Center with a view towards an expansion of our K-8. As a native born and raised in Miami, I attended Miami-Dade County Public Schools through graduation from the 112 year old Miami Senior High School, the oldest high school in the County and which is listed on the National Register of Historical Sites.
The Aventura/Sunny Isles Beach Chamber of Commerce and Community Development recently instituted the “Excellence in Education Initiative” which goals include the nurturing of the next generation of philanthropists and civic-minded community-builders and reaching out to the elders in the community recognizing them as “storehouses of wisdom and experience”. As part of the Chamber, I was invited by Les Winston, the Chamber’s President, to serve on the Initiative’s committee along with other community members. The Chamber has recently issued press releases about the Initiative.
The Initiative has just begun studying the possibility of opening a charter high school to be privately run and not government-operated. Of course, land will need to be acquired, funds raised, and a complex and extensive application must be submitted and approved, none of which will happen overnight. There is also the possibility that an initial finding will be made that a charter high school simply is not feasible. The concept of a charter school is not novel to the City of Aventura. The Aventura City of Excellence School is a K-8 charter school that has been operating in Aventura since 2003.
The Model Florida Charter School Application recites current law in Florida which requires that charter schools meet high standards of student achievement, provide parents flexibility to choose among diverse educational opportunities within the state’s public school system; promote enhanced academic success and financial efficiency by aligning responsibility and accountability; and provide parents with sufficient information on whether their child is reading at grade level and whether the child gains at least a year’s worth of learning for every year spent in the charter school. Charter schools may also be formed for the purpose of mitigating the impact resulting from the development of new residential dwelling units. Guiding principles of a charter school should improve student learning and academic achievement; increase learning opportunities for all students, with a special emphasis on low-performing students and reading; encourage the use of innovative learning methods; and require the measurement of learning outcomes.
The Internet is abounding with information about charter schools and their pros and cons. While it may appear that a charter high school is in the best interests of our children, some research suggests that there may be a higher cost to pay both inside and outside of our borders. Parents may decide that based upon the downsides, they simply would not enroll their children in charter schools while others will believe that the benefits to their children will outweigh charter schools’ shortcomings.