Norland High alums hold Carvalho’s feet to the fire

Superintendent says promises associated with bond will be kept

D. Kevin McNeir | 10/24/2013, 9 a.m.
It was approximately one year ago that the voters of Miami-Dade County approved a $1.2B bond intended to upgrade deteriorating ...

It was approximately one year ago that the voters of Miami-Dade County approved a $1.2B bond

intended to upgrade deteriorating schools — some which hadn’t seen improvements since they were built over 50 years ago. The other revenue from the bond was to be used to bring the County’s schools up-to-date with the latest technology. Over 280 schools were listed as renovations candidates based on the age and condition of their buildings.

So where are we now and how are things progressing? That depends on who you ask. For example, after a recent meeting between Norland High alums and supporters and Miami-Dade County Public Schools [M-DCPS] Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, the two sides had different views in terms of how projects are coming along. Both agreed, however, that rebuilding Norland from the ground up is something that is long overdue.

“We initially stated that the projects would begin to roll out in mid-to-late summer of 2013 and at this point we are ahead of schedule,” Carvalho said. “The first aggressive wave is centered around the urban core, particularly in Districts 1 and 2, which are under Dr. Bendross-Mindingall and Dr. Holloway. We have 69 projects that are now going on consuming about $183M of the funding — more than what was initially envisioned in year one. Most of the projects are under $2M and that’s consistent with our goal to provide opportunities for small businesses. However, the first project to be approved and the most expensive one is the high school replacement for Norland.”

Norland — last but not least

Other schools in the urban corridor have already seen upgrades or replacements, including: Miami Central, Miami Carol City, North Dade and North Miami Senior High but Norland was not part of the wave of improvements that happened during the last bond issuance. This time they have been put first on the list.

Friends, supporters and Norland alums say they want a new Norland High.

Friends, supporters and Norland alums say they want a new Norland High.

Norland alums and supporters of the school were recently invited to take a tour of Terra Nova Senior High — a new Miami-Dade County magnet school that Carvalho says will be very close in terms of design and cost to the new Norland.

“We took a division tour together and the budget has allotted $35M for the replacement,” he said. “The architects and the engineers have approved things and we are moving along on schedule for Norland — just as we are for the other 68 projects. People have to realize that a lot of engineering and architectural work has to be done even before the shovel breaks ground.”

County Commissioner Barbara Jordan took the tour of Terra Nova along with 30 others and says so far she is satisfied with how projects, including Norland, are progressing.

“Speaking the truth is all in the end results,” she said. “We just want to make sure all of the commitments are kept. It’s only natural to have reservations based on promises that have been to our community in the past and then broken.”

Milton Parris, Jr., president of the Norland Vikings Alumni Association, believes more money will be needed to adequately complete the project.

“Besides disagreeing with how much it will cost, we are also concerned about the kinds of programs that our kids will get,” he said. “Academies sound nice but it’s magnets that get funding. We’d like to see Norland become a performing arts magnet. The Superintendent said that other schools were overbuilt and overpaid and he contends that $35M is more than enough for Norland but we disagree.”

Francis Ragoo, who chairs a coalition of Norland High concerned citizens, says the price tag isn’t enough to give deserving students what they deserve.

“We’ll need to keep talking and negotiating with the board and the superintendent,” he said. “We need to do more than just show our kids that sports is the way — we have to educate their minds. If the promise is going to be kept, officials have to be willing to pay the bill in full.”