- Faith & Family
Since it was first reported in August that a huge percentage of Miami-Dade County Public Schools [M-DCPS] are in deplorable condition, in need of repair and lacked the needed technology to prepare students for an ever-changing job market, M-DCPS Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has been pushing for voters to approve a $1.2B bond referendum that will appear on the November ballot. His greatest challenge, however, has been to address a 1988 bond that voters approved, with great support from the Black community, that by many estimates failed to live up to its promises.
Specifically, Blacks were told that their schools would get needed repair and upgrades but very few of the schools in the County’s “urban core” actually benefited. A coat of paint or a new front door simply did not make up for years of wear and tear on buildings that were in some cases 40- or even 50-years-old. Now with the election less than five weeks away, Blacks are still unsure — even unconvinced — that this time around their schools and children will get their fair share of the pie. That said, one has to wonder if time is running out for Carvalho and his supporters.
Bendross says ‘trust but verify’
M-DCPS School Board Member Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, District 2, says she favors the bond referendum but she does have some concerns.
“Some of our schools in the urban core are over 60-years-old so repairing them won’t be a solution — they’ll need to be totally rebuilt,” she said. “I fear we may have more work that needs to be done than there are dollars with which to do it. Many of our schools have been ignored for far too long and there’s only so much money to be spread across the entire school district. That means the entire community, including parents and those with influence, need to make their voices heard. I was here in 1988 when promises were made. We may be poor but we’re not stupid. We didn’t get what we were promised the last time. We cannot undo the past but this time I am not just going to trust what’s being said. This time I have to verify.”
Dr. Wilbert “Tee” Holloway, M-DCPS school board member, District 1, said, “I have no doubts that the priorities identified by the Superintendent will be among the first schools that see repairs.”
But he admits that apprehension is still running high in the Black community.
“Until our community is completely satisfied that our schools and our children will be first in line this time around, we should remain apprehensive,” he added.
Elizabeth Judd, 71, an active member and former treasurer of the Miami-Dade Democrats and current president of AFSCME, retirees, chapter 45, says in her circle she’s hearing that Blacks want a more concrete commitment.
“Many of my colleagues would feel better seeing a resolution passed by the school board that clearly delineates the schools that would first see upgrades, or be rebuilt, assuming the bond were to be approved by the voters,” she said. “ Goodwill just isn’t good enough this time. We remember before that our community did not benefit from the bond.”
Information is golden
Carvalho says he recognizes that he has to convince Blacks that promises made this time will be kept. And he’s holding court with as many community leaders and parents as he can to answer questions and to address their concerns.
“There is an historical perspective that I refuse to accept,” he said. “We have a 23-year cycle of broken promises. But I don’t want to linger — we need solutions. Those broken promises didn’t happen under my watch. In my four years, trust has been rebuilt and it’s getting better, I believe. One need only look at my record and my accomplishments. I adhere to the motto that a promise made is a promise kept.“
As this story went to press, County Mayor Carlos Gimenez was unavailable for comment. But City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado was able to speak to the bond issue and share his views.
“I support the bond because of the condition of our schools and the need for technological upgrades,” he said. “We have some of the oldest schools in the City and it’s time that we see parity between those who live in the western areas versus other parts of Miami. But there has to be a strong oversight committee to monitor expenses so that no one community is left behind. Given this bond referendum being on the same ballot as the race for president, we can anticipate a lot of Blacks and Hispanics coming out to vote. They may well decide the fate of the bond.”
By D. Kevin McNeir