With a 90-minute Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations (KFHA) Town Meeting drawing to a close on Apr. 22, School Board member Carlos Curbelo won the evening’s strongest applause as he said he would seek a $10,000 increase for new Miami-Dade County teachers in future budgeting.
“I will personally put that as my own priority this year,” declared Curbelo, who represents a large section of Kendall having won election to the board in 2010.
If approved, such an increase would jump a starting Miami-Dade teacher’s salary from the current $40,000 to $50,000 during the first five years.
The District 7 representative said he also planned to “look into how raises are given,” commenting “it doesn’t seem right that the highest increases occur as teachers end their careers.
“There ought to be consideration of increasing middle-year salary steps, rather than waiting to give them as a teacher nears retirement,” he concluded.
Curbelo’s statements followed KFHA’s annual review of school matters by board members who included Jackeline Fals, administrative aide to District 9 member Dr. Larry Feldman, arriving as the meeting ended due to a schedule conflict.
With Curbelo and Fals to answer a barrage of audience questions were five schools officials, headed by Jaime G. Torrens, chief facilities officer, largely summarizing status of the voter approved $1.2 billion bond program designed to renovate deteriorating facilities while updating technology, in part by increasing the number of computer units wherever lacking in classrooms.
“In five to 10 years, the expenditures of this program will give our schools an entirely different look,” Curbelo said, raising questions from several residents, including Martha Backer who pushed for “getting youngsters out of classrooms and into parks and fieldtrips — our kids get enough computer time at home.”
Concerns over recent cutbacks in school psychologists and guidance counselors led to Curbelo’s pledge to examine “getting vocational counselors into classrooms, rather than sitting in offices to hold student interviews.”
Other session highlights:
• Spending the first $200 million draw of bond funds “will be well underway by this time next year,” according to Curbelo who said the priorities would begin with new construction projects in antiquated school buildings.
• Funding will continue at the rate of $200 million per year for the next two years, following the initial outlay, he added.
• FCAT testing “will continue to maintain accountability” to measure both teaching ability and student progress, Curbelo declared, answering a complaint that students were overloaded with testing in classrooms.
• Violence in schools “is not a gun control issue, but one of school safety,” Curbelo declared, indicating he favored increased policing and focus on mental health preventatives “to prevent future Sandy Hook incidents.”
• Concerns for assisting autistic children in schools will be significantly aided by a newly appointed administrator for that purpose, working with National Autism Association.
• In defense of magnet school criticism, Curbelo said he favored expansion of the system to create added early job opportunities and assist students in making sound career decisions.
• On a local note, legislation is pending Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s signature to criminalize any distribution of pornographic literature on school grounds, following a 2011 incident at Winston Park K- 8 Center, resulting in the non arrest of a school custodian.
KFHA will next meet at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 2, at Kendall Village Center Civic Pavilion to hear U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia address Kendale Lakes residents’ protest of the Miccosukee Indian Tribe authorization by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to designate Miccosukee Golf and County Club in Kendale Lakes as part of its Tribal Land Trust.