For the fifth year since taking leadership of Miami-Dade’s public schools, superintendent Alberto Carvalho returned to update the district’s progress while speaking to a Kendall audience that warmly supported his efforts.
“I feel like I’m returning to see old friends whenever I visit Kendall,” Carvalho said during greetings exchanged both before and after an hour-long session sponsored by the Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations on Jan. 27.
More than 50 residents, teachers and administrators turned out at the Village Center Civic Pavilion to hear Carvalho cover a broad range of topics, answer questions and thank Kendall voters for their 2012 vote approving the $1.2 billion general obligation bond issue for needed school renovations, technology updating and expansion of student capacities.
“Overall, Kendall, with some 50 schools, will be represented by an expenditure of approximately $150 million of a countywide $350 million upgrading and improving education for this area,” he said.
“This mandate corrects the inequities existing between the instructional experience of students attending newer schools and those in outdated buildings.
Carvalho added that SmartBoard technology will be among the first major technical implementations impacting 10,000 classrooms throughout Miami- Dade.
“During the next two months, you will see them installed in schools throughout the district with installation by local firms at an estimated 45 percent cost saving by utilizing visual screens with built-in data banks.
“We are taking full advantage of today?s technology and digital learning environments to ensure all students have access to cutting-edge academic programming,” he emphasized, noting the bond program will create 9,200 jobs during the first three years of capital improvements, and 18,000 sustainable jobs during a fiveto- seven year course of construction.
“You will continue to see even more improvements since almost all funding during 2013 was devoted to the design and engineering phases, preliminary to actual installations or construction of 140 current projects that will start this year.”
Despite an enthusiasm for such progress, Carvalho expressed equal cautions about continuing the heightened education levels that “have now eliminated all Miami-Dade schools from former ‘F’ or ‘D’ ratings to A, B and C’s.
“We still face serious challenges of underfunded educational needs, typified by today’s announcement that Gov. Scott’s preliminary state educational budget can create a serious loss to Miami-Dade’s school budgeting,” Carvalho explained.
A shortfall in expected revenues for 2014 could result in a potential increase in school taxes, already impacted by declining tax revenues due to economic reasons, he advised.
Noting that College Board Placements for high school graduates shows Miami- Dade has surpassed a national median, he was urged by KFHA’s Libby Perez to place higher emphasis on qualified CAP (College Access Programming) advisory positions to ensure college entry.
Gilbert Porter Elementary teacher Esther Garvett of West Kendall led a lengthy dialogue on the need to expand parental participation, noting an NBC News special on an Arizona program bringing parents to schools to share dinner meals while monitoring student homework with teachers.
“We have already looked into that, and have a similar modified program but problems in low-income areas with transportation of parents, as well as prohibition against paying for adult meals, are barriers to development,” he replied.
To a former elementary teacher, Carvalho promised to look into reports that vocal and band teachers departing for maternity or other reasons have not been replaced by similar professionals but by other language arts teachers in some schools, a decision he said remained solely within a school principal’s judgment.
Capping his remarks, Carvalho said the 64 percent graduation rate five years ago with a goal of 70 percent “has now reached a point where we are aiming at 80 percent or more.
“We remain challenged to better Miami- Dade education, but with your concern and involvement we will meet those challenges,” he concluded to enthusiastic applause.