South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Broward school merger proposal upsets parents, officials in east
By Akilah Johnson and Jennifer Gollan, Sun Sentinel
November 26, 2009
Faced with the possibility that their underenrolled schools may be merged, some parents and officials in the eastern part of the county are warning the Broward School District to tread lightly.
There could be a minor rebellion among students upset over being moved, said Thomas Douglas, president of the Parent Teacher Student Association at Boyd Anderson High School in Lauderdale Lakes.
"There can be some separation anxiety and the implications are some of these young people will decide that it is not even worth attending school," he said. "It is basically a no-win situation."
The district projects as many as 33,000 empty desks in the 2013-14 school year, most in the eastern part of the county. As long as there are empty seats, the state won't allow the district to add classrooms or build new schools in the crowded west.
In response, the district is pushing a plan to measure classroom space by using eight geographic regions rather than individuals schools. The county and its cities must agree to the change. So far, Davie, Dania Beach and Cooper City voted to approve the measure. Lauderdale Lakes and Pompano Beach voted against it.
But that plan doesn't address underenrolled schools, and schools Superintendent James Notter is proposing that some elementary schools be consolidated, others could morph into kindergarten through eighth-grade schools or unused wings may be converted into office space for district administrators.
Notter explained that the district's leases on office space in Sunrise and Fort Lauderdale will soon expire and consolidating some underenrolled campuses helps with both money and boundary issues.
In the coming year, only Pioneer Middle School in Cooper City is scheduled to see significant boundary changes but district maps show scenarios in which thousands of students are moved out of overcrowded western schools into less-crowded schools starting in the 2011-2012 school year.
Hollywood Commissioner Richard Blattner said Notter's recommendation is reasonable. "If it means that older schools are closed and it reduces expenses that taxpayers have, it should be done," he said.
But Kristina Brazil, whose children attend Plantation Middle School, questions its merits.
"So…we move these kids out and put [administrators] in and it's a win, win?" she said. "The stance has been 'what's the most important thing for kids?' That doesn't sound like that's what they're doing."
Notter and School Board Chairwoman Jennifer Gottlieb stressed the board has not approved anything yet.
"There are too many unanswered questions," Gottlieb said this week. "We need to know where the kids are going to go; the impact on communities."
Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper said the proposal to change how class space is measured benefits western communities and the district, which won't have to anger parents by changing boundaries. It does little to address the needs of communities with underenrolled schools, she said.
"If there is crowding in one place in the county and the mechanism is in place to fill those seats through boundary changes, I cannot sit idly by because of the lack of will," Cooper said. "Other cities, particularly those in eastern communities…should be concerned."
Longtime Pompano Beach community activist Ernestine Price vowed to rally against any proposal that might mean eastern schools will close. Price helped found the grassroots group that sued the district in 1995 for neglecting to provide older schools in eastern Broward with the same facilities, programs and quality teachers as newer schools out west.
The thought of consolidating underenrolled schools leaves her resentful and heartbroken, she said. But, it compels her to keep advocating against disparities.
"You have a Broward County School District, and when schools were being opened out west they bused these kids," she fumed. "And now the schools are overcrowded and they don't want to bus anyone to the east. I don't know how anybody can fix their mouth and say that."
Parents and officials in western cities fear that if the proposed change doesn't pass, thousands of students countywide will be moved in a domino effect.
Cooper City Mayor Debby Eisinger has been avid supporter of the proposal and said the intent was never to sacrifice some schools for the benefit of others. The resolution, she acknowledged, may need to be modified to include "some protection for underenrolled schools."
"It should not be an east/west fight," she said. "Let's work together to continue to provide a quality public school education for the children throughout Broward County."Reader comments at:
Seventy per cent of this article from yesterday is the
same as the Sun-Sentinel article from Saturday
that I sent many of you.
Since I returned to South Florida in mid-October of
2003, Mayor Cooper and the Hallandale Beach City
Commission have never held a single city-wide forum
on the sad state of education in this city, nor has she
has a single meeting of the City Commission that dealt
with it in a serious way.
And in the year since she was elected, we know that
Cooper has also never asked our MIA School Board
member Ann Murray to speak at any city function
to explain what, if anything, she's doing.
And lest you forget, Hallandale High School also
serves kids from Hollywood, whose parents surely
must wonder what it takes for HB City Hall to get
off their butt and actually get more involved in changing
the mix of options for kids in the HB/Hollywood area.
To say nothing of the new residents of Hallandale
Beach with kids who are now moving into
developments on A1A like The Beach Club.
Who exactly is looking after their best interests?
People who make the sort of financial investment in
a place like they have will simply not accept half-assed
explanations from elected officials like Cooper and
Murray for why schools are so bad in the area,
and why they seem to have been mere spectators
while it all happened.
So when is Mayor Cooper and the HB City
Commission going to convene a city-wide meeting
on the state of education in this area, one with
Ann Murray present and accounted for,
so that people can have their legitimate concerns
aired and maybe even addressed?
A few months ago, showing what happens when
you have a person in charge who keeps their eyes
and ears open and responds in a constructive and
forthright fashion, Mayor Bober and the Hollywood
City Commission had an interesting meeting that
discussed the pluses and minuses of the city pursuing
an application for a city-run Charter school.
It was very informative and anyone who had an
opinion on the proposal or schools in Hollywood
or Broward in general, got their chance to put in
their two cents and sound-off.
Why is that SO difficult to replicate here in
Not the Charter School part, simply having the
To me, the one thing that became really apparent
as one parent after another spoke was the full extent
to which the Middle Schools are perceived as a
huge problem for the greater area.
Parents and citizens are VERY disturbed at what
they see and what they hear, and their perceptions
that mediocrity and sub-standard performance is
becoming the accepted norm, no matter what the
Broward School Board and Supt. Notter insists.
There was much discussion of the negative effect
of the Middle Schools in this area on attracting
families to the area, with many Realtors -and
'amateur' real estate experts- speaking to
the fact that they knew or had met people who
had decided to locate elsewhere.
It was also mentioned that as much as people
may prefer not to acknowledge it, many people
already living here were contemplating moving
elsewhere for the very same reasons.
Blame the reality or blame the perception,
but in the end, it's all the same thing if everyone
thinks it's bad.
Again, to repeat myself, since I returned to South
Florida six years ago from Arlington County, VA,
a place that is, if anything, perhaps, a little TOO
concerned with education, the city has never held
a single meeting on education.
One that, in my opinion, optimally, ought to be held
on a Saturday morning over at the HB Cultural Center
starting around 10:30 a.m., so that kids can be there,
too, with at least one parent or guardian.
You simply won't get the same kind of turnout if you
hold it at night, and we all know that, so how about
some common sense coming into play for a change?
And maybe, for once, the city actually putting up
legible signs advertising the meeting at least ten days
in advance in appropriate places throughout the city,
including near schools, rather than the typical way
that everything gets done here: half-assed.
Just wondering: when are we going to get our chance
to speak to the hydra-headed PR squad selected
by Supt. Notter to reassure Broward taxpayers
and parents that the whole Broward School Board
shouldn't just be blindfolded and tossed overboard?
Or as Michael Mayo wrote in his interesting
Nov. 1st Sun-Sentinel column about FP&L
and Notter both turning to Bob Butterworth
to lend some assistance,
In Sticky Situations, Just Add Mr. Butterworth
a " volunteer three-member panel to explore
the school district's recent troubles."
Since Mayo's column ran three-and-a-half weeks
ago, have you read or seen even one article or
segment on local TV about actual Broward citizens
getting a chance to speak to them, in either private
I haven't, and I've been actively looking for news
stories spelling out what they were actually doing.
There's been nothing reported for over three weeks
in either the Herald or Sun-Sentinel in the form of
an actual article, and my recollection was that they
were only going to be in operation for 90 days or so.