While concerned neighbors in a Northeast Hallandale Beach neighborhood fought for better and more-inclusive schools that reflected the genuine diversity of HB on Thursday night, away from their single-family neighborhood, HB's African-Americans stayed home in droves and watched TV or were otherwise engaged.
After HB Commissioner Anthony Sanders left the Hallandale Jewish Center at 6:48 p.m., wearing his Hallandale High Chargers t-shirt, there was not another African-American face in the large room for the rest of the evening, another 85 minutes or so.
I'lm planning on having some photos and video of Thursday night's one-sided Ben Gamla Hebrew Charter School information meeting up on my blog and YouTube page on Sunday.
Here are the dates re Ben Gamla that we need to be concerned with.
First, the HB Planning & Zoning Advisory Board on Wednesday May 26th at 1:30 p.m. in the Commission Chambers.
Personally, I think we'd all be better off having it in the HB Cultural Center since I don't think there will be enough seats for everyone in the Chambers once Peter Deutsch and his rather obnoxious acolytes from throughout Broward County descend on HB.
In his public comments that came towards the end of the meeting, after nearly 65%.of the crowd had already left, rather than at the very beginning as it should have, Assistant HB City Manager Mark Antonio -the man who makes almost $200k a year in salary and benefits- stated that the City Commission would hear the application in "June or July."
Sure, well, except for the fact that the City Commission DOESN'T meet in July, which he already knows, hence my educated guess on June.
On Monday I'll be making the first in a series of formal requests for pertinent documents to and from HB City Hall and Ben Gamla and Peter Deutsch, with my first request for docs that explain why the city allowed this required public meeting to be held in a religious facility, one that was positively sweltering on Thursday night, and which lacked any electrical fans.
People attending were cranky even before the meeting started because of how truly miserable the conditions were inside.
When Deutsch said that there were rules for the meeting that the city had agreed to that I've never seen before -rules that DIDN'T exist with other required developer meetings in the past, including the Diplomat's at the air-conditioned HB Cultural Center in October, with Debbie Orshefsky and Suzanne Friedman- a real murmur went up from the crowd.
Instead of being able to ask questions from your seat, with someone walking around with a microphone, you not only had to sign-in, but walk up to the front of the room.
Because Deutsch brought an electronic three-minute timer with him, he alone controlled the time and flow of the meeting, not someone from the city.
That rather predictably resulted in him letting many pro-Ben Gamla people speak for quite some time after the time limit, while being quick to yank the microphone back if you spoke against his multi-million dollar creation.
Oh, and since he controlled everything, Peter Deutsch got to rebut any time he wanted to, which was constantly, with no time limit.
Naturally, he also consistently mis-characterized what many HB residents actually said.
And I guess I hardly need mention that because so many of the pro-Ben Gamla people at the meeting don't live anywhere near Hallandale Beach -or even necessarily in Broward- most didn't necessarily volunteer where they lived when they spoke, though some did.
Those that did mention that they lived elsewhere often made no bones about NOT caring in the least what locals thought, saying that HB would just "have to live" with the influx of the 600-plus cars of parents coming into this single-family neighborhood, twice-a-day.
While you and I may think that it's important for a public school, whether Charter or not, to have a tangible connection to not only the neighborhood it's located in but to the actual students who live in the city, which here, is well-over 90% African-American, Peter Deutsch and his fan club don't.
They don't even pretend to care about the legitimate concerns of the local neighborhood, the city or the kids who live here, who, in my opinion, are currently poorly served by the Broward County School Board and our local member, Ann Murray, who was NOT present.
Not that Ann Murray being invisible in Hallandale Beach is exactly Breaking News, as regular readers here know well.
The Ben Gamla Mutual Admiration Society in attendance Thursday night really don't view those concerns as either important or legitimate, since they don't plan on having many -if any- of these Hallandale students as BGHCS students anyway.
And as was evidenced throughout the night, whenever this was brought up, boy, are the Ben Gamla Moms ever ultra-sensitive about that self-evident fact!
They were spoiling for a fight from the get-go, and frequently heckled HB residents who made clear this school is not a good fit in THAT location.
Deutsch and Co. are smart and they've clearly done their research for their particular product.
They make no excuses for being about the bottom line.
They are much more interested in what Jewish parents living within a 20-mile radius of N.E. 8th Avenue think of sending their kids to this location, than they are with what the neighborhood thinks of them being located there, or even whether or not their insistence that their plan to actually have their students eat lunch outside, is the appropriate one, since many people find it hard to believe.
For them, it's all about efficiency.
Sorry, however good their students may do in school or on standardized tests -and nobody from the neighborhood challenged the central premise that the kids do well at the Hollywood location- for the Hallandale Beach location, their concern is solely about marketing, as I and many others have stated repeatedly since last year.
Because HB City Hall really caved-in big time on this meeting, and there was no presentation of basic facts or even a display of building renderings before it started, for people to look at, the meeting was as predictably and demonstrably bad as I expected when I showed-up, something echoed in comments to me by others who attended.
After it was all over, Hallandale Beach residents quite literally couldn't believe the gall of the whole effort.
First, the one to minimize the legitimate interests and concerns of the city, neighborhood and local HB students, and second, the extent to which the whole night seemed an effort by Peter Deutsch to keep existing Ben Gamla parents happy, so they'd have a high school to send their kids to, since many kids are 'aging out' of their facilities in Hollywood and Plantation.
Deutsch is under-the-gun to find a place for theses older kids to go, since it's clear from their own remarks that the Ben Gamla parents do not want to send their kids to Broward public schools, which they constantly disparaged throughout the meeting, with Hallandale's schools coming under a ton of withering put-downs.
One particularly indignant and voluble Ben Gamla father caused a stir amongst the crowd when he publicly stated that he'd much rather send his son to a Madrassa in Pakistan than to send him to a school in Hallandale Beach. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madrassas_in_Pakistan
I wonder if Comm. Anthony Sanders heard that particular remark.
I know for sure that Mayor Joy Cooper did.
In case you didn't already know, that's what they think of you and your city, folks.
Frankly, there's no logical reason to think that HB City Hall isn't already trying to "fix" things here as they clearly did for the Diplomat LAC proposal.
To think otherwise would be to deny everything we already know and have learned about the people involved in policy-making at HB City Hall, based on their own track record.
The people there have no qualms about lying to HB's citizen taxpayers or trying to prevent us from accessing public information we are already legally entitled to, and will do so again if they need to.
On that you can depend!
My Wednesday email and blog post about Ben Gamla also linked to this Carli Teproff story in its first incarnation
April 28, 2010
Carli is a very diligent reporter and was completely on top of the ethical nonsense at North Miami Beach City Hall last year.
I lived in the then-brand new apt. complex just south of NMB City Hall and the next door Victory Park Pool and Tennis Courts in third and fourth grade from 1969-'71, when going to Fulford Elementary.
Back when the Maryland Fried Chicken, Dobbs House and Kenin's Coin Shop were popular haunts of mine and my friends along N.E. 19th Avenue, and directly west of City Hall was a great family restaurant/diner that my family always seemed to be at whenever new episodes of The Brady Bunch or The Partridge Family TV shows came on Friday night.
Great Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches!
Charter school proposed at Coral Gables church meets resistance from city
By Carli Teproff
May 7, 2010
For Academica to open a charter school with more than 600 students at University Baptist Church, it will have to address parking, traffic and zoning concerns, Coral Gables' Development Review Committee said Friday.
Members of the city's police, fire, building and zoning, architecture, public works and parking departments queried Academica on a wide of range of issues pertaining to the proposed school at the church, 624 Anastasia Ave.
Company officials have said the pre-K through eighth grade school would open in August, although the city maintains the school needs to secure city approval before opening.
Friday's meeting was the first gathering before a city board. The company has maintained it can open the school at the church without city approval because of a state charter school law. In July, the Miami-Dade School Board approved Academica's application to open a school, dubbed Somerset Academy, although no location was specified.
City Attorney Elizabeth Hernandez has said in order to open up a school with more than 110 students -- which is what the property is zoned for -- the city would have to approve zoning and land use changes.
A group of residents who live nearby have formed a neighborhood association to prevent the charter school from opening with more than 110 students.
Attorney Tucker Gibbs, who is representing the group, said the main concern is the added traffic on the residential streets.
``The DRC brought to light a lot of issues that surround the proposal,'' Gibbs said after the meeting. ``The land use does not allow a school there.''
Academia officials have said they're aware of the neighbors' concerns and will try to work with them.
``The school certainly wants to be a good neighbor,'' said Rolando Llanes, the project's architect.
On Friday the city's Development Review Committee -- which is made up of representatives from each department -- went through the committee's concerns before a standing-room only crowd.
Among the concerns raised Friday:
• The number of students. The charter calls for 675 students; the company has said the proposed school can accommodate 735 students.
The committee said the company needs to clarify the exact number of students who will attend the school.
• Coral Gables Police Sgt. Jesse Medina cited added traffic at dismissal time.
Llanes said the plan was to have three dismissal times, 30 minutes apart, to help ease traffic. He noted a maximum of 31 cars could be in the pick-up and drop-off lanes.
``The responsibility will be on the parents,'' Llanes said.
• Parking. Currently, there are 93 spaces used by the church and its preschool, whose enrollment is capped at 110 students and 18 staff members, as per a 1977 commission mandate.
``One of my main concerns is parking,'' said Sebrina Brown, the city's currency administrator.
The architectural firm working with Academia -- Civica Architects -- said there was ample parking. In a packet submitted to the city, the firm said 58 spaces would be required for a 735-student school. It based that calculation on a state school code requiring one space per staff and one visitor space for every 100 students. That is the minimum parking requirement.
Using that methodology, the firm said it needed 58 spaces, 35 more than UBC now has with its 93 parking spaces.
``We have surplus of parking,'' Llanes said.
Jeanne Ann Rigl, who lives close to the church, came to Friday's meeting to speak to the committee.
While the committee meeting was open to the public, community members could not speak because it was not an open forum.
``We were disappointed no one could speak,'' Rigl said.
The company said it will work with the DRC.
Meanwhile, more than 900 parents have written letters of interest to the school, school officials said, and a parent board has been formed. The company operates several other charter schools in South Florida under the name of Somerset Academy.
Gina Delarosa, who lives in the Gables and has two sons, said she came to the meeting to hear more about the school. She said the city would benefit from a charter school.
``I feel like it's going to be a long process,'' she said.