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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Geography as destiny and column-inches in the South Florida news world of 2010

Geography as destiny and column-inches in the South Florida news world of 2010.
Or, say, did you see WHERE..
But when it happened here, South Florida newspapers completely ignored it
.

The following is a corrected version of an email I sent
on Friday July 2nd to Douglas C. Lyons , the senior editorial writer and columnist at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Edward Schumacher-Matos, the Ombudsman of the Miami Herald, with a cc to the Herald's Executive Editor Anders Gylenhaal, and bccs to dozens of concerned residents throughout Broward County, including state, county and municipal elected officials and public policy activists.
(See http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/opinion/columnists/sfla-opinion-lyons,0,2553034.columnist
)

----

Oh, say did you see... these charter school stories in the newspaper, yet curiously, there was never anything about
Ben Gamla losing in HB, despite all of former congressman Peter Deutsch's verbal threats against us. Actually, I mean to say did you see WHERE...

The first of three stories is from Thursday, Carli Teproff's thorough follow-up to her May 7th story. She continues to be one of the most-accurate and fair-minded reporters at the Herald.

But tell me, why is it that when former congressman Peter Deutsch and his Ben Gamla group were met with firm resistance from Hallandale Beach citizens who opposed his zealous efforts to shoe-horn a high school into a single-family residential neighborhood, months after Deutsch first threatened them and their city officials at a public meeting in Hallandale Beach, saying quite emphatically that there was "nothing" that they or anyone else could do to prevent him from getting what he wanted, there was nothing about it in either the Herald or Sun-Sentinel?

(Deutsch's first application to the city of HB was for 200 students, but then we were told that was just a "mistake," he was really only going to have 500, yet Broward County Schools says that he can have nearly 900 anyway.
Seriously, after reading Teproff's recent story, does Peter Deutsch honestly seem like the sort of person who will not fight for every single student he can get when he's sees competitor Somerset ready to go to war and sue the City of Coral Gables?


Ben Gamla in HB would've brought in well over $2 million a year for him and his partners, before costs, but then when you force kids to eat outside for lunch, as Deutsch personally reminded everyone he would, in fact, do, when others thought that was just a joke, well, it was hard not to see this enterprise more as a license to print money, with HB as the physical warehouse, than as a sincere effort to help improve the quality and options for
Hallandale Beach students and parents.who are literally desperate to have a quality school for ALL Hallandale Beach students and residents to be proud of.

Deutsch wasn't interested in the latter, though, just the former, and continually employed
his petulant bully card. Having seen him and his over-the-top bullying ego in action in person many times, yes, we know EXACTLY what he will do!)

As for the Herald and Sun-Sentinel completely ignoring the community successfully rallying to defeat this well-known bully, or the the city's staff recommending rejection because he and his team, despite all their bluster, failed to meet the legal requirements for the zoning variance he sought,
over-and-over, and his subsequently pulling of the application... what exactly?

Again, NOTHING in print or in any of your newspaper's blogs.
Not a crumb.
It's like it never actually happened at all.

We all know that actual meaningful news happens even when your company consciously chooses to ignore it, but if you think that your ignoring it does you any favors in the future with the residents of this community, far from it.
But we get it, though.

If a tree falls in HB, the question of whether it really make a sound is moot since it's in HB, right?
But if that same tree were to fall in Pine Crest, South Beach or near Brickell, stop the presses!

Mr. Schumacher-Matos, the Herald's recent track record is quite clear that your editorial team fervently believe that Coral Gables is, inherently, VERY IMPORTANT, while Hallandale Beach and Broward County and what happens to its citizen taxpayers is, inherently, insignificant, and, at best, an annoyance, which I guess is why a Herald reporter has attended exactly one HB City Commission meeting since June of 2008, despite everything that has happened here in the interim, almost all of which has been very. very bad for its beleaguered citizen taxpayers.

And I suppose that also explains why your newspaper completely ignored the successful citizens fight against the Diplomat LAC proposal that may well turn out to be the poster child for Amendment 4 in the weeks leading up to November's election, even while giving coverage to an addition to an apt. complex in Kendall.

I perfectly understand why the affected Kendall community is upset, I really do, but why a news story on the front page of Sunday's local section about 92 units and NOT one about a development of four or five 25-30 story condo towers, a project so large that the Broward County Commission had to vote on it -twice?

Despite protest, Kendall tower OK'd
The Kendall Community Council approved a new apartment building west of the
Palmetto Expressway -- to the dismay of some residents.
http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/06/27/1702951/despite-protest-kendall-tower.html

http://eyeonmiami.blogspot.com/2010/06/downtown-kendall-plan-and-residents.html


Okay, point taken.
Actions and words, or rather the lack of them, could hardly make this point any more clear.

My fellow concerned HB and Broward residents will know better in the future than to think
that the actual news value of any particular story is based on what's actually happening (or might) and other germane news parameters, not just where it happens.
No, as The Who correctly pointed out, "we won't be fooled again."

I will be happy to post any response you make in the future.

-------
http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/07/01/1709646/charter-school-firm-sues-city.html
Posted on Thursday, 07.01.10
CORAL GABLES

Charter-school firm sues Coral Gables

A dispute between Coral Gables and a charter-school company is headed to court.

By Carli Teproff


A charter-school company sued the city of Coral Gables on Wednesday, demanding that the city approve a new 675-student school in a residential neighborhood.

Somerset Inc., a nonprofit firm that runs charter schools in Miami-Dade and Broward, wants to open a K-8 school on the campus of University Baptist Church, off Segovia Street near the Coral Gables library.

But the site isn't zoned for a full-size school, and the city has only granted approval for 110 students -- the same number as had attended a previously approved preschool on the church grounds.

Now Somerset wants a judge to declare that the school doesn't require city zoning approval. Somerset cites a state law saying that a church can house a charter school ``under their preexisting zoning and land use designations.''

The company says this law trumps city zoning rules, and cites a 2008 Sarasota Circuit Court ruling to that effect.

Somerset wants a Miami-Dade Circuit judge to order Coral Gables to allow the school.

Marcos D. Jiménez, a lawyer for Somerset, said Wednesday that his client had done everything it is supposed to do.

``We have come to a point where we need to invoke the protection of the state statute,'' he said. ``We think it is clear and on point.''

Somerset Academy has until July 26 to show the Miami-Dade school district that it has received city approval for a charter school at the church, 624 Anastasia Ave. The School Board approved the application in November 2008, but the petition did not specify a particular site.

Charter schools charge no tuition and receive taxpayer money to operate, but are run by someone other than the county school board.

`QUALITY OF LIFE'

City Attorney Elizabeth Hernandez said she was still reviewing the complaint Wednesday evening. She said the city is trying to look out for residents' interests.

``We are going to take all the appropriate action to preserve the quality of life including that of single family residential areas,'' Hernandez said.

She added that the city simply wants Somerset to follow the same procedures as everyone else for getting a zoning change.

Neighbors have complained that a charter school would bring too much traffic to a residential street -- an issue that normally would come up when the city commission considers a zoning change.

`SURPRISED'

Tucker Gibbs, who represents The Biltmore Neighborhood Association -- a group formed to fight the school -- said Friday he was ``somewhat surprised they filed a lawsuit.''

``They requested the certificate of use for 110 students,'' he said. ``They got what they supposedly wanted. So why are they suing the city?''

Jiménez called getting the certificate of use for 110 students ``a first step.''

``We can not operate without the larger number of students,'' he said. ``It's not feasible.''

----------
http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/06/28/1704044_new-miami-beach-charter-school.html
Posted on Monday, 06.28.10

MIAMI BEACH

New Miami Beach charter school offers classes in Hebrew

Parents interested in having their children learn Hebrew as part of their schooling attended an open house Sunday for the new Ben Gamla Charter School set to open in August.

By Paradise Afshar

For the upcoming school year Johany Preston is considering an alternative option to a traditional public school for her three boys.

She is flirting with the idea of sending them to the brand new Ben Gamla Charter School in Miami Beach, which when it opens in August will offer a combination English and Hebrew curriculum, only the third school of its kind in South Florida.

``The location and the Hebrew were the main draws,'' said Preston, 44, of North Miami, who was among two dozens parents on Sunday attending an open house at the school at 1211 Marseille Dr. It will welcome students from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Admission to the school is free and open to students residing in the Miami-Dade school district. There is a $100 refundable book deposit.

Preston, who is Jewish, said she feels that the language component is important ``because it's a part of the Jewish culture.''

The Miami Beach campus is the second for the school named after an Israelite high priest -- Yehoshua ben Gamla -- known in the Talmud for his campaign to establish yeshivas throughout Judea.

The school's language curriculum has not been without controversy. When the first Ben Gamla school opened in Hollywood in 2007, the Broward County School Board briefly ordered the charter school suspend its Hebrew classes because the language has too close of a tie to Judaism, raising concerns that the connection could result in a nonsecular school.

Nathan Katz, a religious studies professor at Florida International University, was asked by the school board to review the lesson plans to ensure it was secular and the school was allowed to offer Hebrew classes. Katz said it is within the school's constitutional rights to teach the culture that comes with the language, and that the curriculum doesn't include any religious practice.

``It's like a magnet school where you may have a choice of language like French or German,'' said Katz, who attended Sunday's open house.

Heather Rubin, a first grade teacher, said Ben Gamla students are held to the same Florida public school standards. The majority of the curriculum is taught in English.

``I don't speak Hebrew,'' Rubin said, adding that another teacher comes into the class to teach students the language. ``But I do think it's great to have to learn a second language. It's amazing to see the kids who come here who speak a second language at home, come here and learn a third language.''

But the main goal of the school is to provide a comforting learning environment, she said. Principal Ari Haddad describes the school as a hybrid between public and private schools. Haddad said the new school is being well-received.

``So far everyone has been great. I had one of the neighbors come to me today and say, `You will do great things here,' and I think we will.'' he said.

Currently, there are 930 students enrolled in the Ben Gamla Charter School in Hollywood. The new Miami Beach campus is expected to add 190 new students.

For more information about the Ben Gamla Charter School, call 305-469-9331.

----------

http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/05/07/1618532/charter-school-proposed-at-gables.html
Posted on Fri, May. 07, 2010

Charter school proposed at Coral Gables church meets resistance from city

BY CARLI TEPROFF
The Miami Herald

University Baptist Church in Coral Gables, pictured here on Thursday, May 6, 2010, is trying to gain approval to open a charter school on their current grounds that would serve over 600 students beginning in August of this year and has met opposition from neighbors that surround the church in the mainly residential neighborhood. Allison Diaz /

Academica, the company hoping to open a charter school at University Baptist Church, pictured here, went before the Coral Gables Development Review Committee on Friday. (Miami Herald file photo)

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.

Coral Gables City Hall, 405 Biltmore Way, 33134

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