Hollywood neighbors oppose ex-U.S. Rep. Deutsch’s plan for another Ben Gamla school http://t.co/jdtVl3UXWx
— Broward Bulldog (@BrowardBulldog) August 12, 2013
Hollywood neighbors oppose ex-U.S. Rep. Deutsch’s plan for another Ben Gamla school
By William Gjebre, BrowardBulldog.org
August 12, 2013 at 5:53 AM
Former Democratic U.S. Congressman Peter Deutsch is pushing to build another Ben Gamla charter school, this time in Hollywood over the opposition of residents in a working-class neighborhood congested by morning and afternoon traffic. Deutsch’s plan is for a combined middle and high school on Van Buren Street across from an existing Ben Gamla K-8 school at 2620 Hollywood Boulevard.Read the rest of the post at:
My comments are below the City of Hollywood announcement about Wednesday night's meeting in Hollywood, which I already knew about and received confirmation of from the city via an email I received last Friday at 7 p.m.
Hollywood Commissioner Peter Hernandez to Host Town Hall Meeting with Special Guest Speaker State Representative Shevrin Jones Public Safety, Infrastructure Improvements and Proposed Doral Ben-Gamla Charter School on Agenda
The District 2 Town Hall Meeting will provide residents an opportunity to get information and discuss issues relating to public safety, code compliance, utility infrastructure improvements and the proposed Doral Ben-Gamla Charter School. The meeting will be held Wednesday, August 28 at 7 p.m. at Hollywood City Hall, Commission Chambers (Room 219), 2600 Hollywood Boulevard. State Representative Jones will provide an update on his plans for a small business summit in October, crime prevention initiatives and his legislative agenda.
Hollywood’s District 2 generally runs from Pembroke Road to Stirling Road between Dixie Highway to the east and the C-10 canal to the west, north of Sheridan Street, from N. Federal Highway on the east to 24th Avenue on the west, between Hollywood Boulevard and Sheridan Street and from S. Federal Highway to the east to I-95 to the west, south of Hollywood Boulevard. Neighborhoods in District 2 include Liberia, Highland Gardens, Parkside, Royal Poinciana and many others.
For more information on this meeting, please contact the Office of the Mayor and Commission at 954.921.3321-----
On August 10th, my friend, longtime Hollywood resident, Broward County civic activist and education watchdog Charlotte Greenbarg emailed the following comments to the nine members of the Broward County School Board; emphasis in red is from her original email.
When this school came before the Board, there was a protracted discussion over a couple of meetings. Peter Deutsch promised that it would be focusing on the Hebrew language, not religion, which would be a violation of the Constitution.
Apparently that's not what has happened as the article below illustrates:
"Deutsch is unabashed about using public money to support what he describes as Jewish identity-building. Out of Ben Gamla’s collective budget of $10 million a year, Deutsch says 80 percent serves Jewish communal purposes."
This needs to be re-examined quickly. It would be helpful to get the records of the discussion that took place before the vote to approve the charter.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Former congressman Peter Deutsch finds new life in Israel
Ra’anana resident is an Orthodox Jew who’s made unorthodox choices
By Uriel Heilman July 21, 2013, 3:15 pm
RA’ANANA, Israel (JTA) — When US Rep. Peter Deutsch lost his campaign for the US Senate in 2004, forcing him out of Congress for the first time in 12 years, he didn’t quite know what to do with himself.
So he did something not entirely uncommon among American Jews who haven’t quite figured out their next step: He went to Israel.
More than eight years later, Deutsch is still here, living with his family in Ra’anana, a Tel Aviv suburb. His 22-year-old son recently completed a stint as a combat soldier in the Israeli army, and his 21-year-old daughter is studying at an Orthodox women’s seminary.Read the rest of the article at:
On August 12th, Charlotte sent them the following article, with no comments:
New York Jewish Week
Hebrew Charter School As Growth Industry
Julie Wiener, Associate Editor
March 20, 20/12
Former Florida Rep. Peter Deutsch’s burgeoning network of schools is toeing the church-state line, and could greatly affect American Jewish life.
Boynton Beach, Fla. — As you turn off the main road and a large Torah scroll-shaped sign on your right welcomes you to the “Temple Torah Campus of Jewish Learning,” you could be forgiven for assuming the K-6 school you are about to visit is a Jewish day school.
That assumption might continue even as you walk inside the 190-student Ben Gamla Boynton, which is on the second floor of a Conservative synagogue, in a wing originally intended to house a Solomon Schechter school. Or when you meet Principal Elanit Weitzman and see the Hebrew translation of Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” displayed above her desk.
Read the rest of the article at:
From my August 12th email about the Broward Bulldog article I wrote, in part:
Excerpt from my August 16th email:
That connection is important to keep in mind at all times because as the article states "Ben Gamla pays Academica to manage its four schools. [Deutsch] said no decision has been made about the company providing management services for the new Doral-Ben Gamla school."
Below is a 2011 Miami Herald article that really explained in great detail how interconnected a handful of people in Miami and Tallahassee were that were involved with charter schools, including Ralph Arza and Anitere Flores.
My emphasis below in red.
Academica cultivates links to lawmakers - Academica has powerful friends in Tallahassee, including Rep. Erik Fresen — the brother of the CEO’s wife.
By Scott Hiaasen and Kathleen McGrory
December 14, 2011
On April 15, the board of Doral Academy selected state Sen. Anitere Flores to run a new college proposed by the charter school network. As the college president, Flores will work side by side with Academica , the influential charter school management company that will also manage the college.
At the time the Doral Academy board selected her, Flores, who sits on an education committee in Tallahassee, was also sponsoring a bill in the Legislature to create online virtual charter schools, a new school model expected to dramatically expand the charter school industry. Since the proposal passed, Academica has applied for 19 virtual charters — including two with Doral Academy, state records show.
Flores, a Miami Republican, did not respond to phone calls seeking comment, though this summer she said her new job did not create a conflict. But the arrangement illustrates the extent of Academica ’s reach in Tallahassee, where the company has long cultivated influence among state lawmakers.
Academica ’s owners, Fernando and Ignacio Zulueta, have steered $150,000 in campaign donations to Tallahassee lawmakers and political committees through real-estate companies they control since 2007, state election records show. The Zulueta family has donated a further $75,000 in the past five years, and Academica executives and school contractors donated a further $54,000, records show.
During that time, the Legislature relaxed rules limiting the size of charter school networks, and passed a law promoting “high performing” charter school systems — reforms that could benefit Academica as the company expands.
Academica ’s closest ally in the capital is in the family: Rep. Erik Fresen, a Miami Republican, is the brother-in-law of Fernando Zulueta , Academica ’s CEO. Zulueta is married to Fresen’s sister, Maggie, who also is an Academica executive.
Fresen himself is a former Academica lobbyist. He now earns $150,000 a year as a land-use consultant for Civica, a Doral architectural firm that has built several schools run by Academica — including schools on land controlled by the Zulueta brothers. Civica has ongoing contracts with many of these schools.
While working as a consultant for charter schools, Fresen has been their champion in the Legislature, where he sits on a key education committee in the House.
Earlier this year, Fresen drafted language in an education bill barring cities from imposing stricter zoning or building regulations on charter schools. At the time, the city of South Miami was considering zoning regulations that could have inhibited expansion of the Somerset Academy at SoMi, an Academica school.
Somerset also challenged zoning restrictions limiting enrollment at another Academica school, the Somerset Grace Academy in Coral Gables — an ongoing dispute that could be influenced by the new legislation. Fresen has registered at Coral Gables City Hall as a lobbyist on behalf of Somerset, records show.
Fresen said his work with Civica has not influenced his work as a lawmaker, noting that the charter school bill applies not just to Academica ’s schools, but to all charter schools statewide.
“My decision on any bill would not be based on what I do for a living,” he said.
In October, Fresen was cleared in an ethics investigation sparked by a complaint that his vote this spring on the high-performing charter schools legislation was a conflict that should have been disclosed. Fresen said he consulted with an attorney in the House of Representatives before making the vote, and he later disclosed his ties to Academica .
Academica ’s links to state lawmakers have drawn scrutiny before.
From 2002 to 2006, Academica also paid $230,000 to then-Rep. Ralph Arza of Hialeah under an undisclosed consulting contract, records show. At the time, Arza also sat on an education committee in the House.
Miami-Dade prosecutors investigated Arza’s ties to Academica in 2007 and 2008, records show. While being paid by Academica , Arza authored or backed at least five bills that could have benefited the charter school industry, according to records compiled by prosecutors. However, they could find no evidence that the Academica contract improperly influenced Arza’s votes.
In an interview last week, Arza said his consulting business was conducted “with the blessing of the House counsel and legal advice,” and he said he did nothing in the Legislature to benefit Academica . “As long as I voted on something that was not specific to one person, that’s allowed.”
Under the Academica contract, which paid Arza $5,000 a month, the Republican lawmaker was to monitor “quality control” for Academica and help the company identify teachers and staff.
Arza never publicly disclosed the Academica consulting deal, which was made through a company held in the name of his wife, Eris. Arza said he was not obliged to disclose the names of his clients.
Explaining the contract arrangement to prosecutors, Arza’s wife described her husband as an “independent contractor” who worked for her.
“I make sure that I counsel Ralph on everything he does,” she said in a sworn statement in 2008. “I manage him, pretty much.”
Zulueta said he hired Arza not because he was a lawmaker, but because of his contacts in the local education community. Arza was a former teacher and football coach at Miami Senior High.
“There was nothing he could do in the Legislature to help me,” Zulueta said.
Arza’s contract with Academica ended soon after his career in Tallahassee did — after he agreed not to run again in 2006 amid allegations that he had threatened a potential witness in an ethics investigation.
Just three weeks after stepping aside, Arza got a new job: as a $10,000-a-month consultant with the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools, a pro-charter school organization that counts Zulueta as a board member. Arza still works for the consortium today.
Zulueta said he had no role in Arza’s job with the consortium.
More from my email of August 16th:
Plans to replace a small neighborhood school in East Kendall with a massive charter school housing 2,000 students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade drew a crowd of outraged residents this week demanding the school be stopped.
Despite their objections, charter representatives told about 100 residents who filled a church sanctuary Tuesday that the campus will open in August.
From my August 17th email:
Ben Gamla Charter in Hollywood were among those cited with a deficit. This lack of attention wouldn't happen in Hollywood but is still worth noting:
from the June 23rd Tampa Bay Times
Pinellas abruptly closes Ben Gamla charter school
Take a look at Ben Gamla's numbers here:
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Charter schools struggling - Audit: Seventeen schools in Broward ended 2011-12 financial year with a deficit
By Scott Travis, Staff writer
August 17, 2013
Fresh questions about use of public money for Deutsch’s Ben Gamla charter schools http://t.co/bxDXGMZEz3
— Broward Bulldog (@BrowardBulldog) August 21, 2013
Fresh questions about use of public money for Deutsch’s Ben Gamla charter schools
By William Gjebre, BrowardBulldog.org
August 21, 2013 AT 6:22 AM
A Broward civic activist has urged the School Board to re-examine whether the publicly funded Ben Gamla charter schools are violating the Constitutional separation of church and state mandate.
In response, a top district official has asked for a review of the matter.
Charlotte Greenbarg, a Hollywood resident, contacted board members after reading a July 21 article in an Israeli newspaper about school founder and former Democratic Congressman Peter Deutsch and his endeavors to create Ben Gamla schools in South Florida.
Read the rest of the article at:
Last year, after I'd sent around a series of Herald articles about charter schools as an email, my friend Charlotte Greenbarg, independently of me, sent me and others a comment about one of the articles that you might want to read before the meeting at the end of the month.
Jon Hage is right on. Charters were supposed to do more with less. Most of them aren't making the grade, unfortunately. The management companies (not Jon's) are taking huge amounts and delivering less than stellar results.
State Board rejects appeals from three virtual charter schools in Miami-Dade - They were among the first applications to open full-time, web-based charter schools in Miami-Dade, under a state law passed last year.
(JTA) — A Florida school board is reviewing whether the Ben Gamla Hebrew charter school network violates the law by mixing religion with public schooling.
The review was prompted by a JTA story published July 17 in which Ben Gamla founder Peter Deutsch described the publicly funded charter schools as builders of Jewish identity.