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What Reinventing Our Schools Means To Hallandale Beach

By Hallandale Beach Mayor, Joy Cooper

March 7, 2024

Over the last month the School Board of Broward County announced its goal to address the under enrollment in schools. The announcement that some schools could possibly close sent a chilling effect throughout every school. Parents, community stakeholders and all elected officials all have been outraged, afraid their school would be shuttered, and children transferred to another school.

With state and national laws pushing for vouchers and charter schools popping up everywhere the public schools have been under strain for years. Broward County Schools lost over 50,000 students to charter and private schools. That is down from 250,000. The board still counts all the 286 since funding for them comes directly out of their budget as pass throughs. With the student drain from traditional classrooms there are direct budget implications which are tied to student seats. On average Broward receives $9,000 Dollars per student seat. This equates to $450,000,000 Million.

As Superintendent Licata states “everything is on the table.” Hallandale Beach actually has 2 schools within our boundaries and 2 centers. We are part of what is called the Hallandale Innovation Zone which comprises seven schools within parts of Hollywood, West Park and Pembroke Park. These include: Colbert Lake Forest and Watkins which are elementary schools. McNicol Middle, Gulfstream K -8 and Hallandale High School.

Lanier-James Education Center which serves all of Broward south from I-595 and is a school for students that have been suspended and or have other Behavioral Issues. Gulfstream Early Learning Center is not listed as a school but has become a south area location leased out to various organizations. It was created as an educational center for ages 6 months – PreK 4 and training for teachers. It also provides Adult Education in the form of English as a Second Language and GED services. It also provides services for the District and other Social Services.

I cannot cover every aspect of this issue as it will be ongoing over the next year. I wanted to at least share some information so readers could understand the education landscape here, in our city. More importantly, what is at stake? I will focus first on Hallandale High School.

This school according to school student seats has a capacity for 1,600 students. Currently they have 1,100. As a note these numbers fluctuate. The school was built in 1973. The state stopped rebuilding older schools, so the school never received much in the way of improvements. This is not unique to our school but the same for most eastern schools.

It is important to note that when the schools were segregated in the sixties until 1970 our High School students went to the old Lanier School and others to Attucks. Residents fought long and hard to have a High School, not simply Hallandale but unincorporated Carver Ranches and our neighbors to the west. Notably these were the segregated Black areas. In 1963 MacArthur was built just west of 441 and South Broward built in 1938, it was the only High School and was not integrated until 1968.

When news was released that Hallandale High was on the under enrolled list and was going to be discussed everyone including me was dismayed. It became an all-hands-on deck issue. There were three meetings scheduled for residents to find out about this issue. This created controversy by itself as everyone had to travel to attend either in Pembroke Pines, Fort Lauderdale, or Coral Springs.

I did some asking about the format and heard it was really not a public meeting but set up as a workshop. Residents that attended were split up into small groups then reported out. I am not saying this was a waste of time or effort, but it was not as informative as attendees expected.

As Mayor I was invited to a separately held meeting with all of the mayors and city managers from each city. We were informed of the vision and necessity for this “Redefining Our Schools.” From a strict budgetary standpoint many of us understand the board's challenges. We understand the turmoil that the board has gone through over the past decade. Many in the group were happy that it was held and cautiously optimistic the board had turned a corner and was ready to truly focus on the new realities.

During the meeting, Mayors shared their concerns and ideas about our schools. They ranged from partnership with CRAs similar to ours when we helped to rebuild the neglected stadium and entered into a shared use agreement. They discussed the failed boundary process where schools were built out west, some with 4,000 seats only to see eastern schools neglected. This combined with school choice gutted many principals’ budgets which meant many programs were cut.

My biggest comment was that we need to look at going back to the basics. School cannot be everything and need to be focused on students K-8 Education. Embedded resources at the schools children need. Every school should have at a minimum the right size classes, Certified Educators, Mental Health Counselors, Guidance Counselors, Academic Coaches and Permanent School Nurses. High School should not have a singular focus on college graduation or testing. Life skills and trades need to be provided to those students that may not be ready to go right to college but want and/or need to work to support themselves. More importantly, students without transportation get to the one of three technical schools in the district.

I heard last week the closing of Hallandale High was off the table which was a relief. The question now becomes what next? What schools will remain open? What programs will be added, moved or taken away? I will continue as always to keep our readers abreast of what transpires.

As always feel free to contact me anytime with your questions, concerns and ideas to make our city better! I can be reached at: jcooper@cohb.org. Or: joycooper@aol.com. Or Facebook: Mayor Joy Cooper. You can always call my office at: (954) 457-1318. Or Call/Text me at: (954) 632-5700. Working for you! Always have! Always will!

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