Thoughts on the M-DCPS Board Meeting on the MAST Proposal

As you might imagine I am one of the many alumni, C/O 2000, that was caught off guard this weekend with the proposal to build new facilities on the MAST campus specifically designed to house the kids of the Village of Key Biscayne. I was fortunate to take some time Wednesday, June 14th, 2012, to listen to the special meeting held in the MAST auditorium. After listening to it, I felt compelled to share my thoughts on it…

The Special Meeting

This was the first board meeting ever sitting in on, virtually or physically, and I couldn’t help but find myself shaking my head at the things I heard. Some though performed as I would have expected, and I commend them for that.

This post will respond directly to those things I heard come from specific board members that just needed some kind of a response:

Superintendent: Alberto M. Carvalho

I think you clearly and very succinctly expressed yourself throughout the discussion, but I took offense to some of the patronizing type comments.

I don’t think anyone opposing the proposal is naive to think that there would be no change or accept the idea of the “status quo”; I would argue that most of us have become fairly successful people servicing various industries around the world and if there is one thing we have learned, change is inevitable and “status quo” is unacceptable. I hope that clarifies any perception that we’re incapable of understanding that such a novel idea.

The biggest issues I have, and I know many of my peers share, is in the nature and speed at which this has occurred.

You response to the pace at which this has occurred was to allude to comments around unique opportunities and not letting them pass you by, the economic state in which we find ourselves, and other such references… Those are all valid points, but what I have learned is that when you’re working with Millions of dollars its never a good thing to force it through the process. In my experience, forcing a decision with such wide spreading implications is never one that should be done on the whim as often case its a sign of intentions not being clearly stated. I would also argue that if the Village of Key Biscayne is not able to hold their $9 Million proposal a few more weeks or months, then you probably have bigger concern. Unless you are saying you have an $8 million cashier’s check with an expiration date. Is that the case?

Lastly, you made a comment about being insulted that there would be any perception that there was anything but the sincerest of intentions with this proposal. So I ask you, is it really that unrealistic? Do you not see where those perceptions might come from? When something like this happens, especially at the pace at which it is occurring you can’t help but think someone, often the little pieces of paper in green, are helping grease the wheels. Is that really that far fetched an idea?

Perhaps we need a little walk down memory lane on some of the corruption in the county and specially the School District:

I hope that helps better understand where such perceptions might come from.

District 6 Board Member: Raquel Regalado

I think what bothered me most about your points were how invalid and off-topic they were.

You kept referencing the affluent community of the Village of Key Biscayne and how they are entitled to a public education. All your points were about You vs Us and sensationalizing the conversation. If there is ever anything you learn from this, I hope its to keep things in perspective and not sensationalize discussions. Focusing on emotion is always very difficult when you’re trying to have a rational conversation. No one is combating the idea of providing the residents of the Village a public education, they are combating the idea that a school excellence, MAST Academy, a Magnet Program, would now become the home school for the Village because of geography and not academics.

Unless the proposal is such that only those that meet the academic criteria would be accepted and the others would not. Is that it? Because that is not what I understand. Yes, I have heard that this might be the case, but in it of itself still raises questions which I will address in another post.

You also made comments like, “How dare we insinuate that the kids at the Village are not as smart?” or “Of the family’s commitment and promise that the kids will do well.” Do you seriously believe this? No one is saying anything about the intelligence of the kids at the Village, again, holds no bearing on the conversation or proposal. Neither does the parent’s commitment. Teenage years are by far the hardest years for any parent to manage. Regardless, their commitment, is again, of no value to the proposal. Oh and I love the discussion that the students will sign a contract, that just makes me chuckle. While I commend the effort, what would be the ramification for not complying with the contract?

The issue at hand is not intelligence or promise to do well, its about retaining the integrity of the Magnet program and allowing it to continue to build the leaders of tomorrow. Before you take this out of context, its not to say that other schools are incapable. It is to say that the MAST program and its way of doing business has been nationally recognized for its excellence and that says something about its effectiveness.

District 1 Board Member: Dr Wilbert “Tee” Holloway

Regardless of what others might say, I most appreciated your recommendation. If the argument is about retaining the integrity of Schools program, then I think you’re on point. Moving the school makes the most sense. Unfortunately, I can’t help but think that it’s highly unlikely. The district is already in fiscal trouble and making a move like this would likely only add to the already existing deficit.

But thank you for the thoughtfulness.

District 5 Board Member: Renier Diaz de la Portilla

I don’t even know where to start with you. Every point you made, from the Harvard reference to the lack of proof around the quality of education being affected is off-point.

District 8 Board Member: Dr. Marta Perez

You were by far my favorite. Not because you voted against the proposal, but because you were thoughtful and rational. All your points were specific and on point, they questioned the completeness of the proposal and those things not outlined in it, these are the questions I would expect of anyone representing the best interests of a group – such as this School District.

I salute you for staying true to your opinions and going with your gut.