Miami-Dade County Superintendent Alberto Carvalho speaks to students during a school visit.
By ALBERTO M. CARVALHO
Special to The South Florida Times
As Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) prepares to welcome more than 349,000 students back for the 2017-2018 academic year, we do so with a heart determined to continue our legacy of inspiring children to reach beyond the familiar and soar to heights of academic excellence.
Since the late 1800s when a small singlestory, one-room wooden structure served as the District’s first classroom, we have been in the business of preparing generations of leaders for every profession and genre of education.
While over the centuries the buildings, classrooms, people, methodologies and instructional resources have changed, the goal and mission have not.
With a cadre of the brightest and most skilled professionals and support staff in the nation, Miami-Dade County Public Schools remains committed to every student’s academic and personal success. And although we may face intermittent challenges from without, every facet within the District operates like a well-oiled machine.
Our teachers, school leaders and entire workforce share a common goal and are driven by a single purpose: provide a worldclass education to every student, in every school, in every classroom. This has always been and will continue to be our priority.
When school doors across the district open on August 21 students and parents will find classrooms brimming with technology and instructional resources to make the school year engaging and exciting.
We start the 2017-2018 year with an astounding 66 percent of schools in the district rated “A” or “B,” and zero schools rated “F”.
While we will never label nor limit students’ ability and potential to excel, we must celebrate this remarkable achievement and the steady gains in student academic progress.
In addition to core subjects, bridging the digital divide to impact student learning continues to be a major District focus with nearly 140,000 digital devices already distributed to students. Interactive White Boards in classrooms across the District are merging the instructional expertise of teachers with the innovation of technology to expand the bandwidth of learning and discovery for students.
Expansion, renovation and upgrades are happening all over the district through our highly successful and well managed General Obligation Bond program which was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2012.
Last year, the district opened two new schools: Miami Norland Senior High and MAST at Key Biscayne. This year, we are opening three new schools: Frederick Douglass Elementary, Bunche Park Elementary and Dr. Toni Bilbao Preparatory Academy with a combined capacity of more than 1,300 student stations in state-of-the-art and impeccably designed and structurally sound school buildings.
Giving more students greater access to science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics opportunities through the expansion of STEAM and STEM programs is also a major focus of the school district.
Schools that meet specific criteria are recognized as STEAM and STEM schools, making M-DCPS the first district in Florida to give such designations to eligible schools.
Three distinct recognition levels (Bronze, Silver, and Gold) are offered to schools to encourage continued growth and performance in the areas of STEAM and STEM.
Fifty-four Miami-Dade schools have received the coveted designation with more than a 115 currently under consideration.
While we are always optimistic, we know that the 2017-2018 school year will not be without challenges. Recent state legislative action has made that woefully clear. With the passage of HB7069, districts, including Miami-Dade, will open schools potentially facing catastrophic budget shortfalls.
The legislation approved recently by Florida’s lawmakers cuts billions of dollars in base funding from K-12 public education.
While this is a devastating blow to schools, it is not the final chapter for M-DCPS.
We will continue to urge lawmakers to make funding decisions that do not harm the classroom nor undermine student achievement, but honors the exceptional work of teachers and the steady increase in achievement among students.
The district’s tradition of academic excellence, including our most recent feat of eliminating “F” schools and our record-breaking, historic graduation rates should compel legislators to take another look and find resources within our booming state, and adjust their priorities to provide for our children.
In spite of the challenges, this year promises to be another remarkable year of robust and rigorous instruction, student achievement, and school success. Parents and students can find a wealth of information about the exciting programs offered in Miami-Dade County Public Schools by browsing the 20172018 Back-To-School Toolkit at dadeschools.net or following us on Facebook, and Instagram @miamischools and Twitter @MDCPS.