derick-mccoy_web.jpgMIAMI GARDENS — About 500 parents, alumni, faculty and students packed a school auditorium recently to learn the fate of Miami Norland, one of two high schools in Miami Gardens to receive “F” ratings two years in a row on the state’s Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. A similar forum was held at Miami Carol City two nights earlier.

Using a joke to illustrate the role parents must play to help save Norland, forum moderator Ed Haynes asked, “What do you have when you walk in the room and [there’s] one person?”

His punch line, though, was no joking matter: “Norland’s last PTA meeting.”

The Nov. 12 forum, organized by Concerned African Women (CAW), a non-profit organization focused on youth education and empowerment, brought together the school’s principal, Derick McCoy; Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson; regional school administrator Marcos Moran; Carolyn Nesbitt, CEO of CAW; Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan and school board member Dr. Wilbert “Tee” Holloway to answer questions and explain the status of the school, which is not in imminent danger of being closed.

Four other schools in predominantly black communities (Liberty City and Holmes elementary schools and Miami Edison and Miami Central high schools) do face closure if they are not able to raise their “F” scores to “C” scores this year.

Norland is one level above closure, essentially with one more year available for the school to reverse course before facing a similar fate.

The work to raise the performance level began over the summer.

“As soon as we knew that Norland was going to be our school, we implemented a very strict monitoring and intervention plan, which is also a very supportive plan. We called on the administration at the beginning of the summer to meet with us and begin the process of aligning Miami Norland with that plan,” Moran said.

He said the plan was greeted with strong support from the staff, administrators and teachers.

“They have worked diligently through the summer and the through beginning of this year to implement the programs that are necessary so that school will continue to improve and get out of this dilemma,” Moran said, adding that it is a dilemma he expects to be remedied by the school year’s end.

Gibson cited the city’s Education Compact – an agreement with the Miami-Dade School Board to raise the performance level of the city’s schools to at least a “B” by the 2009/2010 school year. The compact also calls for the city to establish an International Baccalaureate Program at Miami Carol City or Miami Norland.

The IB program includes a rigorous, two-year college preparatory curriculum that can lead to advanced placement credit at the finest colleges and universities in the nation.

In response to a question regarding whether the school is provided the same level of resources as Dr. Michael Krop Senior High, Norland’s “A”-rated neighbor to the east, McKoy responded that since his Sept. 19 arrival, the region has responded favorably to every request that he has made, from additional computers to additional staff.

The efforts being made by the school and the district notwithstanding, Commissioner Jordan, whose two adult daughters graduated from Norland, made it clear that the school will not succeed without a significant increase in parental involvement.

McKoy, whose three children attend public school, said he reviews his children’s school performance by accessing the district’s electronic grade book each Saturday morning, a ritual that his children have come to anticipate.

“It’s now at the point that my senior checks her younger brother and sister because of what the expectation is in the house,” McKoy said to loud applause.

Free tutoring assistance for Norland’s 1,714 students abounds.

In addition to the two free tutoring programs offered by the school and free tutoring provided by CAW, the district will be offering 10 Saturday sessions to help students prepare for the FCAT.

Some of the tutoring is for parents; a free service that Haynes encouraged the parents in the audience to embrace. 

“We just got to keep it real. Some of us slid through school ourselves. You can’t help your kids if you don’t know what’s going on yourself,” he said.

“We’re going to have some classes where parents can get tutoring as well. There’s nothing wrong with saying, ‘I need to bone up on some math.’ A part of making changes is confronting the reality of where we are right now,” he said.

Alluding to the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, Haynes, the forum’s moderator, said, “As of Jan. 20, we [don’t have anymore] excuses.’’

Lennette Carter, who has seen one child graduate from Norland and whose daughter is a 10th grader at the school, was pleased with what she heard. 

“I’m an active parent, but I will be stepping up my game,” Carter said of her plans to learn how to access her child’s grades online and to monitor her daughter’s homework more often.

Photo by Khary Bruyning. Miami Norland’s principal Derick McCoy


Parents may access their children’s grades and daily performance by logging on to the district’s web site at and clicking on the Parent Portal icon.