Tuesday, January 1, 2013


       This is the most important vote since the vote for Incorporation in 1991. 

As a concerned parent and KBCS alumni class of 1977, I am sharing with you this well thought out idea whose timing is aligned with the support of policy directives in Florida Department of Education in Tallahassee. I along with Hector Ceballos, we will be submitting  the formal trigger letter to the K-8 Center principal on January 08th 2013. This means that state law mandates that the Miami-Dade Public School District (“District”) must call a vote  within the next 60 days amongst parents and teachers to decide whether the K-8 Center should be converted to a non-profit charter operated school. This is mandated by State statute 1002.33 3(b). The present student body stays and their siblings are grandfathered in while be expanded a new facility for 1800 students on the baseball field.THE LAW DOES NOT GIVE MDPS SCHOOL AUTHORITY TO BUS 350 STUDENTS OFF THE KEY! A VILLAGE ORDINANCE PASSED IN DECEMBER 2009 ALSO SAYS THE SAME. 

The following are the Benefits to consider when voting "Yes" to convert-to- charter and allow the community of parents and patrons to demolish the (3) 57-year old dilapidated school buildings to rebuild a new Charter School on the baseball field that will convert our school into an educational campus as exemplary as our Village is. Upon completion of the new facility for 1800 student capacity the primary school children will move into the new facility. The new multi-sport fields will be developed on the north side were the old schools building once stood. 

No. 1 A Non-Profit Charter School will allow the community's donors the philanthropic platform to give large legacy grants to redevelop and expand the school buildings at 150 McIntyre Street. This will eliminate overcrowding, raise the new building above the flood criteria for a barrier island and eliminate safety concerns for our students.

No. 2 The Governing Board of (5) parents will hire a school administrator to assist the (7) member finance committee of Village residents, to oversee the school's finances and manage the school's budget. All surplus funds (estimated at $750,000.00) will be reinvested into the school every academic year forever. The Principal will have the sole ultimate authority to evaluate tenure and award pay increases to teachers directly on a more advantageous timeline than is presently offered under MD-School district's inflexible and standard salary pay schedules.

No. 3 The Principal, teachers and her staff shall remain at our school unequivocally and without exception if they choose to stay. I can state categorically that The Principal , teachers and her staff shall remain in the Florida Retirement System and shall maintain all of their benefits.

No. 4 Teachers voting "no" is not an option:

When our school is reduced to a K-5 in a attempt to to reduce present overcrowding without the capital to demolish and expand it, 
25% of the present teaching staff will be laid off or look to be assigned to another district school on the mainland. This will be announced after the completion of MAST 6-12 @Virginia Key, eventually when advocates and opposition is no longer voicing concerns.

[Please note: Today our K-8 Center is still overcrowded even after the departure of 40 or more K-8 Center eight graders. The K-8 maximum student body capacity is for 981 students.  Our present enrollment as of January 2013 has reached 1331 students] 

In the grand scheme of things, both Parents and Teachers can agree a New & Expanded Key Biscayne K-8 Center  will become a A+++ educational campus which has proven to bring communities anew. Besides, don't happier teachers make happier students and the result is increase in test scores and the empowerment to excel at the high school level? 

Expect Success. ó



On January 16, 2013, the Miami-Dade Public School District (The District") posted comments to this blog responding to the four (4) main benefits for voting "yes" for conversion.  Unfortunately, many of the comments from the District were misleading. For this reason, we felt compelled to post our Reply to set the record straight.  

No 1.

Proponents Reply: The village residents, willing to give the money to rebuild the school, do not want to simply hand it over to the School District.  The Miami Herald did a great story a few months ago detailing the waste and abuse the last time the District received millions in bond money.  Furthermore, it is telling that the District is inviting people to give them money to rebuild the K-8 Center.  It is obvious that the District does not intend to use any of the new bond money to rebuild our K-8 Center.  The District, with all due respect, is a black hole where money is wasted. The donors for our K-8 Center want the school to be operated by a finance committee made up of Village residents. People that will be critical and make sure that all of the money each year is re-invested back into the school.

Harold Maready is the administrator of 6 non-profit charter conversion schools in Polk County. He has been working with us for the past several months. We obtained a budget for the K-8 Center that the District put out some time ago. Mr. Maready believes the numbers in that budget are inflated. But even using the District’s inflated numbers, Mr. Maready conservatively estimates that our K-8 Center would generate excess revenue of between $750,000 and $1 million dollars a year. It is this money that the Village residents on the finance committee will guarantee will go back into the school.  It is this money that the District does not want to lose.  

We have repeatedly told parents and teachers that a “yes” vote does not automatically result in the conversion of the K-8 Center to a charter school. A “yes” vote simply provides the parents and teachers the “choice” to explore whether to submit an application for conversion prior to August 1, 2013. After a yes vote, we will have between March 9, 2013 and August 1, 2013, to secure the $10 to $12 million dollars that will be needed to rebuild the school for a capacity of 1800 students. Once we have the money, the application will be submitted. 

What is important here is that the converted non-profit Charter K-8 Center will only remain over capacity at 1330 while the new school is in the process of being built. All of these efforts are for the children – something the District obviously opposes. The complete reconstruction of the K-8 Center will result in: (1) smaller classrooms sizes, (2) new technology (admittedly lacking), (3) happier teachers, able to provide different instructional methods to the students, (4) empowering the children to learn more than they are capable of, and (5) better preparing them for high school. A “yes” vote is a win-win for all stakeholders. The children win. The parents win. The District wins. The Village wins.

No 2.

Proponents Reply: Contrary to the District’s implication, we have never used Mrs. Sylvia Tarafa’s name without her permission.  Quite frankly, we do not need her permission to tell parents and other teachers that the proponents of a “yes” vote want Mrs. Tarafa to remain as the Principal.  She is a public official.  This is our first amendment right of free speech.  If this statement is somehow unauthorized, then please tell that to the Miami Herald or the Islander whenever they reference any public official by name. With that said, we will continue to advocate our position that we believe that Mrs. Tarafa should remain as the Principal of the K-8 Center.  We gladly admit that we have not coordinated with Mrs. Tarafa.  We simply believe she is doing a good job as Principal. Therefore we have pledged to have a member of the governing board chosen by her, and that only a unanimous vote of the board can dismiss her. 

With the over $1 million in excess revenue that the non-profit K-8 Center will generate in the first year, we can also pledge that the governing board will maintain the same salaries and health insurance benefits that the teachers and staff currently obtain as an employee of the District. Ultimately, it will be the goal to utilize the excess revenues for increases in teacher’s salaries. 
We can also guarantee that the teachers and staff will remain “public employees.”  See Fla. Stat. §1002.33(12)(c) reads: “The employees of a conversion charter shall remain public employees for all purposes, unless such employees choose not to do so.” This law is crystal clear.  It is interesting that the District omitted this provision from its Q&A.  How convenient.  

While it is technically true that a teacher in the charter operated K-8 Center will not be an actual employee of the District, it is also true that the employee will remain a “public employee for all purposes.”  This comes right out of the law.  We also pledge that the charter operated non-profit K-8 Center will be deemed a “public employer.” “As a public employer, a charter school may participate in the Florida Retirement System.” See Fla. Stat. §1002.33(12)(i). Here is the best part: “If a charter school participates in the Florida Retirement System, the charter school employees (i.e. our teachers) shall be compulsory members of the Florida Retirement System.” See Fla. Stat. §1002.33(12)(i). 

No. 3

Proponents Reply: We agree that no individual can be compelled to remain at the new school with state of the art technology, smaller classrooms, at the same salary and benefits as the teacher would enjoy as a District employee.  The District is wrong when it says that teachers will need to seek “leave” from the school District in order to teach at the new non-profit charter operated K-8 Center.  The section of the law the District is referring to applies to the typical situation where a teacher of the District asks if he or she can go teach at a charter and remain a District employee.  

In our unique case as a conversion, the law is clear: “The employees of a conversion charter shall remain public employees for all purposes, unless such employees choose not to do so.”  See Fla. Stat. §1002.33(12)(c).  As referenced above in Reply to No. 2, we pledge that the charter operated non-profit K-8 Center will be deemed a “public employer” and that the teachers shall remain in the Florida Retirement System.

No. 4

Proponents Reply: The District is engaged in wishful thinking.  Our K-8 Center student enrollment currently grows at 3 to 4 percent a year according to the District’s own statistics.  While no one at District headquarters today may want to reduce our school to a K-5, in 3 to 5 years the District will have no other choice.  The Mast expansion will not reduce the overcrowding at our K-8 Center – the District knows it and we know it.  As such, the move to reduce our school to a K-5 will occur.

What we find interesting is a new scare tactic rolled out by the District.  In the Q&A they created, the District claims that if there is a “yes” vote for conversion that “350 students will have to be assigned to another school.” The District is simply wrong on the law. 

There is no Florida law that “compels” the District to remove 350 students from the K-8 Center because the parents and teachers vote “yes” on conversion.  Indeed, at the present time, the District operates the K-8 Center with 1330 students – and has been operating the K-8 Center in its overcrowded capacity for a number of years.  The school has a capacity of 981 students. Ironically, it is the District’s position that so long as they are operating the school that the District is allowed to operate it beyond it capacity. However, once it is converted then the law (the District of course refuse to cite to any statutory provision) compels them to remove 350 students. How convenient and, quite frankly, absurd.

Fla. Stat. s. 1002.33(18)(a) provides that any “local governing authority must treat charter schools equitably in comparison to similar requirements, restrictions, and processes imposed upon public schools that are not charter schools.” In other words, if the District can operate the school beyond its capacity, then the non-profit charter conversion can also operate it beyond its capacity. But the entire purpose for calling for a “yes” vote is to rebuild a new school that can accommodate 1800 students.  

We have conferred with regulatory officials in Tallahassee.  If the parents and teachers vote “yes” for conversion, there is no specific law that would prevent the current 1330 students from continuing to attend the K-8 Center while the school is rebuilt.  If, after a “yes” vote, the District begins take steps to stop 350 students from attending the K-8 Center, then that is something that they are doing “on their own” and is not something that is being required by any regulatory officials.  This is simply a scare tactic - like the one the District employed at Neva King Cooper last year.  

In February 2012, the Principal and Assistant Principal of Neva King Cooper, a special needs school in Homestead sent a letter to District asking for a vote to convert their school to charter. Four months later, the Principal was demoted to the mailroom and the Assistant Principal was demoted to the motor pool. It was alleged by District administrators that they were intimidating and coercing the teachers to vote yes. Both the Principal and Assistant Principal filed complaints with the Florida Department of Education for unlawful retaliation. 

The Inspector General’s Office of the Department conducted an investigation that was completed in November 2012. The Report was sent to the District to provide them with 60 days to comment on the findings of the Report. The Report has 2 main findings, or what it calls “summaries:” (1) “all employees interviewed stated that neither Fernandez (Principal) nor Cristobol (Assistant Principal) threatened or intimidated them regarding the charter conversion issue,” and (2) “when each of the employees were asked if they felt threatened or intimidated by District administrators being assigned to (Neva King Cooper) daily, many of the employees stated that the District presence made daily operations uncomfortable.” The Report recounts how numerous District employees had descended on the school in order “to help” teachers during the run up to the vote. The District never held the vote after the demotions.  How interesting.  

What is important for parents and teachers, at our K-8 Center, to know is that District is wrong on the law if it continues to maintain the position that it will be “compelled” to remove 350 students from our school.  This is simply not true.




    RESPONSE TO No. 1: The law provides that the conversion charter school may use the building as a school, but the District retains full ownership of the facility and property. A conversion charter school specifically cannot demolish, sell, or modify the building in any way unless it is approved by the School Board.

    Public schools do not have to be charter schools in order to receive community donations and grants. Key Biscayne K-8 Center can currently accept donations from the community or philanthropic organization that can be directed to the school for specific purposes at any time.

    RESPONSE TO No. 2: Only the school’s Governing Board, which has not yet been formed, makes all policy and financial decisions of the school, including compensation policies. The Governing Board will have the discretion to hire the administrator it chooses and to determine salary levels and other compensation based on available funding and its own priorities. Additionally, Ms. Tarafa has never authorized the use of her name in conjunction with the conversion effort, and does not have to remain at the school if it is converted to a charter school.

    Charter schools receive only 95% to 97% of FTE and payments are disbursed monthly. Additionally, charter conversions are not eligible to receive capital outlay funding which other charter schools receive and use to pay for a variety of school expenses. It also will no longer benefit from the District’s economies of scale in purchasing goods and services for the school. The school will lose approximately of 350 students due to the school’s current capacity limitation and will have to use its general fund or other revenues to meet its capital needs. All of these factors will significantly reduce the school’s current budget. Therefore, any pay increases will be dependent upon the school’s availability of funds, timing of cash flow, and the funding priorities of a yet to be formed governing board. Certainly, no “individual” can guarantee any particular level of compensation or “pay increases” at this time.

    RESPONSE TO No. 3: No “individual” can guarantee that any current employee will remain, without exception, at the school after conversion. The Governing Board has the discretion to hire its own teachers and employees. Current school employees cannot be compelled to remain at the school if it converts to a charter school. Alternative arrangements will be made for any teacher or employee who chooses to remain with the District. Administrators, teachers and staff will be provided the opportunity to transfer to another available district position pursuant to School Board Policy and/or labor union agreements (e.g., UTD, DESMEC, AFSCME). Alternate placement may not be in a school or position in close proximity to Key Biscayne K-8 Center.

    Moreover, no individual can guarantee the yet to be formed governing board will choose to remain with FRS or that employees will maintain their current benefits. These are costly decisions that the governing board will make depending on its budget, priorities and available funding. In fact, only one Miami-Dade charter school out of 120 is currently part of the FRS system.

    RESPONSE TO No. 4: The District has no intention of closing the 6-8 at Key Biscayne K-8 Center or laying off any of the current teaching staff. MAST is a school of choice and Key Biscayne residents can choose to have their children remain at the Key Biscayne K-8 Center. Also, if the school converts to a charter school, it will have no authority to demolish, expand, or modify the school facility. Furthermore, because the current enrollment levels exceed the facility capacity, a conversion charter school would be required to conduct a random lottery. A significant number of students currently attending the school may not be able to enroll and will have to be assigned to another school in the District. A reduction in students will have a direct impact on staffing levels.

  2. [Please note: The REPLY section of this blog has a word count limitation. Please refer to the blue shaded blog (posted above) to read our responses to MDPS in its entirety.]

  3. We have posted the most recent article from last Thursday January 17th 2013 issue of Islander News. We have underlined the Village Mayor's comments that 'if' the K8 Center is ultimately reduced to a K5 that this act is not "intrinsically negative". We disagree with his assessment. What happens to those children who do not make the GPA requirement to enter MAST by the sixth grade? They will have to be bussed to mainland when our kids could have had an expanded state-of -art K8 Center 500 yards away from their homes? All becuase we did not expand and build a new school? That can't be positve.