Major reform needed now by Broward School Board | Opinion

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Five former school board members have been cited for incompetence and dereliction of duty in a grand jury report, leading to the removal of four from the Broward County School Board.

This action by the governor led to a renewed focus on becoming an “A” rated school district, a “restructuring board” that focused on the education crisis caused by the pandemic, and ended legal fees for named school board members. The grand jury report, allocated millions in unallocated money to the rainy day fund, sponsored new training for board members, created polling time at the start of board meetings and ultimately led the charge to oust the former superintendent who many knew. She was on her own but many elected and community leaders did not have the courage to stand up and do the right thing.

Amy Beth Bennett / South Florida Sun Sentinel

Broward County School Board Member Torey Alston.

As a board chair this season, those were all tough decisions made by a balanced board with a diversity of opinions and experiences.

Dr. Peter Licata, Dr. Earlene Smiley, or Dr. Valerie Wanza would not exist if not for the tough questions and tough decisions initiated by the Reform Board.

As we move forward, we need more reform in our district now more than ever – decisions that many board members have shied away from, and some current board members may hesitate to address as the 2024 election approaches.

Reality is important, and the public appreciates a clear understanding of the issues and opportunities ahead.

When we are the sixth largest school district in the nation, with amazing students and top-notch staff, our school board must show courage to protect our district and prevent the fiscal disaster that I and others have described.

With enrollment in our traditional public schools steadily declining, less capital stock, less funding, and parents increasingly choosing charter and private schools over traditional public schools, this season calls for leadership.

We also need to be clear that important school construction projects will be closely monitored and that the board must fix the roofing, air quality and basic aesthetics of all our schools.

I do not support any board action that diverts $3 billion away from our schools for any maintenance funds that are lacking in current school facility needs and routine maintenance in many schools.

I do not support diverting workers’ compensation dollars to welfare or welfare funds, mental health or school facilities. Now we have to make some painful cuts and get rid of extra spending – that’s how we can increase compensation. Our No. 1 priority must be that our 250,000 children are learning in a safe and clean classroom.

Re: Five schools. Eight years. Broward schools fall behind on renovations.

It’s time to realign or close 40 to 50 school sites due to dramatically low enrollment, sell off large school district land to bring in additional revenue, tear down unused portables that impact state funding, and take a hard look. How we compensate all employees.

Realigning or closing 40 to 50 schools will lead to a smaller district footprint, better targeted funding for our children, increased funding balance to maintain the health of the district budget, and ultimately lead to more newly built schools in later years.

Now is the time for the district to demonstrate the benefits of our employees, share with the public how the district compensates its employees compared to neighboring districts, and push back against the false attacks from Broward teachers union leaders against the district for lack of compensation. In the past two years, the district has paid more employees than both Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Palm Beach County Public Schools.

I believe there is a consensus that costs have increased on all families, and we need to increase total compensation for our workers. We need to work together to lower the temperature and do things like the Police Benevolent Association, the Broward Principals and Assistant Principals Association, and other public employee unions have done together.

It’s time for our parents, community leaders and key stakeholders to come together with the common goal of maintaining the health of the district’s budget to provide quality education to all Broward children regardless of zip code in an efficient environment. .

My colleagues, it is time to make some tough decisions. In years to come, our children and this community will reflect on how we worked together in a non-partisan way to become “A” School District and the first choice for Broward families.

Former Broward County Commissioner Torey Alston represents District 2 on the Broward County Board of Education.

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