Embattled Broward School Board Proposes to Strip A-Rated Virginia Shuman Young Elementary of Montessori Designation

Embattled Broward School Board Proposes to Strip A-Rated Virginia Shuman Young Elementary of Montessori Designation

Javier Manjarres
Javier Manjarres
May 7, 2024

FORT LAUDERDALE— The embattled Broward County School Board, led by new Superintendent Dr. Howard Hepburn (pictured),  is trying to fix the decades-long, systemic education problems and mistakes its predecessors created, but may in the process shoot itself in the proverbial teaching foot if they go through with a proposal to strip A-rated Virginia Shuman Young Elementary (VSY) of its magnet Montessori designation.

The idea is to make nearby C-Rated  Bennett Elementary School into a magnet Montessori school and combine it with Sunrise Middle School. Both schools are connected.

This proposal sounds eerily familiar, and a case can be made that it is nothing more than an attempt to force parents to send their kids to a less diversified school simply to improve its education rating, which would translate into more tax dollars being allocated for that school'

In the 1980's and 1990s, this practice was called "bussing."

Minority children were bussed to neighborhoods and cities like Victoria Park and Coral Springs from underdeveloped neighborhoods to "diversify" more developed cities and communities.

Sounds like a dumb move, right?

Can't they just make Bennett Elementary a Montessori school? Sure they can.

As you can imagine, parents of children attending VSY are upset.

During one of a series of town hall meetings put together by the school board to address parental concerns over the controversial proposal, dozens of parents showed up with kids in tow, wearing blue t-shirts supporting the school, and wearing their frustrations and emotions on their sleeves.

First, it's important to note that the majority of the School Board was absent at the town hall, but that each town meeting is district specific and attendance by all members is not mandatory or expected.

The No-Shows:

Torey Alston (District 2)

Daniel Foganholi (District 1

Brenda Fam, Esq. (District 6)

Lori Alhadeff (District 4)

Debra Hixon (Countywide at Large, Seat 9)

Nora Rupert (District 7)

Jeff Holness (District 5).

In Attendance:

Sarah Leonardi (District 3)

Dr. Allen Zeman (Countywide at Large, Seat 8)

Broward County School Board
Broward County School Board

This Montesorri redesignation proposal, which was conjured by administrator  Alan Strauss, is all part of the School Board’s great plan of closing down or repurposing under-used schools.

But it appears as if the Dr. Hepburn and the school board, which is comprised of two Gov. Ron DeSantis appointees—Torey Alston and Daniel Foganholi— is trying to kick the damaged school can down road.

To be fair, Hepburn made the motion to open up district-wide discussions on any and all changes.

After a short explanation for calling the meeting, and after Mr. Strauss presented a slide show to try to help explain the proposal, Dr. Hepburn and staff turned the meeting over to the concerned parents to express their feelings over the idea stripping the magnet Montesorri designation away from VSY.

This is where the fireworks began, and staying true to form, the Board was ready to mitigate parental pushback by limiting remarks to 1 minute and not the usual 2 minutes, as well as shutting down the microphones.

The microphones were shut down at least two times during the remarks.

During his opening remarks,  and instead of taking responsibility, Hepburn  instead repeatedly stated that the revamping of the school district was in direct response to the competition it faces from both private and public charter schools that have popped up around that state.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that charter schools are a byproduct of the failures in education the Board has propagated for decades.

One upset attendee all but spelled it out for everyone.

“What I see here is a bunch smoke and mirrors…I’ve done my research. You people, you people are all just trying to CYA. This has been a long-standing problem, you've known about this for years but yet you've done nothing,”said the concerned attendee.

Broward County School Board
Broward County School Board

Another parent, a father of 3 students at VSY said that  he was “troubled by the current school proposal,” and “shocked by the lack of detail and data that's being put forward to support.”

The father continued, adding, “Instead of putting forth multiple proposals for us to consider with competing options and ideas you put forward the singular proposal that's nothing more than a PowerPoint and a sales pitch.”

Peter Salvato, a father of two VSY children, made a compelling case about how such an abrupt move could affect children who are still trying to get passed the emotional and psycological trauma they endured as are result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I don't have anything for or against redistricting or district consideration, how I do feel is that this particular cohort of children, who began their primary education in this COVID and lockdown, have such a profound disruption to their social-emotional education in their first year this suggestion at the other end of their primary education is going to disrupt and remove critical years for their social-emotional education and development in particular children who have needs for consistency reliability are losing the teachers, building the, staff other students that they have come to rely,” stated Salvato.

“We don’t want to leave. And I don’t think you will get us to go,” said VSY Teacher Jennifer Sekerchak

Samual Houle, a 4th grade teacher at VSY, echoed this sentiment, questioning why there was only one or two proposals for teachers and parents to choose from.

“We have so many options to move forward with that the fact that there was only one proposal that we must choose between or two,  that is that is not enough. We have the ability as we have said, as the 6th largest County School county in the nation to have better options at hand, said Houle.

“I mean, that’s what I’m hearing over and over and over again, right? Like this is a high-performing school, there’s not an enrollment problem, why would we turn upside down such a school that has been like a beacon in Broward County Public Schools?” Leonardi said in an interview with NBC 6.

Erin Gohl, president of the PTA at VSY, also questioned the board’s decision to try to fix something that wasn’t broken.

“It really profoundly underestimates all that goes into creating a successful school community, you really can’t just pick it up and put it somewhere else and think it is going to remain intact,” said Gohl.

If the proposal goes through, will VSY parents send their kids to Bennett?

Should Hepburn look into cutting costs in other places, maybe starting with his$300K + salary, cutting back on energy costs (its freezing inside some of these schools) and other wasteful spending that the district is known to partake in?


***Publishers Note***

“VSY” is considered a model school with a very active PTA and very engaged teaching and administration staff, not to mention a very friendly and armed “Guardian” or school security guard who keeps a very watchful eye over the children, even though some of us wish he carried a larger caliber weapon.

To be completely transparent here, I am a parent to two daughters that attend VSY, and have two other rugrats in the pipeline to enter the school over the next couple of years

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Javier Manjarres

Javier Manjarres

Javier Manjarres is a nationally renowned award-winning political journalist and Publisher of Floridianpress.com, Hispolitica.com, shark-tank.com, and Texaspolitics.com He enjoys traveling, playing soccer, mixed martial arts, weight-lifting, swimming, and biking. Javier is also a political consultant and has also authored "BROWN PEOPLE," which is a book about Hispanic Politics. Follow on Twitter: @JavManjarres Email him at Diversenewmedia@gmail.com

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