By: Sharon Aron Baron
The developer for the proposed charter school in Parkland held a presentation on Monday morning, which attracted 48 residents to the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Coral Springs.
Real estate developer Frank Biden who also worked in the Clinton Administration as a director of Legislative and Congressional Affairs, is more famously known as the younger brother of former Vice President Joe Biden. Representing him was attorney and Parkland resident Michael Moskowitz who gave participants an overview of the project. As the real estate developer, Biden’s role is to meet all the city and county requirements and build the school on the 110,000 square foot parcel of land owned by charter school company Academica.
Formerly referred to as Somerset Academy, the new name will be Somerset Parkland Academy. “I think there was a mutual desire to have the name Parkland in there to signify that this is a school that’s going to serve the students in this area,” said Moskowitz.
Moskowitz told residents they wouldn’t be having this discussion if it weren’t for the constraints put upon the school board by the state legislature, which will not allow the construction of any new schools in Broward County because there are over 23,000 open seats. Therefore, the legislature will not allow for any capital construction until most, if not all, of those seats, are filled.
Moskowitz made it clear that a charter school is a public school funded by the state legislature through Broward County Public Schools and that any company that wants to construct and operate a charter school must obtain an approved charter through an application with the school board which includes a management and operational plan.
According to state statute, Somerset Parkland Academy would be open to anyone who wants to attend. Moskowitz said they are allowed to have a limited exclusive enrollment period for 30-45 days prior to general enrollment, where they can limit students to a specified geographical area. They propose, subject to the school board’s approval, that the exclusive enrollment period is a 2.5-mile radius of the school, including west Boca Raton. Any student that resides within this area may enroll early. After that exclusive enrollment period ends, other students may enroll. Also, siblings of current students will have priority to enroll as well.
Biden said, “Statistics show that usually the school is full within this initial period and statistics also show that the vast, vast, vast percentage of students that attend the charter schools come from the local area.”
Eric and Jennifer Brinkman of Pine Tree Estates attended the meeting to find out more about the charter school for their two children, ages three and four. “I like the competition,” said Eric. “I like to see what’s going on with charter schools.”
He said his son would be attending either a Catholic school or a charter school because nothing has changed in public education since he has attended school. His education wasn’t a great experience, and he didn’t get a lot out of it. Parents he had spoken to aren’t happy with them either. “If public schools are doing so great, charter schools wouldn’t even exist,” he said.
One parent asked if the school would use only certified teachers, and Biden answered that every teacher would be 100 percent certified at the school. He stressed that the school would be a K-8, however, would be a K-3 in year one; K-6 in year two; and a K-8 in year three. Biden said that he anticipates a curriculum heavily based in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.
Parents would also be required to volunteer 30 hours per year at the school. “What we’re building here is a community school that’s literally going to be designed and run by you all. If your child goes here, you must contribute 30 hours a year in volunteer work,” said Biden.
Moskowitz said there was a reason for it – and it wasn’t for indentured servitude. “The only way these community schools succeed is with the direct involvement of parents.”
Parkland Planning and Zoning Board
November 9, 2017, at 6 p.m. for a special exemption and approval of a site plan.