Miami Herald: Hollywood to discuss new Montessori school, embattled CRA

Dec 17, 2009

The Miami Herald published this article on December 16, 2009.


Hollywood city commissioners are expected Wednesday to vote to ask the Broward school district to set aside a large chunk of seats at a new school for city residents next year.

Commissioners may also discuss financial mismanagement at the beach Community Redevelopment Agency and are expected to vote on an amendment to an agreement with its auditing firm, McGladrey and Pullen, to perform an audit of the embattled CRA.

The city fired Gil Martinez, the director of the beach CRA, in November after commissioners learned that a festival cost taxpayers nearly quadruple the approved price. Commissioners recently moved oversight of the beach and downtown CRAs to the city manager, who is expected to hire a new director to oversee both.

The meeting at City Hall, 2600 Hollywood Blvd., starts at 1 p.m. and commissioners will discuss the CRA at 2 p.m.

A large crowd of parents is expected for the 6 p.m. portion of the meeting to discuss the Lincoln Park school.

Next fall, the school is set to open as the district’s only K-8 Montessori magnet. The district plans to set aside about 150 of the 750 seats for students within the South Broward High School boundary. The district chose that number because it equals the amount set aside for residents within a certain boundary at Virginia Shuman Young, a Montessori magnet elementary in Fort Lauderdale.

Hollywood officials, however, want about half the seats set aside for their residents.

“We want as many as we can get for city residents,” said Mayor Peter Bober, whose two sons attend Virginia Shuman Young. “We do expect them to try to give as many seats as possible to benefit Hollywood residents or in the alternative explain why they can’t.”

On Tuesday, the School Board approved an amendment to an agreement with the city without adding more seats for Hollywood students.

Board members said they can look at setting aside more seats for Hollywood children during the school district’s boundary hearings, which begin in late January.

School Board Member Jennifer Gottlieb, a key advocate for the school, said in an interview that most of the students likely will live in Hollywood since it will draw from neighborhoods that fall into multiple Hollywood school boundaries. Also, about 100 Hollywood residents who attend Virginia Shuman Young, as well as 14 who attend Sunrise Middle, will have priority admission — on top of the 150 others. The school district will hold a lottery for admission.

It appears unlikely that the city would hold up the school — which is already under construction — from proceeding.

Bober said he believes the city lacks the power to force the district to set aside a certain number of seats for Hollywood residents.

District spokeswoman Nadinew Drew said the project cost is about $25 million, but she was uncertain if that included tearing down about 50 homes and design costs or simply construction.

The district is constructing a new school at the park at 2340 Lincoln St. at a time when thousands of seats in Broward are empty and hundreds of employees have been laid off. Neighbors are concerned about traffic and drainage, among other issues.

Construction has also shut down the park, which is leased to the district. City officials want to work out an agreement with the district for the public to use the park during nonschool hours.

“They have no right to give our park away,” said Pete Brewer, an opponent who lives a few blocks away.

Although Broward schools are on track to have more than 30,000 empty seats by the 2013-14 school year, parents are clamoring for another Montessori option. District officials hope that the new Hollywood school will ease the nearly 900-student long waiting list at Virginia Shuman Young.