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By: Sharon Aron Baron
Parents filed into the auditorium at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Monday night to fight for neighborhood schools and against the boundary proposals of School Board Member Abby Freedman.
Despite having demographers on staff Freedman took it upon herself to research and draw boundary proposals that mix innovation zones, skip over transportation zones and would not have been proposed by school district employees. Freedman’s “C” proposals bus one newly annexed area of Parkland called the “wedge” to schools miles away.
On Monday night, neighbors from Heron Bay, Wastercrest, Miralago and other parts of Coral Springs and Parkland stood united that their children were going to stay in local schools. Some wore “Neighborhood Kids Equals Neighborhood Schools” tee shirts to show their unity. Many lined up to speak for several minutes against the proposals.
No one came forward to speak favorably for the proposals that Freedman recommended.
Mayor Michael Udine looked at Freedman’s proposals that she was passing out to the audience and quickly discovered that they were inaccurate, and said Freedman was using certificates of occupancies that were overestimated by developers, not by the city.
Freedman said the school district will not use tax dollars for additional seats nor would the other members of the school board vote to approve additional seats. Udine understands this, and says that according to school board information, Parkland has $5.1 million in impact fees to use for student stations, if needed. “These aren’t dollars being taken away from anyone else,” said Udine. “These are extras that the city of Parkland has to assist.”
However, Parkland can’t build any school stations at the time because district officials say that their schools are still under enrolled. However, Udine stresses that they have met with school board staff and stand ready, willing and able to drop modulars in.
This is not Parkland’s first time at a boundary process. We did a boundary process many times before. We worked together as a community and we try and get things done. We do not pit neighbor against neighbor.” – Parkland Mayor Michael Udine
Assuming she will be retaining her school board seat after alienating herself from the city that she represents, Freedman, who never explained why she chose to bus students so far away, rather than to leave the boundary process up to the demographers at the School Board, told parents that she didn’t want to go through the boundary process again.
“This isn’t about Abby Freedman, this is about Parkland…this is about Parkland..this is about community.” Freedman said to the shouts of “Take it down!”
“I just wanted to make certain that those of you who are in the room…that I don’t want to go through this boundary process again, next year, or the year after, or the following year,” said Freedman.
Freedman spoke slowly and deliberately to the audience, asking for a show of hands of those that would like to chance the possibility of boundary changes each year and wanted all the maps down, “Because it’s not about me, it’s about you,” she stressed to which all hands went up and audience members yelled, “take the maps down.”
In one of the most divisive moments of her speech Freedman asked, “If you have a vested interest in the wedge, please raise your hand.” To which everyone decided to raise their hands.
“I think that after 95 percent of the crowd raised their hand to show they wanted her to pull her plans, she wanted to spin the universal opposition to her ideas by showing everyone in the room was a future resident of the wedge. That was plainly false,” said Coral Springs Resident Nathaniel Klitsberg.
“Everyone that spoke, whether from Heron Bay, Parkland Reserve or future residents in the Wedge was against her ideas. Everyone that is a resident of Parkland or Coral Springs has a vested interest in the wedge, because it’s part of our community. It was more divisive politics and par for the course of what we have seen from Ms. Freedman.”
After the meeting I asked Freedman if she was going to take down her boundary proposals.
“I’m going to look at what the people want. I’m going to analyze the situation based on what the public wants….that’s why I came here, to be sure I came here to give the people what they want.”
Now that Freedman has removed her proposals she will realize that she tried to disenfranchise her very own constituents by needlessly considering to bus students. By meddling in these day-to-day items that are usually left to the professionals on staff and are outside of the realm of a school board member, Freedman may have to work hard to redeem herself with the residents in District Four.