By: Sharon Aron Baron
Parkland Mayor Michael Udine is speaking out about the boundary proposals that have upset residents, after School Board Member Abby Freedman withdrew the last of her six controversial proposals that could have bussed students across the county if voted forward by the school board.
Despite boundary proposals being drawn by professional demographers at the school district, there is no reason why a school board member such as Freedman, who has no experience in demography, no attendance at an education advisory board, or city commission meeting during her term, wrote the controversial proposals. Her boundary recommendations proposed bussing students to another city across the county as well as having children attending different schools than their neighbors.
“Her proposals were extremely divisive to the entire community of Parkland,” said Udine who stated that Freedman never has been through the boundary process before. “She says she has, when we opened Park Trails and Heron Heights, but she never had any involvement.”
Residents, who Freedman referred to as the “vocal minority” in her email to the Mayor, are happy that all six of them are gone, especially those who have put down payments on new homes. Her proposals caused many of them to take to social media, blasting Freedman, and had many residents wondering why someone who should be their staunchest representative, was sabotaging their relationship with their own constituents.
According to Udine, Freedman, who did not believe any of her own staff’s numbers, walked in to new home sales centers and looked at the people walking in, so she could determine the number of new seats that would be needed in the future.
Freedman also claimed that the builders told her they would deliver 695 homes in the “wedge,” which was a newly annexed area in Parkland, in 2015 and 750 homes in 2016.
“Physically impossible,” said Udine. “The most CO’s (certificates of occupancy) Parkland has ever issued in the past is 495. She never sat down with the city to get the real numbers.”
Udine stressed that Parkland has $5.1 million in impact fees to use for student stations, and the city commission had been discussing future growth and putting the money away every time there was a new project.
“I personally told Abby Freedman this in a meeting a few days after she filed her proposals. She was more interested in berating everyone in the room about how Parkland was building out and whether she listened or not, who knows, but we told her.”
Udine said that when Freedman did meet with him, a member of the education advisory board, or the city manager, Freedman would claim that Parkland was wrong to allow any new residential building, and was insistent that they should have let the wedge develop in unincorporated Broward, not Parkland.
“We tried to explain to her that it made no difference. Land owners could build even if it was unincorporated. Her response? ‘Too bad for them. They should have built industrial, not homes.’ When we tried to explain the rationale, and how we made them set land aside for schools, impact fees, and the education dollars on top of it, she said she didn’t care. She went on and on about things that were approved years ago and had no bearing on the issue… she was completely belligerent,” said Udine.
Freedman also said to them that the school board was broke and would never build another student station in Parkland and said she would find a charter school.
“We told her, that charter schools had been looking at our area for years. It’s been us that have, to some extent, held it off and we’re proud of partnering with our local public schools,” said Udine.
Park Trails and Riverglades Elementary Schools, Westglades Middle and Stoneman Douglas High School are all currently under enrolled, however, Udine said the city had planned for future growth.
“Parkland planned. We made them set land aside for a future school. The developer paid impact fees to build school stations, just in case the school board was unable to do anything. Parkland, unlike many cities, had more money set aside, so we could step in and assist with more student stations. So when Abby Freedman sent a letter saying, ‘glad Parkland realized the situation’…come on….ridiculous joke.”
Letter exchanges below:
From: Abby M. Freedman [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, November 05, 2013 2:24 PM
To: Michael Udine
Subject: Boundary Map
Dear Mayor Udine,
I appreciate that you have recognized that the School Board of Broward County has not been and continues not to be in a financial position to add student stations. I am thankful that you have come to realize the critical need that exists for partnerships to resolve financial issues that exist within our district. It is my greatest hope, that as we move forward in the boundary process, that everyone involved will recognize the need for proper planning in order to be able to keep communities together. I assure you that as a school board member, I will be the strongest advocate and will not back down until the children and the entire community get what they deserve. It is at this time, I will be withdrawing the amended C9 map and will continue to strive to meet the needs of both the vocal minority as well as the silent majority.
Abby M. Freedman
Abby M. Freedman
School Board Member – District 4
School Board of Broward County
From: Michael Udine
Sent: Tuesday, November 05, 2013 2:32 PM
To: ‘Abby M. Freedman’
Subject: RE: Boundary Map
I can assure you that the people you were hearing from was not “the vocal minority”. The entire City of Parkland has stood firm in their belief that all children in the area should be attending their neighborhood schools.
As we have repeatedly tried to show both you and the Broward County School Board, the City of Parkland, HAS been planning and preparing for these future issues. We continue to plan and look forward to working with your staff to address any future needs as they arise.
Michael I. Udine, Esq.