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 boundary proposals of School Board Member Abby Freedman.
Despite having demographers on staff, Freedman drew boundary proposals that mixed innovation zones, skipped over transportation zones and would not have been proposed by school district staff. Freedman’s proposal call to bus one newly annexed area of Parkland called the “wedge” to schools miles away.
Whether this was an ingenious attempt to motivate the district to build another school in the community remains to be seen. For now, residents were angry at the prospect of breaking up their community and potentially bussing their kids to other cities.
Neighbors from Heron Bay, Watercrest, Miralago and other parts of Coral Springs and Parkland stood united that their children were going to stay in local public schools. Some wore “Neighborhood Kids Equals Neighborhood Schools” t-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 them. Udine understood this and said 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.”
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
“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 asked for a show of hands from those who would like to chance the possibility of boundary changes each year, “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.
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.”