By: Sharon Aron Baron
The students had questions and their elected officials answered them at this year’s 12th Annual Teen Political forum which brought students from both Coral Springs and Parkland area high schools.
Typically asking for less testing and better lunches, many of the questions were about school security and calling for real measures, not the clear backpacks – which March For Our Lives student activist Cameron Kasky carried on stage in jest before his speech.
In this year’s event called “MSD Strong”, students not only earned service hours for attending, the school with the most students received a cash prize. This year, Coral Springs Charter School had 435 students and won $1,000 from Waste Pro. In second place, JP Taravella High School had 257 students winning $750 from Baptist Health South Florida.
This year’s panelists were: Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine; Coral Springs Vice Mayor Lou Cimaglia; Coral Springs City Commissioners Joy Carter, Dan Daley and Larry Vignola; Parkland Vice Mayor Stacy Kagan; and School Board Members Robin Bartleman and Donna Korn.
Special speakers included March for Our Lives organizers Adam Alhanti, Cameron Kasky and Delaney Tarr. Moderators for the Teen Political Forum were: Cortney Evans, Milan Homan, Harrison Netburn and Abelardo Riojas.
Broward County Commissioner Udine was asked what he was going to do to make sure there were high paying jobs in Coral Springs once they graduated from college. Udine said they were working with Amazon to entice their headquarters to move here – and are currently on the short list. “Getting on the short list shows Amazon that we have the ability to compete with nationwide companies to open up jobs and to bring them down here, because we want you to come back to Broward.”
Commissioner Dan Daley was asked why he supported the three Coral Springs bonds. “I supported them, I supported putting them on the ballot, I still support them. I think we’re going to have to come together as a commission and make some decisions to see how we can adequately fund those projects.” He said that if all three bonds had passed, it would have only been an additional $10 per month to bring this city some much-needed reinvestment.
A Marjory Stoneman Douglas student said that teachers are bored and tired because they went through the same thing they did. “They don’t even have have the help we have.” She said that their salaries don’t even pay for someone that can get them the help they need for trauma. School Board Member Robin Bartleman said they had an employee assistance program for teachers that is free and is available for parents and students. “We are reaching the next stage of long-term care and having a one-to-one clinician that you see all the time. It’s all part of the process.” She reminded students to call 211 if they needed help.
A student asked the panelists about safety, and why the City of Parkland refused the offer of free metal detectors for Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky, who was sitting in the audience – and was not asked to sit on the panel, clarified that the free metal detectors were offered to school board staff, not to the City of Parkland.
Donna Korn said that Superintendent Runcie was currently visiting one of the safest schools in the country to bring home more ideas. “We are doing something immediately at Stoneman Douglas because we know they want a sense of safety to attend school everyday.” She said that students should begin seeing wands at school in the next week.
Comparing school lunches to those in Europe, a student asked the panelists why their school lunches “congeals” while other countries make better food for lower prices. Korn agreed and said her children would send her photos of their school lunches and ask her “what is this?” She said that things are much better than they have been. “At the same time, we have much further to go.”
She also shared that she had school lunches that were served to a school across the street, delivered to a school board meeting. She said no one would eat it. “We have a lot to do, but I promise you that it’s very important to me that you all go to school and you feel that you don’t need to bring a lunch to be able to have to eat.”
Joyce Campos, community relations manager said the event went well, they met their time frame and didn’t run late. “I thought the kids did a fabulous job and they really raised the bar, and the questions were good.”