Miami Shores Doctor's Charter School: Politics Trumps Education

The board changed its mind. The mayor should have never gotten involved.
The board changed its mind. The mayor should have never gotten involved.
Courtesy Rise Miami News

Doctor's Charter School in Miami Shores has, until recently, been a solid example of Jeb Bush's success in education — good teachers, test scores, and athletics, with a diverse student body run not by a giant school board but by a small board of local folks.

But the chaos that has recently overtaken the place is an embarrassment to the Village Beautiful and shows the downside of inept charter school management by people who don't quite understand their roles. Mostly to blame is new Miami Shores Mayor Alice Burch, according a series of articles by RiseMiamiNews.com, a website founded by former New Times intern Rich Robinson and others.

Nick Dorn, the school's executive director, resigned just as the board gave him a lousy review a few weeks ago. And then, last week, the board got a few new members and agreed to offer him "at least a one-year contract." Dorn has worked at the school for only a year, replacing Gary Meredith, an older gent who was absent from the school much of his last year. Dorn is younger and less experienced than Meredith but has brought new life and ideas that might have improved the place.

The problem is that change is uncomfortable, and some of the teachers complained. Mayor Alice Burch, who was a volunteer at the school, wrote a lengthy memo describing some dislike for Dorn and essentially taking the haters' side. The weird "confidential" memo talks about being "discreet" (ma'am, you are a public official) and doesn't give any names (ma'am, this is not the way the public should do business.) She says her husband said she had a duty to report this anonymous slime. (What year are we in, 1952?)

The truth is that I have sent my three children through this school and deeply respect most of the faculty and people who run the place. I also think Dorn is the right person for the job. Giving a new guy just a year to turn a place around is bizarre. Flip-flopping on whether you want to keep him is even more bizarre. And this kind of quasi-public dispute is a shame. 

Plus, the mayor being a volunteer at the school who dishes anonymous dirt simply shouldn't be allowed. Now, ethics complaints and Sunshine Law violations are flying around. The board that runs the school, critics say, discussed the matter in private without advertising, which is illegal. This brouhaha probably won't come to much, except that it will make good parents and kids who might otherwise want to attend the school hesitant. 

Jeb Bush might not want to cite DCS as an example of his impressive success in Florida schools.


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