Miami-Dade businesses can help schools with cash, jobs in One Community One Goal
By Zachary S. Fagenson
If Miami-Dade's business community wants to involve the public schools in a renewed One Community One Goal study, businesses may need to open their offices as much as their wallets.
When the One Community One Goal program began 14 years ago, it spawned 26 career academies geared to meet the business needs the program foresaw. Now the schools are looking for reciprocity.
"We have more kids to place in jobs than we have business partnerships," said Lupe Ferran Diaz, a teacher at Miami Beach Senior High School and director of the school system's Schools of Choice program.
At a Miami Today International Roundtable several weeks ago, Beacon Council President Frank Nero told an audience of more than 100 that his agency was considering reviving the effort.
And this time, Mr. Nero says he'd like education involved from the outset.
The program began in the mid-'90s as a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce project and targeted seven industries — biomedical, film and entertainment, financial services, information technology, telecommunications, international commerce and the visitor industry — to create enough good jobs to keep up with the county's population growth.
The initiative, co-chaired by then chamber Chairman Jay Malina and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, quickly grew from a two- to a four-year project and brought together 42 public and private partners and thousands of individuals.
The revived effort faces its first hurdle this month when the Beacon Council's board is to vote on whether to examine revisiting the community-wide study.
The initial program included starting career academies in Miami-Dade high schools to offer industry-specific training for the sectors that community leaders identified as Miami's future economic engines.
In June 2002, there were 26 "Industry Focused Academies representing five key growth industries in place at 20… senior high schools," according to a 2002 Industry Focus Academies report.
"The design of the career academies was to expose students, beginning in high school, with opportunities that aligned with identified industries," said chamber President Barry Johnson, who co-chaired One Community One Goal after Mr. Malina.
The academies at the time were funded by companies in one of the industries pegged for growth potential.
"AT&T contributed $100,000 at the time" for information technology career academies, he added.
Today "pretty much every high school has one form of an academy," Ms. Diaz of the school district said.
Of the 57 schools teaching grades nine through 12 in the district, she added, 28 sustain career academies through federal Smaller Learning Communities grants.
But some of the grants expire soon, making private investment in career-specific education even more critical to growth of the industries into which the academies feed.
"It's expensive to fund these programs, especially if you want to do it right," Ms. Diaz said. "As a school district we're always looking outside funding."
And despite the endless demand for dollars, the real ingredient of success isn't financial.
"All of our schools are in need of local business partners to come in and transform education," she said. "Put your money where your mouth is. How many people in the business community are going into the classroom and employing these kids?"