Drawing Inspiration from Miami

Access to High-Quality Schools, Current Events & News | 11/10/2021

Brigitte Nieland
Government Affairs Director

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to spend three inspirational days visiting and learning from the Miami-Dade County Public School System. Two members of Stand’s staff were invited to join the educational trip and joined EBR Superintendent Dr. Sito Narcisse, members of the EBR School Board, as well as business and community leaders. We are so glad we went.

Fifteen years ago, before current Superintendent Dr. Alberto Carvalho and his team brought renewed energy and a laser focus on students to the district, the Miami-Dade system was failing students, with nowhere to go but up.

As we toured schools, heard from students, and talked with teachers, it was amazing to hear how the district’s transformed from failing its students to one of the country’s top-rated districts in the country in just 15 years. To put Miami-Dade into perspective, they have about 334,000 students, compared to 41,000 students in EBR and 700,000 students in all of Louisiana. Miami-Dade has been an A-rated district for two years, and 98% of all schools are rated A, B, or C. Their graduation rate is 93%, compared to about 69% in EBR and 80% in Louisiana. Miami-Dade’s budget is about $5.5 billion, compared to approximately $490 million in EBR. And while Miami-Dade is much larger than EBR, there are also parallels that are worth noting. Miami-Dade is a diverse, multilingual urban district facing many of the challenges we see in EBR. And also like EBR, Miami-Dade has vibrant, passionate people and families who want the best for their students. The possibilities imagined and realized in Miami-Dade are why we are so inspired to see how Dr. Carvalho and his team took the district from failing its students to one of the country’s top-rated districts.

When Dr. Carvalho came to Miami-Dade, he brought in many student-centered changes and to this day, frequently talks about the importance of choice. His team has established over 1,000 academic offerings for students and adult learners including bilingual programs, fine and performing arts, biotechnology, workforce, magnet programs, engineering, robotics, aviation, forensic sciences, and so many more.

Before Dr. Carvalho's arrival, Miami-Dade longed for a leader who could unite all stakeholders around the most important goal: equitably serving all students. EBR could be transformed by a culture of strong leadership; continuous improvement; and student-centered decision-making with laser focused, mission driven resource allocation. Add to that a mindset that failure is not acceptable, and the results seen in Miami-Dade could become our reality.

With Superintendent Dr. Sito Narcisse, Baton Rouge now has the leadership to make Miami-Dade’s story ours. But with our people, our culture, and our hearts, we’ll add our own special twist.

Whether or not you have a child in an EBR school, every one of us is impacted by district leadership and educational quality. Economic development, workforce readiness, crime, health, and every other quality of life indicator is directly impacted by the quality of our schools.

So, let’s come together around one vision of how to best move forward for students. This isn’t the same old, same old. Let’s distribute resources in a way that supports our vision, embrace choice, and promise to work together with new leadership to bring about a new day for EBR. Let’s drop our collective cynicism left behind by the ghosts of superintendents past and decide we will not accept failure. Otherwise, we will miss this opportunity.

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