Facebook   Twitter English  |  En español  |  An kreyòl       Summer - 2019     

Stay iNformed and Connected


The 2018-2019 school year gave us all reason to celebrate. Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) extended its long legacy as a thriving educational system committed to instructional excellence, ingenuity and equity. M-DCPS continues to be highest-performing urban school system in the nation. Our “A” rated school district was the recipient of the 2018 Cambridge District of the Year Award. In addition, many of you spoke loud and clear about your support of and admiration for our teachers through the overwhelming approval of the Secure Our Future Referendum, #362. As a result, we were able to compensate teachers in a way that dignifies and honors the incredible work they do and fortify safety and security at all schools. We did this by also installing nearly 1,700 school security cameras, creating a Schools Police Command Center to serve as a central communications location, and deploying a certified law enforcement officer to every school.

Our exceptional teachers, administrators and support staff proved to be a winning combination that was further complemented by the amazing community partners and organizations that continue to support all of our efforts, both inside and outside of the classroom. On behalf of the School Board, I want to thank you for being our partners in education and making this year a tremendous success.

Alberto M. Carvalho


M-DCPS Goes Beyond the Promise

image Another phenomenal school year has come and gone and for the second year in a row, Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) was recognized as an overall “A” graded school system, districtwide. Students are excelling academically with graduation rates reaching an all-time high at 89 percent. Fifty-eight magnet schools were honored with a Merit Award of Excellence or Distinction for their academic achievements, placing our school district above any other educational system in the country. As a result of the high-performance levels through coursework provided by our Cambridge education, M-DCPS was presented the 2018 Cambridge District of the Year Award to recognize the outstanding dedication our students show towards their academics. Teachers were also celebrated through the R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Teachers campaign, which emphasized the impact that teachers have through their commitment to instilling creative learning environments and providing unconditional support for students. Each year, we highlight two teachers who demonstrate exceptional leadership and commitment to educating our youth. This year, Oliver Diez from Palmetto Elementary was named the 2020 Francisco R. Walker Miami-Dade County Teacher of the Year, along with Pinecrest Elementary’ s Laura Haim, rookie teacher of the Year. Another incredible music teacher, Jennifer Jimenez from South Miami Senior High School, received the 2019 Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teachers Award, only six winners in the country who were recognized.

Leadership at every level has been recognized. School Board Chair Perla Tabares Hantman was awarded the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) Lifelong Educator Award for her impact on the lives of bilingual students. Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho was named National Urban Superintendent of the Year by the Council of Great City Schools and was also recognized for his contributions to enhancing bilingual education by NABE. Principal Deborah Leal of Hammocks Middle received the Magnet Schools of America Region III Magnet Principal of the Year award.

Aside from recognizing incredible achievements, new programs have been implemented this year. Since 2012, the General Obligation Bond has made it possible to modernize schools throughout the district. Between establishing new recreational facilities to opening brand new schools, like Kendall Square K-8 Center, close to $800 million has been spent to improve our schools. School safety has been augmented with more than 16,000 security cameras expected to be installed by the end of this summer, as well as the establishment of a Miami-Dade Schools Police Command Center where police officers can digitally monitor these systems to ensure our children’s safety daily. We look forward to continuing our growth as a school district this upcoming school year and expect our students to set the bar for success even higher than before.

AA Time to Celebrate…Congrats #MDCPSGrad!


Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) held 65 ceremonies for nearly 22,000 graduating senior students this year, a record number of graduates for the nation’s fourth largest school district. The ceremonies ranged in size from very small gatherings for some of the alternative schools, such as the ten graduates at Jan Mann Educational Center, to very large events for some suburban schools, including one ceremony with just under a thousand graduates—983—from John A. Ferguson Senior High School.

Of the graduating seniors, 82.6 percent planned to go to college and 3.6 percent planned to enter the military. Hundreds of M-DCPS graduates also received associate degrees within days of receiving their high school diplomas, putting them two years ahead of other students entering college and saving parents millions of dollars in tuition and expenses.

More than $522 million in scholarship offers were received by this year’s graduating class. Several outstanding students received more than $1 million each in offers and one student received upwards of $1.75 million in offers.

Two traditions—one older and one newer—took place at corresponding M-DCPS graduations. For many years, students who are about to enter the military have been recognized at every graduation. And more recent ceremonies have seen some deeply emotional moments as posthumous diplomas were presented to parents who wished to participate, in honor of their children who lost their lives before graduation.

No two graduations are alike. Each school has its own traditions and special recognitions that they highlight during the commencement ceremonies. This is an exciting moment at M-DCPS, one that is shared with parents, families, friends, and many community leaders.

M-DCPS Innovates


For the past 29 years, the Council of the Great City Schools has recognized big-city school leaders with the nation’s highest honor for urban education leadership, the Green-Garner Award. Every winner has received a $10,000 college scholarship to present to one student in their school district.

However, for a ‘think-outside-the-box,’ school leader with a long-standing commitment to innovation like Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho, the $10,000 scholarship was only the catalyst for something bigger.

Why recognize just one student with a scholarship when donations can be obtained, and the community can get involved to reward more students. Carvalho’s brainchild called for student teams to leverage their knowledge, passion, and creativity to develop innovative solutions to large-scale issues within three categories: the environment, society and health. Now comes the hook. The students, many of whom spent months experimenting and researching, would have just three minutes to present their fresh and ingenious solutions to a panel of judges à la TV’s “Shark Tank.” And thus, the Superintendent’s Student Innovation Challenge was born!

Opened to both juniors and seniors enrolled in any Miami-Dade County public high school, the two-student teams submitted 20-page proposals describing their issue’s scale, impact and solutions. These had to be creative and novel ideas, supported by relevant scientific evidence. They also had to be feasible to implement.

As the challenge morphed and grew, so did interest from community leaders, such as Jonathan and Karen Fryd. “Through (the students’) research they gain a true and deeper understanding. I know they will make the world a better place,” said Karen Fryd.

Soon more donors, including the Irma and Norman Braman Philanthropic Fund and the South Florida Educational Federal Credit Union joined in and the pot grew to $60,000!

The call went out and more than 40 proposals were submitted. The issues tackled ranged from climate change and mental health to red tide, homelessness and bullying. The papers and presentations were nothing short of remarkable; the research conducted worthy of any college science course.

The four highest-scoring proposals in each category advanced to round two. The 12 teams were each assigned a “pitch coach,” community leaders from a variety of local organizations and industries, who spent several hours helping the students finesse their pitches before they faced the judges at the inaugural event at Overtown’s Cambridge Innovation Center.

“I was thrilled to support such an innovative initiative that goes beyond the traditional classroom experience,” said Tina L. Brown, Executive Director of the Overtown Youth Center and the pitch coach for the winning team from Coral Gables Senior High. “ I was particularly excited about this event because it gave me an opportunity to connect and engage students at a professional level and to model skills necessary for their professional development.”

The judges – eMerge Americas CEO Dianne Vidoni; Romi Brattain, executive director of The Idea Center at Miami Dade College; StartUP FIU co-founder Robert Hacker; and Ebenum Equation founder Ebony Smith – grilled the kids with additional questions.

They used a rubric to score each presentation and after several tie-breakers, three teams had each won a big check for $20,000 to be divided evenly between teammates. Brian Rodriguez and Luis Salazar from Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High won in the health category for their plan to help employers improve their workers’ mental health and increase productivity. In the environmental category, Jonathan Wong from School for Advanced Studies-Kendall and Luis Garcia-Sarabia from Coral Reef Senior High won for their plan to conserve the oceans by converting storm runoff and sewage into fuel.

The Gables High team of Maria Estrada and Cristian Ochoa won for their social project, Closing the Opportunity Gap, a college mentorship program for minority students. “I am so grateful,” said Maria. “Hopefully more M-DCPS students will be encouraged to apply to college. Education should be accessible to everyone, regardless of your socioeconomic status.” The remaining students did not leave empty-handed. Thanks to an appeal from Carvalho at the event, community partners Toyota of North Miami and the Miami Dolphins organization made sure every participant walked out with a cash prize.

The challenge will return next year. “We’ve created something that will have a strong and positive impact here in Miami-Dade and beyond. Receiving the Green-Garner Award from the Council gave us the impetus to go forward and develop this exciting challenge,” said Carvalho. “The students showed up with some phenomenal ideas that inspired all of us in attendance.”

Providing Mental Health Services to Our Students


Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) meets the needs of its children in mind, body and soul. This past year, mental health services were enhanced with a $7.8 million investment and the creation of its own department, including the hiring of 30 professionals to quickly identify students in need of mental health and psychiatric evaluation.

Established in July 2018, the Department of Mental Health Services aims to provide mental health and wellness focused services that promote our student's social-emotional development, prevent development of mental health challenges and address social-emotional problems that currently exist. The school district understands the value of allowing students to express and explore their emotions as well as giving parents the necessary tools to discuss their child’s feelings and concerns.

Various initiatives, safeguards and precautionary measures were implemented during the 2018-2019 school year to increase resources available. M-DCPS partnered with The Children’s Trust to employ 40 additional mental health providers to assist schools. Through this partnership, the District was also assisted by Community Health of South Florida, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, Citrus Health Network, Borinquen Medical Center, Jessie Trice Community Health, and University of Miami.

New students registering must report previous mental health issues so schools can follow up and ensure necessary support and services are provided. All schools have a Mental Health Team that is available to discuss students who may need a referral for mental health services and direct these students to school and community resources. In addition, every school has a Threat Assessment Team that investigates and assesses potential threats.

School site teachers and staff participated in the National Council of Behavioral Health/Youth Mental Health First Aid Training, a program designed for adults who regularly interact with adolescents that teaches the risk factors and warning signs of a variety of mental health challenges.

Additional programs are being developed to support efforts to identify, report and prevent bullying, provide sensitivity training in the areas of race, gender, socio- economic status, linguistic differences and disability; and provide a culture of respect. At M-DCPS, we are dedicated to promoting our student's social-emotional and academic well-being through the provision of the highest quality of school and community comprehensive, evidence-based mental health services. For more information, visit mentalhealthservices.dadeschools.net.

iNspiration @MDCPS


Generous, courageous, talented, independent, and filled with a survivor’s spirit: these are the words that come to mind when describing this M-DCPS student.

Name: Peterson Exais

School:12th grade student at New World School of the Arts (NWSA)

Accomplishments: At nine years of age, Peterson was pulled from the rubble four days after the collapse of a building during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and had to undergo several lifesaving surgeries. With the assistance of his plastic surgeon (now mentor and guardian), Dr. Chad Perlyn, Peterson’s transition to life in Miami posed challenges. Amid this tragedy, the discovery of dance became the transformative force that lead this young man to the threshold of a new life. Today, Peterson is healthy! He lives for the arts and enjoys sharing his gift with others. He volunteers teaching dance to children, ages 3-12, at a community center in North Miami Beach. His love of helping others has led him to begin a calling as an immigration reform activist; being interviewed by various media outlets in 2017 about the subject while he was a guest of the Latin Grammys and performing as a backup dancer for the artist Alejandro Sanz.

Fun facts about Peterson:

  • He discovered dance on YouTube while convalescing from one of his many surgeries and it became his motivation and passion.
  • On many occasions in the hallways of NWSA, Peterson could be found helping fellow dancers learn moves or prep for a show.
  • He was awarded a highly coveted scholarship to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater summer intensives for two summers in a row.

iNspiration @MDCPS


This inspirational, talented and hardworking teacher marches to the beat of her own drum to ensure that her students succeed.

Name: Jennifer Jimenez

Occupation: Director of Band at South Miami Senior High

Accomplishments: Jennifer Jimenez was named one of only six winners in the nation of the 2019 Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards. This award spotlights some of the country’s most inspirational teachers and recognizes them for their contributions. Under her leadership, the Cobra Marching Band has consistently placed in the top 10 in the state and won best in class percussion and visual effect multiple times, and more recently, won 2nd place overall in 2018. Jimenez works tirelessly for her students. She wrote a grant for Mr. Holland’s Opus and her school was named a National Grant Recipient for $60,000 worth of instruments in the Fall of 2015. She also earned a position for South Miami students to perform in Carnegie Hall and raised over $30,000 in donations to cover expenses for students on free/reduced lunch.

Fun facts about Jennifer:

  • Her band students have been broadcast nationally, performing in the Super Bowl with Queen Latifah and Carrie Underwood.
  • An avid rock climber, Jimenez started the only rock-climbing club for students in M-DCPS when she taught at West Miami Middle School.
  • Jimenez is a percussionist with the Miami Symphony and can be seen performing at the Arsht Center many weekends from October-April.


image Total work completed or under contract to modernize our schools, made possible by the 2012 $1.2B General Obligation Bond, is approaching $800 million.
image M-DCPS The Shop provides deserving students with their prom essentials, free of charge with the help of our sponsors, to ensure picture-perfect memories.
image Over 300 students danced their hearts out during the annual prom for students with Autism, completely free of charge, due to the generosity of our local M-DCPS businesses and partnerships.
image Hundreds of young leaders were given the opportunity to meet several industry professionals from companies throughout Miami-Dade County and ensure they are career ready during the annual Mega NAF Conference.
image There are no limits in the abilities of our students! Parents, teachers, friends and family stride with confidence during the Superintendent’s 5K Race for Education.
image Students are celebrated during the I Can Do It, You Can Do It Awards, as they share their special talents and abilities after remaining physically active throughout several weeks.

iChoose M-DCPS




Southwest Miami Senior High

Ana VeigaMilton, Engineer, Attorney, Philanthropist and President of the José Milton Foundation


“Coming to a school like Southwest Senior High, where I was able to take AP Physics, AP Chemistry and AP Computers, which was a brand new program back then, really opened my eyes and made me think more globally”.


Miami-Dade County Public Schools
1450 NE 2 Avenue
Miami, Florida 33132

Copyright © 2019
All rights reserved.

Daisy Gonzalez-Diego
Denise Landman
Vanessa Lopez

Gabriella Acosta
Jackie Calzadilla
Hilda Diaz
Daiva Fernandez
John Schuster

Ruben Gomez
Arturo Verdecia