Mar 6, 2024 - News

School board to discuss opposition to private school project

Centner Academy, a private school in Miami

Centner Academy. Photo: Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Miami-Dade County School Board could soon vote to "formally support" an effort to terminate a controversial 2022 land deal between the city of Miami and a private school.

  • The proposal, brought by member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, will be discussed by the board Wednesday ahead of a March 13 approval vote.

Catch up quick: In 2022, officials scrapped a 2019 plan to move the public magnet school iPrep Academy and build workforce housing for teachers and a park for public school students on one of the city's largest undeveloped plots of land.

  • The city instead made a deal with David and Leila Centner, who operate the private school Centner Academy, to build an indoor athletic facility on the site.
  • That deal came under scrutiny when former Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla was arrested for allegedly accepting money from the couple in exchange for permission to build the complex.
  • The Centners have not been charged.

Why it matters: Bendross-Mindingall's item is a rare example of the school board weighing in on issues concerning other governing bodies.

  • While the board has been ''sensitive to opining" on other bodies' business, it interjects "where appropriate" in matters that could impact students and families, member Steve Gallon III told Axios. He supports Bendross-Mindingall's proposal.

State of play: The Miami City Commission's March 14 meeting will be the third time it will take up the push to terminate the Centner deal.

  • In January, the proposal — brought by Commissioner Miguel Angel Gabela, who defeated Díaz de la Portilla after running on an anti-corruption campaign — was deferred after allies of the deal urged the commission to dismiss the effort.
  • The commission deferred it a second time last month after a contingent of iPrep Academy parents, who formed the group Public Land for Public Schools, showed support for nullifying the deal.

Bottom line: No official votes are taken during committee meetings like Wednesday's, but the initial conversation can indicate where board members stand on the issue — and how they'll vote the following week.

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