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January 17, 2018
School of thought: Codina Partners takes a novel approach to its charter school

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Nearly 800 students attend Downtown Doral Elementary, which offers a bilingual education. The kindergarten- through- fifth- grade school will add sixth grade next year.

Miami-Dade Roundup

School of thought: Codina Partners takes a novel approach to its charter school

When Codina Partners planned its $1-billion-plus Downtown Doral community, it envisioned a topnotch school as a centerpiece to draw residents and businesses. To create the Downtown Doral Charter Elementary School, the company forged a novel arrangement with the Miami-Dade school district.

Typically, when a non-profit group and its board of directors get permission from a school district to operate a charter school, the group either operates the school itself — typically in privately leased space — or turns to an outside company to manage it.

Codina donated more than three acres to the school district in exchange for certain credits. It helped set up the charter school as a nonprofit. The non-profit group leased back the land from the district and issued $21.85 million in bonds for construction and other payments. And then it hired the school district as the education services provider and manager.

The arrangement gave Codina flexibility in how it built the school, since charter schools aren’t subject to onerous school building regulations. And the non-profit board retains overall responsibility for the charter school meeting its educational goals. The district, for its part, handles the school’s day-to-day operations and gets a management fee.

The school, which opened in August of 2015, ranks among Miami- Dade’s best in student achievement. Parents are required to volunteer 20 hours per year.

Jeannette Acevedo-Isenberg, Downtown Doral Charter’s head of school, says the school benefits from the increased autonomy of charter schools, valuable input from a diverse non-profit board that includes business leaders, plus the hefty support services of the public school district, including ample professional development programs for teachers.

In November, Acevedo-Isenberg became the first charter school head to earn Florida’s top leadership award for principals. Codina Partners’ CEO Ana-Marie Codina Barlick, who is on the charter school’s board, says Codina Group plans to partner with the school district to open a high school, likely in 2019.

-- Doreen Hemlock

Tags: Miami-Dade, Education

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