Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

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

Business Briefs

FLORIDA KEYS — Monroe County is allowing recreational vehicles to be used as temporary housing on properties damaged by Hurricane Irma.

MIAMI — The Institute of Contemporary Art Miami will open in the city’s Design District in December, in a 37,500-sq.-ft., threestory building. Bostonbased construction company Suffolk Construction will launch one of its Smart Lab incubators in the city; it will nurture construction-industry technologies and innovations. Startup Home61 has raised $5.3 million and will expand from Miami- Dade and Broward counties to Chicago, Houston and Phoenix. The company’s platform helps real estate agents schedule viewings, access notes and analytics, streamline the contracts process and automate other administrative work. Legaltechnology startup Court Buddy hit the $1-million mark in seed funding, making cofounder Kristina Jones one of only 14 African- American women in the country to raise $1 million or more in venture capital (her husband James Jones cofounded the company). Startup DermaSensor, which is developing a hand-held device for checking people’s skin for cancer, recently secured $2 million in financing; it has raised $4.45 million to date, and its device is in clinical trials in the U.S. and Europe. Maurice Ferré, founder and former CEO of Mako Surgical, founded DermaSensor in 2009. Automotive and motorsport digital platform Motorsport Network acquired German online motorsport media company Sport Media Group.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY — The county will become the 12th location served by microlending organization Grameen America, which provides loans to female entrepreneurs.

  • Lennar will pay up to $13,000 toward a home buyer’s student loan debt if the buyer gets the mortgage from Lennar’s Eagle Home Mortgage subsidiary.

NORTH MIAMI — Turnberry Associates and LeFrak secured a $101-million loan to begin construction of SoLeMia Miami, a 183- acre mixed-use development that has been in the works for years.

SOUTH MIAMI — Baptist Health South Florida completed its merger with Boynton Beachbased Bethesda Health, creating the largest health care system in south Florida.

  • Costa Farms (maker of CuraLeaf) opened its first medical marijuana store, in the Dadeland area; it is the second marijuana operation to open in Miami-Dade County.


  • George Feldenkreis stepped down as executive chairman of clothing retailer Perry Ellis. Feldenkreis remains on its board. J. David Scheiner, former president of Macy’s Florida/ Puerto Rico, became the non-executive chairman.
  • Tom Wolber joined Crystal Cruises as CEO, replacing Edie Rodriguez.
  • Content management software company dotCMS hired Ralph Miller as CEO. He had been CEO of digital agency Authentic.
  • Gulliver Schools hired Clifton L. Kling in the newly created position of president and CEO; he had been president of Jackson Academy in Mississippi.

Innovation: On the Grid

The company Jason Doyle co-founded, Gridics (short for Grid Analytics) created an app that lets city planners, developers, architects and others visualize in a 3-D format what can be built on a specific parcel of land. Zonar.City uses a city’s zoning regulations — from setbacks to height limits — and can incorporate property records and other pertinent data. In October, the company used its software to generate 3-D images of six development sites in downtown Miami that meet Amazon’s real estate requirements for a second headquarters. This spring, the city of Miami signed a oneyear contract for Zonar.City. Subscriptions cost about $250 a month per user. -Doreen Hemlo


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