Dade County Chooses Local Designs In Its Competition for'Saturn Schools'
By Ann Bradley
The Dade County, Fla., school board last week approved five proposals for new elementary schools--all developed by local educators--that were selected from a nationwide competition for innovative ideas.
The fact that proposals by Dade County teachers, administrators, and education-school faculty members were chosen over those submitted by outside groups "should not be misinterpreted to mean that the door is not open in Dade County," said Frank R. Petruzielo, associate superintendent for the district's bureau of professionalization.
Two out-of-state proposals, one of which is from a private firm in Minneapolis, are being considered for an elementary school in Miami Beach, he added. But school-district officials were not yet ready to recommend either proposal.
The "Saturn Schools Project" will continue to solicit proposals nationwide for the 43 other schools that will be built over the next seven years to relieve severe overcrowding, Mr. Petruzielo said.
Of the 36 proposals received by the district, 23 came from outside the school district, and 13 were from within, Mr. Petruzielo said.
Emphasis on Restructuring
"We reviewed them all with the same criteria and picked absolutely the best proposals," he said. "And we think any objective observer would have come to the same conclusion."
Local educators may have had an advantage, he noted, because they are accustomed to the district's emphasis on restructuring.
"I was a little disappointed with the fact that some of the proposals from across the country were not up to the caliber we expected them to be," said Pat L. Tornillo, executive vice president of the United Teachers of Dade.
The tight time frame for developing the detailed plans also may have affected the submission of high-quality proposals from outside the district, Mr. Petruzielo noted.
The district issued its request for proposals in August, and plans were due Oct. 27.
In the future, requests for proposals will be issued a full year to 14 months before each school is due to be completed, he added.
The teams that submitted proposals for the schools were required to include a mission statement; a description of the architectural structure needed to complement the program; a proposed curriculum; plans for selecting and allocating faculty members; a description of how students would be organized; a model for shared decisionmaking; and an explanation of the resources and schedule necessary for the school.
'Idea Bank' Planned
A committee made up of school district and teachers' union representatives selected the proposals approved last week.
The board also approved transfers for the teachers and principals who designed the new schools to administer and staff them.
The district plans to ask teams whose plans were not chosen for permission to submit their proposals to a "Saturn Schools idea bank" that others may draw upon, Mr. Petruzielo said.
The five proposals approved last week include:
An ungraded school.
A school that encourages teachers to do their own research and provides them with individual work areas.
A "discovery" school that will emphasize community work and field trips.
A school in an area populated predominantly by an immigrant Hispanic community that will emphasize multicultural and bilingual studies.
A school that will function as a "center for applied knowledge" for the University of Miami.
The school board did not approve a proposal for a magnet high school for architecture and design. Instead, the board directed its staff to consult with members of the local design community and modify the specifications for the school based on their concerns. The competition for such a magnet will then be reopened locally.