Commissioner Seeks Volunteers To Reverse Schools’ Image

BY BUDDY NEVINS

Volunteers can sway an election. 

All that free help!

Volunteers knock on doors. They wave signs at polling places. They dial for votes.

Volunteers can, and have, made a difference in politics.

So Plantation Commissioner Nick Sortal, whose election in November 2018 was partially fueled by volunteers, wants to put those free hands to work for local schools. 

Sortel has launched an initiative to encourage Plantation residents with free time to become a school volunteer.

Nick Sortal

There is an economic incentive to Sortal’s idea.

“As I knocked on doors during my campaign, I heard far too many people say they were looking to move as their children grew up. (Real estate professionals can confirm this.),” Sortel wrote in his news release announcing the plan. 

I can also confirm this. I know families who either moved or are seeking to move from Plantation because of the perceived poor quality of some schools. 

The city school’s image problems been going on for at least two decades. 

I have a good friend who worked with me at the Sun-Sentinel. After his daughter experienced a few weeks at Plantation Middle School, he pulled her out and enrolled her in private school.

That was at least 20 years ago. Plantation Middle apparently still has an image problem.

In his news release, Sortal says Plantation Middle is “Ground Zero” for the city’s school problems.

“Data shows that the school has the county’s lowest percentage of in-zone children who actually attend that school (about 55 percent),” he writes.

Thus, about half of the parents whose children are assigned to Plantation Middle send their kids somewhere else. 

That’s astounding. Parents in droves are sending their kids to private schools, religious schools and charters. 

Parents obviously want something more than the public school system offers. Like my journalist friend so many years ago. 

Sortal believes volunteers can help reverse this image. 

His plan would not only help in the classrooms, but turn the volunteers into ambassadors for the schools back in the city’s neighborhoods.

Volunteers definitely can make a difference. In fact, one reason schools in Parkland, Weston and a handful of other communities have good reputations is that they have very active parent volunteers.

“I am making this request now, with the understanding that your application takes time to review,” Sortal writes. “You’ll need your driver’s license (because they’ll run a background check), about 10 minutes to navigate through the form, and a little bit of patience, because the questions are detailed.

“Through all my conversations, I’ve learned that there is no magic solution – and the only momentum we can muster for those schools is whatever we generate ourselves,” Sortal writes.

“It’s on us,” he concludes.

Will Sortal’s plan work? 

As many have noted: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

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Go to BrowardSchools.com/volunteer and register for the 2019-20 school year. Nick Sortal is president pro tem of the Plantation City Council. Email him at NickSortal@BellSouth.net.

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(Personal disclosure: Nick Sortal and his wife, Robyn Feldman Sortal, both worked with me for decades at the Sun-Sentinel.

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7 Responses to “Commissioner Seeks Volunteers To Reverse Schools’ Image”

  1. Linda & Tom says:

    We are pleased that Nick is our neighbor. He is a real asset for our town. This is a wonderful idea. Both of our children attended pubic schools in Plantation and became skilled professionals. Involved parents are the key to improvement in local schools. Thanks Nick. Thanks Buddy.

  2. True Patriot says:

    Great idea Commissioner.! The first community member you should enlist is Keith Koenig. He lives around the corner from the Plantation.Middle and so do his children and grandchildren who go to private school. He proclaims to be a “big supporter” of the Broward County Public Schools. I wouldn’t hold my breathe waiting for him to actually do anything other than proclaim though.

  3. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    All about image. PR won’t change reality which is what needs attention. Volunteers who see what needs to be changed will be blackballed and denigrated. It’s what’s wrong with Broward.

  4. A reader says:

    Charlotte is absolutely correct. School cultures are rarely open constructive criticism. Administrators tend to be extremely territorial.

    However, positive change can happen if volunteers “stay in their lane” and work with students one on one.

    It is refreshing to hear from a politician who is speaking up for a public school.

  5. Nick Sortal says:

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. Charlotte, I agree that it goes beyond PR. The product needs adjusting. I’m suggesting that if we flood the school with volunteers, the performance will go up. But, hey, this is a huge challenge. FYI, Buddy broke the story before my post was made public. Here is the link — but comments are still better off under Buddy’s site. https://nicksortal.com/plantation-schools/

  6. Changingcolor says:

    I recently worked on a campaign in plantation. I was blown away about the programs in the schools. I was also blown are at the large population of black students attending the plantation schools. I used an inside source to get some data. All the Plantation schools big learning gains. Perhaps the issue is not the schools but parents choosing to send their kids to other schools like Nova who is an A school but has low learning gains. It doesn’t work for some of us when most of the kids in the school are black. We send our kids elsewhere. It’s our choice

  7. Chaz Stevens, Genius says:

    @6

    Yeah right! Maybe those colored children can go back to where they came from!….

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