“Education is the Movement from Darkness to Light”

That is the welcoming mural featuring the school mascots of the jaguar and the eagle for Pembroke Pines Charter Middle School in Florida, a national Blue Ribbon School. These students (lower left) personify the campus mission of “Community, Character, and Challenging Curriculum.”  A chance meeting with former Minnesota Lt. Governor Lou Wangberg (lower right) at Governor Al Quie’s 90th birthday party in September resulted in a visit with Lou at the high-performing Pembroke Pines Charter School System in Florida. Lou was a teacher for eight years in the high school of the first (and now largest) municipally-managed charter school system in the nation.

 Pembroke Pines, Florida: A City-Run Charter School System that Works

A true community partnership, Pembroke Pines charter schools are accountable to the Pembroke Pines City Commission (city council). Long-time Mayor Frank Ortis (right), serves the same as a board chair of a charter school board of directors. City Manager Charles Dodge, another long-time city leader, serves as superintendent of schools. This unique charter school board reports to its authorizer, the Broward County Schools.

This community model fascinated me. Mayor Ortis believes their world-class education system is key to the quality of life and economic vitality of Pembroke Pines, a city of about 150,000 people. The campus buildings double as community facilities, including a local college and an Olympic size swimming pool where a local three-time Olympian trains. I love the innovation at all levels here! High school principal Peter L. Bayer has been with the school system since its founding, and has steered the growth of this amazing, results-driven high school. See for yourself!

Florida Charter Schools Conference–Orlando

I visited Pembroke Pines before driving to Orlando for the Florida Charter Schools Conference November 19-21. There I had the pleasure of signing books for conference attendees, courtesy of my sponsor, Hertz Furniture. Here I’m with Alain Pino, Client Relationship Manager for Hertz. I love the Design Center of Hertz Furniture, where they work closely with leaders of charter schools to creatively design the unique nature of each charter school—a complimentary service they provide. I heard several stories from passionate, satisfied clients. I was proud to partner with Hertz Furniture—they are committed to supporting and growing a robust charter sector!