Charter School Bust Print
Written by Jay Beskin, BT Contributor   
July 2017

When the school board rewrites the script, who gets to play hero?

A Pix_JayBeskin_7-17screenwriter friend told me some years ago that the surefire way to get a script noticed is to write one featuring a person in an odd occupation. Postmen, plumbers, accountants, grocers -- not so interesting for film.

Get me the groundskeeper at a ballpark, the tollbooth lady on the George Washington Bridge, the window washer on a scaffold on the 90th floor, the lady who re-creates facial features of murder victims by piecing together fragments of smashed skulls. Now, those are interesting.

But the absolute worst, boredom personified, the most been-there-done-that is the attorney.

Puh-leez, no more lawyers…no more pompous, strutting preening, sonorous blowhards…er, well, enough quoting of my ex-friend.

(Note to self: The window washer peers through the blinds into the office on the 90th floor. He always wondered what they do in there. A lot of copying machines, but he rarely sees people in the room. Today a man and woman are embracing. Wait, he recognizes the man. It’s Ralph Mill, the man wanted for killing his wife, who’s been on the run for weeks, his image on every TV screen. And he’s hiding here in a skyscraper! Oh, the woman turns and she is…could it be? She’s Lieutenant Calandrio, the detective in charge of the case. She’s supposed to be chasing him, and it turns out they’re actually lovers. What to do? They have no idea he’s seen them.…)

Well, if I can’t play off my law career to write a blockbuster movie and make untold millions, how about my years on the Aventura City Commission? Now that’s a great idea! No, I am not actively a commissioner anymore but I can still scout the current commission’s agenda for a dramatic episode. Once I find the right story, there’s nothing to stop me from painting the heroic commissioner in… er, familiar shades. And if the actor -- say, Kevin Spacey -- resembles me a little, who am I to interfere with art?

Which brings us to the story of the charter high school, soon to open at a homey small South Florida burg near you, a city that fashions itself as “exclusive with a big heart.” (No, that is not my line, and no, I will not tell you whose line it is.) Our beloved Aventura has a Spanish name meaning “adventure,” and a lot of liberal voters, but it also has a slight tendency to open doors slowly when outsiders knock for admission.

So the Aventura charter elementary and middle schools have a degree of preference; as the guidelines remind us in block letters: “Please note, applicants who maintain a current homestead exemption on property outside the city of Aventura will not be eligible to receive Aventura residency preference.”

Now, with a charter high school firmly decided, the question was whether locals with children who attended the charter elementary and middle schools would have first dibs to apply for the high school, or whether a lottery system should include all applicants equally. The commission was set to decide this weighty question.

I no longer have a vote to cast, as indicated above, but I could still adopt a current commissioner as my proxy for the feature film, tentatively titled In Commission. (I know nobody says that, but how else do you say the opposite of Out of Commission?) For dramatic purposes, we would like the vote to be close, so our hero can be the swing voter, with the hopes of all the youthful aspirants to education in the City of Excellence riding on his courage. He alone would stand tall, immune to the blandishments of the political donors, impervious to the social pressures of the in-crowd, and deliver a small speech before announcing his historic choice.

“This is not about me, friends. In fifty and a hundred years from now, I may be long forgotten. But it is our solemn obligation as a society to harvest the human potential of all segments of society, not only those wealthy enough at one random moment in time.

“The cure for cancer may be in the mind and heart of a young boy or girl who does not live in a waterfront penthouse, and we must not forgo the privilege of fanning that spark of genius through education we can provide.

“I vote yes. Yes to openness, yes to inclusion, yes to our dreams, yes to our future. Yes to the little boy from Liberty City, yes the little girl from El Portal. Bring your young mind and your young heart and your young soul, and bring your…espiritu de Aventura!”

As Kevin Spacey takes his seat after his oration amid a rousing ovation, we all reflect on the very special privilege of being a city commissioner, making important decisions close to home in a truly democratic forum. This is what the founders intended, my friends, this refreshing image of active and -- dare I say it -- activist citizenship, opening hearts and opening doors. All this Oscar buzz may be premature, but the rousing moment will live in our hearts forevermore.

Eh, what’s this? The city commission will not be allowed to vote on this after all? At the very last minute, without city commissioners, the city attorney, and city manager having the slightest clue, the Miami-Dade school board swoops in and imposes its will upon the city and demands that admission be determined by lottery.

What a noiv! Who do these people think they are, usurping the prerogatives of local denizens who know every street corner in our beloved hometown? They get to sit up there all high and mighty talking down to us, dismissing us as rubes? Or worse, implying that we’re a bunch of effete elitist snobs who wouldn’t open our doors until they were pried open by a higher authority?

What a disgusting display of abuse of power, of political bullying, by a bunch of heartless creeps who presume to decide for us what we need!

Ugh, there goes the feature film. Kevin doesn’t even bother to wave on his way out the door. We had our chance to be heroes, to be the nice guys. We would have made the right call -- of course we would have.

We’re not the selfish ones, those guys are! All we are left with are sour grapes, unfunded mandates, an unfair aura hung over our heads by the guys who stole our thunder (metaphors hopelessly mixed by this point), and the red carpet pulled from beneath our feet.


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