Tackling Miami’s education system, private sector style

City-Year-MiamiWith all the progress underway in Miami’s urban core, improving the city’s education infrastructure remains a top priority. Just ask Tere Blanca, who has spent the better part of her career convincing companies from around the world to enter the Miami market and expand here through her work as a commercial real estate executive.

Corporations and the people who run them are getting excited about downtown Miami, according to Blanca. They like the office market dynamics, the cultural and entertainment outlets, the public transit links and the abundance of residential product. But the area’s education system remains a sore spot.

Fortunately there is progress underway. Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is on a mission and there is early evidence that he’s succeeding. Miami’s public schools won the Broad Prize last year for excellence in urban education and the city’s test scores are higher than any other urban school district in the nation.

The private sector is stepping up to do its share as well. Organizations like City Year Miami, the local chapter of one of the country’s largest nonprofits dedicated to improving schools, are working overtime to ensure students have the resources they need to achieve excellence.

City Year Miami launched in 2008 and has since grown to become the nation’s fifth-largest City Year site. The 2013 City Year Miami program involves 203 corps members serving approximately 6,000 students at 17 of Miami’s most challenged public schools.

Tere BlancaThe group’s goal for this year? Securing the financial resources necessary for expanding City Year Miami’s impact to 30 schools as of the start of the 2014-2015 school year.

Sounds ambitious, to be sure. But if anyone can help the group meet its private sector fundraising goals, its Blanca, who recently took over the reins as City Year Miami’s chair for the coming year. Her pitch is straightforward: if you are a company or executive committed to doing business in Miami and if you believe that every student deserves the opportunity to succeed in the public schools, then you must support City Year.

City Year Miami executive director Saif Ishoof puts it this way: “Tere understands the relationship between education and economic progress. Our City’s ability to continue attracting new investment, new companies and new residents hinges on our ability to provide an exceptional education to our children.”