Charter school for Liberty City

ByMargarita Sweeting

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The Urban League of Greater Miami is bringing the KIPP Miami Sunrise Academy (MSA) Charter School to Liberty City as it takes another step toward transforming attitudes about education within the We Rise Educational Village.

The school would be the second attempt by the Urban League to bring a charter school into Miami’s urban core. T. Willard Fair, president and CEO, said this venture is part of the area’s makeover.

“This is the beginning of the transformation of education in that village for the children of Liberty City,” Fair said.

The management of the school falls to KIPP, a national network of nonprofit charter schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia, educating students in pre-K through 12.

MSA will open for the 2018-2019 school year and is now accepting online applications.

Housed within Poinciana Park Elementary School at 6745 NW 23rd Ave., MSA will offer 200 to 300 seats in kindergarten and first grade and is one component of the multi-faceted We Rise initiative designed to address the why behind the lack of success in the targeted area.

“Restoring the value of education, the importance of academic achievement is key to transforming that village,” said Fair. Bringing in the charter school will also allow for “new instructional freedoms in the classrooms” that will add to student success.

The village is a geographical area bounded on the south by Northwest 46th Street, to the north by Northwest 73rd Street, on the west by Northwest 27th Avenue, and on the east by Interstate 95. When identified, this area contained 13 failing schools, which is in part a reflection of the overall attitude in the surrounding environment, Fair said.

“The focus has to be challenging parents and holding parents accountable. The attitudes and values of the parents to whom these children belong must be addressed. We need to empower parents to be advocates for their children,” he said.

The original Liberty City Charter school, which actually was based in El Portal, shut down in 2009.

Fair said the closure was due to legal complications. The Urban League made several improvements to the property to better protect the children. The landlord sued and they were forced to close down the school.

“When we went to court the judge basically said although we were morally right, it was legally wrong. We thought it would be OK because our concern was protecting the children,” Fair said.

MSA Principal Leyla Bravo-Willey is a product of Miami-Dade County Public Schools and a Harvard graduate. Throughout her career, she has been a teacher, a dean of students, and an assistant principal at schools such as the KIPP Infinity Middle School in Harlem, New York. Her goal is to make sure families and school staff feel empowered to grow, learn and achieve their potential.

“Our goal is to give parents in this area more options for education. This may be a great fit for them since there aren’t that many charters in the area,” Bravo said. “Plus, there are no requirements. This is a completely free public charter school open to everyone.”

Although open to everyone, some believe that the addition of a charter school in the area will have a negative impact on schools already suffering from wavering attendance and lack of resources.

“We’re not against charter schools, especially if they’re going to give students the skills they need. But, we know enrollment is down in that area, from that standpoint it does hurt our public schools. Also, charter schools tend to take away from resources earmarked for public schools, and we already have trouble keeping our schools open,” William DC Clark, ICARE (Inner City Alumni for Responsible Education) president said.

Urban League will be doing public service announcements, hanging flyers on doors and holding outreach meetings to recruit for the new charter.

Registrations are being accepted on a first come first serve basis at or call 786-309-7697. If there are more applications than seats, there will be a student lottery, the first of which is scheduled for Feb. 13.