The days of students having no options when it comes to picking a public school to attend are long gone. Between magnet programs and so-called choice programs, parents have an assortment of choices, depending upon the interests of their children.
The deadline to apply for a magnet program in Miami-Dade County is only two weeks away: applications will only be accepted until Jan. 15. Broward’s deadline is in February.
The list of programs is long and varied and can be seen on the Miami-Dade County Public Schools website. Among them is the superb magnet program in performing and visual arts at Norland Middle School in Miami Gardens. It’s been producing talented graduates for 30 years.
“We try to reach the entire child, we want to educate the mind, we want to touch the heart,” said principal Ronald Redmon.
The program has a full marching band, a rarity for middle schools. It has a drama course which regularly wins awards for its first-class productions. The students in it may not even realize how much they’re learning as they rehearse and perform their lines.
“We train them to talk to people, to learn how to speak, to be open and charismatic, all kinds of things,” said drama teacher Tanisha Cidel, noting that those are skills that help in every class and every walk of life. “Basically this program cultivates the talent they already have.”
The magnet program’s dance class is led by an alumnus of the famed Alvin Ailey dance troupe. Rosalyn Sanders says dance gives her students an outlet to flex their creativity, with an emphasis on classic forms.
“The main focus is ballet, ballet is the foundation for all dance so they get really strong ballet training,” Sanders said. “It’s a great way for them to express themselves so they’re not sitting behind a desk all day long.”
Students in the visual arts component are taught by an alumnus of the Norland program.
“I have kids that come in that are extremely naturally talented to kids that I’m working with to what I call workable students that will do well, and I was one of those workable students,” explained Linda Draesel-Atkinson, the art teacher.
The point is that your child does not have to be super-talented to thrive in this program. The objective here is to draw the talent out of the students.
“Every student may not have the God-given ability as other students but we will pull that out, we do it day by day, person by person, second by second so by the time you’re done you’ll be able to do those things you never thought were imaginable,” Redmon said.
Given the right opportunity and a willingness to work, Redmon says the kids at Norland can soar to great heights.