Opening Doors for Students…

Keith Ward made a very special delivery to Miami Edison High School this year. He dropped off tickets for 100 fortunate students and 10 chaperones to attend a special production of the Florida Grand Opera’s Julius Caesar.  Mr. Ward saved a ticket for himself to attend the performance and enjoy this remarkable evening with the Edison students.

For the students, these were more than opera tickets.  They were a passport to cultural and educational experiences and a window into that world—not just a night at the theatre.  Before the evening, the students immersed themselves in opera, history, the Classics and Shakespeare to fully appreciate the performance and expand their knowledge.

Mr. Ward graduated from Edison High in 1976 and is a special supporter of the school.  He partners with Edison High School through the Council for Educational Change Executive PASS model. Until her recent promotion, he worked with Edison Principal Dr. Jean Teal, and now partners with new Principal Lavette Hunter. Executive PASS pairs business leaders with principals to work on focused school improvement—doable deeds—and empowering leadership..

COMMUNITY & EDUCATIONAL ACTIVIST
A Miami-Dade native, he founded Quality Management North America Inc., a real estate investment and management firm.  Prior to establishing this firm, Mr. Ward earned a law degree from Harvard and was an Assistant to Senator Claude Pepper.  His passion, however, was community betterment and over the last twenty years, his firm has rehabilitated multifamily properties, increasing the market value and quality of life in under served areas of Miami-Dade County.  His advocacy, including for quality education, was inspired by his mother, a Miami-Dade teacher and father, a Miami police officer.  Both stressed the importance of community service.

Since October of 2007, Mr. Ward has worked with Edison’s instructional team to raise student achievement and offer students opportunities to expand their horizons through cultural activities. Mr. Ward is particularly adept at uniting and interconnecting the staff and parents to support increased student success.  He insists on high expectations for students and staff, and this is reflected in his Executive PASS activities. He believes in tangible goals and measuring outcomes.  He believes in students.

He also believes in the power of leadership to transform education. “Leadership is where it starts and ends,” says Mr. Ward.  “That’s why Executive PASS has a special appeal for me and many members of the business community as well.  It is a leader-to-leader program—a true partnership.”  Executive PASS has spread to three counties, Miami-Dade, Orange and Hillsborough, and is now active in 40 schools.  Executive PASS is one of the Council’s leadership development programs that focuses on business-education partnership and collaboration between the corporate and education sectors. Council leadership development programs garnered nearly $4 million from donors for programs benefiting Miami-Dade schools, school leaders and students.  Executive PASS is also supported by the South Florida Youth Foundation which was created, and is directed by Council Board member Karen Fryd.

“The students are amazing,” Mr. Ward said.  “This is an inner city school and the students face many challenges, but they share the same dreams and aspirations of all our youth. They want to learn and succeed. They just need someone to care and support them. My goal is to connect students to enriching experiences and a wider world to expand their knowledge and spark their imagination.”

The outreach programs of the Florida Grand Opera, Arsht Center, New  World Symphony and the district’s Parent Academy have enabled Edison students to broaden their learning environment and cultural horizons.  Mr. Ward made it possible for students to attend the Russian National Orchestra and a London Philharmonic concert.  He brought the band director and seven band members to a New World Symphony performance.  (Mr. Ward is a former Edison band Drum Major.)