Multi-Year Disaster at Neva King Cooper Educational Center, Part One

As this is my first post, an introduction is in order.


Homestead Public School-Neva King Cooper School. U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Photo: Wikipedia.

My name is Bill Detzner. In June 2015, I retired from a 30 year career as a special education teacher with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS). I spent the last 25 years of my career teaching at Neva King Cooper (NKC) a public school exclusively for profoundly mentally retarded students with IQ’s of 25 and below.

During my career, I was selected as my school’s teacher of the year. I served as my school’s union steward (United Teachers of Dade (UTD))  for 10 years and I was a department head.

During the 2011-2012, school year, NKC attempted to exercise its legal option to convert from a public school to a charter school.

MDCPS smashed this attempt using tactics that a court of law ( the case number is Florida DOAH 13-1492) ruled to be illegal reprisal and abuse of authority.

I have written a very lengthy blog about how MDCPS smashed this charter school conversion attempt and the series of actions taken by MDCPS over the past 5 years against the staff of NKC that appear to be retaliatory in nature. That information can be accessed at My postings on this site will present the contents of my blog in shorter segments.

NKC serves students between the ages of 3-22. The goal of NKC special education teachers  is for some of those students to attend a sheltered workshop  after graduation from school. Students who cannot be placed into sheltered workshops are sometimes placed in group homes. Sadly, the curriculum my school has been using for the last 5 years, the Unique Learning System (ULS) will greatly reduce the number of students we place into sheltered workshops after graduation. (I will discuss this further later on in the blog.) Special needs adults take enormous pride in earning a paycheck and doing meaningful work. A special needs student cannot be placed into a sheltered workshop unless he or she is toilet trained, relatively free of maladaptive behaviors, and able to remain on-task to perform repetitive tasks.

Up until 5 years ago, the Neva King Cooper school’s curriculum was tailored to help students achieve these goals. Most of our students are not toilet trained when they come to our school. They also exhibit many maladaptive behaviors, and an inability to remain on-task for long periods of time. Up until the last 5 years, our curriculum placed a very heavy emphasis on toilet training, extinguishing maladaptive behaviors, and replacing them with more socially acceptable behaviors, and a vocational program  involving horticultural and other activities designed to increase on-task behavior in repetitive tasks.  With the permission of MDCPS, our staff developed its own curriculum, which we call the Small Step Curriculum (SSC), based on the concept of task analysis. Task analysis breaks complex tasks into a series of simple sequential steps. If a person performs all of the simple steps in the correct order, the complex task is achieved.

Up until 5 years ago, our staff achieved great success using task analysis to teach our students complex self-help tasks such as washing their hands and faces, brushing their teeth, combing their hair, dressing themselves (or assisting in dressing themselves) (this task was done while changing students to participate in our on-site swimming pool program), toileting, and feeding themselves. People who have suffered a stroke who can no longer independently perform these basic self-help skills suffer an enormous loss in self-esteem. Special needs children who master these skills experience a great deal of joy and pride in themselves when they succeed in learning these basic self-help skills.

I believe that the need for accomplishment is a universal human need. (I will discuss this further later on).

RELATED ARTICLE: Lawsuit – Miami-Dade School Board Violated Free Speech by Shutting Down Charter School Bid

EDITORS NOTE: The Neva King Cooper Educational Center is a historic school in Homestead, Florida. It is part of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools district. The school serves students with mental disabilities. The school was built in 1914 as the Homestead Public School and designed by August Geiger. In 1934 it was renamed the Neva King Cooper School. On December 4, 1985, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The property is part of the Homestead Multiple Property Submission, a Multiple Property Submission to the National Register.

1 reply
  1. Kay Nichols
    Kay Nichols says:

    Bill this is a huge issue..I teach life skills and we too use the UNIQUE system here in my FL county …I’ve bee a special ed teacher 25 years and agree with what you are saying….We are skipping the basics that need to be taught and behavioral strategies and having them build pyramids …Really? My son is very smart but severely autistic ..He had almost died 5x here in Naples as he would get out of the schools here and none could find him,,,I knew he needed a “village home setting” and a “ESE Center School” or possibly a Autism Charter
    There is NOTHING here where we have lived for 20 years as far as SAFE group homes or “ESE center schools” (only 3 left in the state now) We needed help..I looked throughout the state and found the Sunrise Campus in Redlands/Homestead … I liked it because he needs a “campus like village” which it was the ONLY ONE like it I could find..Im told its the last of its kind as the gov thinks “homes” in neighborhoods are better for these kids and adults which is BullS.. Its all about money…These kids adults need a secure village or they could get killed…
    My son would run out the door and get hit by a car if he wasn’t on a “campus type “community home.
    Anyway at 10 years old about 4 years ago we placed him at the Sunrise Community Inc. the Redlands/Homestead Campus….I had researched Neva King and It came highly recommended by Sunrise Community Inc. staff for small class size and more one to one,,,,He has been there for 4 years ….I must say I LOVE the teachers ..He has had Ms. Carla and Ms. Gonzalez and now has Mr. Jesse Leon (since he’s in 9th grade high school)….We communicate often and Thomas seems mediocre happy but like I said …hes still not potty trained (hes 14) He was when he was here and had behavior therapy.
    I know the staff has their hands tied but I also know he can do so much more than I feel hes getting…hes pointing to pec at school but he can use talking programs on my laptop at home….the “Unique” projects he makes of volcanoes and the digestive system I now his teacher works hard to get them to do these but honestly Im thinking WTH? Like Thomas prob has no clue what he just made and could care less…what about teaching them skills so they can grow plants garden or social skills soccer with a giant ball..that’s another pet peeve of mine ..they need to exercise more there @ Neva.. Get the kids to run (if they are not in wheelchairs ) learn to play a structured activity…soccer with a giant soccer ball…teach them to do jumping jacks if they get stressed/bored..(self regulate techniques) then they will focus better in class and can use at a job or in the world….I don’t want Thomas “sorting cans”when he graduate..He has potential that needs to be tapped into now ..he loves to cook…help on farms…and sports…but all these must be taught with constant exposure….My plan is to buy some land down there and start a farm/ranch for these special kids and adults to work at when they graduate and before..I also started a non profit which I need to get up and running over there (Autism sports behavioral fitness ) as sports help these kids (all kids)a lot ..they need exercise and they want to “fit in” and be proud of completing something they love….So my question , since youve been in that area for 25 years is ..If your son was 13 (now in 9th grade @ Neva King) named Thomas (send you a pic..may have seen him) what school would you try to get him in having severe autism yet VERY smart in many ways with correct motivation( hes a giant sweet “passive aggressive”teddy bear ..passively stubborn..wont do something he thinks is kid but that is looked at as a neg even though that to me that is intelligence) This is confidential between you and me …I just REALLY need your help as I don’t know the area or the schools ..he needs small classes BUT he needs skills he can be productive at something as an adult…he also LOVES cooking!!


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