Fall 2009 Issue

Doug Rodriguez ’88

To kick off his second year as principal of Miami Central Senior High School, Doug Rodriguez ’88 held the school’s first ever welcome back barbecue for more than 1,000 students and parents.

“It’s a community event to get the school year off on the right foot and invite parents into the school to see what we’re doing,” says Rodriguez, who was handpicked by the Miami-Dade County Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho in December of 2008 to turn around the long-troubled high school.

In his first year as principal, Rodriguez improved the school’s FCAT scores by 42 points, elevating its state ranking from an F to a D which saved Miami Central from being closed by the Florida Department of Education.

This year Rodriguez has instituted a dual enrollment program in partnership with Florida International University. Students who meet certain grade requirements can take courses and earn college credits. If they participate in the program throughout their junior and senior years they can earn a full year of college credits.

In a school where more than 90 percent of the students come from low-income families and where the graduation rate stands at 56 percent, the opportunity to earn college credits is invaluable, Rodriguez says.

“Once they take these courses they realize not only are they capable but they can actually succeed at a very high rate,” he says. “It makes them more competitive when they apply to colleges.”

Rodriguez’s efforts to increase the opportunities available to his students go beyond the classrooms. Several times a month he attends church services in the community where the pastors allow him to speak directly to the families of his students.

“This is another way for me to pull the parents in and the more they’re involved the better the kids will do,” he says. “We’re willing to do whatever we can, no matter what it is, to make sure they succeed in life. That’s why I took this job.”

In 2008, Rodriguez won both the Florida and Miami-Dade awards for principal of the year.