Emerging Elitism

American Heritage School survives despite near financial collapse, angry neighbors, and a questionable relationship with a Plantation politician

The letter praised Laurie for having been "very cooperative" in working out Miller's concerns about the construction of the performing arts center. "Mr. Bill Laurie and I have been working together to successfully buffer my property from the school," Miller wrote. "I believe that the approval of the conceptual master site plan would not be detrimental to the area."

The letter reflected a 180-degree change in attitude for Miller. A year earlier, at a March 5, 1997, city council meeting, Miller had opposed any further expansion of the school, complaining that foliage the school had planted as a buffer "does not reduce the noise."

What Miller's 1998 letter to the council failed to mention was that Miller and Laurie at the time were also working together to successfully sell Miller's house to the school. The sale of the house was closed on May 18, shortly after which Laurie moved in. So now Laurie lives across the street from Szary, who, when the center is built, will presumably be able to look out her front door and see its rear wall looming over the neighborhood.

Driving around the property in his golf cart, Bill Laurie is proudly pointing out how he turned an empty lot into a beautifully landscaped running track. From the north come the sounds of workmen milling about the $3 million field house, which will hold a state-of-the-art gymnasium and coaches' offices. They're just laying the interior tile. To the east is the now-empty lot where the performing arts center will stand.

The conversation turns to the future. Is there anything he can think of that this campus needs but doesn't have? Is there anything yet to build? Laurie sits silently for a while, then his answer comes: "No, I can't really think of a thing. With the performing arts center, we'll have about everything we need."

And with the science building, the clock tower, the performing arts center, the running track, the field house, and the myriad new classrooms, the campus has pretty much filled up anyway. If he wanted to build anything else, he'd have to find a new campus.

This summer Laurie and a partner formed a new corporation based in Miramar. He seems surprised when asked about it. "Oh that," he says. It turns out that he's been thinking about creating another elementary school to serve as a supplement or eventual replacement for the elementary school currently on the Plantation campus. "I think eventually we could have several campuses," he says. None of them, of course, would have palm trees.

Contact Paul Belden at his e-mail address: Paul_Belden@newtimesbpb.com

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