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Miami-Dade School District Accepting Bids For Management Of WLRN Stations

Sammy Mack

DISCLOSURE: The authors and editors of this article are employees of South Florida Public Media, the nonprofit that operates WLRN News.

The Miami-Dade County school district has opened the bidding process for entities that could manage WLRN public radio and television stations.

Melody Thelwell, chief procurement officer for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, led a meeting Monday to present a nonbinding request for proposal (RFP), which begins the process for organizations and companies to place bids.

“This is something that we’ve never done” she said. “We don’t have a roadmap.”

The school board owns the broadcast licenses for the radio and television stations but has no say over programming. There’s a policy in place to protect the stations’ editorial integrity.

In February, the school district held a 4-hour workshop to consider several optionsfor managing WLRN. The options included: selling the broadcast licenses; strengthening the powers of an existing Community Advisory Board (an entity that offers suggestions on programming); or delegating management authority to a new nonprofit entity.

The RFP, which was released June 24, is a follow-up to that workshop.

The agreement between the successful proposal and the school board will be non-exclusive – meaning more than one management entity could be awarded the RFP. And since it’s nonbinding, the school board could decide to reject all the proposals.

A selection committee made up of members from school district offices, including communications and procurement departments, will oversee the RFP process, according to the Monday meeting.

The RFP is seeking a “media management entity” that has experience running noncommerical stations, dealing with Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate requirements, and managing annual budgets over $10 million.

The management would also have to “exercise best efforts” to continue to employ current staff at WLRN’s radio and television stations.

“This is not something we’re putting out to remove employees,” said Daisy Gonzalez-Diego, chief communications officer for the school district, who was also at the Monday meeting. “It was important to add that in there. This is about protecting employees.”

The proposal calls for a “substantial alignment” with the district’s educational mission. The district’s RFP lists several elements, including additional education programming, expansion of an internship program with MDCPS students and virtual learning.

The deadline to submit a bid is July 25. The district says it expects to make a final decision by August.

You can read the district's full RFP here.

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Alexander Gonzalez is a recent graduate of the University of Miami. He majored in English and was the the editor-in-chief of The Miami Hurricane newspaper from 2014-15. He was WLRN's digital intern during summer 2015. He subscribes to too many podcasts and can't get away from covering the arts in Miami.
Public radio. Public health. Public policy.