There’s a lot more going on in the Miami Design Ditsrict (MDD) than you might think! Aside from having some of the best restaurants, fashion, and design showrooms in South Florida, the MDD has been home to one of the country’s best design senior high schools for 25 years.
Stacey Mancuso Ed. D is Principal of the Design and Architecture Senior High (DASH), and her career is focused on developing the designers of today and tomorrow. Her leadership has led to great success – this year U.S. News and World Report ranked DASH as the 19th best public high school in the nation (out of 31,242); 3rd best high school in the state of Florida (out of 687); and the 8th best American magnet high school (out of 269).
Her tireless work, support of the Miami Design District’s transformation to a world-class design and fashion destination, and community leadership make her May’s Ambassador.
When did you realize you were interested in becoming an educator?
After art school, I moved to New York to set up a studio and continue working as an artist. I became an adjunct professor to survive, teaching art history and painting. As time progressed, I found that I could maintain a studio and teach which lead me to 40 years as an educator.
How did Design and Architecture High School come to be? Why in the Miami Design District?
Design and Architecture Senior High (DASH) came to be from a Request for Proposals (RFP) from the School Board. A team of educators, led by the first principal of DASH, Jackie Hinchey-Sipes, wrote the initial plan for the school. The school has evolved totally in 24 years.
The School Board purchased the showroom complex on the corner of 39th Street and NE 2nd Avenue and contracted Arquitectonica to transform it into a school. The location is crucial as it is essential that the students be surrounded by the best design in the world. As the students work as interns in the surrounding showrooms, their future is visible to them.
What accomplishments as Principal of DASH are you proudest of?
As principal, I am only as good as the people who surround me. I am proudest of the hard work of the teachers, staff and students of DASH. The work that we do together provides every student at DASH with tremendous opportunities when they move out into the world.
What do you think of the transformation of the Miami Design District into a cultural and design destination?
I am an advocate for change, especially in the case where a “district” evolves into a world-class design environment. The transformation happening right before our eyes is an education in itself and, having been here for 25 years, the school is ready for it.
What’s inspiring you nowadays?
Nowadays is not a word I believe in. I am inspired by every day that I wake up, show up and look at what is happening. Inspiration is what DASH is all about and always being able to “ask the question”.
Do you have any favorite designers or architects? Who?
I went Cranbrook (Academy of Art) and Daniel Libeskind was the teaching architect when I was there. He was a friend and a mentor. I have watched his work for decades. When I went to his Jewish Museum in Berlin, I was in awe.
What books would I find on your nightstand? What music are you listening to?
Breaking Ground by Daniel Libeskind, of course, Dear Life by Alice Munro and My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor.
My music ranges from the Rolling Stones to Ella Fitzgerald to Mozart’s Don Giovanni to NPR, but that’s not music.
What is your favorite indulgence?
I favor food of the local land and sea—wherever I am, which means I must travel to find the food.
What career other than your own would you like to attempt?
I am very happy with this career and I am grateful to be where I am—leading the young designers at DASH. Next, I want to be a philanthropist--anonymous, of course.
What’s the most important thing people should know about you?
I mean well.
Photo credit: Justin Namon