Two incumbents cruise to big wins in Miami-Dade schools races

Miami-Dade County’s longest-serving school board members coasted to reelection on Tuesday, securing four more years at the helm of one of the nation’s largest school districts.

Perla Tabares Hantman and Marta Pérez easily beat challengers Duysevi Miyar, an English teacher at Hialeah-Miami Lakes High, and Lawrence Orihuela, an adjunct professor and retired teacher.

With no central issue driving the school board races and mostly civil campaigns, the incumbents relied on their records to sway voters.

Pérez promised to keep attention on her far-flung district in southwest Miami-Dade in part by launching marquee educational programs at under-enrolled schools.

“We will continue to push for the arts programs, for the specialty programs, for the choice programs in district 8,” Pérez said.

Tabares Hantman has said she would continue to fight for reforms in the property tax appeals process, which district officials say puts pressure on their budget. She did not return a call and text message for comment Tuesday evening.

Rey Bonachea, a 66-year old from Hialeah, voted for Perla Tabares Hantman. He said that while he believes in voting for the challengers of long-serving elected officials to bring new ideas and outlooks, he felt that Miyar did not have enough experience to run as a school board member.

“Tabares Hantman has done a reasonable job,” he said. “If the challenger had more experience, I would have voted for whoever that was.”

Newcomers Miyar and Orihuela tried to paint their opponents as out of touch. They promised to bring fresh outlooks from an educator’s perspective to the board.

“I don’t understand why the superintendent, why the school board, why the administration is not doing more to teach critical thinking and problem solving to our students,” Orihuela said. “We are not really doing a very good job of preparing these students for college or jobs.”

Miyar promised to stay involved when it comes to education issues — and to hold Tabares Hantman accountable.

“I’m going to fight against standardized testing. I was going to fight for more services for the children,” Miyar said. “I was going to be out there. I would like to see her out there now for the next four years. I will call her out if she’s not out there.”

At the polls, voters offered few reasons for backing incumbents other than name recognition. Faustino Mora, a 69-year-old accountant from Hialeah, said he voted for Tabares Hantman.

“She has been here for a long time. She has done good things. I don’t know anything about the other person,” Mora said.

Tabares Hantman and Pérez also raised far more campaign contributions than their challengers. The latest finance reports show Tabares Hantman raised $143,000 to Miyar’s $17,000. Pérez collected $193,000 compared with $16,000 raised by Orihuela.

Tabares Hantman has been on the school board since 1996 and has served many years as the board chair. The district includes Hialeah and Miami Lakes.

Pérez was first elected in 1998. Her district is in Southwest Miami-Dade, from beyond Krome Avenue to about 157th Avenue, and from Flagler Street to Bird Road.

School board members Raquel Regalado and Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall were automatically reelected because they ran unopposed.

Miami Herald reporter Alexi Cardona contributed to this report.

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