Miami Country Day administrator placed on leave for alleged racist remarks to students

Miami Country Day is a private, nondenominational, preparatory school near Miami Shores, with about 1,350 students from preschool to 12th grade.
Miami Country Day is a private, nondenominational, preparatory school near Miami Shores, with about 1,350 students from preschool to 12th grade. Miami Herald file

A top Miami Country Day School administrator was placed on administrative leave this week as the school investigates comments she made to students.

Dana Vignale, the new Head of Upper School at the private school near Miami Shores, allegedly made racist remarks to students, sources told the Herald.

Vignale made the comments “while attempting to maintain order” in the Upper School lunch line on Sept. 19, according to an email sent out by the school. She was placed on leave Tuesday afternoon for the remainder of the week.

Miami Country Day spokesman Nolan Sutker offered to forward the Miami Herald the email sent to the school community about the incident “rather than responding to questions.”

In that email, Hufford said many “have expressed concern, sadness and frustration” about comments Vignale made to students. Hufford asked for the community’s understanding and patience and promised that she would “do everything necessary to ensure a joyful and inclusive environment for every student in our care.”

Hufford said she would be taking the remainder of the week to “continue to have conversations, listen and gain understanding” as she makes a decision on next steps. She said the school has already engaged with experts on equity and inclusion led by the school’s Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator.

“I am aware that once we have navigated this immediate situation, there remain significant issues for us to tackle together involving equity and inclusion,” Hufford said in her email.

Vignale did not return multiple requests for comment.

Miami Country Day Upper School Director Dana Vignale was placed on administrative leave Wednesday following allegedly racist remarks she made toward students. Miami Country Day School

Some Miami Herald and McClatchy employees are parents of Miami Country Day students. McClatchy is the parent company of the Herald.

For some period of time, someone changed the school’s WiFi network names to “vignale is racist,” according to a screenshot of those networks shared with the Herald.

According to her hiring announcement posted by the school, Vignale most recently served as the executive director of Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ Office of School Choice and Innovation. Prior to that, she developed the Cambridge International Examinations program for grades 6 through 12 at MAST Academy Key Biscayne.

School district spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego confirmed that Vignale was hired in 1999 and worked at the school district for two decades. Vignale had no disciplinary incidents in her file, Gonzalez-Diego said.

Vignale took a leave from the district from 2005 to 2013. According to her hiring announcement, she also worked as a principal of a Broward County charter school.

The private school near Miami Shores has grappled with racism in the past, WLRN reported last year. The public radio news station chronicled how black students felt ostracized at the school, their white peers making fun of how they spoke and making racist gestures and slurs, with teachers and administrators failing to confront the behavior.