Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, steeped in the challenges that schools in her district face, has earned another term on the Miami-Dade School Board. School grades have steadily improved in District 2 during her tenure.
However, her opponent, Brandon Alfred, brings an appealing, clear-eyed, fire-in-the-belly urgency to take the schools to the next level of achievement. The incumbent should take note. Alfred doesn’t mince words about the schools’ needs and those of the students. He said that the schools are letting them down, still leaving them unprepared for higher education.
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“Seventy percent of high school students (in District 2) did not pass the math or reading FSA,” he told the Editorial Board, referring to the Florida Standards Assessment tests, which measure proficiency.
Bendross-Mindingall concedes that there is “more to do.”
“Children are behind, they didn’t come to school with enough preparation,” she told the Board. Even through there are no F schools in District 2, “They’re not where we want them to be.”
But she is paying attention, and District 2 schools have made strides during her tenure. A former state legislator, Bendross-Mindingall joined the School Board in 2010. She says that she is collaborating with Miami Dade College and Florida International University to bring more science, math and technology training to the schools, and she works with parents, educating them as to the importance of staying engaged in their children’s education. “We have worked night and day, offering after school and early school programs,” Bendross-Mindingall says. “There’s a lot of tutoring.” Since she’s been on the School Board, she has shepherded through eight K-8 centers in District 2; Arcola Lakes Elementary School has gone from an F school to an A school in five years.
The incumbent, an educator, was principal of Lillie C. Evans Elementary in Liberty City. Her opponent, however, is an educator at Jose Diego Middle School and is tackling some contemporary challenges with contemporary, and impressive, solutions. As dean of discipline for three years, Alfred, a graduate of Yale, says he has led the school to train teachers in “core values.” That means punitive measures have been replaced with the concept of “restorative justice.”
“When there is a breach of culture, the student meets with a guidance counselor and the victim,” Alfred says. Everyone gets a chance to hear what the other has to say, and the offender might, for instance, have to volunteer in some way to make amends.
“We’ve seen a 60 percent drop” in offenses, Alfred says. “The teachers are partners.” Alfred is an alum of Teach for America. He wants to address crime among students by establishing more mental health services in the public schools; replicate his school’s community-outreach specialist to “meet parents where they are;” and pursue innovative ways to close the achievement gap between District 2 and other districts.
We like Alfred’s energy and vision, and urge him to continue to pursue a seat on the School Board.
But the incumbent has been a champion for under-performing schools. Because of her leadership, and the progress challenged schools have made during her tenure, the Herald Editorial Board recommends DOROTHY BENDROSS-MINDINGALL for School Board, District 2.
It’s hard to imagine the Miami-Dade School Board without the leadership of long-time member Perla Tabares Hantman, who is currently the board’s chairwoman — for the 10th time since first elected in 1996.
“My fellow board members elected me again because they know that education is my passion,” she said.
On the dais, Tabares Hantman is often the voice of reason and order and she keeps School Board meetings on track. She is being challenged by first-time candidate Irene Torroella-Garcia, a real estate appraiser who says that District 4, which includes the Hialeah, Miami–Lakes and northwest Miami-Dade schools, needs new blood.
Tabares Hantman was elected chairwoman in November. One of her roles was to be the district spokeswoman in Tallahassee in the fight against the controversial House Bill 7069. Districts banded together to sue the state, arguing that the bill illegally stripped local elected officials of power to oversee charter schools and required districts to share local school property taxes designated for maintenance and construction of traditional public schools with charter schools.
Tabares Hantman did not want to sue. She wanted to negotiate with the state instead. Her School Board colleagues voted to approve her stance for Miami-Dadeschools.
Torroella-Garcia said she disagreed and that the district should have joined in the lawsuit filed by others across the state.
That’s the latest battle for Tabares Hantman, who says she feels there’s still much to be done. “I get up in the morning excited to go to work,” she said.
Tabares Hantman says she understands school security has become paramount and is dedicated to keeping students safe.
She said the nation’s fourth-largest district is now A-rated and she largely credits Superintendent Alberto Carvalho with much of the success. “He’s a very hard worker,” said Tabares Hantman, who first recommended him for the job a decade ago.
For the leadership and the experience she brings to the district, the Herald recommends PERLA TABARES HANTMAN for the School Board, District 4.