District 2 School Board Member
Current District 2 School Board member; former Democratic member of the Florida House of Representatives; former teacher, principal, and school administrator
This post is part of our voter guide for the Aug. 28 local and primary elections. Head to the main landing page for a guide to the key races and decisions being made this election.
District 2 covers much of the urban core of Miami-Dade County, stretching from the Miami River in the south to 135th Street at its northern boundary, stretching west to the eastern boundary of Hialeah. It includes areas like Downtown, Little Haiti, Allapattah, Liberty City, and Miami Shores.
Bendross-Mindigall’s opponent is Brandon Alfred.
Why are you running for school board?
I am a lifelong educator and my commitment to our community and humanity throughout my professional experience has been to ensure that children have the best education possible delivered within a safe and nurturing environment. I am running for re-election to continue in this mission.
Most important, I understand my role as a representative of our students, their families, educators, and our residents and I am therefore committed to continue ensuring that their concerns are addressed. I will always work for better education in our schools and increased safety throughout our community.
What education experience do have? Have you worked in a classroom?
I am a parent, classroom teacher, reading specialist, assistant principal, principal, administrator, and state legislator. I have seen all aspects of the education process, from head of household to policy maker, which gives me a universal perspective of the needs, opportunities, and resources available to improve education. I have worked in the classroom which gives me an intimate knowledge of the challenges facing our educators.
Where do you stand on school choice, aka giving students a choice between mainstream public schools and other specialty schools, most often charter schools?
I am a proponent of parents having many options for their child’s education. Children excel in different learning environments and they have different interests. Some students are more technologically inclined while others are mechanical or artistic. Being a very large school district, Miami Dade County Public Schools is fortunate enough to be able to offer families a wide variety of programs including magnet programs, K-8 centers, and technical colleges. District 2 is home to some of the best schools in the nation, DASH and iPrep Academy among them, and we have created eight new K-8 centers in district 2 during my tenure on the school board.
Charter schools have an unfair advantage over traditional public schools because they operate in a different environment while competing for funds from the same funding source. Every student that leaves a traditional public school for a charter school takes several thousands of dollars in funding with them. Charter schools have much less stringent requirements for which children they will accept, also.
How do you plan to recruit and retain high-quality teachers?
Most importantly, teachers and every professional involved in a child’s education must have a salary commensurate with their knowledge and dedication. Teachers have been underpaid for years and that is why I voted to allow voters an opportunity to decide if we are truly a community that values our educators. I have also worked with my fellow board members to lobby the state legislature for increased funding for education to be used to invest in our students and increased pay for our dedicated teachers.
Where do you stand on arming teachers and other “hardening” initiatives like metal detectors and armed security officers?
There was a time in the 1980s and 1990s when safety threats emanated from within our schools and metal detectors were used to scan students as they entered campuses. This created a stigma for some schools and thereby hurt the learning experience. This can also create a prison-like atmosphere in our schools which isn’t conducive to a nurturing atmosphere.
Unlike the earlier decades, threats are now coming from outside of our schools in the form of orchestrated attacks. Metal detectors are less effective against actors who are scheming to evade them. However, I am working to ensure that every public school in Miami Dade County has an armed, trained law enforcement professional on site to keep our children safe.
Where do the candidates stand on expanded mental health assistance for students?
I have always supported mental health counselling for students who have a need because you cannot teach a child who has uncertain mental of medical issues. The body and mind are the bedrock of learning. As a board member, I have sponsored policies that foster better social assistance for students and to combat homelessness. Housing uncertainty has a major impact on students wellbeing and self-esteem.
I was able to be a successful school principal because if I only addressed a child’s academic needs I was doing them a disservice as a human being. I regularly went into the Scott-Carver housing projects that were home to many of my students to get them when they missed school. I eventually brought in their parents and gave many their first jobs, got their families off of welfare, and several of these previously unemployed mothers are now college graduates and teachers themselves.
What is your track record on trying to bring equal education opportunities to all students, regardless of zip code, income level, or race? What is your plan for achieving that?
I have always been a champion for offering each child in our public schools access to a quality education without regard to their socio-economic status. We cannot expect children to excel when they don’t have the same resources as other students. As a principal, I staunchly fought for opportunities that would expose my students to opportunities that their families could not afford. Our student body, many whose families lived well below the poverty line, were able to enjoy experiences frequently reserved for students from wealthier backgrounds.
As a state representative, I provided the initial $3.6 million to start the Miami Children’s Initiative. I will continue to fight for funding and programs in our underserved communities so that our students know that we will invest in them as if they are all equally valuable and loved.
If you had additional money for education, where would you invest it?
Technology and teacher compensation are areas in which we can make further investments. We are living in a fast changing world and many careers are becoming obsolete due to rapid advances in technology. I want all students to have access to the most cutting edge technologies available so that they can remain on pace with students from around the world.
I cannot say enough about teachers and the work that they do. We have lagged in paying them what they deserve and keeping them on par with other professionals of similar training and education. Our teachers are long overdue for proper pay and benefits.