The Miami-Dade School Board is holding a special meeting to look for superintendents

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Florida. – The Miami-Dade school board is meeting Tuesday to discuss replacing Superintendent Alberto Carvalho amid criticism for rushing the process to support a backdoor deal that excludes community involvement.

Without a national search, there were 16 confirmed candidates and two of them withdrew their applications. Walter J. Harvey, the Miami-Dade County school board’s attorney, said human resources had determined that there were seven candidates who met the minimum qualifications determined by the board on Jan. 5: Oscar Rico, Jacob Oliva, Danita C. Duhart , Jose L. Dotres, Rafaela Espinal, Sherrell Hobbs, and Derek Negron.

Despite the criticism, District 7 board member Lubby Navarro said she wanted the board to identify the final candidates and invite them to a public board meeting to interview them after they fingerprinted the candidates and conducted background checks.

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“The majority of the board wants a public trial,” Navarro said.

District 6 board member Mari Tere Rojas said the list needs to be narrowed down to three candidates. Christi Fraga, District 5 Board Member, Luisa Santos, District 9 Board Member, Marta Pérez, District 8 Board Member, and Navarro agreed.

Fraga said the board needs to move forward with the selection of the three candidates.

District 1 board member Steve Gallon III, District 2 board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingal, and District 4 board member Perla Tabares Hantman disagreed.

“I interviewed the seven people,” Tabares Hantman said, noting she was unwilling to champion any particular candidate.

Gallon said he wants to nominate Dotres as the next superintendent. Dotres is Assistant Superintendent of Collier County Public Schools and former Chief Human Capital Officer of Miami-Dade Public Schools. He said there was no “rush”; There is a “sense of urgency”.

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“What we’re doing is expanding the discourse about the process,” Gallon said, adding that his conviction stemmed from his duty of care.

The discussion of the application

Gallon said he was willing to have a public conversation about his top 3 and that the public wanted the board to “get on with it,” and Florida’s Sunshine Law made the process public.

“Until a bombshell is dropped on an applicant, my position will not change,” Gallon said, adding that he doesn’t support a public interview because it doesn’t bring “value” and creates “more liability and exposure” and “opens the Pandora’s box” for the candidates and the board.

Navarro said she strongly supports public comment and public speaking. Pérez said she favors a public interview and a longer hiring period that would include the appointment of an interim superintendent. Fraga said she supports a public interview process, with each candidate answering questions individually while others wait in a separate room.

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“It’s important for me to see that interaction,” Fraga said, adding that the board should pre-select organizations and questions.

Bendross-Mindingal said many communities trust the board’s current approach to selecting Carvalho’s successor and they respect the public’s right to have a say.

“We are not looking for a politician,” said Bendross-Mindingal.

Rojas said she had done her duty of care despite the “divisive” and “negative comments” about the Carvalho replacement process. She said the fingerprinting process and background checks should be done this month. She also reiterated that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has heightened the urgency.

“I would like to see someone who is an official; someone who is passionate about education,” said Rojas.

Tabares Hantman said that after Carvalho made the announcement on Dec. 9, she thought it would be a good idea to offer Jaime G. Torrens, Carvalho’s assistant superintendent, the opportunity to serve as interim superintendent, but the idea fell through, when Torrens declined.

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Pérez said she still doesn’t understand why Carvalho didn’t have an exit interview. Gallon III said Carvalho didn’t need anyone to speak for him and said the claims of a backdoor deal were false. Cori’Anna White, the school board’s student counselor, said conducting the public interview will help students understand the process.

Associated document: Memo with CVs of applicants

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