And then there were three.
Tuesday afternoon, the Miami-Dade County School Board narrowed its list of candidates to replace outgoing Superintendent Alberto Carvalho to three applicants: Jose Dotres, Rafaela Espinal and Jacob Oliva. A final decision will be made at an upcoming board meeting.
At this point, Dotres appears to have the inside track. He is currently an assistant superintendent in Collier County, but has a long history in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Last month, the board called him back to give him a lifetime achievement award and showered him with praise.
“I began as a teacher, serving children,” Dotres said at that meeting.
Dotres is a Miami Senior High School graduate. He’s been a teacher, a principal, a regional superintendent, and chief of staff to Carvalho.
“Certainly his strength is his intimate knowledge of the district and how it functions,” said Russ Rywell, a teacher at Miami Beach Senior High School.
At least one board member already has his mind made up.
“My diligence has been done relative to the candidates and right now I believe Dr. Jose Dotres checks each and every box,” said vice chair Dr. Steve Gallon.
Jacob Oliva works for the Florida Department of Education as the chancellor for the division of public schools. Rywell, who once ran unsuccessfully for school board, told us Oilva’s connections to Tallahassee would be an advantage, but he says it’s a double-edged sword.
“We have to be sure he’s going to switch his mentality and be an advocate for Miami-Dade Public Schools, its teachers, its students, and its unique character and often times as we’ve seen with Alberto Carvalho, is in conflict with some of the state priorities,” Rywell said.
Dr. Rafaela Espinal is an assistant superintendent in the New York City public school system. She has extensive, relevant-to-Miami experience in the South Bronx.
“She has very good understanding of the English language learner, students who are at risk, equity issues, school policing issues, so she has a lot to bring to the table,” Rywell said. “And now it’s a question of making sure they’re vetted, making sure the public has a chance to have their say and input.”