Seeking to gain insight into the sometimes strained relations with the community of Key Biscayne, the top officials of Miami’s school system mingled with Key Biscayne parents, teachers, students, and local government leaders on Thursday. The gathering outside of Turtle Fountain was billed as a “conversation” with new Superintendent of Schools Dr. José Dotres.
“Let’s talk one on one. We have more in common than we do apart,” said Key Biscayne Mayor Mike Davey, before passing the microphone to Dotres for a brief opening address.
Dotres’ visit is a part of a series of visits across the county that Dotres is conducting in order to get acquainted with the local needs, start new dialogue with parents, and get to know the communities around schools.
Dotres listened to a range of concerns from parents and teachers about the leadership of K-8 Principal Michele Coto, including perceived unresponsiveness from the school administration towards parents, the available school programming, and the lack of school events.
Others raised broader state-wide issues, such as the recent passage of bills that ban the teaching of ‘sensitive’ topics like racial differences, sexual orientation, and gender identity or the current schedule for state standardized testing.
K-8 PTA President Nicholas Cardoso felt that the conversation was important, and the evening went well. “We’ve made them aware of our issues. I think Dr. Dotres said it best: open dialogue is what’s most important.”
The superintendent recounted his own story in the Miami-Dade county school system, and noted the shared heritage of Marcus A. Milam K-8 Center, where he served as vice-principal, and the Key Biscayne Community school, which were both among the first K-8 programs in the district. He also thanked the KBCS PTA and the Key Biscayne Educational Advisory Board.
Also in attendance were councilmembers Allison McCormick and Brett Moss, Police Chief Frank Sousa, District 6 Representative Mari Tere-Rojas, and Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, who was recently named to the state Board of Education by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Dr. Dotres outlined several areas of key focus for his administration; including the recruitment and retention of teachers, and the development of community-specific bilingual, STEM, and arts programs in schools. He also made special note of student mental health, and how the county has begun increasing the number of counselors and mental health professionals available for both students and teachers.
“It’s not only academic achievement that we’re going to be judged on. It’s also going to be the social and emotional support we provide for our students and teachers,” Dotres said.