Here are the three finalists vying to become Miami-Dade’s next school superintendent

·3 min read

After a tense, five-hour meeting, the Miami-Dade School Board Tuesday narrowed the pool of 16 superintendent candidates to just three: Jose Dotres, Rafaela Espinal and Jacob Oliva.

The top candidates come from different backgrounds and bring various experiences to the table. Here, then, are the board’s Top 3 candidates in alphabetical order.

Jose Dotres

Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ Human Capital Officer, Jose Dotres, is leaving the district to serve as deputy superintendent of Collier County Public Schools. His departure follows a significant reorganization in Miami-Dade.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ Human Capital Officer, Jose Dotres, is leaving the district to serve as deputy superintendent of Collier County Public Schools. His departure follows a significant reorganization in Miami-Dade.

If selected, Dotres would be returning to Miami-Dade Public Schools, where he spent more than three decades. In Miami, he was a teacher and reading coach at Fredrick Douglas and South Point elementaries, an assistant principal at M.A. Milam K-8 Center and a principal at Hialeah Gardens Elementary. At the administrative level, he served as a regional superintendent, Carvalho’s chief of staff and most recently, as the head of human resources for the district. Dotres in February left Miami to become the deputy superintendent of Collier County Public Schools in Naples on the state’s southwest coast.

His name has been floated by various board members as the top contender. On Tuesday, Vice Chair Steve Gallon III went so far as to nominate him as the district’s next leader before withdrawing his effort after receiving criticism from fellow board members.

Rafaela Espinal

As the assistant superintendent in the Office of Talent Management and Innovation for the New York City Department of Education, a role she’s held since 2018, Espinal is the only non-Florida resident the board is considering. She’s also the only female candidate.

Her career has spanned nearly three decades with the NYC education department, includingserving as a regional superintendent in the South Bronx, where she oversaw 33 schools and about 15,600 students, according to her resume. She’s also served as a principal and bilingual classroom teacher.

In 2018, Espinal was removed from the superintendent’s position without explanation after “refusing to do the “Wakanda Forever” salute,” stemming from the film “Black Panther.” according to a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit filed Feb. 3, reported by the New York Post.

Jacob Oliva

A more than 20-year education veteran, Oliva sits as the senior chancellor of the Division of Public Schools for the Florida Department of Education, a department tasked with providing training for teachers and principals across the state. In his resume, he marked as one of his key accomplishments leading the team that eliminated Florida’s common core and implemented the new B.E.S.T. Standards for English language arts and mathematics.

Recently, he was involved in a bidding case involving the Florida Department of Education. Oliva and two others, including another member of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s team, formed a company and submitted a competing bid for a multimillion-dollar contract over Jefferson County School District, which has been under charter school control since 2017. The two state employees resigned under fire; Oliva stayed.

Prior to joining the state’s education department, Oliva was the Flagler County School District superintendent for four years. He is from Miami and graduated from Miami-Dade Public Schools.

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