Students will have ’safe places’ at school, says Miami-Dade ed chief
Ensuring students know they have "safe places" at school will be key as a new year of classes begin, according to Miami-Dade's education chief. The start of the new year in Florida's largest school district comes on the back of a flurry of controversies over teaching standards.
Speaking at an annual kick-off rally on Friday evening, Superintendent Jose Dotres told a crowd of students and teachers that Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) will "embrace every opportunity for reinvention and growth."
Dotres praised students and faculty while highlighting the district’s accomplishments at the event, held at Miami Senior High School's auditorium. He boasted that graduation rates had gone up from 89% to 92%, with the district outperforming other regions in the state in assessment results.
Using the motto 'We are one,' Dotres emphasized faculty should work together across schools to improve student outcomes.
“Join me in sharing with everyone all that we have to offer,” he said. “A culture of innovation and choice with multiple language immersion programs, advanced placement, dual enrollment and Cambridge programs.”
In an event that had an energetic atmosphere more akin to a pep rally, Dotres' remarks were accompanied by dance and musical performances. These included a violin rendition by a Sunset Elementary student and a musical piece performed by the Hialeah Middle School band.
And while he didn’t touch on Florida's recent education controversies on stage, Dotres addressed them when speaking to the press afterwards.
"I cannot begin to engage on the political side because I do not want to lose focus on the educational [side] and all the good work, and the hard work, that we must do," he said.
Earlier this week, MDCPS confirmed students would be able to take Advanced Placement Psychology after a week of reversals and confusion started by the Florida Board of Education's guidance that the course's unit on gender and sexual orientation did not align with new state laws.
Dotres said the issue was "resolved," as the class will continue to be offered.
He said he’s trying to make sure both teachers and students feel valued. “Making sure our students know that our schools are safe places for them is important,” he said.
The AP Psychology dispute came amid an outcry over new standardson the teaching of African American history that say enslaved people "benefitted" from their enslavement.
“Making sure our students know that our schools are safe places for them is important."Superintendent Jose Dotres
Dotres said new standards rolled out by the state have not been implemented. While the state dictates content taught in schools, they do not dictate teaching methods, he said.
Making sure teachers are supported will be a focus as they navigate this school year, he said. “I never want any of my teachers to feel they were by themselves in a classroom just because they close the door,” Dotres said.
“Some of these laws that have been imparted have to do with instruction that does not keep us from helping our students with individual situations. We love them. We help them. We support them," he added.
At Friday's event, the superintendent also touched on concerns related to weather conditions and outdoor activities for athletes and students.
He said when the temperature hits 87 degrees, staff will limit student activity outside to an hour. When it hits 90, the procedure will be to get everyone indoors.
Another challenge Dotres will be focusing on this year is narrowing the academic achievement gap. He said students are still feeling the effects of the pandemic and administrators will be revisiting their intervention programs to address the issue.
Miami-Dade students return to school on Aug. 17.