'A real loss': Baez-Geller won't run for reelection on Miami-Dade School Board
LGBTQ students will be losing an advocate on the Miami-Dade County School Board. In an announcement this week, Board Member Lucia Baez-Geller made public her decision to not run for re-election when her term ends in 2024.
“Though I will not be running for reelection, I of course will remain here throughout the rest of my term — protecting our public education system, defending our democracy and continuing to serve my constituents,” Baez-Geller said during Wednesday's school board meeting.
In her time in office, Baez-Geller has arguably been the most outspoken and progressive voice on the board, at a time when conservative lawmakers and activists are transforming public education across the state.
She’s been the sole vote on a number of issues, including on some items during Wednesday night’s board meeting.
Last September, Baez-Geller was the only board member to vote to ceremonially recognize October as LGBTQ History Month, during a meeting in which members of the Proud Boys gathered outside the school district headquarters.
"It will be a real loss," said Scott Galvin, the Executive Director of LGBTQ advocacy group Safe Schools South Florida. "She's been a real champion for LGBTQ youth. And in the midst of such dark times, she's been a beacon of light, showing kids they do have allies in our school system."
Baez-Geller spent 15 years as an English teacher at Miami Beach Senior High School before running for the board in 2020. She said her students made her who she is today — and pushed her to run for public office.
“I found myself, I found my voice and I found my passion and I found my reason for existing at Beach High. And that was the students,” Baez-Geller.
Speaking to WLRN, Baez-Geller said the decision came as a result of a host of personal factors — among them, her young daughter, who’s just 18 months old.
“She was on the dais before she was even born,” Baez-Geller said with a smile. “For our family it was a joint decision that we’re making to make sure that I could be present in whichever way is needed for myself and for my family.”
Baez-Geller is among a small contingent of South Florida school board members who are also mothers of young children. Even as the field of education is dominated by women, it's rare that mothers of toddlers and school-age children reach such positions of power.
Board Member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall applauded Baez-Geller’s political courage.
“I said to you a while back if you have to stand alone, stand alone,” Bendross-Mindingall said. “I want you to know that I'm going to make sure that some of what I say on this board, you will have a word in it.”
Board Member Steve Gallon quoted scripture in his remarks about Baez-Geller, who he called his “little sister”.
“2 Timothy 4:7 says ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith’,” Gallon said. “Colleague Baez-Geller, you undoubtedly have fought the good fight. We want you to finish the race. And throughout the time we’ve served together, you have always kept the faith.”
By announcing her plans now, Baez-Geller says other candidates will have more time to step up and make their case to voters. Though school board races are ostensibly nonpartisan, the district she represents is considered reliably Democratic-leaning, stretching from Aventura south to Miami Beach and west to Coconut Grove.
But with more than a year left in her term, Baez-Geller says her work isn't over yet.
“I thank you all for showing that we can do anything with courage, with kindness, but mostly with love. With love all things are possible,” Baez-Geller said. “So we will continue to show that. That love wins and love is greater.”
Maxx Fenning, the founder of PRISM, a group that works to expand LGBTQ-inclusive education and sexual health resources for young people in South Florida, expressed gratitude for her work and hope for the district's future.
"Lucia Baez-Geller truly has been a champion for our community, and we know she'll continue to be a champion for the remainder of this term and hopefully in another role in the future!" Fenning told WLRN. "We hope to see an equally strong champion step up to the plate in District 3 in 2024."