Florida International University

Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall will face Ronda Vangates in a runoff for the Miami-Dade School Board District 2 seat in November’s general elections.

Results showed Bendross-Mindingall was the top vote-getter, with just about 30 percent of the about 30,000 votes cast. Vangates received about 25 percent.

School Board election regulations require a runoff if no candidate garners at least half the votes. The runoff will determine who replaces Solomon Stinson, currently board  chairman, who has been a Miami-Dade educator or board member for 50 years.

Stinson supported Vangates and offered up his prodigious network of contacts and connections.

District 2 includes Liberty City, Little Haiti, Overtown, Biscayne Park, Miami Shores and El Portal. Its boundaries include some of the county’s most academically troubled schools, including Booker T. Washington, Miami Central, Miami Edison, Miami Jackson and Miami Northwestern high schools. More “F” schools are in this district than in any other in the county.

Bendross-Mindingall, a former educator and former member of the state House of Representatives, said she took more votes than her four opponents because she connected with voters.

“I’m glad my compassion and passion was clear,” Bendross-Mindingall said late Tuesday evening. “I believe I was put on this earth to educate.”

Vangates could not be immediately reached for comment.

Marvin Dunn, a long-time chronicler of the South Florida black community and a retired Florida International University psychology professor, said name recognition was the key to the outcome of the primary race.

“The people feel more comfortable with [Bendross-Mindingall] since they already knew her,” Dunn said. “Vangates is new to them.”

Bendross-Mindingall,  brought to the race a long career in the Miami-Dade school district as a teacher and a principal at Lillie C. Evans Elementary School in Liberty City. She also represented District 109 in the state House from 2001 to 2006.

A life-long resident of Liberty Square and a Miami Northwestern High graduate, Bendross-Mindingall grew up in the district she hopes to represent on the School Board.

Her supporters included Miami City Commissioner the Rev. Richard Dunn, who contributed $150 to her campaign.

Bendross-Mindingall’s grassroots campaign focused on reaching people on the street and she was a constant presence at community events in the district for several months, spending weeks knocking on doors, trying to show voters that she cared about people.

She told voters she hopes to increase the use of technology in the school system, push for better pay for educators and more funding for arts education.

“It’s about children and family,” she said.

Vangates, 39, also a Liberty City native, is director of performance improvement, curriculum and instruction in the school system.

Vangates was thought to be the frontrunner when Stinson announced his support for her. She led the field in fundraising, with about $101,000 in contributions, much of it from outside District 2 and Miami-Dade County.

Bendross-Mindingall raised $84,000.

Vangates, a non-practicing attorney, is also currently the third vice president of Miami-Dade branch of the NAACP.  She sat on the Belafonte-Tacolcy Center board of directors and was the first African American to serve  as chief of staff to the mayor of Miami.

Vangates became entangled in a scandal at Northwestern High in 2006 when a star on the school’s football team allegedly had sex on campus with another student. She allegedly ordered a halt to an investigation of the incident but a grand jury determined she was not involved in any cover-up.

Other candidates in Tuesday’s primary were:

•  Sandra Moise, a native of Ohio and the only non-Miamian in the race. She is assistant principal at the district’s MAST Academy and is founder of the district’s Parent Academy. She got 21 percent of the vote.

•  Darryl F. Reaves, like Bendross-Mindingall a former state representative, narrowly lost to Stinson in the 2006 board election. This time he got about 14 percent of the votes.

•  Vanessa Woodard Byers, who garnered about 11 percent of the vote, has worked for the school district for 27 years.

Jessica De Leon may be reached at jdele002@fiu.edu.