bendross-mindingall_web.jpgFlorida International University

Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall raced to an Election Day victory Tuesday, handily winning a seat on the Miami-Dade County School Board over county education establishment favorite  Ronda Vangates.


 

Bendross-Mindingall, 68, a former member of the state House of Representatives, garnered nearly 55 percent of the votes for the District 2 school board seat, according to unofficial results, beating Vangates 22,041 votes to 18,282.

Election results are not final until officially certified by the county Canvassing Board.

“I am elated to be elected and look forward to helping the children,” Bendross-Mindingall said at an election night victory party. “I need them more than they need me. Each day I wake up with a new idea of how to make their worlds better and I can’t wait to get started.”

The district she will now represent is the poorest in the county and includes Liberty City, Little Haiti, Overtown, Biscayne Park, Miami Shores and El Portal.

It contains more “F” schools and the lowest student achievement scores than any other of the nine school board districts.

The District 2 seat came open after Solomon C.

Stinson, who has some 50 years of experience in the district and 14 on the board, announced his retirement.

Stinson designated Vangates, 39, his successor, giving her access to his wide network of contributors and his political savvy. But that was not enough for victory.

“Those power endorsements do not work,” said Marvin Dunn, a retired Florida International University professor who’s written extensively about South Florida’s black community. “We see less and less influence of the behind-the-scenes-shenanigans. It’s not enough to have big names behind you anymore,”

A life-long resident of   Liberty City and a Miami Northwestern graduate, Bendross-Mindingall had a long career in the school system.  She was principal of Lillie C. Evans Elementary School in Liberty City and represented the community in the state House of Representatives from 2001 to 2006.

Vangates, also a Liberty City native, is a non-practicing lawyer and the school system’s director of performance improvement, curriculum and instruction.

She was the first African-American to serve as chief of staff to a Miami mayor and is third vice president of the Miami-Dade branch of the NAACP.

After a crowded primary election in a field of five candidates, Vangates and Bendross-Mindingall rose to the top to compete in a run-off vote. Early in the campaign, Vangates’ fundraising seemed to overpower Bendross-Mindingall but ultimately she raised less, $138,000 compared to $144,000 raised by her

opponent. 

“She established herself many years ago, even before she ran for the House, from when she was principal,” said Vanessa Woodward Byers, herself a school board primary election candidate, who runs the blog bloggingblackmiami.com. “She used to go door-to-door. She helped the mothers. Her parents are very loyal and so are her former students. They’re very supportive.”

Now Bendross-Mindingall takes on the task of improving some of the county’s most troubled schools.

“I have been a teacher, a principal and a state legislator; this is just the natural progression of my career,” she said on election night. “Tomorrow I go back to work and try my best to do what is best for the children, as well as keep them safe.”

Natalie Alvarez, Rina Guerrero, Luis Roca and Alec Scott contributed to this report.

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

NATALIE ALVAREZ/FOR  SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES

CONGRATULATIONS: Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, left, congratulates Dorothy Bendross-Mindingnall after her easy election to represent District 2 on the Miami-Dade County School Board on Tuesday.