In less than 20 minutes and with no discussion, the Miami-Dade County School Board on Tuesday elected Maria Teresa Rojas and Monica Colucci to serve as the chair and vice chair, respectively — once again securing a conservative majority on the board and reinforcing a dynamic that was reflected in the votes.
Both Rojas, who joined the board in 2016 and was elected chair last year, and Colucci, who joined the board in 2022, were elected in a 5-4 vote.
Board members Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, Luisa Santos and Lucia Baez-Geller voted for Steve Gallon III, who voted for himself, to serve as chair. Santos, who nominated Gallon, said while she applauded Rojas’ leadership, she believed a change in perspective was an important part of the process.
Former Vice Chair Danny Espino and members Roberto Alonso, Mary Blanco and Colucci — all of whom were either endorsed or appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis — voted for Rojas, who voted for herself.
For vice chair, Gallon nominated Bendross-Mindingall, the longest-serving board member and one of two Black members on the board. (Gallon is the second.) But Espino, Alonso, Blanco and Rojas voted for Colucci. Baez-Geller, Gallon and Santos voted for Bendross-Mindingall. Both Colucci and Bendross-Mindingall voted for themselves.
“I’m honored, humbled (and) elated to serve for a second year,” said Rojas after the election. “We truly have given our kids the world and we will continue to do so.”
Colucci, who said she was “honored” to be elected as vice chair, promised to work with “each and every single one of you.” Notably, Colucci in her first year on the board has pushed for the implementation of a classical education curriculum model in at least one elementary school for the upcoming school year — an effort backed by conservatives across the state.
A conservative majority
While the board has mostly agreed and compromised on proposed initiatives, some final votes have resulted in a 5-4 outcome, and Tuesday’s election underscores the political shift that was first seen during last year’s leadership votes
In January, when the board was forced to elect a new vice chair after Lubby Navarro stepped down, the board elected Espino, who had just been appointed to the board by DeSantis to succeed Doral Mayor Christi Fraga.
Rojas and the three DeSantis allies, Blanco, Alonso and Colucci, voted for Espino, who voted for himself. As they did Tuesday, Baez-Geller, Gallon and Santos voted for Bendross-Mindingall, who voted for herself.
More recently, in September, in a 5-3 vote, the board rejected a proposal to recognize October as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer History Month. Alonso, Blanco, Colucci, Espino and Rojas voted against the measure, arguing the recognition would violate the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity to students in pre-K through eighth grade, and send mixed messages to teachers. The board attorney assured members the measure was legal.
Alonso, Blanco, Colucci and Espino all either campaigned on or expressed support for DeSantis’ education agenda, which emphasized more parental rights and a “back-to-basics” education model that focuses on core subjects such as reading, writing, math and civics.
Baez-Geller, Bendross-Mindingall, Gallon and Santos are considered the more liberal members on the board.