2 Miami-Dade School Board members hold special meeting on minority participation

Local 10 News | By Layton Livingston | April 18, 2023

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A meeting recently popped-up on the Miami-Dade School Board calendar, but it wasn’t really publicized.

It was held outside of the normal meeting room by two board members.

There was only one item on the agenda: “Minority participation in procurement and board meeting format and procedures.”

Needless to say, the meeting raised some eyebrows and concerns.

Local 10 News was the only South Florida news outlet in the room, on the 7th floor of district headquarters, where you need a security badge to get inside.

Matthew Pigatt is with the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce and showed up with a contingent of members, curious to see what the discussion was about.

“We found out about it through text,” Pigatt said. “The concern was that there were two board members having a conversation about minority participation without the participation of Black and minority business owners.”

It was hard to hear, at first. Board-member Danny Espino, a Gov. Ron DeSantis appointee, and board-member Roberto Alonso, who was endorsed by DeSantis, hadn’t been chatting long when they were interrupted by their colleague, Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall.

There was a brief back-and-forth as to whether she could even participate.

The district’s attorney said yes.

After discussing making board meetings more efficient, and allowing more access for public participation, things shifted to the minority participation in procurement issue.

“When I look at it, sometimes, there’s some contracts, it’s not even involving our community, there are contracts that are outside of our community,” said Alonso.

Ron Frazier chairs the school board-appointed Small Business Advisory Committee that monitors which firms the district does business with.

“I think they’re trying to get rid of the program, and make it a race-neutral program,” Frazier said.

Added Pigatt: “We want to make sure all communities are at the table (and) are being represented.”

Espino said the meeting was just an early stage of what should be a bigger discussion.

“This is a preliminary, probably the most preliminary conversation you have on an item,” Espino said. “This is just getting the ball rolling.”

The meeting ended and the board members left.

To be clear, nothing was decided, and it wouldn’t have been without the full board.

The idea was thrown out about a possible town hall meeting for more input.

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