Superintendent’s wife is hired by Miami-Dade School Board in six-figure position

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The Miami Dade School Board Wednesday approved a slew of administrative and high-ranking jobs within the district, including an officer for energy sustainability and one to boost student enrollment, a new chief academic officer and a six-figure administrative position for Superintendent Jose Dotres’ wife.

In total, the board filled or created 35 positions.

Among the new hires will be a new student and families’ enrollment officer, who will work to “develop and implement a strategic and innovative student recruitment plan” to offset the decrease in student enrollment.

The number of students attending district schools has been decreasing over the years. For the 2020-21 school year, there were 334,400 students, down from 356,480 in the 2015-16 school year, a 6 percent decline, according to the district.

The board also approved a new sustainability officer, who will oversee policies related to the district’s energy use, conservation, pollution reduction and waste elimination.

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Both positions will have an annual salary between $101,335 and $154,000, according to the district, and will be managed by the district’s chief strategy officer. The strategy officer, whose cabinet-level position is not filled yet, would oversee the district’s efforts to reduce energy costs.

Dotres’ wife will work in human resources

Dotres’ wife, Maribel Bruscantini Dotres, a longtime principal at Palm Springs North Elementary in Hialeah before leaving to work as an administrative director with Collier County Public Schools in 2021, will be stepping into an existing position, as the administrative director of professional development and evaluation. The salary for the grant-funded position is expected to be between $101,335 and $154,000, according to the district.

The district did not respond to the Herald when asked who was in the position prior to her. A district spokeswoman cited her “33 years of experience as a teacher and administrator” in explaining her new job.

The district said Bruscantini Dotres’ hiring complies with its nepotism policy. Her new post “does not in any way violate School Board Policy 1130” that states supervisors may not employ or directly supervise relatives at the same work location, because her immediate supervisor is the assistant superintendent of office of human capital management, district staff said Thursday. An assistant superintendent is among Dotres’ senior staff.

The School Board named Dotres as superintendent in January to succeed Alberto Carvalho, the longtime superintendent who left in February to become the superintendent of Los Angeles public schools. Dotres, a veteran of Miami-Dade Schools who left in 2021 to become deputy superintendent of the Collier County district, has a two-year contract that pays him $370,000 a year.

The Board also approved Lourdes Diaz as the district’s new chief academic officer, succeeding Sylvia Diaz. Lourdes Diaz had been the district’s region administrative director. Prior to that, she had been principal at Miami Lakes Educational Center & Technical College and principal at Hialeah Middle School, according to her Linked In profile. She started Friday in her new post, a district spokeswoman said.

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Salary discussion

Despite the more than three dozen positions approved by the board, it was the sustainability officer role that sparked a debate among board members.

At issue was whether the proposed salary range should be increased from $101,335 to $154,000 to $106,245 to $164,000, though all board members agreed on the importance of the job.

Some board members questioned whether a $5,000 base salary difference and the $10,000 maximum salary difference would make or break the district’s recruitment efforts. Others, such as board member Christi Fraga, questioned how big the disparity would be in the final salary given the overlap between the two pay ranges.

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In the end, she said Dotres will decide the final salary, based on the applicants’ qualifications.

For board member Mari Tere Rojas, however, one concern was that the higher of the two pay ranges was on par with that of an assistant superintendent, which includes overseeing academics, school operations and Title 1 programs.

Starting a new hire at the district’s second-highest pay scale, she argued, would send the wrong message to district staff who work toward that range.

“It’s important to ensure positions being established at these high levels are positions that are equivalent to what our principals expect to see when they get the same opportunities to be able to move up the career ladder,” she said.

But for member Luisa Santos, boosting the position’s pay would send a message to staff that Dotres had the flexibility to recruit top-notch talent, and the position would help invest in the “long-term health of our workforce.”

Trying to cut the district’s energy costs

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“I want to remind all of us that we spent $65 million in utilities a year, [but] if we reach goals of minimal savings in energy, we will unlock millions of dollars for our workforce” that can help solve many of the district’s problems, Santos said.

The board approved the position with the lower salary range. Should the district find it difficult to recruit for the position, board members can revisit the salary, Vice Chair Steve Gallon III said.

“Again, it’s a first step,” he said. “And it’s a first step that we have to continue to walk together and continue to monitor together, to access and to evaluate together. We have some tremendous challenges ahead, and this is one.”

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