District Nine School Board Elections: Meet the Candidates

Angelina Astic, Copy Editor

After twelve years of service as school board member, Dr. Lawrence Feldman has decided to not seek re-election in favor of spending time with his family; in his place the two candidates for the District Nine seat are Commissioner Dennis C. Moss and Luisa Santos. 

Come Nov. 3, many important issues take center stage on the ballot with local, state and national effects. For those who live in District Nine, one of the largest and most economically and culturally diverse districts in Miami Dade County, the non-partisan school board representative election remains one of those big ticket issues.

Moss, a lifelong District Nine resident, attended Miami-Dade County Public Schools for his primary and secondary education. Afterwards, Moss received his formal education from Grinnell College in Iowa, graduating in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in Economics. Alongside his wife, Margaret Hawkins-Moss, the pair have three children, all products of the Miami-Dade County Public School system. 

A career in public service began for Moss in 1993 when citizens elected him to serve on the Board of Miami-Dade County Commissioners; he has served on the board for over 28 years. After his fifteen year tenure, the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners voted to name Moss as their 2009-2019 Chairman of the Board. Moss has held seven terms in office as Commissioner, representing the community of District Nine. 

At the direction of former Governor Lawton Chiles, Moss worked on Florida’s Land Use and Water Planning Task Force. Moss also served as honorary chair of the Bahamas Sister Cities program as well as Chairman of the Governmental Structure Task Force, which focused on promoting well-run governing. 

Throughout his career of service, Moss spent 38 years as Executive Director of the Richmond Perrine Optimist Club, serving at-risk youth and students facing difficult situations. Moss has also been appointed to numerous boards, some being the South Dade Alliance for Black Neighborhood Development, Metro-Miami Action Plan Trust and Community Action Agency. 

As of the present day, Moss serves on behalf of the public as Chairman of the Housing, Social Services and Economic Development Committee. His responsibilities as Chairman include working on expanding the job market and economic development, education, improving social services and neighborhoods, as well as creating an affordable workforce, public housing and self-sufficiency initiatives.

Currently, Moss also serves as Vice-Chair for the Transportation and Finance Committee and as an active member in the Disparities Subcommittee, Tourism and Ports Committee and The Chairwoman’s Policy Council. 

The issues integral to his campaign for school board representative consist of working to better school safety, implementation of procedures and policies that protect students and employees in a COVID-19 era and improvement of distance learning and the resources available to students.

He also plans to better serve schools located in areas that face greater socio-economic difficulties and institute policy to employ entrepreneur coding and trade skills. The United Teachers of Dade formally endorsed Moss for District Nine School Board Representative.  

Santos, born in Bogota, Colombia immigranted as an undocumented immigrant to Miami, Florida at eight years old and became fluent in English by the age of nine. She received her elementary through high school education in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, where she attended Perrine Elementary, Southwood Middle and Coral Reef Senior High School.

After discovering her undocumented status in her junior year, Santos attended the Honors College at Miami Dade College while working to receive her U.S. citizenship. She later went to Georgetown University, where she received a degree in Political Economy with a minor in Education, Inquiry and Justice. During her time in D.C., Santos worked for the Obama Administration in the U.S. Department of Education. Santos taught fourth graders and served as the head of a mentoring and advocacy program that focused on third graders’ literacy. 

Upon returning to Miami in 2015, Santos decided to join the small-business community and opened Lulu’s Ice Cream, located on Biscayne Boulevard, after becoming infatuated with the nitrogen ice cream experience. A core part of Lulu’s is the training program offered to employees, which included educating employees on matters of personal finances and social entrepreneurship.

Santos’s campaign promises as school board representative consist of policies on social emotional learning, teaching that relates to students of all cultures, providing support for College Advisory Program Counselors, promoting transparency and accessibility of the school board and working to expand opportunities for those seeking a career and technical education.

“I believe that this is a position through which I can serve my community. I can create a more equitable school system. I can support families and being true partners in the work of educating our young people in our community,” Santos said. “At its core, [its] because I want to serve my community and I see very specific ways that I can.”

Santos would also like to institute support systems for students who have been marginalized and face inequitable situations, ensure protections for undocumented students and their families, institute policies that allow for safe reopening of schools in a COVID-19 era, increase the salaries of teachers, reduce the “school to prison pipeline” system and lower the student-to-counselor ratio. Though the election is non-partisan, the Miami-Dade Democratic Party formally endorsed Santos for the District Nine School Board Representative Seat. 

Commissioner Moss did not respond to request for an interview.