Running for a new school board term, Steve Gallon III talks coronavirus, student gains

Steve Gallon III talking to SFMN reporter Matthew Garcia. (Courtesy of India George)

Miami-Dade School Board Member Steve Gallon III, currently unopposed in his reelection bid, said it’s times like these that the district has an obligation to help students beyond the classroom.

Gallon, whose district is in the northeast portion of the county, said it is vital for the school system to continue to provide food for students and their families, noting that more than 70% of students receive free or reduced lunch.

He said though it may be easy for some families to prepare five days’ worth of food, other families could be struggling after a single day.

Stephen Robertson, a teacher at the North Dade Center for Modern Languages in Opa-locka, said his elementary school has handled the transition to online classes very well.

He attributes part of that success to the leadership Gallon and the rest of the school board had when dealing with the outbreak in general.

“Most of the teachers at the school already got everything set up and the students are able to keep in touch easily,” he said. “We keep their parents up to date as much as we can.”

Gallon said that in addition to caring for students in and out of school, he wants to continue improving them, as he said he has done since taking office in 2016. That year, he beat then board member Wilbert Holloway, winning 61% of the vote.

Before he joined the board, his area, which includes North Miami and Opa-Locka, had the highest amount of F schools in the county. He said it had been a problem for some time and there was not enough concern about it either at the community or board level.

Gallon said he wanted to prioritize the schools at the bottom who had been struggling to succeed for years, making sure they weren’t left behind.

He said this strategy worked. After his first year, there were no F schools in his district. Gallon said he then set his eyes on every D school and by the end of his second year, there were no schools below a C in his district.

However, comparing the four-year average GPA of District 1 schools during Gallon’s term and the four years immediately preceding it show essentially no change. Though there are no F or D schools, there are also, on average, fewer A and B ones.

Responding, Gallon said his goal in his first term was to turning failing schools around, adding he wants to build on that for his second one.

He said he accomplishes this by visiting the schools in his district as much as possible, making sure they are operating effectively.

Fernando Garcia, a custodian at North Dade Center for Modern Languages, said he sees Gallon visiting almost every week.

“He’s always checking to see how the students are doing,” Garcia said.

Gallon said he wants to continue improving education in lower income areas and provide more opportunities for black and Hispanic students.

The primary election will be held Aug. 18 and any other potential candidates must qualify by June 12. As of Feb. 20, he had raised about $82,000 and spent about $3,000, according to campaign finance reports.