Dr. Steve Gallon III makes a major impact on our schools and the community
On November 7, 2016, the nation saw a change in the White House after eight years of leadership from Democratic President Barack Obama. The change also brought what many thought was a stunning upset as Republican Presidential Nominee Donald J. Trump defeated Democratic Presidential Nominee and political icon Hillary Rodham Clinton, despite Clinton outpacing Trump by almost 2.9 million votes in which more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than any other losing presidential candidate in US history.
George Gonzalez, a University of Miami political science professor, said the school board races illustrated the anti-establishment mood around the nation.
“The establishment had lost a significant amount of credibility with the public,” Gonzalez said. “Ten years ago, incumbents had the benefit of the doubt. Now, people are paying attention and saying ‘no, I don’t like what’s going on’ and showing up to register their displeasure.”
Gallon vowed to make good on his pledge and promise to bring awareness and discussion about school performance in District 1 and throughout the County. His ability to translate statistics and develop plans for failing schools, a feat for which he was hailed as the top administrator in a New Jersey school district, was made manifest in his first Board agenda item in December 2016, immediately after his election. The Board agenda not only received unanimous support, but the unanimous “co-sponsorship” of each of his colleagues on the Board. Board agenda item H-5, which focused on “fragile” schools, marked a critical point in MDCPS and the community. It shifted the District’s narrative from one that focused on accolades, achievements, and awards, to one that also recognized and gave attention to harsh, yet silent reality of persistent pockets of under-performance in certain schools and communities, which were often poor and predominantly Black. Gallon’s shift in MDCPS’ public narrative translated into increased public discussions and focus on fragile schools by the School Board as well as on the resources and support that went into them. When the 2016 state letter grades were released, there were no more “F” school in Miami-Dade County. Gallon recognized the hard work and dedication of the School Board and Superintendent prior to his election, but also believes that education reform is not based on one thing, but is heavily dependent on candor, honesty, and awareness about what is happening and not happening in certain schools and communities.
“Dr. Gallon knows and is able to articulate the minutia of educational policy in the District. Have you actually watched him at a board meeting? As a school board member, that has caused some degree of anxiety with some district staff members and perhaps even the Superintendent,” one employee remarked on the condition of anonymity. “If they looked at his resume and leadership over the years, it should not have been a surprise to anyone.”Gallon also kept his promise for community engagement through his highly attended Student of the Month Recognition Programs and highly informative quarterly Town Hall Meetings. This year he plans to continue his District 1 Black History Showcase which involves students in District 1 showcasing artistic talents through visual arts, dancing, singing, and speaking. Last year, the event was standing room only and had to turn away hundreds who arrived late and could not be seated. Gallon, who has taken unconventional approaches to shed light on issues such as the GOB and its lack of inclusion of underrepresented groups such as veterans, women, and Blacks, relied on the old adage that a “picture is worth a thousand words” when he visited a school construction site in his predominantly District, took photos, and posted them to Facebook with two words: Let’s see. The photos revealed nearly 25 workers. None was Black. The next day the Superintendent announced new protocols for compliance and added additional staff for monitoring.
When asked about which policy position he is most proud of during his first year as a School Board Member, Gallon, who is a man of many words pauses and reflects. “Feeding the children,” he answers referring to the item and actions that followed Hurricane Irma that ravaged South Florida and left many without power and tens of thousands of poor children hungry. Gallon, who himself was without power for 9 days, has been largely credited with efforts during Hurricane Irma—from speaking directly on live television in his challenge of the bureaucratic “red tape” that left lines of elderly and children waiting hours to enter into hurricane shelters, to a late night email he sent asking the Superintendent about plans to feed children who were still out of school. Gallon, after giving out ice and water earlier that day said, along with the heat in his home, he couldn’t sleep thinking about the children and that’s simply what prompted the email. The next day Gallon, after making rounds to several radio stations to discuss the issue of post-storm meals for children, went to a public housing project in Opa-locka and personally gave out sandwiches, fruit, and water, along with volunteers that joined him. After his email to the Superintendent, MDCPS launched an effort to provide meals at schools. For two days, over 50,000 people were fed, according to the district. “The Board’s support of that item ensured that we would never have to ask the question about feeding our children again—when we are long gone and the hurricanes still come,” Gallon said. “A policy position that focuses on feeding children is what I am most proud of.”