MIAMI (WSVN) - In his first address as superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Dr. Jose Dotres said the district’s focus in the upcoming school year will be to connect with and inspire students.

Dotres’ speech, delivered Friday at Miami Senior High School, was his first as M-DCPS superintendent.

“Thank you for being with me today on my very first opening of schools,” he said.

The upcoming school year marks the first time school will be mostly back to normal in over two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As parents complete uniform and supply purchases, district officials said they are doing everything they can to get prepared.

Dotres said he is no stranger to Miami-Dade or the public school system.

“I am a product of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. I came here with my parents when I was very young and did not speak the language. In fact, I graduated from this high school,” he said.

In a question-and-answer session following his speech, Dotres said his first priority going into the 2022-23 school year is catching students up with learning after two and a half years of interruptions from the pandemic.

The superintendent said the district will place a special emphasis on tutoring and after-school programs. He also stressed the importance of mental health services.

“The importance of building relationships, that we have lost some of that as a result of the pandemic. We have an opportunity to reconnect like never before,” he said.

The school year is set to begin after the Miami-Dade school system has once gain earned an “A” rating. It is currently ranked eighth out of the 67 school districts in the state.

Over the summer, M-DCPS administrators have stayed busy. They met with principals to talk about the new Parental Rights in Education bill and held trainings to ensure a safe space for students and teachers while also complying with the law.

The issue of safety remains a top priority. The Miami-Dade Schools Police Force have held four drills to make sure they are ready to respond hand in hand with local agencies.

Dotres said the district is looking forward to what else needs to be improved.

“What we need to do — yesterday, I was speaking to the state commissioner of education — in order to collect appropriate data for threat assessments, we need a robust automated system that collects the data in the same manner across the board,” he said.

Another challenge many school districts are facing is teacher recruitment and retention. The school district has over 200 open teacher positions. That figure is a fraction of the roughly 1,000 needed in Broward County.

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