We spoke with Dr. Lubby Navarro, School Board Member of District 7 of the Miami-Dade County School Board, who shared her life story and journey of leaving Cuba as a child during the Mariel Boatlift in 1980 and about her life dedicated to public service.
Dr. Lubby Navarro has been recognized by several community organizations for her leadership in public service of over 25 years, advocating primarily for public education to ensure that our children and parents have access to all the resources in the public school education system. Many are unaware of her life story; she came to the United States as an immigrant with her family who fled the communist country of Cuba during the 1980 Mariel Boatlift, when about 125,000 Cubans left the island in just seven months between April and October 1980.
Back then, Miami saw the sudden and massive arrival of Cuban citizens fleeing Fidel’s regime. Her father Rene, who had been in the United States since 1979, upon the announcement of the opening of the Mariel returned back to Cuba to be reunited with his family and to bring them to the U.S. While waiting for his arrival in Mariel, Lubby along with her younger brother Jimmy and her mother Zoila lived at El Mosquito Camp, the tent camp established for families waiting for their loved ones to arrive to be able to start their boat trip to U.S.
During this time, Lubby, her brother Jimmy and mother Zoila (a Kindergarten teacher in her native Country of Cuba), lived in very harsh conditions. “We were at El Mosquito with limited food and resources and slept on a mat on the inside a tent, facing very unpleasant health and sanitary conditions,” Lubby recalls.
Fifty-nine people came on the boat along with her family, “When my father arrived at Mariel, there were people who had no one else to bring them to the U.S. and they implored him: ‘take us, save us.’.
In September 1980, Lubby and her family and the other families on the boat set out to sea and traveled the Gulf of Mexico and straits of Florida under inclement weather at sea in the mist of the hurricane season. Lubby recalls, “The waves were very high and pounding on the boat. Women and children were crying and were very scared, many people were sea sick; children were fearful; food and water were scarce; we found ourselves lost at sea in the middle of nowhere; it is a moment that I will never forget.
After a relentless journey of days, they finally set foot on American soil in Key West and were taken to the Krome Detention Center, where they were processed for political asylum. They spent a week there while a family member picked them up, and then the family moved to West New York (N.J.) where they started a new life. At the age nine, her family returned to Miami, where she has lived since 1985.
Especially at such a young age, significant experiences such as hers marks people’s lives, and they develop the character to face adversity with positive outcomes. In her case, this was the driving force to her purpose in life, which she found tirelessly serving the community and the Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS).
Lubby was an honor student of M-DCPS; she attended South Hialeah Elementary School, Miami Springs Middle School, and Miami Springs Senior High School where she was Class President and also participated in the Florida Girls’ State Program where her awareness and importance of civic engagement was sparked. She continued her college education at Florida International University, where she graduated with a degree in Political Science. In 2019, Ms. Navarro was later honored with a Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, from Catholic University of New Spain.
Her merits and achievements led her to start a career in public service from a young age. At age 20, she started working the for Florida State Senate and the Florida House of Representatives, where she served as a legislative assistant to different members of the Florida Legislature. “That was in 1995, and since then I have not stopped serving the public,” she says.
In these 25 years, she has held a variety of influential positions, especially since her involvement with M-DCPS in 2002 as administrative assistant to School Board Chair Perla Tabares Hantman, who was her mentor and role model on the school board.
She has held various positions in M-DCPS, including the school district’s Office of Governmental Affairs and Land Use Policy, as Director for the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Grants Administration, and Community Engagement. Also, in Miami-Dade County, as legislative assistant to the chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, and in the county’s Planning and Zoning Department, among others. These experiences have given her a broad community and civic engagement experience through her involvement in various organizations.
“All these years of public service required a great deal of effort. I am committed to carrying out my work for the benefit of the community while taking care of my daughter, who was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. It was a difficult event that, fortunately, I was able to balance with my work and experience to contribute to the entire educational system,” says Lubby.
In 2015, she was appointed as a school board member to fill the vacant seat representing District 7. Later in 2016, Dr. Navarro was elected with an overwhelming 79% of the vote to continue serving on the School Board of Miami-Dade County for a four-year term
As the School Board Member for District 7, she has been committed to helping parents whose second language is English. One of her initiatives was the development of a parent guide for English Language Learners’ (ELL’s), She has championed the expansion of school choice magnet programs in our public school system and advocated for more resources and assistance for parents. She has fought to ensure that students have access to mental health services and needed support for their families and those who are most vulnerable students our child with special needs.
During her tenure as District 7 School Board Member, she established the first District 7 Community Outreach Office in her community to directly assist her students, parents and community. She has also championed teacher salary increase compensation, and she proffered the board item to support the increase of teacher salary which led to the Referendum #362 in 2018, which was passed by our community to increase teacher salaries and school resource officers salaries.
She is currently running for re-election to continue her proven record and leadership on school board, the election will be held on August 18th. “I am humbly asking my community to give me the honor of having their vote again for my re-election,” she says. “I want to continue to serve as the voice for parents and students on our school board, during these times of uncertainty that our community is facing during this pandemic and how we move forward to ensure our students continue to thrive in their education. My experience and deep understanding of the school district as a former administrator and as a parent, is extremely important during these difficult times to help our families and mobilize the resources needed to help our children, teachers, and staff members”, Lubby said.
Among her proposals for this term, she highlights expanding the opportunities of choice that students have through the Magnet programs, ensuring that students have access to mental health services, and advocating adequate compensation for teachers, giving continuity to the achievement gained in her first term. She is advocating for flexibility for families during with the choices the district is offering for the reopening of schools and choices for their children’s learning experiences during the pandemic.
During her 25 years of public service, she has had the courage to face challenges head on. Her experience and life story of public service as well as her passion to champion all causes that support public education. Her professional career highlights her success with consistency and resilience to the way she faces life—a path of victory that took her from Mariel to her leadership role in the Miami-Dade County Public School District.
For more information about Dr. Lubby Navarro’s campaign visit www.lubbynavarro.com
Haz clic para leer en Español: Dr. Lubby Navarro Miembro de la Junta Escolar, Distrito 7, Campeona de nuestros Estudiantes, Padres y Maestros!