Karla Hernández-Mats, a special education teacher, has won election as president of United Teachers of Dade (UTD), the largest local union of educators in Florida.
With more than 14,000 members, UTD also is the largest local union in the Southeastern United States.
“I’m excited to work with teachers, parents and students in Miami-Dade public schools,” Hernández-Mats said. “I’m honored that my fellow educators have asked me to take on this responsibility and I take it very seriously. Every student should have the same opportunities that I’ve had and that’s why UTD is going to fight every day for universal, high-quality public education.”
Hernández-Mats is a first-generation American — born, raised and educated in Miami. Her parents are from Honduras. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Florida International University in Emotionally Handicapped Education and a master’s in Business Management from St. Thomas University. Hernández-Mats is married and the mother of a preschooler and a kindergartener who attends a Miami-Dade public school.
Hernández-Mats was a teacher of students with special needs in the Miami-Dade public schools for 10 years prior to winning election as UTD secretary-treasurer in 2013. She was the first Latina elected to an executive position in the union. During her term as secretary-treasurer, Hernández-Mats strengthened the union’s finances, clearing the organization of all debt. She also served as the union’s spokesperson to Spanish-language media.
In voting that took place throughout the Miami-Dade school district on Feb. 17, UTD members also elected Antonio White as first vice president and Mindy Grimes-Festge as secretary-treasurer. Hernandez-Mats, White and Grimes-Festge, running as a team, each won an outright majority of votes cast in a multi-candidate race. Under UTD rules they are elected to their respective offices without a runoff vote.
White, a graduate of Miami-Dade schools, teaches career and business education courses at the Jose Marti 6-12 Business Academy. He currently serves as a vice president at-large on the UTD Executive Board.
Grimes-Festge, whose mother was a Miami schoolteacher and UTD member, teaches third grade at Skyway Elementary. She currently serves as a vice president, Elementary on the UTD Executive Board.
Complete election results, including winners of executive board positions, are posted on the UTD website at <www.utd.org/news/new-utd-officers-elected>.
Hernández-Mats will succeed outgoing UTD president Fedrick C. Ingram, who recently was elected executive vice president of the Florida Education Association, a full-time position. The new team of UTD officers and executive board members will take office on May 19, following a district-wide Council of Building Stewards meeting.
“Our members have spoken,” Ingram said. “Under Karla’s leadership, UTD will continue a progressive, inclusionary vision focused on excellence for our students and equity for everyone who works for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.”
In addition to her responsibilities at UTD, Hernández-Mats is a member of the FEA (Florida Education Association) Governance Board and was elected as a member of the FEA Cabinet in July 2015. She also is chair of the American Federation of Teachers Women’s Rights Committee.
UTD is a union of professionals that works to advance the cause of public education.