Who was Paul W. Bell?

paul bell portrait

Paul W. Bell (1933 – 1990)

“I have always had the real belief that every child can learn”

This statement embodies the essence of Paul W. Bell. Little did Mr. Bell know that after receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Louisville in 1954, his dream to become an educator would outweigh his mother’s desire to have a lawyer in the family. Instead children became his life’s work and dream became a reality when he was selected superintendent of the fourth largest school district in the country.

From his southern roots in Kentucky to a small coffee farm in Guatemala, Mr. Bell transferred his love for teaching and discovered the joys of bilingualism. Arriving at the Dade County School Board offices on a Greyhound bus, with his degree, his bilingualism, and little else, he interviewed for his first teaching position in the county. As Mr. Bell often remarked, “I have only applied for two jobs in my life. One was as a teacher in the Dade County Schools, the other as superintendent.”

Recognizing his exceptional qualities and expertise, Mr. Bell was appointed as the Coordinator of the Ford Foundation Project on Bilingual Education in 1966. That same year Paul Bell served as the first national Vice President of the Association of Teachers of English for Speakers of Other Languages and was later selected as its national President. During this time and under his leadership the M-DCPS Bilingual/ Foreign Language program became a model for the nation.

Although Mr. Bell served the Dade County Public School System in numerous and varying capacities, he was mostly known and nationally recognized for his dedicated leadership to curriculum and the instructional program. It seemed fitting that on March 7, 1990 the Dade County School Board unanimously selected Paul W. Bell as its Superintendent. His message to all employees focused once again on the premise that all children can achieve and will learn to read.

Along with his wife, Barbara, and children, Karen, Maya, Steven, and Shari, he loved the vibrant community of Miami in which he lived.