Alberto Carvalho Ignores Black Schools

The confetti wafted onto his impossibly square shoulders. The Nashville audience stood and roared. Then a medal on a royal-blue ribbon was draped around Miami-Dade schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho's neck. Last month, after more than five years of agonizingly hard work, the self-proclaimed son of "pretty dramatic poverty" who grew up in a one-bedroom apartment with no electricity or running water was named the nation's school superintendent of the year.

"Some of us know piss when we see it and smell it."

"If we can crack the code to student achievement in Miami, [which is] so poor, so diverse," said Carvalho, still wearing the medal beneath his tailored sport coat after the event, "it is a solution for the rest of the nation."

Problem is, his "solution" is under attack. Parents and alumni representing predominantly African-American schools in the urban core claim Carvalho has betrayed them and ignored their interests. A letter sent last week by angry, frustrated members of Inner City Alumni for Responsible Education (ICARE), an umbrella group representing alumni associations from seven of Miami-Dade County's largest inner-city high schools, accuses Carvalho of being "a slick operator" and showing "neglect and apathy" for black schools while caving to concerns from other ethnic groups.

Carvalho taught kids how to use laptops at Holmes Elementary in 2012.
Knight Foundation/Flickr/Wiki Commons
Carvalho taught kids how to use laptops at Holmes Elementary in 2012.

"All we get from the superintendent is broken promise after broken promise," says Larry Williams, president of Miami Northwestern High's alumni association and a 1974 grad. "Our schools have the worst technology, the buildings are outdated, and he just pushes us to the back burner and then lies about it."

The detailed, six-page letter of protest comes at an inopportune time for Carvalho. This past weekend, he visited Northwestern for a celebration of the school's academic achievements. According to the Miami Herald, he's rumored to be pondering "leaving the district for a job with a higher profile." And he is likely to meet soon with President Obama to celebrate his superintendent-of-the-year honor.

After I sent the alumni letter to Carvalho's office last week, his chief of staff, Milagros Fornell, responded with an even more exhaustive missive that described the school department's efforts to distribute money fairly, increase hiring of African-Americans, and work with businesses in the community. "Over the past 5.5 years, we believe we have come together as a community," she wrote, following with a favorite Carvalho-ism. "No longer an uneasy collection of factions, we are one Miami."

Carvalho, a handsome, charismatic man who speaks with a slight accent from his childhood in Portugal, took the helm at Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the nation's fourth-largest district, in July 2008. He replaced Rudy Crew, a baby-faced former head of New York City public schools — whom the Miami-Dade school board fired.

Among Carvalho's first actions was a public meeting with the black community at the cavernous Caleb Center. Attendees were skeptical. After all, Crew, who is African-American, was fired from the job soon after becoming Florida's first national superintendent of the year. (Carvalho is, coincidentally, the second.) Members of the community feared they would be forgotten.

But according to William "DC" Clark, president of Miami Central's alumni association and author of the protest letter, Carvalho made a "stirring speech" and then walked into a circle of men. "If you walk with me, if you get involved," the superintendent said, "I promise you we can make the necessary changes in this community [to] make us proud."

So Clark and the other leaders of the alumni associations — Edison, Booker T. Washington, Norland, Jackson, Northwestern, and Carol City — began holding meetings with Carvalho in his downtown Miami office. They asked for more hiring of black administrators. And they demanded that more federal money meant for poor students be directed toward the institutions the leaders represented. Clark says they met ten times. Others say the number of meetings was more like two dozen.

"I was one of his biggest proponents, and I consider him a friend," says Clark, a retired firefighter whose two daughters and grandson also attended Central. "But he has betrayed the community. He's playing a shell game with our kids' lives."

Clark and the others demanded a branding office so their schools could make money off the names, such as Central and Northwestern, which have regularly been rated among the nation's top football teams and have produced large numbers of professional players. The alumni association chiefs also asked for upgrading of the schools' stadiums, which draw tens of thousands of spectators for big games.

But, says Clark's letter, "Mr. Carvalho said he would deal with the issue some three years ago. It was never done."

It is hard to deny that Carvalho — despite a sometimes tendentious school board — has achieved much during his six-year tenure. He cut $2 billion from the schools budget and this year gained long-awaited raises for teachers. Test scores are up. Even Northwestern went from a D to an A school. And in 2012, through sheer force of will, he persuaded county voters to approve a $1.2 billion referendum for school construction.

That same year, the county won the much-coveted Broad Prize as the nation's most improved urban school district. A U.S. News & World Report story about the award noted that graduation rates among black and Hispanic students had climbed 14 percent between 2006 and 2009 — the greatest increase of any urban district.

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So predictable. The New Times runs an article, casting an unfavorable opinion of the eve-pretentious and vain Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and he immediately solicits the assistance of his groupies within the Black community to begin countering the article and doing damage control.  

Now, there will be an "opinion" article that supports Carvalho appearing in the New Times. Carvalho, who spent Friday with the President and First Lady promoting his agenda, his name, his political campaign and his brand took advantage of the photograph opportunity and did the usual Twitter and Facebook overload. 

But, in the back of his mind, he was still upset and disturbed that some leaders within the Black community are not pleased with him. The article appears to have promoted a meeting with him and one of his biggest followers, along with a writer from the New Times. Suffice it to say the opinion article will be a scripted "fluff" story on Carvalho.

So predictable. The Superintendent also made sure he made the rounds in the urban core, stopping off to hold a tug-of-peace contest at an elementary school and visit a school to do some gardening and beautification. Again, more photo opportunities. 

And then, there was lunch with the minion. 

No one is saying that there has not been progress and improvements made. That would be inaccurate and untruthful.

Carvalho has one priority-himself. That is indisputable and soon, this house of cards will fall.


sounds like sour grapes from some members of the black community who aren't getting "greased".

a guy mad because Carvahlo won't let him make money off football teams? give me a break!

Rudy Crew was responsible for the improvement in the black community? Balderdash I say! Rudy Crew was a fat piece of shit who stole a bunch of money, got run out of town on a rail and then got paid a golden parachute because our spineless school board was afraid they would get sued. Crew has since been fired from several other jobs and now heads a podunk college in DC.

I'm not normally a big fan of Carvahlo but this article is way off base. When will the black community start doing their job? When will black men start taking care of their own? When will the black community start teaching their kids right from wrong.

Funny, back before de segregation we had strong black neighborhood schools with strong black leadership, administrators, teachers and black kids learned and respected.

De segregation and Johnson's war on poverty were two of the worst things that ever happened to the black community.

frankd4 topcommenter for the funding when it cost MORE to transport a kid than what it cost to educate him or her on a per capita basis per term that is a warning signal of mismanagement

as for the devisivness both side have their points yet a poor district is lacking money not talk and MIAMI is the largest poor city in AMERICA so its public school results will reflect that lack of resources BUT HEY we have that $562,ooo,ooo new stadium so who cares that we have NO qualified SECOND GRADE teachers - right ? 

Once MIAMI-DADE residents realize their WATER and SEWER systems are about to collapse from old age who will care about elementary schools ?

anyway the rich send their kids to PRIVATE schools and as for the others we will always need people at BURGER KING flippin burgers and frying fries - right ?

frankd4 topcommenter bad there is such polarized positions

if you listen to these board meetings on NPR, like i do, this school district has some serious problems, including literally even understanding each other, heavy spanish accents, slang used that makes no sense, ramblings on about minor issues, a thirty year service employ on minimum wage who has to pay her own health insurance due to labor ranglings, contracts awarded on extravagant items that no doubt will be stolen or broken or put into storage as unuseable

and on top of it you would think half the kids graduating have been accepted to HARVARD with the way awards and accolades and heroics are heralded on silly little insignificant advances

i'm sure this guy is soon onto other things = period


You know this article really bothers me. Because on one side there is the Carvalho which many have their views on.. But at the same time there is the african american community…. Neither side is perfect.. But I will tell you, when it comes to technology the schools of Central, Northwestern, Jackson, and Booker T Washington get the things they want. Central Senior is one of the newest buildings in the school system. They have gotten everything they want… The fact is that when you give kids that don't care about things they destroy the equipment. We either have problems with theft, or the kids vandalize what they are given…  My biggest problem is when kids are given the best equipment and they do nothing with it. They break it, They destroy it, Then they complain and want more… They always want more… But they squander what they get… Northwestern is close to the same. They get things and they break them.. Because when you give people things who don't care they take no responsibility to care for things.. Thats what truly annoys me. Just as to the fact we are buying millions in tablets for kids who cannot handle the responsibility of taking care of them… Thats why technicians have always pushed for desktops because they last longer and take a beating better then laptops.. Or anything else of that nature.. 

I will still say Carvalho has been the most mobile and best SUP the school district has had.. Regardless of his way of dealing with stuff. I haven't seen problems taken care of better with Rudy, Steirheim, Cuevas, or any of the other ones. Carvalho understands the school system.. Unfortunately anyone in the SUP position has to play the role of politician.. There are too many different groups fighting for a piece of the pie and there isn't enough pie to go around. Carvalho in my mind has gone above and beyond for the African american community… I don't understand what more they want? Everyone has to jump through hoops to get registered with the school system to do business. Don't make it seem like because he's african american that it was harder when it's just as hard for any group with a business to get in. Stop thinking everything is going to get handed to you on a silver platter. Because the reality is it's not.. We all have to fight and claw for whatever we want in life. If it was always easy it wouldn't be worth it...


Alberto Carvalho is a special case. He sits imperially impervious, camouflaged in a fancy suit, with neatly groomed hair, articulate, paranoid, well-scripted, self-absorbed, intelligent, cunning, calculated and always looking ahead. He is the ultimate political illusionist with a top-hat full of tricks, treats and facades. 

Sadly, many of those seated in the front row of this magic show are from the urban core. Even more unfortunate and depressing is, when some of these good community leaders come up for air...when they surface to realize they may have been duped...and they call out Carvalho to fix it; he responds the same way every time.  

He must have some type of kit with the words,"In Case of Emergency Within the Black Community...Do This:

Clicks the heels of his expensive shoes; make phone calls using a list kept in his office to the usual list of community member groupies that he occasionally dines with and ask them to do damage control within the community and speak at the school board meeting on his behalf; hold meeting with hand-selected faith-based leaders; schedule a radio show interview on black radio with his head of human resources and bring some Black faces from his Cabinet and Senior Staff; offer up fancy words and rhymes which amount to nothing more than plugs and patches to fix the gaping holes that exist within the inner-city schools and communities; schedule media press release and news conference and make sure the same Black faces are standing behind him; send out tweets and Facebook messages; make a visit to a sporting event at an inner-city school; and so on-and so on-and so on, until the very same critics are silenced and noise is gone. 

Stop buying it!   

Carvalho may be a little man, but he must always have the biggest chair in the room. All roads must lead to him. A fancy vocabulary with big ambitions, big dreams and motivation all tied to the only thing that matters-himself. His career. His name. His resume. His photos. His brand. His image.

The Miami Dade school system has never been so politicized. It has never been so Superintendent-centric. It has never been so image conscientious, not to say that is a bad thing, but it is to the point of obsession. The weekly media stories are ad nausea. How many awards can one place into their trophy case? It becomes a distraction to the children and the teachers. Enough already. He appears in the media more than any elected local official, and local professional athlete for that matter, yet he enjoys the comfort and protection of prancing around as an appointed administrator. 

Can the school system just be run with some humility and modestly? Can the energy that goes into marketing Carvalho be redirected to the classroom and children...specifically the inner-city schools? Can the grandstanding just pause? Doesn't the Superintendent work for the School Board or do they work for him? It is never a good practice to hand anyone in this type of position such a long-term contract, yet the School Board did just that. 

Children can be an easy prop or pawn to use and rally behind because they are as American as Chevrolet and Apple Pie. When one wears a mask for so long, they actually begin to believe they are who the mask is.    

The truth is there are problems in the cathedral Carvalho has made. His Carvalho-isms are played out. When he speaks of "moral responsibility and imperatives," one has to look no further than when media reports of his alleged affair with a news reporter covering the school system surfaced. All is not how it appears. When he rants about "promises made and promises kept," there may be those, according to this article, that disagree with him.   

It just appears that he is constantly over-correcting, but for what? No one needs or wants the Superintendent to be a saint...or a savior...and they don't want a rock-star either. Just be a teacher...that is what you claim to be so often and how you started this journey.   

Rudy Crew was jettisoned out of town for a number of reasons-some his own and others the doing of those closest to him. Those within the school system know how toxic, corrupt and dishonest it is. Carvalho, when he is not bloating and boasting about himself, constantly refers to how the school district is transparent and open. Please, do not for a minute, believe the system will ever be an open book. Different roads sometimes lead to the same castle but it is he or she that rules the castle that sets the rules for the castle.   

This article suggests some of the community has had enough and that is why it may be in the best interest of everyone that a change in the Superintendency come and come now. It is no secret that rumors suggest Carvalho has plans and ambitions to hold a higher office. 

Go now know how important timing is...and there may be no tardy pass for you if you stay too long.   

chuck.strouse moderator editor

@cargon786  Cargon, I don't know if all of  this is predictable, but it is an important topic.  Sure we respond with different ideas, but in the end the public gets it. That is what a free press is about. The president made no indication that he had heard the criticism, so who knows what happened on that front....


@nightstalker4848 the other Superintendents handled things they just didn't work so hard at showcasing their success and hiding their failures.

frankd4 topcommenter

.................................i see the same in PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION whereas new buses and station stops are funded and a ridership that TRASHES these assets without regard and then complains and carries on about how other have all the nice things

what i cannot understand is how these people shit where they eat ? i mean these people ride the same bus every day yet leave garbage and trash on the seats and floors of these buses and then carry on about smells and flies and roaches when THEY are the ones that trashed the bus up in the first place !

as if their trash and garbage should be cleaned up by someone else AND it won't accumulate and rot smell and attract bugs ? this is how they LIVE and then complain - i just don't get it

frankd4 topcommenter

.................the BLACK community has no regard for equality yet they themselves demand it and that is the first sign of problems, yet its NOT personal per say its just their way

IF as an italian kid i ever disrespected MY PEOPLE by wearing my pants down and my cap backwards and acted like a clown i would be ostracized by the ENTIRE italian community = period = YET a black kid will think nothing of either parents or community or PRIDE or SELF-RESPECT or respect for others and their property which is why BLACK on BLACK crime and violence is rampant and drug use and abuse is common SUCKING any and all vitality OUT of these neighborhoods

and to somehow think opa-locka or liberty city schools were "better" under rudy crew or obama or sharpton or whomever the BLACK leadership is and are now worse under carvalho is just silly at the least and obnoxious at best

i think its just a conditional outcome of the nuclear family structure being non-existant

even with my own grandparents dead i could never dress or act in a way disrepectful to them


@jmlantz  and who were these others?

Crew? he was a crook.

Cuevas? another crook.

Steirheim? a non educator who was a bean counter and didn't know the first thing about education.

Paul Bell was probably one of the one's who would have been great but died of a heart attack.

Leonard Brittain?

I don't know who you speak of????


@ask4tjames @jmlantz I don't know where you get your facts.  But your writing definitely demonstrates a bias.  Do you really believe that Carvalho is not a crook while making accusations against the other men?  And why is it you can't express yourself without profanity?  BTW Rudy Crew is CEO of Oregon's Department of Education.  I also find it interesting that you make the comments you do about Steirheim because the current Super has chose to employ numerous administrators in the system that are non-educators to include the Principal's of several schools.  There is no need to get defensive and start name-calling and using profanity.  However, there is a great need to stop blaming and start working together to provide the ALL of the students of MDCPS the best education possible.  This can't be done through neglect and a large segment of MDCPS school are neglected to showcase a few and make the Super and his leadership look good.  Any one who points out the discrepancies is vilified and excluded from the process.  Enough already! We need to come together as a community and demand better. 

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