Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Chosen to Run New York City School District UPDATED

Update: Carvalho stunningly turned the job down the next day, surprising the New York City mayor's office and sparking a furious tweet-storm from Bill de Blasio's press secretary.

Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade County Public Schools' acclaimed superintendent, is leaving his post after nearly a decade to take over the New York City public school system, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today.

Carvalho, 51, has been one of the few — and we do mean few examples of good governance and solid leadership in Miami-Dade over the past ten years. Though many of his predecessors were generally seen as unpopular with the public, the graduation rate in Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) jumped from 60.5 percent to 80.4 percent — an all-time high — under his tenure. Carvalho's 345,000-student school district in 2012 was awarded the prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education, which honors school districts that improve the lives of minority students. The American Association of School Administrators named Carvalho superintendent of the year in 2014.

Carvalho will take over for retiring New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. His new position oversees 1,800 schools, 75,000 teachers, 1.1 million students, and $24 billion in education funding.

The New York Times, Politico, and most other New York City media outlets have reported that the job change is a done deal (Politico reports the decision was made weeks ago but delayed because of the Parkland massacre), but a MDCPS spokesperson told the Miami Herald today that, as of 6:30 p.m., Carvalho had not yet accepted the post. At the same time, however, de Blasio was welcoming Carvalho to New York:
Carvalho, who came to the United States as a 17-year-old undocumented immigrant from Lisbon, Portugal, has spent his entire career working within Dade Schools. He began his professional life teaching at Miami Jackson Senior High and worked his way up. When he was named superintendent of the year in 2014, Miami-Dade School Board President Perla Tabares Hantman said it was because he knew and valued "the people who are already here.”

Rumors have swirled for years that Carvalho, a self-described "social liberal and fiscal conservative," was mulling a run for Congress. He confirmed last year that political insiders had been courting him to run for office to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, but he ultimately declined, telling the Herald he was too committed to the school district. (Rumors also circulated that he was being considered to run Hillary Clinton's Department of Education, but that reality never transpired.)

Though Carvalho has been a loud and vocal critic of President Donald Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric and crackdown, he has otherwise described himself as a "political free agent" and is not a registered Democrat. He has overseen the expansion of charter and magnet schools across Miami-Dade but has also fought diligently against Tallahassee's constant attempts to defund public education statewide. He has been one of the loudest voices lobbying against HB 7069, a 2017 education-funding bill that siphoned money from public schools and toward charters. He has also fought to keep the district's music, arts, and extracurricular programs protected from budget cuts and has remained on good terms with the teachers' union, United Teachers of Dade.

His lone major scandal came in 2008 shortly after he took office. Leaked emails showed the married Carvalho and a former education reporter for the Miami Herald, who by then had moved to the Boston Globe, had engaged in a flirtatious, possibly sexual relationship while Carvalho was the district's assistant superintendent. Though nothing major seemed to have transpired, the incident cost the reporter her job, because flirting with and/or having sex with the people you're covering isn't remotely ethical.

Miamians have been altogether thankful that this appeared to be the only minor bump in Carvalho's tenure. Neighboring Broward County Public Schools seems to fight a new corruption scandal by the month.

Instead, New Times named Carvahlo a "Miracle Man" in 2011.

"I look forward to welcoming our new chancellor to New York City, and to working with him in the years ahead as we deepen achievement in our classrooms and build on the outstanding record of accomplishment that Chancellor Fariña has delivered across the five boroughs," de Blasio tweeted this afternoon.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.