School & District Management

Miami-Dade Superintendent Backs Out of N.Y.C. Job After Change of Heart

By Corey Mitchell — March 01, 2018 3 min read
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There was star power. There were tears. There were even intermissions—two of them.

The high-drama was worthy of a superintendent thought to be headed to the home of Broadway. Except that he isn’t.

After accepting the job to lead the nation’s largest school district, Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho will remain in his adopted hometown backing out of an agreement to go to New York.

But it didn’t happen before Carvalho held the public in suspense during a 3-hour, 40-minute long meeting as he publicly weighed his future, and the future of the district he has led for a decade.

“I don’t know how to break a promise to a child, how to break a promise to a community,” Carvalho said. “I stand firm while rooted in this community.”

For edu-wonks, it may have been the most captivating viewing since Betsy DeVos’s confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate.

It provided a plot twist for those who assumed that Carvalho-to-New York was a done deal: Less than 24 hours earlier, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that Carvalho would be the next leader of the city’s 1.1 million-student school system.

But Miami fought back against the lure of the Big Apple.

A special Miami school board meeting on Thursday began with chants of “Please don’t go! Please don’t go!” Parents, district employees, and even one of Miami’s most famous citizens—music producer Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell, the former leader of rap group 2 Live Crew—begged Carvalho to stay.

Some social media observers dubbed it ‘The Decision 2.0'—a reference to the 2010 television special in which NBA star LeBron James announced he would be signing with the Miami Heat instead of returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.

But in Carvalho’s case, he flipped the decision on its head; He decided to stay in his hometown.

The telegenic superintendent addressed the assembled crowd three times. And what some assumed would be his swan song became a call to action.

Carvalho railed against calls to arm teachers in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting, slammed President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, and tugged at the heartstrings of dozens of parents and employees.

Carvalho heightened the suspense by twice asking for recess during the meeting, apparently to call de Blasio he wasn’t taking the job. His announcement he would stay in Miami drew a standing ovation.

The cliffhanger decision now leaves de Blasio searching for a new leader as the current chancellor, Carmen Fariña, plans to retire soon.

Fariña announced her plans to leave in December, giving the mayor time to find her replacement. Now, he’ll need even more and members of de Blasio’s staff, including his press secretary, aren’t happy.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.