Yesterday the De Blasio Administration announced that New York City’s new Chancellor will be Alberto Carvalho, most recently head of Florida’s Miami-Dade school district. A native of Portugal, Carvalho was once an undocumented immigrant who arrived in New York at age 17 speaking no English (he did speak French and Spanish) and started out as a dishwasher. At times he was homeless and, according to Chalkbeat, “slept in the back of a U-Haul truck while attending community college.” Now he’ll run America’s largest school district. (Technically he hasn’t accepted the job yet; he will make an announcement today at the Miami-Dade Board of Education meeting.)
Here are media reports on the appointment.
And perhaps most crucially, Carvalho has managed to walk a precarious political tightrope on school choice. Though de Blasio is philosophically opposed to most charter schools, he learned within his first few months as mayor that the city’s political realities do not give much quarter to his personal opinions on the matter. In the last few years, he has sought to extend an olive branch to parts of the local charter sector he and Fariña approve of, and has mostly avoided criticizing the city’s charter schools, except for Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy network.
It’s a fact of contemporary education politics that no mainstream schools superintendent can be completely ideologically opposed to charters and Carvalho is not.
“Who wouldn’t want Mr. Carvalho? He has done an amazing job here in 10 years,” said Lawrence Feldman, a longtime Miami-Dade school board member.He also spearheaded an effort to eliminate out-of-school suspensions, similar to the push in New York City under de Blasio. He has railed against standardized testing, leading an effort to cut back on district-mandated exams. His philosophy for turning around struggling schools also fits well with de Blasio’s. In Miami-Dade, Carvalho pushed out many under-performing principals and established an office to support needy schools with instructional and behavior coaches…Politically skilled, Carvalho’s name has often been floated for top jobs in education and beyond. He was rumored to be considered by Hillary Clinton for a possible U.S. Education Department job, and recently weighed a run for Congress.
He won the prestigious National Superintendent of the Year award in 2014, which was accompanied by a ceremony at the White House, and earned Miami-Dade the Broad Prize in Urban Education in 2012. In 2016, he won the Harold W. McGraw Jr. prize in K-12 education and Carvalho was appointed to the National Assessment for Education Progress by former Education Secretary Arne Duncan in 2015. NPR has called him “a miracle worker.”
Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz , who has often sparred with the mayor, applauded the choice of Mr. Carvalho and even took some credit, saying in a release that “he’s specifically one of the candidates I suggested to the Mayor in December.”…Mr. Carvalho supported the adoption of performance pay for teachers. In recent years, amid a backlash by some parents against what they consider too much testing, he introduced measures to reduce the number of assessments students faced.
Mr. Carvalho has pushed a different agenda than Ms. Fariña’s, expanding the number of charter, magnet and other choice schools and programs, and promoting the use of technology in the classroom. He started a school called iPreparatory Academy where students work at their own pace, partly led by teachers and partly using online curriculum. Mr. de Blasio is a critic of charter schools; Ms. Fariña has not pursued opening new schools or programs, and technology has not played a large part in her plans.
Carvalho, a career educator, is seen as a superstar in the superintendent’s world, having brought the graduation rate in his school system from about 60 percent to about 80 percent. He would take a pay cut of about $100,000 to move to New York to run what is seen as the most prestigious education job in the country.
De Blasio struggled for months to find a replacement for retiring Chancellor Carmen Fariña, 74, and was widely criticized for conducting his search in secret.
Carvalho has had a successful career in Miami, but he would have to learn how manage a a district with nearly three times as many students in New York City, said CUNY education professor David Bloomfield. “It’s going to be a steep learning curve for the new chancellor who spent his entire career in Miami-Dade,” he said.
“He will really think tonight,” [Miami Mayor Enid]Weisman told the Miami Herald. “He’s talked to all the board members today. They all asked him to please stay. He will make a decision tomorrow.”…Carvalho has been outspoken about political issues, including immigration and gun control. He often shares his own immigration story of arriving in New York City from Portugal at the age of 17. After attending Broward College and Barry University, Carvalho became a math teacher at Miami Jackson Senior High, where he was known for his smart suits and fashion sense. Students there reportedly called him “Mr. Armani.” He then rose through the school district ranks as an administrator.
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.
“On behalf of our more than 13,000 parent members, we welcome the new Chancellor and hope that Alberto Carvalho will be the independent leader that public school children desperately need. We extend our best wishes for his success and we look forward to working together to expand school choice and improve teacher effectiveness. After four years and half a billion dollars on a failed school turnaround program, NYC students need a leader who will work with urgency to give them the quality of schools they deserve,” said StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis.