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He Will, He Won't: Miami School Superintendent Rejects NYC's Top Job

Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced that he will turn down a job offer to become head of the New York City schools.
Joe Raedle
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Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced that he will turn down a job offer to become head of the New York City schools.

"I am breaking an agreement between adults to honor a pact and an agreement I have with the children of Miami."

That was Alberto Carvalho's surprising statement today at an hours-long emergency meeting of the Miami-Dade County school board that was broadcast live. In it, the city's highly regarded superintendent said he is no longer interested in running New York City's public schools, the nation's largest school system.

Mayor Bill de Blasio had announced Wednesday that Carvalho would replace Carmen Farina, who came out of retirement to lead the district in 2013 and announced her re-retirement in December.

But after facing tearful community members who begged him to stay during the meeting Thursday morning, an emotional Carvalho reassured Miami-Dade school board members, community leaders and students that he would stay put.

An immigrant from Portugal and a former science teacher, Carvalho took over the top position in 2008, when the nation's fourth-largest district was nearly bankrupt. Under his leadership the district has been nationally recognized, as the high school graduation rate has risen 20 points and test scores have improved. Carvalho had previously been mentioned as a candidate to lead the Los Angeles schools in 2015.

Carvalho's decade-long tenure is a rarity amid big city school leaders. As we've reported, urban superintendents last about three-and-a-half years on average. The job offers all the managerial responsibility of a CEO position in the private sector without the pay; all the political heat of a mayorship without the public profile.

As a matter of fact, LA, the second-largest district in the country, is looking for a superintendent right now (Carvalho's name was mentioned then, too), and Chicago, the third largest, just named a new leader.

And now New York City is back to the drawing board. "Bullet dodged" commented Eric Phillips, de Blasio's press secretary, on Twitter, and de Blasio held a press conference to confirm that a nationwide search will resume. But it won't be easy; anyone else the city approaches will know that they're second choice.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anya Kamenetz is an education correspondent at NPR. She joined NPR in 2014, working as part of a new initiative to coordinate on-air and online coverage of learning. Since then the NPR Ed team has won a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for Innovation, and a 2015 National Award for Education Reporting for the multimedia national collaboration, the Grad Rates project.
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