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Carvalho says he will remain superintendent of Miami-Dade Public Schools

'Bullet dodged,' New York mayor's press secretary says

MIAMI – Miami-Dade County Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced Thursday that he will remain in his position with the school district despite a lucrative offer to be the new head of the New York City Department of Education.

The announcement was made at an emergency school board meeting.

"I underestimated the emotional tug, the level of commitment, the power that crying members of the community have had on me," Carvalho said. "Against probably my personal best interest, I shall remain in Miami-Dade as your superintendent."

The crowd in the room erupted in applause.

Carvalho said he spoke to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to inform him of his decision. He told reporters after the meeting that the conversation was professional and de Blasio told him he was "sorry that our brief friendship did not have the chance to evolve."

De Blasio held a news conference later in the day and said he was caught off guard by Carvalho's change of heart.

"I was very surprised by Mr. Carvalho's decision," the mayor said. "I thought we had found the right candidate. We had an extensive nationwide search, as a lot of you reported when the announcement was made. (He was) a candidate who was very impressive and had done a lot of good work in Miami." 

Carvalho apologized for having a change of heart so late in the process.

"I had made a decision on the basis of what I felt was the best for me professionally -- a decision that would have taken me back to the city where I first worked in this country as a dishwasher -- to that city where dreams are so alive," Carvalho said. "And it is a decision and commitment that I had made to that mayor, but I would not be true to myself and to this community if I did not give myself a chance to reconsider after my heart started beating faster and louder than my mind."

The superintendent said he was not only affected by the emotional commentary from his students and colleagues during the meeting, but also by phone calls from two undocumented students who told him, "I don't know what my future will look like if you leave."

The superintendent was greeted with cheers and a standing ovation as he entered the auditorium Thursday morning before the meeting started.

Carvalho thanked the board members as he addressed the crowd that gathered in support of him.

"I could not pick a better team than the team that sits before you today. I owe them our success," he said. "And behind them and in front of them are the other members of the team -- our teachers and leaders, this board -- everyone who every morning gets up to do right for kids." 

Before he was expected to make his announcement, Carvalho asked for a 5-minute break. Prior to that, he said we need to put kids first, schools need more funding for critical programs and, in the wake of the Parkland shooting, more law enforcement officers need to be on school grounds.

But Carvalho returned only to tell board members, students, teachers and community members that he needed to first speak with de Blasio before publicly announcing his decision.

"I just don't know how to break a promise to a child (and) how to break a promise to a community, and that has weighed on me over the past 24 hours like nothing has weighed on me before," Carvalho said.

De Blasio's press secretary, Eric Phillips, asked people to be patient as NYC officials were puzzled whether Carvalho would decline the job offer that they said he already accepted.

After the announcement, Phillips tore into Carvalho, questioning who would vote for someone like the superintendent.

"He was a Yes for a week+, until he was a No 15 minutes ago. Bullet dodged," Phillips posted. "Who would ever hire this guy again? Who would ever vote for him?"

But Carvalho did not fire back at the press secretary's tweets, taking to Twitter himself to thank de Blasio for the offer.

"Thank you @BilldeBlasio @NYCSchools and the people of New York City for all you have offered me," Carvalho posted. "I am eternally grateful and appreciative of you and this opportunity. This is one of the hardest decisions I have ever made."

Ahead of the meeting, Carvalho greeted students and parents at iPreparatory Academy, where he named himself principal. He said no matter what, he will always fight for teachers and students.

"We have to do a lot of work in this state to value education, to value teachers, to stop the insanity and that's what I hope to talk about at 10 o'clock in the morning. So I'm the least of this equation. What's important are these kids and these teachers," Carvalho said. 

iPrep Academy students and their teacher gathered together at the podium to address Carvalho and asked him to stay, but said they will not hinder him from pursuing success.

"Losing Carvalho would be losing our voice. He's left a legacy in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and on behalf of the teachers and my student body, we express our gratitude, honor, praise, indebtedness and love," the educator said. "Independently of any outcome, you will always be our principal, our fearless leader and our inspiration."

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Carvalho hugged students and faculty members, and thanked the board members as he addressed the crowd that gathered in support of him.

"I could not pick a better team than the team that sits before you today. I owe them our success," he said. "And behind them and in front of them are the other members of the team -- our teachers and leaders, this board -- everyone who every morning gets up to do right for kids." 

School board chairwoman Perla Tabares Hartman said she called the emergency meeting of board members Thursday to discuss the future of the district's leadership after De Blasio announced that Carvalho would be joining NYC's school district. She said she hoped Carvalho will stay. 

Board members echoed her sentiment at the emotional meeting. 

"He is a master of innovation and an inspirational leader like we have never seen before," Board Member Lubby Navarro said.

People in the community also spoke Thursday, including anti-violence activist Tangela Sears, who asked Carvalho to stay in South Florida.

"My prayer is that we keep you," she said.

Rapper Luther Campbell, better known as Uncle Luke, also asked the superintendent to stay in Miami, saying, "New York ain't got nothing on us."

Campbell was previously the defensive coordinator for the football team at Miami Jackson High School.

If he had taken the job, Carvalho would go from leading the nation's fourth-largest school district to its biggest.

"Alberto Carvalho is a world-class educator with an unmatched track record of success," New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said in a statement Wednesday. "I am very confident that our extensive, national search has found New York City the best person to lead the nation’s largest school system into the future."

Carvalho has a contract with the county until 2020. A school board member told Local 10 News on Wednesday that the board was reviewing Carvalho's contact and that he needed to give the county 90 days notice before leaving.

Born in Portugal, Carvalho started his career as a physics, chemistry and calculus teacher at Miami Jackson Senior High School. He rose up the ranks of the school system, eventually becoming superintendent in 2008.

Media friendly and politically savvy, Carvalho has been nationally well-regarded. During his tenure, the county graduation rate has risen to 80 percent and he won the National Superintendent of the Year award in 2014. 


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