Alberto Carvalho: Miami-Dade schools restructuring saves $5 million

Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is shaking up his cabinet as part of a central office restructuring that he says will save millions of dollars.

A new chief financial officer has been named. An assignment editor from WSVN-Fox 7 has been tapped as head of communications. And Carvalho hired a new chief of staff, his third in the past 12 months.

The moves were among dozens of promotions, demotions and appointments unanimously approved Wednesday by the Miami-Dade School Board. Carvalho says the personnel changes — coupled with a hiring freeze on school secretaries and perhaps “minimal” layoffs — are part of an annual reshuffling that will save the school system $5 million.

Cuts would be “outside of the classroom,” he said. And savings will “be redirected towards the protection of school site employees and educational programs.”

Some of the big-picture changes by Carvalho include the creation of new positions to address growing needs, such as a new administrator to oversee autism instructional services. He is establishing a marketing department, as requested by the School Board, to publicize the district’s successes as thousands of students each year leave traditional schools for charter schools.

Carvalho also wants to hire more schools police using grant money, create a healthcare-fraud task force and further streamline a facilities office that a year ago was restructured as the district began a $1.2 billion bond initiative.

“I think this [reorganization] really speaks to a lot of the concerns raised by the board,” said School Board member Raquel Regalado, noting that previous restructurings were driven by the need to cut costs.

Among the high-profile moves approved Wednesday:

• Jose Dotres, a former assistant superintendent who left to take a senior position with the Broward school district, has returned to replace the retired Milagros Fornell as Carvalho’s chief of staff.

• Judith Marte will be promoted to chief financial officer following the retirement of Richard Hinds.

• Daisy Gonzalez-Diego, a veteran assignment editor at WSVN, has been hired as the district’s new chief communications officer.

• Melody Thelwell, a former Jackson Health System employee, has been hired to oversee purchasing as the district’s chief procurement officer.

Carvalho is also creating the position of chief strategy officer, to oversee key district initiatives. Meanwhile, the district’s head of intergovernmental affairs received a promotion and the head of operations was elevated to deputy superintendent.

Salaries of the promoted and demoted employees were not set Wednesday, according to Enid Weisman, the school district’s head of human resources.

Some union leaders grumbled after the district released details of the reorganization Monday, frustrated by talk of employee reductions and senior-level promotions. But none spoke out Wednesday, and Weisman said that layoffs “may be in single digits,” and that most cuts would be focused on vacant positions.

Carvalho also said the hiring freeze on school secretaries would mean only that schools would tap central office secretaries for vacant jobs. And cuts to teaching positions, he said, would be related to declining demand. For instance, he mentioned wood shop as a course that no longer attracts students.

Teaching jobs cut as a result of any decline in enrollment were not included in Wednesday’s reorganization.

Most unions would see little to no potential layoffs or job cuts, according to the district. Ernie Brito, head of the Dade County School Administrators’ Association, one of the few groups of employees that might see up to 10 percent of its labor force reduced, said he trusted Carvalho to do what is best.

“Upon first seeing this [reorganization plan] I was concerned,” said Brito, whose labor group represents information technology workers and maintenance supervisors. “I want to thank the superintendent for taking a few minutes to discuss it with me and explain some of the things he’s doing. As he explained it, people will be offered other jobs.”