In a political arena short on courage, Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho didn’t mince words.
While the county commission was bowing its head to President Donald Trump and rescinding a key sanctuary protection in order to hold arrested undocumented immigrants for ICE, Carvalho was taking a strikingly different public stand.
“On behalf of every single kid in this community,” he said, “over my dead body will any federal entity enter our schools to take immigration actions against our kids.”
The superintendent — an immigrant from Portugal and once a homeless undocumented teen — doesn’t avoid tough issues. He runs right into them, as he has done every time one of “our kids” gets shot.
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He is a presence in the community, at the very sites of shootings, along with police, grieving relatives and news media, consoling parents and pleading right into the camera to please, please stop the violence. He also has been instrumental in making sure Miami’s undocumented Dreamers have access to higher education.
To hear from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio that Carvalho was being offered the job of chancellor of the largest school district in the nation was a crushing blow to Miami-Dade, the fourth largest school district with more than 500,000 students. We knew Carvalho certainly has the talent and the résumé to reach higher, but we didn’t expect that.
But he’s turned it down. Whew! We dodged a big loss.
“On merely the basis of his educational achievements, Alberto Carvalho has arguably been the country’s best public school leader of the last 25 years,” said Giancarlo Sopo, a marketing executive and chairman of the CubaOne Foundation. “But it was his defense of immigrant children and their families — at a time when many turned their backs on them — that stand as his magnum opus. Doing what’s right, speaking truth to power, and standing up for the most vulnerable in society are hallmarks of great leadership, and by these measures, Superintendent Carvalho has been an inspiring force for good in our community.”
We couldn’t afford to lose him now that we need his leadership on school shootings — and Tallahassee’s assault on public education is in full swing, taking our tax dollars to fund private school enterprises when we need them so desperately to keep our students safe.
The rumors are still churning, however, that Carvalho is contemplating running for Congress or some other elected office — and that’s an idea we could get behind, although frankly, we need him where he is.
Will he make a good politician? No doubt.
For all that show of leadership in public, the skeptics, the envious of his energy and his few detractors call him a nastier version than “media darling.”
He knew how to work us, they said.
That might have been true in only one way: Carvalho is a savvy communicator. He is focused on getting results for what his students and teachers need, whether it’s a bond issue to fund school repairs or attention to the plight of parents losing children and schools losing students to rampant gun violence.
And he is an unabashed hugger of whoever needs one.
I felt only sadness at the prospect that he would leave — and fear that whoever would follow wouldn’t fill those shoes. Glad he’s staying, but that fear remains. Public schools need a strong leader.
If and when that @MiamiSup Twitter handle changes, I’ll be having a moment.
Thank you, Alberto, you’ve served us well.
Now, if you could sprinkle (like fairy dust) a little bit of that courage about town.