The special School Board meeting had it all: drama, suspense, professions of undying love, betrayal and, of course, Luther Campbell.
By the end, Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho had announced that he was staying in Miami, turning his back on the chance to run the largest school system in the country. The community breathed a collective sigh of relief after waiting — and waiting and waiting — to exhale.
We’re pretty sure that it wasn’t necessary to hold an hours-long meeting to, basically, have Carvalho reject a job offer in New York City and back out of a job that he had accepted, but it’s great news for Miami-Dade County’s public schools, nonetheless.
There’s no doubt that Carvalho has lifted the schools by lifting the students within. School grades over the years have risen since he has been at the helm.
He is a nationally recognized leader. He doesn’t run from a fight, practically daring, for instance, the federal government to deport any DACA student in the district. He is on the scene when gun violence takes the life of a young child in the district, while many elected officials, who should show up do not.
During his decade on the job, his two biggest accomplishments as head of the fourth-largest school district stand out: Its graduation rate has jumped from 58 percent when he took over to the current 80 percent. He has also managed to eliminate the scourge of “F” schools, which, now that he is staying put has a chance of being sustained. There had been as many as 22 in 2000, the district now has zero. That’s impressive.
But why all the intrigue, complete with the displays, however deserved, of filial affection from a standing-room-only crowd of supporters? No doubt, it sent the unmistakable message to School Board members who have pushed back, who have demanded more accountability from the superintendent, that he has the community’s overwhelming support.
He’s been a bit more roughed up since new, more skeptical members joined the School Board in 2016. However, we think challenge and calls for accountability only make the district stronger for the students it’s charged with educating. We hope the dynamic continues, because there are challenges within the school system that continue. The last thing the district needs is a constantly acquiescent School Board, no matter how visionary and accomplished its leader.
As elated as those in greater Miami are feeling, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has every right to be angry, feel betrayed. He’s a pretty skilled politician himself. Would he really have announced the “get” without Carvalho’s say-so? “He told me repeatedly that this was his dream job,” a surprised de Blasio said later at a news conference.
Carvalho said a flurry of “Please stay” texts and calls cracked his determination to leave. Then the plea from two DREAMers, he said, who feared deportation without him here to protect them was the deal-breaker as far as leaving for New York was concerned: “I broke an agreement with an adult to keep my promise to the school children of Miami-Dade,” he said.
Given that Carvalho is such a well-respected and accomplished leader, it’s a relief that the district won’t have to conduct a national search for a new superintendent. He’s been good for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. More important, he’s been vital for its students.