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Who is Alberto Carvalho, LAUSD’s new superintendent?

Alberto Carvalho
Miami-Dade County Public Schools Supt. Alberto Carvalho speaks in Miami on Nov. 9. He has led the fourth-largest school district in the nation since 2008.
(Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

So who is Alberto Carvalho, the veteran educator the Los Angeles school board has tapped to lead the second-largest school district in the nation?

Background

Born in Portugal, he came to the United States at age 17. Carvalho learned English as a young adult and quickly worked his way up from construction and restaurant jobs as he attended Broward Community College. He later won a scholarship to Barry University, where he graduated in 1990 with a bachelor of science in biology. Carvalho speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Beginnings as a teacher, administrator

In his mid-20s, he interviewed for a teaching position at Miami Jackson Senior High. He was offered a job the same day, a Miami Herald profile reported in 2019.

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After four years in the classroom — teaching physics, chemistry and calculus — he became an assistant principal. The superintendent at the time was so impressed that he brought Carvalho to work downtown without his having been a principal. Carvalho oversaw federal programs and later became the district’s chief communications officer.

New LAUSD Supt. Alberto Carvalho must face students’ academic and emotional setbacks from the pandemic and long-term financial and enrollment worries.

He gathered further experience by overseeing grant administration and lobbying state officials. Carvalho launched several initiatives, including a Parent Academy and a School Improvement Zone, focusing on schools with low academic achievement.

He put himself at the helm of a new campus called iPrep Academy, a pre-kindergarten-to-12th-grade magnet school “designed to promote respect and responsibility among the students and staff,” its website says. All students are required to take honors classes.

In 2008, a number of emails that detailed what appeared to be an intimate relationship with a reporter at the Miami Herald, the local newspaper, became public. However, the controversy did not stop him from being considered, and ultimately hired, as superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the largest district in the state.

Superintendent

He has led Miami-Dade County Public Schools since 2008 and is among the nation’s most experienced and admired school district leaders.

“I have never seen any public servant or public official be as dedicated and as focused on a job as he has been focused on being superintendent in Miami,” said Fernand Amandi, a communications strategist based in Miami.

Carvalho is credited in the Miami-Dade district with providing stable leadership and improved academic performance, and creating special programs that offer more schooling choices for parents. In Los Angeles, he would immediately have to confront a school district in which many students have long struggled to achieve and were further set back — academically and emotionally — by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2018, after leading the district for a decade, Carvalho was set to become the next chancellor of the New York City School system, the largest in the nation. But Carvalho renounced the decision after 3 1/2-hour school board meeting, where community members implored him to stay. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was caught off guard, expressed surprise at the turn of events.

The episode was televised and was cheekily called “The Carvalho Show.” It also led many to hedge when The Times reported at 6:30 a.m. Thursday that Carvalho was the top choice for Los Angeles.

“Is he though?” some Twitter users questioned after the news broke before the official announcement.

Carvalho again turned to live television on Thursday to address his superintendency.

“As I now approach what undoubtedly will be my last day here as superintendent, I still feel that this journey is a fairy tale,” he said. “A fairy tale to be lived now on a different coast, but to the benefit of the same children of our nation. I am one who believes that the energy fuel of our democracy lies with public education. If we do right by our schools and our children, we protect democracy. That is what I will carry to Los Angeles.”

Carvalho appeared to begin a goodbye to the district that had served as his home for the last 14 years.

“Connecting with families while dismissing students from iPrep Academy is something I’m truly going to miss,” he tweeted along with a video waving goodbye to parents and students getting picked up at the school.

Leading during the pandemic

Carvalho took a public stance rebuking Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on a mask mandate in schools. DeSantis prohibited districts from enacting a mandate in schools and allow parents to choose whether to send their children in masks. Carvalho, citing guidance from medical leaders, defied the governor’s order and issued a mask mandate for students.

Ultimately, Carvalho cited falling coronavirus cases in dropping the district’s mandate in early November.

His ability to stand strong on his convictions is what Eduardo J. Padrón, president emeritus of Miami Dade College, admired most about Carvalho, who he often worked closely with over the years.

“He honestly felt he needed to do what was best for the children,” Padrón said, referencing the episode with DeSantis. “He showed to be a man of conviction.”

Further reading:

Carvalho won’t lead New York schools (NPR)

Inside his decision to stay in Miami (New York Times)

On mask mandates (CBS News)

His complicated legacy (Tampa Bay Times)

The view from Miami (Miami Herald)


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