Miami Herald | By Sommer Brugal | January 5, 2022
How will the Miami-Dade School Board set out to replace outgoing Superintendent Alberto Carvalho? How long will it take? And perhaps more importantly, who will be appointed his successor and what qualifications should they have?
Those questions were among a handful that prompted debate among Miami-Dade School Board members Wednesday during a special meeting called to discuss the parameters of Carvalho’s departure, the qualifications of the future superintendent and the timeline for hiring a new superintendent.
Carvalho’s final day will be Feb. 3, Chair Perla Tabares Hantman told the School Board Wednesday. If necessary, however, Carvalho, who has been superintendent since 2008, said he would stay through Feb. 14. Contract negotiations remain underway, but have yet to be finalized, she added.
BOARD WANTS NEW SUPERINTENDENT IN A MONTH
The consensus? A seven-day application window for qualified candidates, beginning Wednesday, and just about three weeks after that to determine which applicant is the best fit. The board can extend or reopen the application window if they fail to agree on a candidate. The district would also create a link on its website where community members could offer opinions and suggestions related to the search.
All in all, the board plans to appoint the next superintendent in about one month — a move that already is getting push back from the community.
The discussion came nearly one month after Carvalho, 57, announced that he was leaving the district to head the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest district. Miami-Dade is the fourth-largest district in the country.
Carvalho, the second-longest serving superintendent in the district’s history, started his career as a 25-year-old science teacher at Miami Jackson High. He returned to Jackson High on Tuesday to fill in as a teacher of ninth-grade environmental science amid a wave of teacher absences due to COVID.
Though the board agreed on the qualifications required for the district’s next leader — demonstrated experience as a classroom teacher and principal and school district experience, a master’s degree and an understanding of the Miami-Dade community, among others — sentiments breached while discussing just how fast the search process should be.
On the one hand, board members such as Tabares Hantman and Vice Chair Steve Gallon III advocated for a swift selection process.
“Let’s not kid ourselves. People know Miami-Dade is looking for a superintendent,” Gallon said. “I don’t want to make this more exhaustive than it needs to be.” Moreover, he said, there’s no reason to conduct a national search because “we have the talent here within the county.”
Others, however, cautioned against moving too quickly, warning a short timeline might limit the board’s ability to engage the community and thoroughly vet potential candidates. For his part, Gallon said constituents could offer their opinions or feedback through the district’s link.
“We need to take our time,” said board member Christi Fraga. “I don’t think it needs to be an extremely rushed process where someone needs to be named before the superintendent exits. (Appointing an interim superintendent) won’t stop the process in which our district will run. Four weeks is a short period of time.” She called for a 14-day application period, but the motion failed.
Board member Marta Pérez shared Fraga’s sentiments and questioned why the board couldn’t simply reinstate its succession plan, which calls for the district’s deputy superintendent to step in in the event of the superintendent’s absence or departure. Jaime Torrens is the deputy superintendent.
“The process has to start, so the process is going to start,” Gallon told reporters after the meeting. “We could have a number of individuals in this district right now that don’t need 21 days to make a determination whether or not they’re ready to step up to the plate.”
Several names have surfaced as possible replacements for Carvalho, including former top district officials and others.
COMMUNITY MEMBERS UPSET OVER TIMELINE
Transparency was the main theme among community members who spoke at Wednesday’s special meeting.
Community leaders — including Karla Herndandez-Mats, United Teachers of Dade president, and Larry Williams, chair of the board of Miami Northwestern Alumni and chairman of the board of ICARE, Inner City Alumni for Responsible Education — called for a comprehensive and inclusive search. Moreover, they asked for a wide-range, community-oriented committee that would include not only district officials, but also students, teachers, community leaders and educational organizations.
Following the board’s discussion, however, many felt they were being left out of the conversation.
“Today felt like a slap in the face,” Mina Hosseini, executive director of P.S. 305, told the Herald. “Today demonstrated it’s not our will, it’s (the board’s) will and we have to sit back and watch what happens.”
People want to engage in the process, she said, but imposing an “arbitrary” four-week deadline demonstrates there’s little desire to engage the community or conduct a “deep dive the district deserves.”
For Williams, however, the swift timeline indicates the board wants to “plug and play” with the position of superintendent. There’s no reason a cabinet member can’t take over for 60 days to ensure the board has ample time to make a decision, he said.
He also pointed to the Broward County school district, which appointed an interim superintendent while it conducts its search. (The board in October rejected naming the interim superintendent as its permanent leader because it felt rushed and wanted to ensure community input.)
“I’m embarrassed the board wants to have a superintendent in place in seven days,” Williams said. “That means you don’t want someone really qualified, that means you want someone you’re comfortable with.”