The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts. – C. S. Lewis
Public schools around the country are frantically searching for the best methods to cultivate our children’s academic pursuits. For Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, the answer lies in the 4 Rs of education: Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic and Restructuring.
Since assuming the position in 2008, Carvalho has employed innovative techniques in education and budgeting that have produced rising test scores in Miami-Dade County, home to the fourth largest public school district in the United States. Unlike some of his contemporaries, Carvalho was not an outsider brought in to fix a failing system, the educator has spent his career teaching in Miami-Dade schools.
Like many of the students under his watch, Carvalho started from the bottom. Born in Lisbon, Portugal, Carvalho grew up in poverty. His parents, a seamstress and a janitor respectively, had only achieved a third grade education. Hoping for a better life, the future educator traveled to America. After arriving in Fort Lauderdale, he supported himself as a day laborer and busboy while attending college. Carvalho eventually graduated from Barry University, and secured a position as a science teacher in 1990.
In his current role as Superintendent, Carvalho hasn’t been afraid to shake things up. Self-described as “reasonably impatient,” Carvalho started his tenure by reassigning almost 70 percent of the principals in the district. Next he worked to institute a performance-based pay system for teachers and has expanded parental choice, enabling parents to choose which school their child attends.
Carvalho has lofty goals, and has stated that he likes to lead from the front, “and not asking people to do something that I will not do myself.” To that end, the superintendent has put his money where his mouth is, starting two schools, the Primary Learning Center and iPrep Academy where he acts as self-appointed principal. He even takes time to return to the classroom to teach physics. On top of all that, Carvalho’s methods have managed to cut $400 million from the budget while shoring up $70 million in reserve.
All the work and results have not gone unnoticed. The dynamic educator has racked up impressive accolades. Carvalho has been selected as Florida’s 2014 Superintendent of the Year as well as the 2014 National Superintendent of the Year. Although Carvalho was reportedly offered the position of Assistant Secretary of Education by Arne Duncan, the United States Secretary of Education, he turned it down to continue his work. In an interview, Carvalho stated “…there’s a need at the local level for leadership to continue improving the quality of education in our community. It’s very important. I love this community.” Need you ask why we would select him as one of our Men of the Year?