By Ashley Dyer

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is leaving South Florida to become the new superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, he announced Thursday afternoon.

“I am blessed and happy to report that the Los Angeles Unified School System has offered me the position of superintendent,” he announced. “We are now going to enter a phase of contract negotiations.”

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Carvalho has led Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the fourth-largest K-12 public school system in the country, since 2008.  L.A. Unified is the second largest.

“As I open my heart to LA, I’ll never close my heart to Miami,” said Carvalho.

The popular superintendent spoke about the District’s improvement over the years and how there was no greater honor than the one he felt and experienced, “serving this district, this community and this nation as an educator.”

“My run in Miami Dade has been one that I could never have imagined. Over 14 years, during that time, we pulled this district from financial bankruptcy, academic bankruptcy, where dozens of schools were rated ‘D’ and ‘F’ or graduation rates were at 58%. Where nine schools, all of them in the urban core were being threatened with a shutdown. We navigated the financial meltdown, the great recession of our lifetime. We recovered from hurricanes. We dealt with threats of punishment against immigrant children and their families in our community. Yes, we navigated through the pandemic. In a process, we elevated this school system to the highest possible level in this country. Today widely seen as the highest performing urban school system in America, with zero ‘F’ or ‘D’ rated schools with a graduation rate of 93.1%.”

WATCH Carvalho’s announcement here:

Carvalho thanked the “courageous freedom fighters,” the educators in a “supportive community that has stolen my heart.”

“As I now approach, what undoubtedly will be my last day here as superintendent, I still feel that this journey is a fairy tale, a fairy tale to be lived now on the different coast, but to the benefit of the same children of our nation. I’m 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. A community that faces the very same challenges we face and continues to face with the same level of energy and dedication and courage to elevate the dignity and the humanity of all children, regardless of the coast, they live in. So with a degree of heartbreak, for the community, I’m leaving, but with happiness in my heart, also, for the community that I will work tirelessly to earn their love and respect. I want to say thank you.”

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He also thanked the parents, students, teachers, bus drivers, police officers, and every single support staff member who believes in “Team 305.”

“I will miss Miami. And even though I will be calling Los Angeles home, Miami will always have a special place in my heart,” he said warmly.

In March of 2018, Carvalho nearly left to become the school chancellor for New York City Public schools, the largest school system in the nation. However, he changed his mind at the last minute after emotional, heart-felt pleas from parents, students and board members.

Carvalho arrived in the United States at 17 as an undocumented immigrant from Portugal. He went from being a busboy to one of the nation’s leading educators with a track record of success.

In 2014 Carvalho was selected as Florida’s Superintendent of the Year. He was also chosen as the 2014 National Superintendent of the Year.

On Thursday afternoon, Carvalho released the following letter addressed to parents and guardians of Miami-Dade public school students:

Dear Parent/Guardian:
As you may have heard, I will be ending my tenure as Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) to lead the Los Angeles Unified School District. While excited for this opportunity, it is bittersweet as I will be leaving the community I love – a vibrant, diverse community that welcomed me with open arms as an undocumented immigrant. Over the past 30 years, I have devoted my career to public education, which I believe is the cornerstone of our democracy.

Through your support and partnership over the years, M-DCPS has become a national model for educational excellence and innovation. Together, we turned what seemed like an impossible situation – financial crisis, low-performing schools at risk of closure by the State, and a 58 percent graduation rate – into an inevitable success story. Since 2008, we have reimagined what is possible for the children of Miami-Dade, receiving the 2012 Broad Prize for Urban Education, often considered the Nobel Prize in the field, as well as the 2014 College Board Advanced Placement Equity and Excellence District of the Year. We have raised the graduation rate to 93.1% for traditional schools. We have eliminated F schools and have been recognized as an “A” rated school district for three consecutive years. We have accepted that one size fits none, offering more than 1,000 unique choice programs tailored to meet the individual interests and needs of students throughout Miami-Dade.

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As I bid you farewell, I trust that the legacy our system has built will continue in earnest. All that we have achieved has been a direct result of our partnership with you as parents. I ask that you remain engaged and continue advocating for all children.
Thank you for affording me the privilege of joining you in celebrating many of your children’s milestones and successes – first days of school, award ceremonies, graduations. It is these moments I have cherished the most as the leader of this school system. Thank you for allowing me to stand alongside you during difficult times – homelessness, hurricanes, and the tragic loss of some of our children to senseless violence. It has been my honor to serve you.