Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Schools, observes a moment of silence before the start of the emergency school board meeting on Thursday, March 1, 2018.
Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Schools, observes a moment of silence before the start of the emergency school board meeting on Thursday, March 1, 2018. Pedro Portal

Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has turned down a job as head of New York City schools.

Following a dramatic School Board meeting, Carvalho said he would not accept New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s offer to become schools chancellor, which would have made him chief of the nation’s largest school system.

“I just don’t know how to break a promise to a child, how to break a promise to a community,” said Carvalho, speaking Thursday at an emergency School Board meeting that had been called to discuss the job offer. “That has weighed on me over the last 24 hours like nothing has weighed on me before.”

The School Board auditorium was packed as board members, students and members of the public pleaded with Carvalho to stay.

“He has taken the district to heights that 20 years ago were only dreamed of,” said board member Marta Pérez. “I think our community is blessed, and I do hope that this superintendent will continue to love us enough to stay with us.”

Some people in the audience clapped and chanted, “Please don’t go.” Students praised Carvalho and asked him for hugs. One local businessman, Adolfo Henriques, offered the support of the business community if it would help the School Board convince Carvalho to stay. Other speakers joked about how bad the weather would be in New York.

“Whatever is going on in this system that is pushing this man out, y’all need to straighten it out,” said rapper Luther Campbell. “Mr. Carvalho, if you do decide to leave here you’ve got all of our blessings, but ain’t no place like Miami.”

Carvalho gave an impassioned speech without announcing a decision and then asked the School Board for a five-minute break that lasted about 20. He briefly returned to the auditorium and then asked for another break. The dramatic meeting was mocked on Twitter as #TheCarvalhoShow.

Under Carvalho’s leadership, public schools have seen graduation rates and school grades improve. Carvalho has championed school choice initiatives, including magnet schools and specialized programs in everything from conservation biology to art and design. He also founded iPrep Academy, a school where children largely work independently and at their own pace. These accomplishments have earned Carvalho national awards, including being named the nation’s 2014 Superintendent of the Year.

But Carvalho has also faced controversies, including an alleged affair with a former Miami Herald education reporter before he became superintendent, and clashes with groups of teachers unhappy over salaries, which they say have not kept pace with the cost of living. Some teachers have accused the school district of ignoring state performance pay laws that require highly rated teachers to be rewarded with more money.

A few speakers at Thursday’s emergency School Board meeting, who have previously been critical of Carvalho’s leadership, said they wished the superintendent well if he decides to leave, but reminded him that if he stays there is “unfinished business” at schools in the urban core, including a need for more extracurricular programs for low-income students.

This isn’t the first time Carvalho has considered a new position. The politically savvy superintendent has long been associated with speculation that he aspired to either a more prestigious position or political office. As recently as last year, his name was floated as a possible candidate for Congress in a seat that will be vacated by retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Mayor de Blasio announced late Wednesday that the city had offered Carvalho the chancellor position.

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is not in favor of arming teachers with firearms

Carvalho spoke after hundreds of students from Brentwood Elementary School in Miami Gardens were evacuated Friday afternoon after administrators found a suspicious package, described to be a device with wires and a clock, sitting near a fence by a field.