"Meet the new boss Same as the old boss"
"- Pete Townshend
Alberto M. Carvalho from his Twitter feed
(Image by Alberto M. Carvalho) Details DMCA
First, the good news; Megan Reilly, who has failed to collect $13,585,182 owed to the LAUSD by charter schools, was passed over for the position she has been caretaking since the departure of Austin Beutner. Speculation that anti-public education crusader Antonio Villaraigosa and corporatist Arne Duncan might get the job also did not pan out. Instead, the Los Angeles School Board has voted unanimously to begin contract negotiations with the head of Miami-Dade schools, Alberto Carvalho. The final outcome is not a slam dunk as Carvalho got this far with New York City schools only to back out at the last minute.
Fulfilling the demands of Parents Supporting Teachers, the largest parent-led education advocacy group in Los Angeles, Carvalho has four years of teaching experience. He has also served as the principal of a school, concurrent with his service as Miami's Superintendent. He has also opposed voucher programs, which should pose a roadblock to Reilly's Student-Centered Funding (SCF) scheme. As the fourth largest school district in the country, the Miami-Dade district seems to be an appropriate stepping stone to the LAUSD, which is currently the largest school district with an elected school board.
While these positive attributes bring hope that the board will finally put in place at the helm an educator who will bring stability to the LAUSD, it does not change the fact that the decision to make the attempt to hire Carvalho was made completely behind closed doors. The process this time was an improvement over the one used to hire Beutner, where, in violation of the Brown Act, the board did not even report that they had entered into contract negotiations as the charter-backed majority rushed to push through their choice before they lost the vote of admitted felon Ref Rodriguez. This time the board members held listening sessions where the public could provide input into the search parameters, but after this, the stakeholders were removed from the process. The actual hiring was cloaked in confidentiality so those affected by the process will never know what happened behind closed doors.
A more open process would have allowed the public to see the list of final candidates and their qualifications before the vote was taken to begin contract talks. The stakeholders would have then had the opportunity to provide input and listen to those elected to represent them discuss and debate as they made their decision. By making them part of the process, the public would have been given a stake in the outcome. Instead of passive bystanders who had a choice foisted upon them, they would have been active participants more likely to work towards the new leader's success.
In their press release reacting to the news of the board's decision, Parents Supporting Teachers "expressed cautious optimism on the hiring of Alberto M. Carvalho as the new LAUSD Superintendent." However, because of the way that he was selected, Carvalho will have to start his job winning over stakeholders the way that he convinced all seven members of the board that he is the right person to take over the district's massive bureaucracy. A good way to start this process is to convince his bosses on the board that they need to start engaging more with parents and other stakeholders.
Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with special education needs and public education. He is an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and serves as the Education Chair. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him "a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles." For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.