Two favorites emerge among Miami-Dade superintendent candidates
Image via AP

Alberto Carvalho
Both have strong administrative backgrounds across multiple Florida counties.

The Miami-Dade County Public School Board will convene Tuesday to discuss a list of possible replacements for outgoing Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, but two candidates are rumored to be front-runners.

They are Collier County Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Jose Dotres, a former MDCPS chief of staff and chief human capital officer who has also served as chief academic officer in Broward County, and Florida Department of Education Senior Chancellor Jacob Oliva, a former Flagler County superintendent.

Dotres is an odds-on favorite because of his cross-county experience and administrative history with Miami-Dade Public Schools, while Oliva’s background in leading local and statewide education matters also places him atop the list.

The two are among 14 applicants shortlisted to succeed Carvalho, who told the School Board on Dec. 9 he would resign from the position after nearly 14 years. He accepted an offer to become the new superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, a job for which he will be paid $440,000 annually for the next four years.

Carvalho’s first day with LAUSD, the second-largest K-12 school system in the nation — MDCPS is fourth-largest — is March 1.

On Jan. 5, the Miami-Dade School Board voted 6-3 to forgo hiring an interim superintendent and open a seven-day application window for the job. Board Vice-Chair Steve Gallon said he preferred that the district not undertake a national search. Member Lubby Navarro agreed, noting the process needed to be quick.

Marta Pérez, who represents District 8 on the board, called the fast-tracked search “ridiculous and “a sham,” blaming Carvalho’s departure on the School Board’s “toxic nature” and efforts to control him.

During a School Board meeting the next week, Chair Perla Hantman responded to Pérez’s assertion, declaring, “I, Perla Tabares Hantman, do not partake in any shams.”

But Pérez isn’t alone in complaining that the process is moving too quickly. As WLPG Local 10 reported, some 30 organizations have demanded that the essential hire not be rushed.

By Tuesday, MDCPS had 16 confirmed candidates who want the job. One day later, two applicants dropped out.

In addition to Dotres and Oliva, the current list includes Elton Aguilar, a special education specialist who chairs the social studies department at Ruth Owens Kruse Education Center; Ada Cuevas, executive director of Hallandale Beach-based child care facility Early Learning Is the Answer; Danita Duhart, the director of community outreach for MDCPS’ Department of Exceptional Student Education whose past administrative experience spans Miami-Dade, Broward and Cobb counties; Rafaela Espinal, an assistant superintendent with New York City Public Schools; Juan Gonzalez, a lead teacher at Miami-based charter school Mater Academy; Sherrell Hobbs, a former Ypsilanti Community Schools assistant superintendent and senior vice president of charter school management company EdisonLearning who now runs Fort Lauderdale-based Victory Educational Solutions; education consultant Ava Innerarity Rosales, a former MDCPS executive director of curriculum support and district director of the district’s Science, Engineering, Communications, Math Enrichment program; MDCPS Office of Academics and Transformation Director Derek Negron, a former district principal; Oscar Rico, a former middle school principal who runs technology operations for the Canutillo Independent School District in El Paso; Nalisa Saati, founder and executive director of the nonprofit Superhero Leadership Academy who previously led the Miami-Dade Urban Debate League; Shawn Thorpe, who runs two private consulting firms and has a background in teaching and education administration; and Homestead-based Chambers High School Principal Daniel Walker.

To qualify for the job, applicants must have experience as a classroom teacher, principal and administrator, including at least three years of effective teaching and seven years of progressive responsibility in public school administration. Candidates must also have attained a master’s degree — but preferably a doctorate — and have a deep familiarity with South Florida, its community, and the needs of local students.

A very different process is underway in Broward County, Miami-Dade’s closest neighbor to the north. In November, the Broward Public Schools hired executive leadership search firm Ray and Associates to find a replacement for former Superintendent Robert Runcie, who stepped down after his arrest on perjury charges.

The district accepted 39 applications through Jan. 3. Of those, Ray and Associates determined 15 met the district’s minimum requirements and recommended the School Board consider eight once a public review of the candidates begins next month.

Cohen and Espinal are also among the recommended candidates in Broward.

Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco is backing the district’s interim superintendent, Vickie Cartwright, to fill the position permanently.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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