What began as a True Homestead investigation into the Miami-Dade Public School system’s compliance with Florida child abuse statutes ended up uncovering a mountain of corruption within the system.
What we found was the King of the Mountain — with Alberto Menteiro Carvalho standing at its peak.
Our investigation launched after receiving a message from a concerned resident who claims several schools in the MPCS district are not in compliance with Florida statute 1006.061, which requires each school to place posters in prominent areas notifying all school employees about the legal requirements for reporting child abuse.
The posters contain contact information so students, classmates, and school personnel can report instances of children experiencing abuse or neglect.
We began by verifying that no posters are located anywhere at the Norman S. Edelcup Sunny Isles Beach K-8 school.
From there, we spoke via telephone to several more teachers who wished to remain anonymous while verifying the same thing at several other schools in the MDCPS system.
In fact, we were unable to verify any school within Miami-Dade County in compliance with Florida statute 1006.061.
However, it would be our pleasure to verify if any or all schools in compliance.
TO SNITCH OR NOT TO SNITCH?
The statute governing mandatory reporting requirements for child abuse in Florida states that teachers must report the abuse immediately to the Florida Abuse Hotline.
In 2015, a preteen student confided in Diana Castella, a former part-time mathematics teacher at Brownsville Middle School’s iPrep program at around 3 p.m.
The student told Castella that her stepfather sometimes lays on top of her, suggesting possible sexual abuse.
Castella, who says she never received training on mandatory reporting requirements, consulted with another teacher about the proper procedure.
It was close to 4 p.m. when the teacher advised her to report the incident to the school’s guidance counselor. And Castella reported the incident the next day since the school day ends at 4 p.m.
“I was told about three in the afternoon,” she said during an interview with CBS Miami.
“School gets out at four in the afternoon. I reported it first thing in the morning.”
Instead of being rewarded by school administrators, Castella was fired.
Castella was told funding had run out for the iPrep program and that the district could no longer afford her position.
But the fact she reported the incident at all, she says, was the real reason behind her termination.
“Administrators and Miami-Dade County Public Schools don’t like snitches. They like everything to be brushed under the rug,” she explained to NBC Miami.
NOBODY LIKES A SNITCH
In 2008, Krop Senior High School administrators received an email warning them about English and creative writing teacher Jason Edward Meyers, now 42, “having sex with students.”
They did nothing.
Now a total of eight former students have come forward alleging he sexually abused them during his career.
Myers, who taught students at Krop and then Palmetto high schools for 14-years, was finally arrested in 2016 for sexual battery, shortly after Victoria Dobbs was named principal at Palmetto high.
The alleged incidents for which Meyers was arrested happened in November and December of 2015.
Meyers, who has been out on house arrest with a GPS monitor after posting a $74,000 bond since the incident, was ordered by a judge to stay away from at least one of his victims.
A police report states Meyers engaged in sexual intercourse and other types of illegal sexual contact with an underage female student inside the classroom after school hours.
The school board stated the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Police Department, which is overseen by superintendent Alberto Carvalho, had been notified of the inappropriate relationship between Meyers and his underage female student, according to NBC Miami.
After conducting an investigation, school police detectives determined there was probable cause to arrest Meyers on charges of sexual battery on a minor.
However, in 2010, two years after the 2008 email was sent to school administrators at Krop, a police report was written suggesting the email came from a disgruntled student.
But neither the police report nor the email was ever placed in Meyer’s personnel file before he requested a transfer to Palmetto High School in 2011, which was granted.
According to an ongoing civil lawsuit, Jason Meyers had been molesting his female students beginning around November 2004 while at Dr. Michael M. Krop High School, according to Local 10.
After eventually transferring to Palmetto, Meyers continued sexually abusing minor students in his creative writing club and class, according to the lawsuit.
The victim who filed the suit, was 16 and 17 when she began Meyers’ creating writing class.
She has stated Meyers told her that her writing was “good, but boring” then told her to write “edgier” more sexually explicit content for him.
As a writing instructor, Meyers “emphasized passages about an older man courting a younger girl, rape and the molestation of a young girl by her father,” the lawsuit alleges.
“My daughter was left unprotected,” the victim’s father said.
“The damage that was done to my daughter was so far beyond physical damage, so far beyond.”
One police officer who investigated the 2008 email before closing the case, testified in court that he didn’t remember details of it at all.
“I don’t recall ever being notified about this because I wasn’t in the investigative division at the time,” said a sergeant listed in the police report filed as a result of the 2008 email. “Just because it says it, doesn’t mean I actually was notified,” he added.
Another officer did admit to NBC Local that the case was assigned to him.
“According to the [police] report, it was assigned to me but I wasn’t – I didn’t investigate the case.”
Judging by the lawsuit, which can be read in its entirety below, Diana Castella was correct: the MDCPS School Board discourages snitching.
“As alleged, the School Board knew that Mr. Meyers posed a serious risk of sexual abuse against our community’s children. Yet it did virtually nothing to stop him,” Mark Schweikert, one of the attorneys representing the victim told the Miami Herald.
“Instead, the School Board merely relocated the risk posed by his predatory behavior from one school to another.”
Meyers was not the first, and would not be the last.
99 PROBLEMS BUT INVESTIGATIONS AREN’T ONE OF THEM
After Jason Meyers, came Wendell Nibbs.
Former Brownsville Middle School P.E. teacher Wendell Nibbs was arrested in 2017 not long after Jason Meyers.
Like Meyers, Nibbs also began sexually abusing underage girls in 2004.
Like Meyers, school MDCPS school officials were also aware Nibbs was a threat.
During his 15 years as a teacher, nine female students accused Wendell Nibbs of sexual misconduct at Brownsville Middle School.
They did nothing.
After his arrest, another Brownsville student came forward telling police they had sex multiple times inside the school.
Initially, he pleaded not guilty to a single count of sexual battery and was placed on house arrest.
Then, for months, news media investigators at NBC 6 began uncovering new details linked to Nibbs, including seven more complaints from students which began piling up in 2004.
According to his personnel file, the complaints were investigated. But he remained at Brownsville Middle School after investigators ruled the allegations were unsubstantiated or closed then dismissed due to lack of probable cause.
During his 15 year career at Brownsville Middle School, a total of nine students accused Wendell Nibbs of sexual abuse. School officials did nothing.
Four of those students have since filed civil lawsuits against the school district alleging school officials knew Nibbs was a predator but failed to protect students under his watch.
Miami-Dade Public Schools spokesperson Daisy Gonzalez-Diego called the allegations “clearly reprehensible.”
“We will continue to provide whatever assistance is necessary to ensure swift prosecution of the individual charged with these disturbing accusations,” Gonzalez-Diego assured.
Interestingly, Gonzalez-Diego also assured news media that Diana Castella was not fired for reporting or immediately reporting when her student came forth about sexual abuse.
It was the funding.
“The outcome of her no longer being needed would have been the same whether there was funding or not,” she told CBS 4.
Was it really funding?
Failing to “immediately report” child abuse?
Or was Castella the type to spill the beans about Wendell Nibbs if she were to ever find out?
CHILD SAFETY: SCHOOL POLICY OR PUBLIC RELATIONS?
Sometime in 2018, after both Nibbs and Meyers were arrested, Miami-Dade Superintendent Carvalho appeared in a video with children produced by LaurensKids.org.
A caption to the video cites sexual abuse statistics.
1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will become a victim of sexual abuse before graduating from the K-12 system. Most children wait more than a year before disclosing abuse, and many never tell. Miami-Dade County Public School students and Superintendent Alberto Carvalho remind MDCPS students that “It’s OK to Tell” — ALWAYS!
Obviously aware of the statistics, Carvalho says he believes it’s OK to tell officials about child sexual abuse.
“Boy and girls it is always OK to tell,” he says in the video.
It’s OK for who to tell?
Carvalho doesn’t appreciate teachers speaking out about things that need improvement like the effect class sizes have on learning in the classroom.
So we took the liberty of talking with teachers brave enough to share their thoughts with us despite a culture within the MDCPS system that discourages teachers by retaliating against those who speak out.
Is it OK to investigate, Mr. Carvalho?
That may be a more important question. One you may consider asking police brass employed in every school in Miami-Dade County.
MDCPS: A CULTURE OF SUPPRESSION OBSESSED WITH A POSITIVE IMAGE
Whether it’s about underreporting crime for Obama’s “Race to the Top” federal incentives or complaints about class size, Alberto Carvalho does not like teachers speaking negatively about the MDCPS system.
And he does not seem to appreciate those questioning his methods.
Perhaps the most well-known at his position in the entire country, superintendent Carvalho openly takes action against those who offer disparaging or even constructive criticism. Like many politicians, Carlvalho makes tremendous efforts two quell negative press about his image or the school’s before it begins.
And it’s like no one even notices.
Not even the press.
STANDING UP TO BULLIES
Despite being essentially demoted, intimidated, threatened with termination, and humiliated, Richard OCampos has stood tall in the face of it all.
He said it in 2015, and he’s still echoing the same premise in 2021: for Miami-Dade School teachers, speaking out comes at a price.
A price OCampo has paid and still pays, albeit maybe the method by which he pays has changed.
“It all started when I complained about class size,” OCampo, a teachers’ union steward, told True Homestead in a telephone interview.
“As a steward, my job was to defend teachers, approach administrators, and support dialogue.”
Attempts at dialogue began when OCampo defended teachers who received low scores from classroom observers.
“I defended them, which brought the wrath of the principle.”
OCampo, who has taught at William Turner Technical High School, for six years, says retaliatory measures are taken against teachers
“if you complain about administrators or school planning. Period.”
In recent years, punitive measures by administration officials include changing his teaching assignment.
Even though he’s been nominated for a Teacher of the Year Award, and won awards teaching U.S. History, his position was surplused.
To punish him after filing a grievance with the Inspector General, he was placed teaching mathematics for the 2019-2020 school years.
“I’m a social studies teacher, but I taught mathematics the whole year.”
For speaking out, and doing his job forcefully defending teachers as a union steward, OCampo says Principal Mr. Uwezo ridiculed him in front of senior students in the auditorium during the 2020-2021 school year.
Without mentioning him directly, Principal Uwezo used innuendo to insult him and label him a racist in a way that students could deduce he was for sure referring to him.
One tactic, Principal Uwezo has utilized is committing fraud on the master schedule, which works like tenure college professors shows which teachers have taught which classes.
“You need to get rid of several teachers before you can get rid of me, but he manipulated the schedule so he tried to get rid of me.”
OCampo, who responded by filing another grievance with the Inspector General, says these tactics are encouraged from the top by Carvalho.
“I’m the only one he’s surplusing, changing my schedule, ridiculing . . . there’s a patter of retaliation,” he said, adding that it’s all for the sake of perception.
“He’s regarded as having an A-rated school district. And graduation rates for his district at record-level,” OCampo explained, adding that it’s more about the perception Carvalho’s tactics create than reality.
But. OCampo explained, a substantial number of students end their high school careers with academic performances below passing level, which requires students needing to perform community service just to graduate.
“So they show up for a day. And, boom, they graduate,” he told True Homestead.
“If you ask most teachers, there’s intimidation and harassment. If you don’t get in line with it, it’s retaliation.”
Having been surplused twice, and now even working as a teacher’s assistant for speaking up, OCampo, aside from another now-retired teacher, was the only one who permitted us to use his real name.
“If we don’t speak up, change doesn’t happen.”
IT’S NOT JUST TEACHERS — PARENTS FACE INTIMIDATION FOR VOICING CONCERNS
Teachers like OCampo as well as outspoken parents say the district’s tactics to discourage voices of concern can be subtle.
So, subtle, some may not even realize what’s going on.
For instance, to speak at school board meetings, the district asks people to sign up days in advance and to list their topic. Those who sign up receive a call from the district ahead of time. Some parents describe the calls from district members as an attempt to dissuade speakers from airing complaints with cameras rolling.
“They call you and they try to convince you not to go, and they give you stupid stories,” said Maria Vapor, a mother who signed up to speak at a March meeting.
In September 2021, when the MDCSB was mulling their decision about reopening classrooms during the Coronavirus pandemic, the public was only permitted to weigh in with concerns using a bizarre method: voicemail.
Almost 800 people called ahead of the video meeting. Their messages added up to nearly 18 hours of complaints of concerned parents. Instead of listening to concerns, board members decide to stream the voicemails overnight, according to WLRN, a local PBS station owned by the Miami-Dade County Public School system.
Five attorneys who specialize in open government and media told WLRN that how the board meeting was conducted over voicemail was problematic — and likely violated Florida’s Sunshine Law, which is supposed to protect the public’s guaranteed right to access government meetings.
Eighteen hours of streaming voicemail…
That’s one way to quell voices.
“To me, it was so clear that they were checking off a box and saying, ‘We’ve listened,'” Yeimi Valdes told WLRN in an interview.
“But that did not feel like listening.”
It doesn’t look like listening either.
“Maybe I dozed off a couple of minutes,” Miami-Dade School Board member Marta Perez admitted
“But even if you were in a regular meeting, people doze off.”
A RACE TO THE TOP? OR SPRINT TO THE BOTTOM?
As we interviewed teacher after teacher, suggestions for the cause behind most of the district’s problems shared a common character: Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
Leadership of the superintendent oversees the administrators who oversee the students’ best interest, professionalism among staff, and solves problems as they arise.
It’s a logical line of reasoning for those experiencing problems within an organization to lay blame at the top of a clearly defined chain of command.
What you may not expect are the reasons for blaming the supervisor of the Miami Dade school system.
Tom James, a retired teacher of MDCPS for 35-years, discussed so many problems they deserve their a separate article in the future..
One problem that helped make sense of other problems is how the school historically handled on-campus crime reporting committed by students.
If you were a parent looking at statistics from any school in the county your child may attend, you’re likely to think your child is safe based on those statistics.
However, James explained, crimes, often serious ones, have not been reported in recent history.
After being elected in 2008, the Obama administration promulgated a policy that gave incentives for school districts to compete for. One of the categories for which they would compete was to reduce arrests on high school campuses.
Schools with crime rates below a certain threshold would receive financial incentives at the end of the year, which were funded by a Department of Education competitive grant, which was ideally created to spur and reward innovation and reforms within state and local school districts.
But the grant had unintended consequences.
One, it provided a world where juveniles could commit crimes with impunity.
“So they said we’ll stop arresting kids, stop suspending kids,” Jane explained.
Two, it tempted egos obsessed with not only public image but also money.
And just like we recently reported how the Miami Herald broke a story alleging Carvalho cheating within his marriage, Jane says Carvalho also cheated to compete for “Race to the Top” funds.
“So, Carvalho said we’ll fix our numbers so they look really good,” James explained.
“Carvalho claims there were no fights between students in 400 schools at which 44,000 kids attend then submitted to the Florida Department of Education. Zero percent crime. Can you imagine?”
The schools were required to submit School Environmental Safety Incident Reporting, or SESIRs, which report details about which crimes were committed in which schools each year.
“The problem was, there weren’t any penalties (since crimes weren’t even being reported). And there still aren’t any,” Mr. James explained.
Eventually, Commissioner Rick Swearingen and Chairman Gualtieri of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement got wind of James’ observations since he was friends with Andrew Pollock, whose daughter was murdered in the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School shooting.
The FDLE determined Jane’s observations were true, according to James.
And the Stoneman Douglas Commission had Carvalho in its sights for misreporting data on government documents, which is committing fraud, misclassifying various types of crimes, and cooking the books they ultimately submitted to the Florida State Legislature last year.
But, at the last minute, the Florida Department of Education narrowly voted against the legislation after a viral news story about a 6-year-old girl being handcuffed while at school garnered the public’s attention.
Yet another reason Jane says Carvalho has yet to be arrested, some say, is due to his close ties to Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, who has only arrested a single officer in her entire career, much less a superintendent. And the single officer was only arrested after an officer shot the caretaker of a mentally disabled man, who was playing with a toy truck.
The officer said he believed the toy truck was a gun. The caretaker, who was not the target, was unarmed.
“You see them palling around, around town,” one teacher told True Homestead.
“They are attached at the hip”
James had several other interesting issues important enough to discuss.
However, we will follow up with those as we continue reporting about the Miami-Dade County Public School system’s leadership soon.
LAWSUIT VS. SCHOOL BOARD OF MIAMI (Jason Meyers)