Break-ups are always hardest on the kids.
Mayor de Blasio said Friday the million school children in New York City “deserved better” than Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s decision to ditch them on live television after accepting a job as the city’s schools chancellor.
And now the search is on again in earnest for a successor to current chancellor Carmen Fariña — preferably someone who will do the job after accepting the position.
One top candidate before the Carvalho debacle was Orange County Public Schools superintendent Barbara Jenkins. Insiders said Jenkins, who is based in Orlando, was a top contender for the job as recently as February.
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Former city superintendent and New York state Board of Regents member Kathleen Cashin has also been considered for the job, people familiar with the search said.
Other possibilities include former Baltimore City Public School System CEO Andrés Alonso and Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg, although insiders have said Boasberg’s status as a white male may disqualify him for a job leading the city schools where most students are children of color.
Insiders have said for months that de Blasio wanted to bring in a new schools leader from outside the city. But with Carvalho’s curveball, some Education Department officials feel that current administrators may have a shot at the job again.
Senior Deputy Chancellor Dr. Dorita Gibson is Fariña’s second-in-command and some Department officials have said that her expertise and familiarity with the city schools make her a strong candidate.
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Education Department Executive Director Cheryl Watson-Harris has also been considered for the job, an official with knowledge of the search said.
If no replacement is found for Fariña before she leaves the post at the end of March, an interim leader will be installed. Gibson would be a top contender for such a role, said Department officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
As for the flashier Carvalho, a still-astonished de Blasio said that if he couldn’t handle the big leagues, he shouldn’t have put his name in contention.
“I’ve been in public service for decades. I’ve never seen anyone do something like this before. I mean, the people who are blindsided is 1.1 million school children in this city who deserved better,” de Blasio told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Friday.
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The mayor had announced Carvalho would take the job on Wednesday night. Thursday morning, he was set to say goodbye to his school board in person — but instead, the televised meeting turned into hours of fawning and begging from Miami educators and residents, and Carvalho ducked out to call de Blasio in private to back out of the job.
He returned to the meeting and announced his decision to fanfare in Miami and utter astonishment in New York.
“I am as confused as everyone else as to why anyone would do such a thing,” de Blasio said. “But here we are.”
One theory for Carvalho’s cold feet is the level of scrutiny he might have been subject to in New York.
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Carvalho had weathered a scandal a decade ago in which someone released racy emails the married superintendent traded with a young Miami Herald reporter who covered him, which led to questions about whether they’d had an affair. Many of the stories about Carvalho’s appointment, which ran overnight before he would have made his formal announcement, noted the scandal.
“I can’t read his mind. I can only tell you that topic was discussed in great detail with him well in advance,” de Blasio said of whether the New York media could have scared him off. “I made very clear to him, and I know First Deputy Mayor (Dean) Fuleihan did as well, what the media environment was. He was quite familiar with the reality of New York.”
De Blasio also said Carvalho was vetted “very, very extensively.”
“I went over every element in the vetting with him personally and reminded him that all these issues would be rehashed,” de Blasio said, many days before the announcement. “It was quite explicit that there would be scrutiny. It was quite explicit that this is the number one city in the country, the number one education job in the country. And if you’re going to come here, this is the big leagues — and expect to get ready for it.”
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A jilted de Blasio also questioned why Carvalho would lead the city on if he just wasn’t that into us.
“If he wanted to stay there, he should never have traveled here twice to interview at length and have dinner with the First Lady and I and all the things he did,” de Blasio said. “But here we are. Look, it’s in the past.”
Insiders said Carvalho’s embarrassing about-face will make it even more difficult for de Blasio to find a replacement for Fariña. It could also cost the city in other ways. Potential replacements will surely take note that de Blasio was prepared to pay Carvalho $353,000 a year — $118,000 more than Fariña.
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