A day after Mayor de Blasio publicly named him the new city schools chancellor, Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho changed his mind — turning de Blasio down on live television in a stunning snub.
“We’re all confused at what happened here,” de Blasio told reporters at City Hall later Thursday. “I’m very very surprised. I have a lot of respect for him, but I’m very surprised.”
After a months-long search, de Blasio is now back at the drawing board to find a chancellor to replace Carmen Fariña, who will serve through the end of the month.
Carvalho made the shocking news at an hours-long, drama-filled Miami-Dade School Board meeting, which was broadcast live in New York City, where he was expected to say just the opposite — that he was coming to New York City to lead its school system of 1.1 million students.
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Instead, the board and members of the public spent hours begging him to stay. The superintendent in turn delivered a rousing speech that blasted guns in schools — and touted how many phone calls and text messages he’d gotten overnight since the news broke of his planned departure. He teased a big decision, before taking two recesses that felt like reality-show commercial breaks and then finally announcing he’d stick around.
“I am breaking an agreement between adults to honor an agreement and a pact I have with the children of Miami,” Carvalho said. “I shall remain in Miami-Dade as your superintendent.”
De Blasio said he was in between meetings about Rikers Island at Gracie Mansion when he got a call from Carvalho.
“He called me during a break in his board meeting and expressed trepidation and concern, and, you know, second thoughts. I obviously reiterated to him that he had already accepted the job and we had put it out publicly with his agreement,” he said. “And you know we had a couple of different conversations, and he kept saying he didn’t think he could take it after all. That was his ultimate decision.”
That was the first de Blasio said he’d heard of Carvalho’s hesitation. The candidate had accepted the job in a conversation with him, de Blasio said, and in another with Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan, with whom he worked out final details. He also authorized the mayor’s office to release the news to the media Wednesday night, de Blasio said.
“He told me repeatedly this was his dream job,” de Blasio said. “Something else happened here, and maybe you guys can figure out what it is.”
Despite a decade-old scandal that involved the married Carvalho trading racy emails with a younger reporter who covered education — which heavily implied they were having an affair — Carvalho has been viewed as a rising star in education and has been courted to run for elected office.
De Blasio said Carvalho was his first choice.
City teachers union President Michael Mulgrew issued a one-word statement in response to the debacle: “Next.”
To add insult to injury, Carvalho stood up de Blasio after the mayor’s office spent much of the morning trying to defend the decision to pay him a whopping $353,000 — more than the mayor’s own salary of $258,750, and $118,000 more than Fariña, a woman and veteran city educator, and enough to match his salary in Miami.
“He asked for a certain level of salary,” de Blasio said. “That was a perfectly fair request.”
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