Miami-Dade County Superintendent Alberto Carvalho shocked New York City, South Florida, and the entire education world on Thursday, reneging on his decision to move north and lead the country’s largest school system in an emotional, livestreamed school board meeting.
Only a day earlier, officials in the New York City’s mayor’s office made the move seem like a done deal, confirming that the high-profile education leader would make the move north. Carvalho himself confirmed at the meeting’s stunning conclusion that he had accepted the position.
But after an outpouring of support that included an unusual “vote of confidence” from school board members, Carvalho stunned everyone by appearing to change his mind in real time, seeming to refer to his repeated promise to stay in Miami until his contract is up in 2020.
“I just don’t know how to break a promise to a child, how to break a promise to a community. And that has weighed on me in the past 24 hours,” Carvalho said.
At 1:15 p.m., Carvalho requested a second break during the meeting, which began at 10 a.m. He implied that he needed to reach de Blasio to turn down the job.
“Give us a minute, folks. We’re also sorting through the weirdness,” Eric Phillips, the mayor’s spokesman, tweeted.
Shortly afterward, Carvalho returned to the meeting and delivered his final decision: He would stay in Miami.
“I underestimated the emotional tug, the level of commitment, the power that crying members of the community have had on me,” Carvalho said. “After speaking with the honorable Mayor Bill de Blasio … I shall remain in Miami-Dade as your superintendent.”
In a press conference after the announcement, Carvalho said it was “not an easy conversation.”
Phillips sent a series of scathing tweets after Carvalho announced his decision and suggested there had been an agreement between Carvalho and the mayor for more than a week.
“He was a Yes for a week+, until he was a No 15 minutes ago. Bullet dodged,” Phillips said in one tweet. “Who would ever hire this guy again? Who would ever vote for him?”
It’s a humiliating setback for New York City, which has been searching for a new schools chief since Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced in December that she planned to retire.
In recent days, Fariña embarked on what seemed like a valedictory tour, and city officials said they were close to announcing a new hire. Now they will have to restart the search — with the added challenge of recruiting people who know they were not the first choice.
Carvalho’s shocking decision means that Miami will avoid a superintendent search that board members said they were unwilling to entertain.
“He’s not going to leave us. We will make sure of that,” board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall pledged during the meeting. “We will fight. We will fight. We will fight.”