High Drama Plays Out Online As Beloved Alberto Cavalho Ultimately Decides To Stay In South Florida

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The man tapped by Mayor Bill de Blasio to serve as the next New York City schools chancellor has turned down the job.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho made his decision seemingly in real-time during an emergency meeting of the school board Thursday during which dozens of Miami community members and school students praised him and asked him to stay. 

After two hours, Carvalho called for a five-minute break and left the stage, presumably to call de Blasio about his decision. After returning to the room, he did not announce his decision but noted he wanted to connect privately before making a public statement.

“I do not believe I can announce it now without dishonoring the person who made this appointment,” Carvalho said. “With that said, I think I’ve been very clear about where I stand in this community, very clear with what my intention is, very appreciative of the sentiment of Miami-Dade.

“I know no matter what I do today, it shall be loved by some and hated by others; it shall be exalted by some and diminished by others; it shall be criticized by some and praised by others,” he said. “We may have the strength to break an agreement with an adult, but I just don’t know how to break a promise with a child.”

During his comments, his phone appeared to take an incoming call and Carvalho again called for a break. When he returned to the room a second time, he continued to praise the city and his role there moving forward.

“Now I’m speaking to two communities,” he said. “This is probably the second most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

“I believe in a promise of education. I believe in a promise of Miami,” he added.

Later, Carvalho, who originally came into the country illegally from Portugal, indicated it was that immigrant experience that kept him in Miami.

“I heard from two kids, two undocumented Dreamers, who said, ‘I don’t know what my future will be like if you leave.’ Those exchanges probably had the greatest impact on me,” he said.

Carvalho had previously agreed to the offer, but changed his mind Thursday morning.

“The decision that I have made is, however, a decision I can no longer sustain,” he said. “I am breaking an agreement between adults to honor an agreement I have with the children of Miami.”

The drama played out live online, with broad reaction across social media.


Mayor de Blasio held a news conference to discuss the surprising situation Thursday afternoon. De Blasio said Carvalho was his first choice.

“You can imagine how surprised I was,” de Blasio said. “Never have had a situation like this before.” 

De Blasio said that Carvalho had agreed more than a week ago and was deeply involved in the decisions to go public with the news. As recently as 8 p.m. Wednesday night he had spoken with Carvalho and “all systems were go.”

De Blasio said he received a call from Carvalho Thursday during one of the recesses of the Miami school board in which Carvalho reversed himself.

“I stated the obvious: That I was very surprised and there should be more conversations if he was concerned,” de Blasio said.

The nationwide search for a replacement has resumed, the mayor said.

“I was probably more surprised and confusion that this could happen than anything. Of course, I’m really disappointed,” de Blasio added.

De Blasio said Carvalho’s decision will not impact the quality of education for New York City students, expressing confidence that the search will result in a “great new Chancellor.”


Eric Phillips, De Blasio’s press secretary, also took to Twitter to post his opinion on the reversal, starting with “Give us a minute, folks. We’re also sorting through the weirdness,” after the first break.

After Carvalho announced his decision to stay, Phillips’ tweets grew more pointed.

“Carvalho backed out,” posted Phillips. “He won’t be coming to NYC. There is…never a dull moment in our great city… He was a Yes for a week+, until he was a No 15 minutes ago. Bullet dodged… Who would ever hire this guy again? Who would ever vote for him?”

CBS2’s Ali Bauman asked the mayor about the tweets.

“I am not surprised that people express frustration in the heat of the moment, and that’s what that was,” de Blasio said, adding he wouldn’t have handled it that way. “We’re all confused at what happened here.”

De Blasio is looking to replace the retiring Carmen Farina in the top leadership position. Whoever is ultimately hired will preside over 1,800 schools and 1.1 million students.

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Carvalho has led Miami-Dade’s school system, the nation’s fourth largest, since 2008. The New York City Department of Education is the country’s largest system. He was selected as Florida’s 2014 Superintendent of the Year, as well as the 2014 National Superintendent of the Year.

Community members speaking at the emergency school board meeting heaped praise on Carvalho in an effort to persuade him to stay.

“The Miami Dolphins pushed Dan Marino out, and they haven’t replaced him yet,” said Luther Campbell, a former coach at Miami Jackson Senior High School.

On Wednesday, de Blasio had announced Carvalho as his chancellor pick..

“Alberto Carvalho is a world-class educator with an unmatched track record of success,” de Blasio said in a statement. “I am very confident that our extensive, national search has found New York City the best person to lead the nation’s largest school system into the future.”

As CBS2’s Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the debacle leaves de Blasio with a host of problems — how to convince someone else to take the job knowing they were not the first choice, and how much to pay that person. The mayor had agreed to match Carvalho’s $353,000 Miami salary, which is $100,000 more than de Blasio makes.

Then, there’s the politics.

“The problem here is that the mayor looks bad. Why? Because his choice wasn’t able to hold up. And two, the choice rejected the city before we even had a chance to say hello,” political consultant Hank Shienkopf told Kramer. “So it’s goodbye before we even said hello. See you next time.”

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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