In the days before Alberto Carvalho rejected the New York City chancellor job on live television, he expressed concerns about salary, mayoral control, and media leaks, according to text messages obtained Friday by Chalkbeat.
Dozens of messages between Carvalho’s and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s team, obtained through a public records request, include quotidian details of vetting and scheduling. But they also offer a window into Carvalho’s questions about the New York City job — and indicate that just before the pick was set to be announced, the Miami schools chief was voicing concerns about basic aspects of the role.
They also indicate that he had accepted the job, despite his later claims that he never had.
Carvalho’s emergency school board meeting in Miami, where he announced he’d be staying put, happened on March 1. In the days before, he had been coordinating with de Blasio’s office about an announcement in earnest. On February 23, for instance, de Blasio aide Rachel Lauter told Carvalho that she wanted to create a video to introduce him to New York City. “Would be great if you could send me old photos of you as a kid, as a young adult, your family, and as a teacher/administrator,” she texted.
Carvalho replied, “Of course. Down memory lane.” Later he responded, “I am excited and honored.”
That same day, Carvalho texted Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan referring to a “separation agreement” being drawn up with the Miami school board.
But soon after, Carvalho began voicing concerns about his compensation package and asking if he would be allowed to accept honoraria for speaking engagements.
On February 27, Carvalho told Fuleihan he was “concerned” about part of his retirement savings plan, a tax-deferred annuity. “This is important,” he wrote.
Fuleihan responded, “we cannot provide the contribution.”
Carvalho replied, “This one has caught totally off guard,” and then in a separate text, “I must’ve grossly misunderstood the previous conversation.”
The next day, Carvalho was asking questions about mayoral control. “A colleague who had a conversation with the mayor about the position conveyed to me that during her conversation the issue of mayoral control of schools was up in a year after a two-year renewal. Possible implications?” he wrote.
Fuleihan responded, “Mayoral control has been renewed 4 times since 2002 and effectively no one wants to go back to earlier system. Mayoral control will continue.”
Just hours before the city announced that Carvalho would be headed to New York City, the superintendent appeared annoyed that news of his appointment was beginning to swirl in Miami.
“Unhappy with the fact that NY media is calling my board members prior to me being able to speak with them,” he texted.
The mayor’s office at first tried to assure him that they hadn’t gotten any media requests yet, then said the apparent leaks were a good reason to move forward with the announcement.
Despite these concerns, text messages through February 28 don’t show any indication that Carvalho planned to back out of the job. That evening he texted Fuleihan saying he was “perfectly poised for tomorrow’s meeting,” presumably with the Miami board. Fuleihan replied: “We still need you in the City after the Board meeting for a press conference first thing Friday.”
Carvalho responded: “Of course.”
But it didn’t happen. The next day, on March 1, after sitting through a bevy of requests from speakers and board members to stay in Miami, Carvalho announced he was staying.
In the time since, Carvalho has only hinted at his reasons for turning down the job. Politico reported that the superintendent balked after realizing the mayor would pick the chancellor’s chief of staff and head of human resources, which Carvalho seemed to confirm in a public appearance after the debacle, according to the Miami Herald.
On Friday, Miami schools spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego offered few new details. Carvalho’s decision, made “after tentatively accepting the Mayor’s offer, came as a result of the School Board and community’s overwhelming support and insistence that he remain Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools,” she said. “Additionally, there were perceived limitations associated with the position in New York. Discussions regarding compensation were limited to minutes at most, never a priority, and readily settled.”