Position Unfilled

Read this piece at City Journal


Position Unfilled by Charles Upton Sahm

After a Hamlet-like performance during a livestreamed board meeting in which he debated whether ‘tis nobler to stay in sunny Miami, or face a sea of troubles in cold and rainy New York, Miami-Dade superintendent of schools Alberto Carvalho chose to stay put. At a press conference yesterday, New York mayor Bill de Blasio was made to suffer slings and arrows for the debacle, though it isn’t clear that he’s at fault. As the mayor explained, Carvalho had formally accepted the job more than a week ago, and on Wednesday had agreed to make the announcement public.

The reason for Carvalho’s change of heart is unclear. Was it that New York tabloids were dredging up salacious details of an alleged affair with a reporter a decade ago? Did he question the level of autonomy he would have in New York, and the steep learning curve he would face as an outsider coming into the nation’s largest and most complicated school system? Or was he honestly moved by the outpouring of gratitude that he received in Miami for what has been, by all accounts, an impressive turnaround of the nation’s fourth-largest school system, deciding that he just didn’t “know how to break a promise to a child, break a promise to a community”?

Looking forward, a more important question is why de Blasio chose someone with a reputation as an education reformer, and whether he will do so again. When the word went out on Wednesday that Carvalho was the mayor’s pick, Success Academy founder Eva Moskowitz, a frequent de Blasio critic, released a statement praising his selection. Carvalho was on the list of 14 individualsrecommended by Moskowitz for the job back in December, and she called him “a nationally recognized expert on education transformation whose leadership drove Miami-Dade County Public Schools to unprecedented increases in student achievement and graduation rates.” She congratulated de Blasio on “this excellent hire.”

Moskowtiz’s statement contrasted sharply with the one put out by United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew. His perfunctory statementmostly praised outgoing Chancellor Carmen Fariña and said that the union looked “forward to working with Mr. Carvalho . . . to build on that progress.” Clearly, Carvalho wasn’t the union’s choice.


Read the entire piece here at City Journal, originally appearing on March 2, 2018.


Charles Sahm is director of education policy at the Manhattan Institute.