At his first major public appearance since turning down a job as head of New York City schools, Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho got the royal treatment — literally.
“So Alberto, Mister Superintendent, Your Highness,” joked moderator Steve Clemons, Washington Editor at Large for The Atlantic. “I know the top three or four reasons why I would choose Miami over New York, but what were yours?”
Clemons’ reference to last week’s dramatic school board meeting in which children and adults begged Carvalho not to leave Miami-Dade was met with laughter from the audience at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium. But it also elicited a new explanation from the superintendent, and one that was decidedly less kingly than the reasons he gave for his decision last week.
“I am a true believer that if you want me to land the championship ring, if you want to win the Super Bowl, but I have a field that I’m not going to be able to necessarily pick my quarterback … that the plays will be called, co-consulted, then that may be a deal breaker for me,” Carvalho said.
The superintendent also repeated his earlier explanations that he was dedicated to Miami-Dade and that he had been moved by the response from local teachers, parents and students to his appointment as New York City schools chancellor. The football metaphor, however, appears to confirm a Politico report that Mayor Bill de Blasio wasn’t going to let Carvalho pick his own chief of staff or human resources director and that retiring Chancellor Carmen Fariña would have had a continuing influence on the school district.
That was the closest Carvalho has come to criticizing de Blasio, who has made no secret of his annoyance at Carvalho’s dramatic reversal after the superintendent privately accepted the job and then publicly turned it down at an emergency school board meeting last Thursday.
“He told me repeatedly this was his dream job,” de Blasio said last week at a press conference in New York City. “Obviously whatever happened here is quite unusual but if he wasn’t interested in the job I don’t know why he flew up here several times and had incessant conversations about all the details and agreed to the release of the information publicly.”
De Blasio’s press secretary Eric Phillips also didn’t mince words, tweeting, “Who would ever hire this guy again? Who would ever vote for him?”
At Monday’s education town hall, which was hosted by The Atlantic and sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers, Carvalho didn’t just dwell on the job offer. He also had strong words for Florida legislators, who are considering a proposal to arm school staff. On Monday, the Florida Senate approved a bill that would create an optional program for school districts to arm some school personnel, including support staff who provide some instructional work and current or former servicemen.
“Where we have gone absolutely wrong is that obviously there are a lot of people in government who we were not able to teach well enough, because anybody who thinks that safety in schools is enhanced by giving teachers guns — is absolutely out of their mind,” Carvalho said.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who also spoke at the event, similarly rejected the idea of giving teachers firearms. “We live in a world where teachers have a hard enough job as it is and they don’t get paid enough,” Suarez said. “I don’t think that’s fair to ask of teachers.”