Many people have broken up in the big city. Few have done it weirder than Alberto Carvalho dumping Bill de Blasio.
Naturally, it was live-tweeted and broadcast.
The news broke late Wednesday afternoon that Carvalho was going to be New York’s schools chancellor, leaving his post as the well-regarded superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public School for a bigger spot atop the nation’s largest school system.
Thursday, things got weird. And we put it on TV.
Even after giving de Blasio and his top deputy two verbal agreements that he’d move north—and even after New York’s City Hall sent out a press release announcing his appointment Wednesday evening—Carvalho summoned an emergency school board meeting in Miami for Thursday morning, which it was assumed would be his thank you to that city before making the move north.
For hours he sat, appearing satisfied if slightly stunned, by the unyielding genuflections of grateful citizens there. The headline on NY1, which in a first carried a Miami school board meeting live, said Miamians were “begging” him to stay.
“Please don’t go,” the Miami crowd shouted.
“Ain’t no place like Miami,” former 2 Live Crew rapper Luther Campbell told him.
Still convinced that Carvalho was Broadway-bound, New York’s City Hall saw it as a compliment.
At 12:34 on Wednesday, de Blasio’s press secretary tweeted, “It’s always a good personnel choice when a good bulk of the questions from reporters are some version of, ‘Is the mayor worried this guy might be *too* good?”
Then something happened. It was nearly 80 degrees in Miami, but the superintendent was getting cold feet. He paused the praise, asking for five minutes offstage before announcing his decision. By this time, the story growing more curious, I was summoned to sit on set with my NY1 colleagues.
I thought that he was just being a showman. So did others. Was the would-be schools chancellor actually going to bail on the job he’d accepted?
#CarvalhoWatch or #TheCarvalhoShow was now a thing.
Twenty-five minutes later, sweat beginning to bead under his well-coiffed mane, Carvalho asked the Miami School Board for another few minutes. Apparently, he hadn’t gotten in touch with de Blasio.
Back in New York, at 1:18 p.m., the press secretary, Eric Phillips, tweeted: “Give us a minute, folks. We’re also sorting through the weirdness.”
Fifteen minutes after that, Phillips tweeted what was becoming painfully obvious: “Carvalho backed out. He won’t be coming to NYC. There is...never a dull moment in our great city.”
Never a dull moment, surely not for us live as the will-he-or-won’t-he moments clocked by before a rapt viewership in what turned out to be the city’s most abrupt live breakup since Bill Belichick decided he wasn’t going to be the HC of the NYJ after all.
Damn, I realized. We’ve been dumped.
“I’ve been through a lot of things, I’ve seen a lot of things—I haven’t quite seen something like this,” de Blasio admitted later. “I was quite—I was probably more surprised and confused that this could happen than anything.”
Hizzoner said that at a hastily assembled mid-afternoon news conference at City Hall. (That was shortly after he showed up at the office for the first time Thursday. Around 11 a.m., someone spotted de Blasio doing his mid-morning routine: working out at the Y in Park Slope. The mayor said by the time Carvalho called, he was in meetings at Gracie Mansion.)
By Carvalho’s account, the outpouring from Miami changed his mind, in real time and on the air.
“We may have the strength to break an agreement with an adult. I just don’t know how to break a promise to a child, how to break a promise to a community,” he said, while repeatedly deeming himself a “man of honor.”
Of course, there must be more to this story.
Maybe he wanted to avoid a rehash in our tabloids of a decade-plus old affair with a former newspaper reporter. (I hope that didn’t factor into his decision.) Or maybe he realized how much he was enjoying his spotlight, and wasn’t looking forward to playing second fiddle to the mayor here.
Carvalho has considered elected office; opting at the last moment for Miami over the bigger city is the kind of feel good story that could launch a run, to say nothing of a hometown hero musical, as my NY1 colleague Lindsey Christ pointed out.
And Carvalho, who clearly enjoys his own voice, has much to stump on considering his record, command of foreign languages, and inspiring personal history as a former undocumented immigrant from Portugal who washed dishes and was briefly homeless before turning to education.
Whatever his reason, there’s no romance left for Carvalho in New York, a city where we just call ourselves “the city” and don’t take well to having to make a second choice.
“Bullet dodged,” Phillips tweeted at 1:38. Then: “Who would ever hire this guy again? Who would ever vote for him?”
From “*too* good” to “bullet dodged” in an hour flat. That’s breaking up in a New York minute.
De Blasio was more diplomatic that afternoon.
“I would not have said it that way,” he said. Asked if he’d be visiting Miami, though, he made clear he isn’t headed to South Beach anytime soon:
“There’s a lot of other great places to vacation.”