School & District Management

N.Y.C. School Chief Drama: Before #TheCarvalhoShow, There Was Rudy and Dan

By Denisa R. Superville — March 02, 2018 2 min read
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This is not the first time that the search to find a new superintendent for the country’s largest school system has publicly skidded off the runway.

Flashback to 1995: Rudy Giuliani was the mayor, and New York City still had a board of education, though Giuliani was fighting tooth and nail to control it.

The board of education voted 4-3 on a Friday night to offer the city’s top education job to Daniel Domenech, who was then a Long Island superintendent.

Domenech went to bed in his Oakdale, N.Y., home, thinking he was going to be the next New York City schools chancellor. All that was left was for the board to approve the contract.

But 24 hours later, the job offer was gone, and the city was back to searching for a school leader to replace Raymond Cortines, who had announced his resignation.

Under pressure from the mayor’s office, one school board member—a mayoral appointee—switched his vote in a meeting the following day at the board of education headquarters at 110 Livingston Street in Brooklyn.

Domenech, his wife, and his eldest son were sitting in the front row.

“It was certainly disappointing,” he said.

But two decades later, he said:

“I have an outstanding element in my resume: that I was a chancellor of schools in New York City, and during my tenure not a single child dropped out, not a single child failed because my tenure was 24 hours on a Saturday.”

The chancellor job later went to Rudy Crew, who was then a superintendent in Tacoma, Wash. Crew eventually landed in Miami-Dade, where he was replaced by Alberto Carvalho.

Carvalho, as the world now knows, publicly declined, after originally accepting, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s offer to run New York City’s schools, with its 1.1 million children, on Thursday.

And Domenech now serves as the executive director of the AASA, the School Superintendents Association, and said he has been a mentor to Carvalho.

“He is a top-notch administrator,” Domenech said of his mentee. “The city certainly went after a great superintendent.”

“Alberto just felt obliged to stay in a community that clearly adores him,” he continued. “And that’s unusual, by the way, because the superintendency is not a job where you tend to be adored. For him to be in a district like that for 10 years—where the average tenure for a superintendent in an urban setting like Miami is three years—is amazing. The fact that he has made the choice to stay there is commendable. It’s great for Miami, but unfortunate for New York City. “

Domenech doesn’t think the botched announcement will affect the city’s ability to draw another top-tier candidate to replace Carmen Farina.

“It is a crown jewel for any superintendent to aspire to,” he said. “I am sure there will be plenty of people lined up to take that role.”

But he does have some advice for de Blasio: “Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched.”

“Before you make any announcement...have a signed agreement and contract in place,” he said. “And then go forward and do a joint announcement.”

(For those interested in a bit more historical education and real estate trivia, the board of education was abolished in 2002 when the state legislature changed the law and gave control of the school system to the mayor, and its headquarters, 110 Livingston Street, was converted into a luxury condo building.)

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.