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Candidate for school chief may face tough time

HOLIDAY — Michele Rehm, a Holiday stay-at-home mother of 10, wants to be superintendent of Pasco schools.

She might have a tough time convincing voters she's up to the job.

Rehm misspelled the position as "superintentent" on the forms she filed with the supervisor of elections. She also misspelled her party affiliation as "indenpendent" on the same documents.

Poor spelling could be the least of Rehm's concerns as she seeks to run the 10,000-employee district and its $1.2-billion budget.

Rehm also has an arrest record.

It includes misdemeanor child neglect, to which she pleaded no contest. It includes fleeing the scene of a car crash, to which she also pleaded no contest. And it includes a handful of county ordinance violations such as failure to license her pets and allowing her pets to run at large.

"Nobody has a clean record," Rehm said, refusing to talk about the child neglect charge, which stemmed from a May 2005 arrest after one of her children was found by park employees wandering, dirty and wet, about a mile from home.

Rehm did not call law enforcement to report that her child was missing for more than three hours "because she was afraid DCF would hold it against her," according to a Sheriff's Office report.

Rehm called the matter "private" and said she planned to have the information removed from her files, as the court withheld final adjudication in the case.

"People can perceive what they want to perceive," she said. "If they're going to hold it against me, that's their own problem."

She could not be reached to discuss the other items that appeared in her court file.

Rehm's views on education issues centered on her disdain for Florida's school accountability program and the FCAT exam.

"We need to go back to teaching our kids the basics of what they need to live in today's society. We are not doing that," she said. "I have a 17-year-old that is proof."

More than a decade of the FCAT has not made a difference in schools, she continued.

"What does the FCAT teach you?" Rehm said. "Tell me one job that the FCAT gives you. There is no job that you can get off the FCAT."

Asked why she is seeking the superintendent's job rather than participating with the PTA or running for School Board, Rehm dismissed those other options.

"I've gone through the channels and I've gotten nowhere," she said. "So basically I just figured I'd go to the top."

She did not see her lack of experience as a barrier to running the 66,000-student school system.

"We have a lot of people who are government officials who have no experience at all," said Rehm, who has finished high school and completed "some college" in Pinellas County. "Sometimes, the best person to do the job is the one with no experience. Why? Because they're least corrupted."

She hopes to qualify for the ballot by collecting the 2,632 required petition signatures rather than collecting donations to help cover the $1,564 filing fee.

"I don't want no money," Rehm said. "If I don't win, then I've got to account for all that money. I just want your vote. Put me in and I'll make the changes that need to be made."

Incumbent superintendent Heather Fiorentino and Gulf High teacher Stephen Donaldson also have filed their intent to run for the job. Pasco County is the largest school district in the country to have an elected superintendent.

Times Staff Writer Molly Moorhead contributed to this report. Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Candidate for school chief may face tough time 02/29/08 [Last modified: Friday, March 21, 2008 2:54pm]
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