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Pinellas schools' choice for superintendent orders e-mail inquiry

Alberto Carvalho, a superintendent in waiting, today will speak with Pinellas School Board candidates as he weighs competing job offers in Pinellas and his home district of Miami-Dade — all part of a cross-state drama that has taken another strange turn.

Carvalho on Thursday ordered an investigation into school district e-mails in Miami-Dade that are said to suggest he had an intimate relationship with a Miami Herald schools reporter, the Herald reported last night.

The newspaper quoted Carvalho as strongly denying anything beyond a professional, albeit friendly, relationship with the reporter. He also said the e-mails, which were circulating widely in Miami, appear to have been doctored as part of a "smear campaign" against him.

Carvalho, 43, is married and has a daughter in high school. The reporter, Tania deLuzuriaga, 27, now with the Boston Globe, declined to comment when reached by the Herald. Carvalho did not return messages left Thursday by the Times.

"Somebody has breached the privacy and sanctity of the e-mail system,'' Carvalho, an associate superintendent, told the Herald. "What they are attempting is damaging and hurtful and untruthful. They are using them to damage my character.''

Today, Carvalho planned to call five Pinellas School Board candidates to gauge how much support he would have if he took the district's offer, which came after a 4-3 vote Wednesday.

At least two of those candidates, and maybe a third, will be elected to the board Nov. 4. They would replace as many as three of the board members who voted to hire Carvalho, possibly leaving him with only one solid supporter after November.

Suddenly it matters what the candidates think of him.

Four of them said in interviews they would support Carvalho. One candidate, Sean O'Flannery, said he would keep an open mind until he spoke with Carvalho.

"I'd just like to see more cohesiveness" on the board, said Robin Wikle, a District 4 candidate. "I can work with anybody. You take your differences and you have to look at what it's really about, and it's about children."

Wikle's opponent, Ken Peluso, said he would work with any of the three finalists — Carvalho, interim superintendent Julie Janssen or Nicholas Gledich, a top Orange County schools official.

"All three are excellent,'' Peluso said. "All three have their own best qualities."

Jennifer Crockett, who is running for the District 1 seat, also said she would support any of the finalists.

"My bigger feeling is we need a board that is working together and not divided," said Crockett, who called it "really unfortunate" that board members Mary Brown and Linda Lerner have said they would not welcome a follow-up talk with Carvalho.

Crockett is challenging School Board member Janet Clark, who voted to hire Carvalho.

Nina Hayden, a District 2 candidate, said Janssen is a better fit for Pinellas but added she would work with Carvalho.

"You can't sit there and mull over things that are in the past or out of your control," said Hayden, who is running against O'Flannery. "You've got to move forward."

Trailed by news cameras Thursday, Carvalho visited Miami's Jackson High, where he began his education career as a science teacher. He said he was there to "search my soul" as he contemplated the two offers.

"It started here, my heart is still here," he said of Miami.

But he added: "A child's need in Pinellas is the same as a child's needs in Miami-Dade. And ultimately I am going to be looking for the leeway and opportunity to actually do the work. And that's what I'm going to be deciding in the next 48 hours."

He has yet to negotiate with either district.

One way or another, Miami-Dade needs a new superintendent by today. The board there offered the job to Carvalho on a 5-3 vote Wednesday, two hours after severing ties with superintendent Rudy Crew.

Pinellas left itself until Sept. 23 to agree on a contract with Carvalho. Should he decline the offer, the board would call a special meeting to consider the other two finalists, chairwoman Nancy Bostock said.

"I'm not the least bit worried about any of this," she said. "Either direction we go I think we're in good shape."

Thomas C. Tobin can be reached at tobin@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8923.

Where they stand

Of five Pinellas School Board candidates Carvalho planned to call today, four said they would support Carvalho:

Robin Wikle, District 4

Ken Peluso, District 4

Jennifer Crockett, District 1

Nina Hayden, District 2

One candidate said he would keep an open mind until he spoke with Carvalho:

Sean O'Flannery, District 2

Pinellas schools' choice for superintendent orders e-mail inquiry 09/12/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 15, 2008 2:42pm]
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