Left at the altar by their first choice for superintendent, Pinellas School Board members plan to offer the job next week to one of the two remaining finalists.
Three of the seven board members still favored hiring interim superintendent Julie Janssen, but support also was strong for Nicholas M. Gledich, a top official for Orange County schools.
Alberto Carvalho declined the job in a Friday morning phone call to board chairwoman Nancy Bostock. Three hours later he held a news conference to announce he had accepted a competing offer to be superintendent in Miami-Dade, where his 18-year career took him from high school science teacher to second in command.
A packed chamber at district headquarters in downtown Miami greeted a beaming Carvalho, 43, with rousing ovations. He spoke of mending that system's fractured politics and getting to work on school reform.
"I love this school system. I love the people in this school system. I love you," Carvalho began, adding later: "Whatever it takes to lift a child, we will do."
He also addressed a growing controversy over two dozen e-mails that, if authentic, suggest he had a romantic relationship in 2007 with a 27-year-old Miami Herald reporter who once covered the school system.
Carvalho has said he believes the e-mails were fabricated and has ordered an investigation into their origins. He said his relationship with the reporter was professional, though he later described it to a Miami TV station as sometimes "playful."
"I will be the first to release the results, whatever they are," Carvalho said of the investigation. He said it was "by and large a private matter" and that "ultimately the truth will come out."
To applause, he also introduced his wife, Maria, who stood in the crowd.
Pinellas was left to guess how the budding scandal would have played out had Carvalho accepted its offer.
"I do think that, had we been in contract negotiations, that is something that we would have had to resolve," Bostock said.
"Would it have bothered me enough to say no? I don't think so," said board member Carol Cook. "That would be between he and his family. I'm not real quick to jump to conclusions until the facts are in."
Carvahlo told the CBS affiliate in Miami that his salary would be in the $250,000 to $275,000 range, but said he was more focused on being given the time to turn the troubled district around. Pinellas is prepared to offer its next superintendent up to $240,000.
The Pinellas School Board called a meeting for 10 a.m. Tuesday to decide on the next step, but most board members said Friday they were ready to decide between Gledich and Janssen.
"We're in very good shape in Pinellas because we have two excellent candidates," Bostock said. While the public process unfolded with some drama, she said, "this is not unusual in the business world."
Board members Linda Lerner and Jane Gallucci are out of town and will attend the meeting by phone, which prompted discussion of delaying the meeting.
"I think the best thing to do is make a decision and get it finished with," board member Janet Clark said. But she added she also wanted everyone to be there.
"We need seven people face-to-face in the room," said board member Peggy O'Shea.
Bostock said board members often attend meetings by phone and she favored pushing ahead. Deciding on a new leader is more important than meeting face-to-face, she said.
Board member Mary Brown said if board members can't agree to hire Janssen they should leave the job to the new board, which will be seated after the Nov. 4 election. That board will have two, possibly three, new members.
"We are really not together," Brown said of the current board. "I feel too much has gone down."
Bostock bristled at that suggestion, saying that she proposed ceding the decision to the next board months ago, but that Brown and others dismissed the idea. "To change that direction solely because the board member doesn't like the outcome is not a good way to operate."
Of the four board members who voted for Carvalho, Clark and Gallucci indicated they favored Gledich over Janssen. The other two, Cook and Bostock, weren't tipping their hands.
Brown, O'Shea and Lerner continued to favor Janssen, but Lerner said she was open to a compromise. "Dr. Gledich is very qualified, and if that's the way it goes that also will be fine with me." With Carvalho out of the picture, she said, "it's very different for me now."
Whatever the decision, O'Shea said she wants a more robust discussion than occurred this week when the board chose Carvalho.
"I want all the cards on the table this time," she said. "I want to see what their thinking is and why. … The community needs more respect than this."
O'Shea said she spoke with Carvalho by phone Friday, before his decision. She told him she would work with him if he chose Pinellas. They also discussed the purported e-mails between Carvalho and former Herald reporter Tania deLuzuriaga.
"He said, 'There's nothing to it,' and he sounded confident," O'Shea said. "I said, 'That needs to be cleaned up.' "
One of the alleged e-mails has deLuzuriaga writing him: "I called you earlier in hopes of hearing your voice. Bottom line: I miss you and am worried about you." Another is sexually explicit and begins with her greeting him, "Hi, baby."
Yet another: "Will you be completely offended if I leap into your arms the next time I see you (place permitting)?"
Other e-mails indicate that the relationship intersected with her work as a journalist. DeLuzuriaga allegedly wrote Carvalho: "It was stupid of me to not think that the story today would affect you."
Miami TV station CBS4 quoted Carvalho as describing the relationship this way: "I'm a gregarious, playful person and she was a playful person."
DeLuzuriaga has declined to comment.
Anders Gyllenhall, executive editor of the Herald, said he was not aware of any past rumors regarding an alleged affair between the two.
DeLuzuriaga worked at the Herald between October 2006 and September 2007, covering Miami-Dade schools. The paper said it is investigating, including an examination of stories in which Carvalho is quoted or named.
Her immediate editor at the time, Bob Radziewicz, said that deLuzuriaga once mentioned that Carvalho had joined her for a bicycle outing, but that it involved a serious ride with a cycling club. He said he told her to be careful about becoming too personally close to sources, but that in this case he didn't think there was a problem.
Representatives of the Boston Globe, deLuzuriaga's current employer, declined to comment.
Times staff writer Ron Matus contributed to this report.