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Pinellas political heavyweights support Linda Benware for interim school superintendent.

Some of Pinellas County's political heavyweights have begun lining up to support former top administrator Linda Benware to be interim superintendent of the school district.

Benware, now a consultant on charter schools, has the backing of former St. Petersburg College president Carl Kuttler, state Sen. Jack Latvala and Bill Heller, a former state representative and University of South Florida professor, among others.

After months of tension, the School Board will consider superintendent Julie Janssen's offer to resign on Tuesday.

And Benware confirmed Friday she has informed board members Peggy O'Shea and Terry Krassner that she wants to be considered, but only for an interim job.

"I see the role differently from the superintendent who was hired for a full-time position. … I want to keep the ball rolling," Benware said.

Benware, 65, of Seminole won praise as the first principal of St. Petersburg Collegiate High School, a charter school, until retiring in 2008. She now is assisting with the creation of a charter school in Pinellas for black students aimed at curbing the achievement gap. She previously was a consultant for charter schools by Edison College and State College of Florida.

"Her experience is broad. It's not a campaign. I've talked to several people, and I think she has a lot to offer," Kuttler said of his support for her return to the district.

But her bigger calling card will be her experience in the district while still being outside the strife with this administration.

"When you think of the situation, she's no longer an insider because she's retired. But she also knows the system really well," said Heller, who has worked with her on the charter school for black students.

While there may be other candidates, Benware and her allies note that an experienced, outside hand will help the district keep itself straight during a search for a permanent leader. So will having someone uninterested in a permanent job. Still, Benware acknowledged the touchiness of putting her name out for a job that's still filled by Janssen, whom she's known for 25 years.

"It is awkward. … I have all the sensitivity to understand that from Dr. Janssen's perspective," Benware said.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/decamptimes.

Pinellas political heavyweights support Linda Benware for interim school superintendent. 08/19/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 19, 2011 11:42pm]
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