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A Times Editorial

2 districts, 2 offers, 2 different faces

DONNA E. NATALE PLANAS   |   Miami Herald


"I really would like to articulate a vision and see if there's a connection there. ... Salary's actually the least of all my considerations.''

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Alberto Carvalho to the St. Petersburg Times after the Pinellas School Board voted Wednesday to hire him as superintendent

"My heart is in this community. I've been here 18 years, and I have a great interest in working with this community.''

Alberto Carvalho to the Miami Herald after the Miami-Dade School Board voted later Wednesday to hire him as superintendent

Alberto Carvalho finds himself courted by two school districts but not entirely loved by either. First, the ever dysfunctional Pinellas School Board voted 4-3 on Wednesday to hire Carvalho as its next superintendent. Hours later, the Miami-Dade School Board voted 5-3 to hire him as its new superintendent. Now he has two job offers — and no solid base of support anywhere. Carvalho has a nice resume. But you have to question his judgment and his motivations if he is serious about uprooting his family and moving for less money to a new district where only one of the four board members who voted for him may be around when he starts work. Two aren't running for re-election. With any luck, voters will reject another one. No wonder he was calling around to the Pinellas School Board candidates on Thursday. Having the support of one of seven board members isn't exactly a mandate.

From a distance, the situation in Miami-Dade does not look all that appealing, either. After ousting superintendent Rudy Crew, School Board members decided not to seek applicants or interview candidates before choosing Carvalho — after he declined to serve as an interim. To further keep his options open, he sent strikingly different messages through the local newspapers. Those aren't the kinds of tactics used by someone who knows what he wants and is genuinely interested in a fresh start.

Of course, why anyone would want to work for the rudderless Pinellas School Board remains a mystery. Superintendent Clayton Wilcox resigned after less than four years in part because of the board's micromanaging and infighting. Now Nancy Bostock and Jane Gallucci, who are leaving the board, and Janet Clark, who faces a tough re-election and may not be back, are forcing Carvalho on a district and a community that favors interim superintendent Julie Janssen. Then there's board members Linda Lerner and Mary Brown, who supported Janssen and then peevishly showed no interest in talking to Carvalho again. At least the third Janssen supporter, Peggy O'Shea, responded gracefully and said she would talk to Carvalho and work with anyone.

If Carvalho chooses Pinellas, he should come with his eyes open. He will have to work with a new school board and win over a skeptical community even as he tackles all of the serious education challenges. If Carvalho stays in Miami-Dade, the Pinellas School Board's worst response would be to turn to a third candidate as a compromise. Board members should either vote unanimously for Janssen, who remains the smartest choice, or leave the hiring of a new superintendent to the new School Board — which is where it belonged all along.

2 districts, 2 offers, 2 different faces 09/11/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 15, 2008 3:31pm]
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