GUAM SCHOOL CHIEF ARRESTED IN NEVADA THEFT

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By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News. June 25) - Guam Public School System administrator James M. Petitte is being held without bail by Superior Court of Guam marshals while he awaits extradition to Nevada to face a felony charge.

Petitte was taken into custody around 9:50 a.m. yesterday based on the extradition request from the Clark County local court and the Las Vegas Metropolitan police, said Dan Tydingco, the Guam Judiciary's policy director.

At a hearing yesterday afternoon, Superior Court of Guam Presiding Judge Alberto Lamorena III agreed with the Nevada authorities' request: That Petitte be held without bail while the paperwork for his extradition is being processed.

The Guam attorney general's office supported the no-bail request.

Petitte is facing a 2005 felony charge of receiving stolen property -- allegedly belonging to a Nevada school district.

Petitte said he is innocent when the Pacific Daily News first reported about his Nevada bench warrant in February.

And in an Email last week, in light of his GPSS promotion and as his legal tangle remains, Petitte said he could not comment on how he became a co-defendant in the Nevada theft case.

"I cannot comment on that until this case is resolved. I don't want anything I say to be misinterpreted or damaging to my case," he wrote.

Petitte, in a previous interview with the Pacific Daily News, has maintained he is innocent. He did acknowledge at yesterday afternoon's court hearing he knew he had a bench warrant in Nevada.

Petitte has stated in an earlier interview with the PDN he's been trying to resolve his Nevada case, but added he was short of the US$15,000 needed to pay for a defense attorney. Up until his arrest, Petitte had taken on bigger roles as an administrator in the school system.

About a week ago, GPSS management confirmed that he had been designated the acting associate superintendent of secondary schools, in addition to his role as Student Support Services division administrator.

The secondary schools associate superintendent, Kenneth Chargualaf, is on a long-term leave. The associate superintendent for secondary schools is the No.2 job within the education agency. The associate superintendent for elementary schools also is a top position.

Superintendent Luis Reyes is on leave for three weeks, and Associate Superintendent for Elementary Schools Corina Paulino is the acting superintendent.

With Petitte's arrest, GPSS management yesterday afternoon named yet another acting associate superintendent for secondary schools.

Agueda Johnston Middle School Principal Chris Anderson has been named acting associate superintendent for secondary schools, said GPSS spokesman Gerry Cruz.

"The Guam Public School System is aware of the matter concerning Mr. James Petitte," according to a GPSS press release.

The press release states the superintendent's office is working to ensure continuity in leadership for GPSS's secondary schools.

"Any other disposition regarding Mr. Petitte's status with the department will be guided by GPSS's personnel rules and regulations," according to the press release.

GPSS has begun to establish communication with the attorney general's office to gain further information, according to the press release.

Last week, when asked what would qualify him in his bigger role as GPSS's No. 2, Petitte said his main focus and single largest responsibility are the 32,000 public school students.

He stated he will finish his course work next year for a doctorate in organizational psychology and has the "competence" to help the Guam Public School System through a host of challenges.

Within about a year after he was appointed administrator in charge of student discipline, Petitte was named acting associate superintendent for secondary schools.

But while Petitte took on a larger administrative role in GPSS, he remains a wanted man in the Nevada court.

The charges against him, according to an online summary of his case from the Nevada court, are two misdemeanors and one felony involving receiving stolen property.

According to court records, Petitte had forfeited his $4,000 bail.

The case involved the theft of microscopes from the Clark Country School District, said

The main defendant in the case, Andrea Maanao Cruz, called the Pacific Daily New in February claiming sole responsibility for the theft.

She said at the time she thought her guilty plea would lead to the dropping of charges against Petitte. The items at issue were found in the trunk of Petitte's car, but Petitte didn't know the items were stolen, Andrea Cruz has said.

Cruz and Petitte knew each other from the Guam public schools, where he was a principal of the alternative school, and she was a middle school teacher. Petitte left GPSS around 2004, and both ended up in Nevada. Petitte acknowledged he was romantically involved with Andrea Cruz, a relationship he said, in an e-mail to the PDN, "sucked me into this mess."

Sometime after he was released on bail, after his February 2005 arraignment, Petitte returned to the Guam public school system, this time with an administrator position at the central office.

The GPSS spokesman last week said Petitte did submit police and court clearances when he reapplied for a job at GPSS -- but those clearances were from Guam.

Petitte has not been convicted of any crime, Gerry Cruz said last week, and GPSS cannot do any adverse action.

"We don't interfere with personal issues," the GPSS spokesman said last week.

Speaker Mark Forbes, chairman of the Legislature's Education Committee, said on Petitte's promotion last week he knows neither Petitte nor the details of the Nevada case.

But when any person has an unresolved legal case, Forbes said, "it ought to slow down" GPSS management from promoting that person until the bench warrant has been resolved, Forbes said.

"My gut reaction is, it is an exercise of poor judgment to (give a promotion) when there is an unresolved issue," Forbes said.

Education policy board Chairman Peter Alecxis Ada said last week he was unaware that Petitte was designated acting associate superintendent for secondary schools. Ada could not be reached for comment yesterday. Petitte was asked last week whether his legal issue will affect how students and peers at GPSS look to him.

"When these charges are cleared, would I be a good role model?" asked Petitte in response to the question.

He then said the answer would depend on the views of students and others in the education system.

"Each has their own perception of what a person's character is like. Just because people are charged with crimes does not mean they are guilty," he wrote. "Even after this ugly mess was brought out, teachers and students alike were very supportive," Petitte stated.

"Comments like: 'We don't believe everything we hear -- every story has two sides to it' or 'I still believe in you' and 'We are behind you' humble me,'" he wrote.

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