The Milpitas school board sternly reprimanded Superintendent Karl Black on Tuesday for an "intimate relationship" he had with a district principal and for lying about it.

Tuesday's action came after trustees discussed newly discovered emails between Black and Stacey Espino, principal at John Sinnott Elementary.

The board, however, decided not to terminate Black's contract. In a written statement, the board cited his 14 years with the district and his upcoming retirement June 30. "But for the short amount of time remaining on his contract, this board would move to dismiss Dr. Black for cause," read the board statement issued after its emergency midday meeting Tuesday.

Black could not be reached for comment.

Considering the district's financial straits and the time, effort and cost of terminating him, the board decided to let Black, 58, retire as planned.

So Black will be able to receive retirement benefits he's owed for 35 years in public education, including 14 in Milpitas, the last nine as superintendent. He earns $213,000 annually.

Board President Marsha Grilli said that the three months of investigation and uncertainty have been difficult on the 9,800-student district. "We put a lot of trust into our superintendent," she said. "This is very disappointing when you get to this point."

The allegation that Black was having an affair with Espino surfaced in March. Espino's husband confronted Black in his school district office, after reading an email between the pair. Black, who is married, denied the affair to a newspaper reporter and district officials.

In response to a Public Records Act request from the Milpitas Post, the district in April released emails that hinted at an affair. The board then placed Black, who had taken medical leave after the initial allegation, on paid administrative leave, even though the emails were inconclusive, Grilli said.

However, district technology staffers continued to mine archives to reconstruct emails dating back a year, she said. Those were released last week to the board and will soon be turned over to the Post, according to the district.

The board concluded "that Dr. Black has failed to act with the requisite high degree of honesty and integrity expected of the superintendent," its statement read, "because of his personal and intimate relationship with a subordinate employee and his denials to the board when confronted with the fact of this relationship."

The statement also says that Black inappropriately used district time and its email system to correspond with Espino.

Black had appointed Espino, 37, as principal in March 2008. Board members would not comment on Espino's future employment status.

Last year, the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury issued a report criticizing school districts for lacking policies covering relationships among employees. In response, several districts, including Milpitas, have modified personnel policies. Grilli said that Black violated the district's ethics policies.

"We wanted to make it very clear it was very hurtful to the district," she said, "and that this is not what we're about."

Even so, Grilli praised Black's overall performance.

While the board has dealt with the allegations, she said, teachers and students have remained focused on education.

The board's "statement of reprimand and disapproval" comes just two weeks before the end of school in Milpitas, and as a the board closes in on a candidate to replace Black.

On Tuesday, board members will visit the school district of the person it hopes to name as its next top administrator.

Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775.