Did school board snub Janssen on evaluations?
UPDATE: Pinellas School Board Attorney Jim Robinson offered a response to this post on Oct. 20. It is included at the end.
Pinellas Superintendent Julie Janssen’s contract says the school board must tell her in writing before any unsatisfactory ratings are entered on to her evaluations, so she can know where she is falling short and improve. Did that happen?
We don’t want to venture into any legal hair splitting. But in her meeting with the St. Pete Times editorial board Friday, Janssen referenced the lack of input from board members before the evaluations came out. She also referenced language in her contract regarding evaluations.
Here’s what the contract says:
“Prior to any rating below satisfactory or acceptable level of performance being entered on the Superintendent’s evaluation form by the School Board, notice must be given, in writing, to the Superintendent specifically detailing the nature of the deficiency to be addressed. Notice of deficiency must include specific expectations relative to remediating the deficiency to provide the Superintendent sufficient information to address the School Board’s concern and to improve her rating in that area.”
As far as we can tell, individual board members did not do that.
Using a 1-to-5 scale, three board members – Janet Clark, Carol Cook and Robin Wikle – gave Janssen a 1 or 2 in at least one category. On average, Janssen fell below a 3 in only one category, human resources management.
In the editorial board interview, Janssen said board members didn’t meet with her to go over her evaluation prior to rating her and submitting their responses. She said board members Wikle and Peggy O’Shea met with her after they completed their evaluations. She said her contract calls for pre-evaluation meetings.
We didn’t see that language in the contract. But this year’s evaluation timeline does say that between Sept. 7 and Sept. 19, board members would rate the superintendent on the evaluation instrument and meet individually with her.
“There’s not a reason I didn’t,” Cook told the Gradebook. “If I was supposed to, it was an oversight.”
As for putting concerns in writing, per the contract, Cook said, “It does sound like that was probably what we were supposed to do.”
Cook said it’s not too late to go over specific concerns before Janssen puts together her improvement plan in coming weeks.
Janet Clark said she had planned to meet with Janssen about a week before the evaluations went public – and to give her a heads up on what her evaluation said - but the meeting was cancelled because they were both out of town. “I would have liked to have talked to her before that came out,” she said. “It’s my fault for not doing that.”
But, Clark added, she has expressed her concerns to Janssen about many issues, so “I don’t think anything I had said would be a surprise.”
As for the contract requirements, Clark said she was not familiar with them. But after hearing them, she noted they referred to the school board as a whole and not to individual board members. “How is the board supposed to know if we’re giving her a less than satisfactory appraisal if we can’t talk about it before it comes out?” she said.
Response from Jim Robinson (added on Oct. 20): On October 13, I communicated with Dr. Janssen about the requirement in her employment contract that the Board give her notice before entry of the one less-than-satisfactory grade she received on her evaluation. That same day, Dr. Janssen decided to waive her right to notice. This occurred before her evaluation was released to the Board members and the public. Dr. Janssen did not raise this contract provision during her discussion with the Times editorial board the following Friday. The Times reporter raised it independently in the Gradebook article. When the reporter asked Board members whether they had complied with the notice requirement, the members did not know that the requirement had been waived. Thus, no notice was due, and no breach of contract occurred.