Gibbs principal approved, Stewart defends decision
Pinellas County school board members Tuesday approved the appointment of Stephanie Adkinson to principal of Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg, but not without hearing objections from four people who had another person in mind for the job: Gibbs assistant principal Robin Mobley.
When interim superintendent John Stewart decided to tap Adkinson, above, to lead Gibbs in the wake of principal Kevin Gordon's departure, he also recommended Mobley become acting principal at Tyrone Middle, where Adkinson has been principal since 2003.
Kamara Cooper, math chair at Gibbs, told the board Tuesday that losing both Gordon and Mobley mid-year would be "a grave mistake," especially at a time when the school is operating under increased state scrutiny due to struggling academic performance.
Gordon's team, which includes Mobley as his No. 2, is credited for helping the school move from an F to a C grade last year.
"I am not saying anything against Ms. Adkinson," Cooper said. "I trust that she is a great principal. I'm talking about timing ... For her (Adkinson) to come in and have to learn what to do when we have someone already in place who already knows exactly what to do, to me, is a mistake, and I beg your reconsideration for the good of our kids at Gibbs High School."
Also speaking in favor of Mobley, pictured left, were community activist Gwendolyn Reese, former Gibbs parent Sami Scott and current Gibbs parent Paula Williams.
Stewart said during the meeting that he heard such input, but determined that Mobley could use more training before being tasked with the hefty burden of leading a high school.
"I listened to an awful lot of people before I made this decision," Stewart said. "Those who spoke for Robin Mobley and those who spoke against her. I listened to those persons who spoke on behalf of Stephanie Adkinson. No one spoke against her. She is a leader of sterling quality."
He continued: "Robin Mobley will be a leader of sterling quality once she has been given the opportunity to gain all those skills necessary to be a principal. I can tell you through 44 years of experience that sitting in the assistant principal's seat is remarkably different than sitting in the principal's seat of any school."
Stewart said Mobley has distinguished herself at Gibbs, will do the same at Tyrone, and may very well be tapped to lead Gibbs one day.
Adkinson, according to the district, is enrolled in the state's deferred retirement option plan, and must retire by Dec. 31, 2014.
Board members Lew Williams and Terry Krassner said they also had concerns and questions about the move, but were going to support it.
Williams said that as soon as news broke that Gordon would be leaving the district for a job at St. Petersburg College, board members were flooded with emails asking that the board not appoint the Gibbs assistant principal. Then, he said, when Adkinson's name surfaced, emails came in objecting to that as well.
In response, Williams spent a couple hours at the school on Monday trying to touch base with employees on the matter.
"One of the things I came away with was ... that they were concerned, not so much with Ms. Adkinson coming to Gibbs, but with the process by which she was coming," Williams said.
Stewart made the decision to appoint Adkinson without opening the position up to other applicants. Stewart said policy allows him to make such a decision. Board members are limited in their ability to reject such a recommendation, board attorney Jim Robinson said, as long as the person meets the minimum qualifications of the job and is "morally square."
Board members approved the appointments 7-0, effective Nov. 28.
Adkinson's pay increases from $90,763 to $98,024. And Mobley's salary stays at $57,808, but she will receive a $3,632 supplement for performing the tasks of acting principal through June 25, 2012.
UPDATE: Ron Ciranna, the head of Human Resources for the district, said an error was made on the board's original agenda concerning Mobley's proposed salary. He said he changed her new salary to read $74,047 and circulated that correction to board members. But apparently that change never made it to the agenda that was publicly available. He said the board did approve a salary of $74,047 for Mobley.