Janssen: 'It's not about me'
Today's story about Pinellas Superintendent Julie Janssen included several quotes from her about where she thinks things are headed with her job. Here's the full text of the short interview, edited slightly for length and clarity:
We’re going into a new school year with a little bit of a cloud of uncertainty about you. How do you feel about going into a new school year with that uncertainty?
It’s not about me. It’s really about the kids. And if you come into this job thinking it’s about you, then you can’t do a good job. And so, that’s totally separate. I’m here. Every day I’m going to be working 100 percent. Is it tough sometimes? Yes. Sometimes. But I get in a classroom, I get in a school, I get with kids, teachers, it’s gone. That’s why I do this. I mean 40 years – you don’t continue to do this and get fired up every year if you don’t love what you do. So I have to put that aside. Or else I become dysfunctional.
Have you compartmentalized it?
I’m very lucky. I do do that. You have to do that to survive. Everybody knows that you cannot please everyone. And you do the best you can with what you know. And that’s all you can do. You do it with your kids. You raise them the best you can with what you know.
I know from your calendar that you’ve been meeting with board members as part of the evaluation process. So can you give me a sense of what they’re telling you as far as where things are headed? Are they satisfied with the job that you’re doing? Are they satisfied with what they’ve seen in the past two months?
Some hold their cards very close to them. And others talk about it openly. So I have an indication from some. And others, I don’t. And that’s okay. We go over the evaluation tool – well, we did, with most of them. Some didn’t want to. They just sat and had questions or made comments and wanted me to answer things. I’m not done. I think Mrs. Wikle is left. … I haven’t officially met with Carol. We met to do the board agenda. So I think Carol and Robin are the only ones left.
So of the five you’ve met with, do you have a general drift of where things are headed?
It’s mixed. It’s mixed. It really is. My reaction is kind of mixed as well. Because some of the things that they may say, I disagree. But they’re in charge. So you know, I try to explain it, whatever it is they’re talking about, and you go on. You know, I cannot become dysfunctional because I worry about me. Because it’s not about me. The important thing is we stay focused. These kids have one year to be in this grade. These teachers have one year to get this done. And if I can’t continue to do that, I need to get out of the way.
How do you feel about that at this point?
When I work with my teachers and my school leaders, I think I have a great working relationship with them. I think they trust me. I think they know I’m here for them. I think they know that I have the knowledge and the skills to help them do what they need to academically. I think if you were at the meeting, the criticism I’m getting from the board is they’re not getting all the information that they want. Well it’s very difficult when you have seven board members. The practice is, you work for a board. And it’s not answering to each individual demand. You can’t do that. That’s physically impossible anyway to do that. And I think that’s where there’s a little bit of difference of opinion. I’ve been hearing, and publicly, you know, they should have gotten this report, they should gotten that report. Well, when you talk to the people working in those areas, they say, we’ve never given that report before. So that was my question: Tell me what you want, and you’ll get it. We have no reason to hold it back.
I think I need a clearer understanding of what leadership means to them. Because they keep throwing that out. To me, in my opinion, I thought I was hired to take the district forward academically, to get processes in place so that classrooms are safe, kids are behaving, teachers can teach and we move forward with success. We’ve done lots of really good things. The lawsuits, you know? I’m not sure that others could have done with Crowley what we did. I’m not sure we would have been this far. That takes trust. I worked in these schools for a lot of years. So people know me. And they know that my heart’s in the right place. So politically, I’m totally clueless and obviously I’ve made lots of mistakes there. So, I’m not going to allow the personal piece to impact. Every day I’m here, I’m going to be 100 percent.
What do you mean by mixed response from board members? That they’re not satisfied with the progress of the past two months?
Absolutely. Some are saying that. That’s okay. That’s their job.
Are they saying anything beyond that? When they’re saying they’re not satisfied with the progress of the past two months, what does that mean?
It means, those probably are looking for four votes to say that you know they want to replace me. So I take my chances on that too. I’m not at the end of my career. I’m going to be working a week after I’m not working here. Because I have a lot more to do. I have a lot more to give. I think my skills are recognized outside this district.
Does it sound like there’s four votes to want to do something?
I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s hard to tell because one day it’s one way and another day it’s another way. I won’t even call it flip flopping. I think I call it you know finding out more information or more details or meeting and talking through things. They will vote with their heart. They’ll do what they think they need to do.
Do you have any idea about what’s going to happen on the 23rd?
Nope. I have no idea. And you know what, I’m not worrying about it. It’ll happen whether I worry about it or not. I have to get school started. I have to get kids to where they need to get. … For me, every day is I continue to go forward. If I don’t have this job tomorrow, at least we’ve put things in place. And I feel like I have worked from the beginning til the end. And I’m not going to be a lame duck. Just because I’m worried about it. You can’t.
Do you have a gut feeling as to whether you’ll be working beyond the 23rd?
No. I think it depends on 1 or 2 people.