Lerner: I struggled with Janssen's contract extension
Pinellas school board member and candidate Linda Lerner said yesterday that she struggled with giving Superintendent Julie Janssen a 3-year contract extension, saying she initially preferred a two-year deal.
"I struggled with that one, to tell you the truth," Lerner said in response to a question from the St. Petersburg Times editorial board. "I was thinking of maybe giving it the two year. I even told Dr. Janssen that. But in the end I went along with the majority."
"I think it was the right thing to do for the stability of the district," Lerner also said.
Janssen "does have the ability to communicate well. She does listen. There are things she needs more information about, and I expect for her to get it. I think Julie is doing a good job if I look at everything. Some things I would rate less, some things more."
"The situation with Dr. Wilcox was very problematic. I felt we had someone (in Janssen) who knew the district and was doing a pretty good job. I felt stability was needed. And I saw progress going in the right direction. Now have there been some setbacks on some high profile items? Yes. But I still think Dr. Janssen is moving forward in the right way."
Lerner also addressed the transition to neighborhood schools, and the recent issues with discipline at John Hopkins Middle.
Asked how the transition was going, Lerner said, "It's going well. I met with the realtors and they're happy. It's going well as far as you kind of know where you're going to be."
But Lerner also said the district has not responded quickly enough to problems that have come from concentrating low-income students. She pointed to John Hopkins.
"Did I like that it happened? No. Did I like that it happened? Yes, in the sense that it became a focus," she said. "Why wasn't the arrest data in there, in the EDS system? Come on. Who was looking at it? ... Why didn't the area superintendent and the director of school operations ask the district, 'We really need help down here ... ' " There wasn't that quick response. And now the expectation is there will be."