Pinellas opts for new decision-making process
Stung by a string of flip-flops, the Pinellas County School Board and Superintendent Julie Janssen agreed yesterday to follow a new decision-making process that the board has put down in writing.
A board subcommittee made up of Janet Clark, Linda Lerner and Carol Cook came up with a draft matrix, which the board agreed to add to its operating manual. It goes into effect immediately.
“It may slow us down a little bit, but it will also help focus us,” Cook said.
“It’s very clear, concise,” said board member Terry Krassner. “The average person would understand a lot more what we’re doing.”
The new process will allow Janssen and district staff to more fully vet ideas – through research and stakeholder input - before they’re presented to the board. Over the past six months, that’s something that often did not happen, leaving the board and/or Janssen to repeatedly backtrack from high profile proposals (moving the IB program from Palm Harbor University High, merging Lakeview Fundamental and Gulfport elementary schools, etc.), usually after mobs of angry parents complained about being blindsided.
As we noted last week, board members said Janssen was abiding by a process they dictated to ensure they weren’t blindsided. Under the new process, Janssen can make the board aware her team is researching this proposal or that – and then dig in with surveys, meetings, etc.
Said Janssen: “The model we’ve been asked to work under is not the model we’re used to doing, absolutely … We believe a better way of work is to do our homework.”
The new process “would make everyone’s lives easier,” she said.
In laying out the new way of work, Cook pointed to one example of how things didn’t work so well recently – the proposal to transform Walsingham and Southern Oak elementaries, by turning one into a school for grades K-2, and the other into a school for grades 3-5 – and another of how they did: revising the attendance and test exemption policy for high schools.
In the former, parents and teachers weren’t notified, and complained that the research behind the idea was thin at best. In the latter, the district put together a team to consider the problem, listened to teachers and principals and even did a survey. The former blew up. The latter was passed and remains in place.
If the district sticks to this plan, “we’ll be more comfortable with the decisions being made,” Clark said. “I think we’ll be doing a real service to our constituents and our school district.”