Pinellas School Board questions need for 'journalism training specialist'
Superintendent Julie Janssen squarely defended the need for a proposed journalism training specialist in the face of questions yesterday from several board members.
The new employee would be based at Melrose Elementary but work with teachers and students in the journalism programs at Melrose, John Hopkins Middle and Lakewood High. He or she would need to be well-versed in journalism and the new technological tools used by journalists. The position dovetails with Dell's recent donation of netbook computers to Melrose.
Several board members questioned whether the position needed to be full time, and wondered about the timing. The position -- up for board approval next Tuesday -- would pay $40,000 to $58,168 a year.
Board member Robin Wikle noted the district's recent budget cuts and what are likely to be big cuts ahead when federal stimulus money runs out. "I don't devalue the program," she said. "I'm looking at this as being fiscally responsible. Government right now is not creating jobs ... and two years from now we may be cutting jobs."
Janssen offered a passionate defense.
She said the district does not have the expertise needed for the program, and that introducing students to the latest technology will get them "hooked on learning." She also said enrollment at Melrose has dropped by nearly 100 students in the past year or so, and that a thriving program will bring students back.
Melrose "really, truly has to have a jump start," she said. "We have invested and partnered with Dell on a project that could be exciting ... we cannot afford to allow the program to fail."
Janssen said at last week's kickoff for the netbook program, she watched Melrose students excitedly use the computers to do things like look up word definitions.
"We've taken away the barrier," she said. "They have barriers that other students don't have. And if we truly are going to close achievement gaps, I believe we have to look differently at what certain children need that are very different than others."
To read more about the job, go to page 62 of the board's Jan. 12 agenda packet.