Stewart announces plans to leave Pinellas in December
Pinellas County superintendent John Stewart has changed his mind again.
He told board members this morning that he will work for the 101,000-student district through December, leaving the seven-member board nine months to find someone to replace him.
"I will be leaving the district in December simply because of personal direction in my life," Stewart, 68, said at the end of the school board meeting.
This latest news comes two months after Stewart indicated to board members that he'd be willing to stay through the end of the 2012-13 school year. At the time, board members cheered his agreement to remain in the district. He's told them as recently as October that he had no desire to stay past December 2012, but said in January that he'd thought more about it. Board members have unanimously voiced overwhelming appreciation for Stewart's quick and steady leadership in a district recently rocked by administrative tumult.
Asked this morning what made his change his mind, Stewart was reserved.
"I think it's time for me," he told the Gradebook following the meeting. "I want to be with my wife."
He declined to talk about his decision further. Stewart said he shared his decision with board chair Robin Wikle prior to the meeting.
But other board members and top level staff said they were surprised by his announcement. Board member Linda Lerner, who chairs a board subcommittee on the superintendent search, said she'd like to arrange a short meeting next Tuesday to discuss next steps.
Stewart was hired in September to take control of Pinellas schools after the board fired former superintendent Julie Janssen. He led the Polk County school district for 13 years until 1996 and later spent three years working was deputy superintendent in Pinellas under Howard Hinesley. He went on to join the Florida High School Athletic Association before retiring in 2009.
Though hired in Pinellas as an interim leader pending a formal board search, board members decided to remove the word "interim" from his title. In his short time over the district, he has sought to improve internal and external communication, tackle middle school reform and, his latest effort, reorganize the administrative staff.