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Amid uncertainty, Julie Janssen fires up teachers for start of school

CLEARWATER — Schools superintendent Julie Janssen pressed forward with her duties Monday as her own fate with the school district hung in the balance.

She concentrated on motivating teachers, days before the start of the school year, and days before School Board members are slated to discuss and likely vote on her future.

Janssen spoke to about 350 educators in the auditorium at Clearwater High for a back-to-school program. The event drew teachers from the high school, Oak Grove Middle and several Clearwater elementary schools.

As Janssen approached the microphone, she was greeted with cheers and applause.

She explained the district's key focal points and told educators how important their jobs are.

"You hold the future in your hands, and I think there is no better place for children to be educated than in public education," she said.

She said public school is where all children are given opportunities to meet their maximum potential.

"Our kids are counting on you to fulfill their dreams," Janssen told them. And she said she was confident they would take up that task and make sure students are successful.

After the assembly, some teachers said they're keeping up with Janssen's situation from media reports, but they don't have time to chatter about it.

"When we get to school, there's no time but to get down to brass tacks about what we can do for the kids," said Marcy Bennett, a behavioral specialist at Sandy Lane Elementary School. "We don't have time for anything political."

Janssen has come under fire this year for perceived communication and decision-making flaws.

A majority of the board has asked to add a special meeting to their scheduled workshop on Aug. 23, which would allow them to take action on her employment if they chose.

Board members Carol J. Cook, Robin Wikle and Peggy O'Shea, who attended the event, appeared somber at times during Monday's assembly.

Cook said she hasn't made a decision and won't until next week's meeting.

"That will be the time when we determine what we're doing," Cook said.

Last week, Janssen indicated she was uncertain about whether she'd get to stay in her job. But after the assembly, she said she wanted to put her energy toward starting a new school year.

"I really want to focus on opening school," Janssen said. "We don't need any distractions."

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Amid uncertainty, Julie Janssen fires up teachers for start of school 08/15/11 [Last modified: Monday, August 15, 2011 11:50pm]
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