Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Newest Pinellas School Board members voice opposition to superintendent's plan

The Pinellas County School Board's newest members wasted no time in making their presence felt Tuesday, voicing opposition to a key plank in the superintendent's student achievement plan just hours after taking the oath of office.

In doing so, newly elected members Terry Krassner and Lew Williams may have tipped a board majority against Julie Janssen's proposal to merge Lakeview Fundamental Elementary School in St. Petersburg and Gulfport Elementary into one, new, bigger fundamental school.

Many students now at Gulfport would end up in nearby schools that are already packed with high numbers of struggling kids, Williams said. "I'm having difficulties with that," he said.

"If there are real significant reasons for a move, then go for it," said Krassner, who worried about the disruption to families and the staffs at both schools. "But I'm not convinced."

Janssen conceded after the meeting that the new members' opposition made the chance of a merger less likely. But she said she would work hard to persuade them by the time the board votes on her overall plan Dec. 7.

"I'm convinced it's the right thing to do," Janssen said.

Both Krassner, a former principal, and Williams, a former principal and area superintendent, touted their experience in education on the campaign trail. And on Tuesday, it showed. They dove right into one of the more controversial and complicated pieces of Janssen's multi-faceted plan, which aims to give more students access to top-notch academic programs.

The part in question would transplant the students at Lakeview, one of the district's highest performing schools, into Gulfport, which is high poverty and struggling. Gulfport would become a fundamental school at the same time its school-within-a-school Montessori program permanently transferred to Lakeview.

The district has long waiting lists for its fundamental schools, which mandate parental involvement and have the power to boot students who don't follow the rules. They boast some of the highest test scores and lowest suspension rates in Pinellas.

Last week, a tentative majority on the school board signalled support for the Lakeview-Gulfport merger, even as many Lakeview parents objected. But with former aboard members Nina Hayden and Mary Brown no longer in the mix, Krassner and Williams joined board members Janet Clark and Linda Lerner in raising concerns.

"Basically, you're taking away a neighborhood school," Lerner said about Gulfport. "I don't think this is going to benefit Gulfport students."

"I have a lot more negative feelings than positive at this point," Clark said after the meeting.

Board members asked Janssen to bring more data about Gulfport students to the next workshop at the end of the month, including information about the schools that are likely to absorb some of the existing population if the merger happens.

Janssen said she'll bring that and more.

Some critics have suggested that many Gulfport parents will be unwilling or unable to meet the demands of a fundamental school — an argument Janssen called elitist. She said she will ask the principal to poll the families about their views on becoming a fundamental school.

Ron Matus can be reached at or (727) 893-8873.

What program for Countryside High?

The Pinellas School Board remained undecided Tuesday on what kind of top academic program should take root at Countryside High in Clearwater, but focused on possibly a cutting-edge technology program that would include offerings like cyber security, video gaming and animation, aerospace engineering and television production.

The board also agreed not to set a numerical target for a downsized International Baccalaureate program at Palm Harbor University High. Superintendent Julie Janssen had earlier suggested it should be cut from about 550 to about 375 students. But board members said the district should wait to see what impact creating other programs will have on Palm Harbor's enrollment, including a new IB program at Largo High and new magnets at Tarpon Springs and Clearwater high schools.

Newest Pinellas School Board members voice opposition to superintendent's plan 11/16/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 9:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Wrestling to return to old Tampa armory — but just for one night

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — For the first time in decades, wrestling will return to the old Ft. Homer W. Hesterly Armory with a reunion show scheduled for late September.

    For the first time in decades, wrestling will return to the old Ft. Homer W. Hesterly Armory with a reunion show scheduled for late September.
Now named the Bryan Glazer Family JCC, the armory regularly featured stars such as Dusty Rhodes and Jack Brisco. On September 26, it will host a one-time only reunion night. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times file photo (2016)]
  2. Wanted: New businesses on Safety Harbor's Main Street

    Local Government

    SAFETY HARBOR — A green grocery store, a hardware store, restaurants, boutiques and multi-use buildings are all wanted downtown, according to discussion at a community redevelopment workshop held last week. And to bring them to the Main Street district, city commissioners, led by Mayor Joe Ayoub, gave City Manager …

    Whistle Stop Bar & Grill is one of the main stops on Main Street in Safety Harbor. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
  3. John Morgan intends to pressure every Florida politician to fund wage initiative


    John Morgan, the publicity-loving personal injury lawyer/entrepreneur who spearheaded the successful medical marijuana initiative, soon plans to start collecting signatures for a 2020 ballot initiative raising Florida minimum wage. He plans to "spend millions of my own money" on the effort, but he also intends to …

  4. Westbound traffic on Courtney Campbell blocked after crash


    Westbound traffic on the Courtney Campbell Causeway is being diverted following a crash early Thursday morning.

  5. Q&A: A business leader and historian jointly delve into Tampa's waterfront


    TAMPA — As a native of Tampa, Arthur Savage has always had a passion for his hometown's history. And as a third-generation owner and operator of A.R. Savage & Son, a Tampa-based shipping agency, his affinity for his hometown also extends to its local waterways.

    Arthur Savage (left) and Rodney Kite-Powell, co-authors of "Tampa Bay's Waterfront: Its History and Development," stand for a portrait with the bust of James McKay Sr. in downtown Tampa on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017. McKay, who passed away in 1876, was a prominent businessman, among other things, in the Tampa area. He was Arthur Savage's great great grandfather. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]