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Pasco principal wants Pinellas' top job

HOLIDAY — Chris Dunning, principal of Paul R. Smith Middle School since it opened in 2006, thinks he's got the goods to run a school district.

You won't see his name on the ballot for Pasco County superintendent, though.

"I'd be running against the current superintendent, who I think is doing a good job," said Dunning, who lives in New Port Richey.

You will, however, find him in the running to lead the neighboring Pinellas school district. Dunning's application to replace Clayton Wilcox, who resigned in June, landed in the Pinellas district headquarters early Monday, having made the Friday midnight mailing deadline.

"The Pinellas job is an open position, so it's a little different situation," he explained.

During his 15-year education career, Dunning has taught in Hillsborough and Pasco elementary schools. He has been an elementary school principal, a middle school principal and Pasco's head of employee relations. He also has taught education leadership courses at the University of South Florida, where he received his doctorate in education.

"Throughout my career, I've had a lot of different opportunities," Dunning said. "I have a good feel for how a system works."

Never having led a school district before, Dunning acknowledged that he might face a tough crowd in trying to get his foot in the door with the Pinellas County School Board.

Other candidates for the job include the current interim superintendent, Julie Janssen — who has received support from many community leaders — as well as the chief academic officer for Milwaukee Public Schools, a former state superintendent of Illinois public schools and a top lieutenant to Miami-Dade's superintendent.

At the Pinellas district office, Dunning is listed simply as "Applicant #29."

"I hope I get a chance for an interview," he said. "That will be their chance to see who I really am."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at

Pasco principal wants Pinellas' top job 07/14/08 [Last modified: Monday, July 21, 2008 5:31pm]
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