The Clayton Wilcox era is slowly winding to a close in Pinellas, but not fast enough for two School Board members.
Veteran board member Linda Lerner urged the board Tuesday to immediately reduce the outgoing superintendent's role to "transition consultant" and install his top deputy, Julie Janssen, as interim superintendent. The result would have been a sudden end to Wilcox's tenure as superintendent, which the board previously agreed would last until June 3.
Lerner's idea died quickly when only one other board member, Mary Brown, supported it. Both Lerner and Brown have been critical of Wilcox on several issues.
Lerner's proposal came as the board officially launched its effort to replace Wilcox, who is leaving for a job in New York with Scholastic Corp. The board formalized its earlier decision to make Janssen the interim superintendent effective June 4 at a salary of $185,000. Janssen's contract says her new salary would be cut by the same percentage as other employees if the board votes this summer to balance the budget by reducing pay. Janssen currently makes $131,293.
In addition, the board formally voted to hire the Tallahassee-based Florida School Boards Association to conduct a national superintendent search for $6,000 plus expenses, for a total of no more than $25,000. The process will begin immediately. The association will advertise nationally through June and set an early June deadline for applications.
By late July the board and Wayne Blanton, executive director of the school boards association, would come up with a list of five finalists who would visit the district in late August. The visits would include interviews and school tours. Board members also intend to seek public input.
The board settled on a list of qualities and requirements they want in a new superintendent. Among them: a doctorate or equivalent, at least 10 years of successful administrative experience, "excellent interpersonal skills, including experience with public speaking," and "a management style that creates a positive working climate."
Also Tuesday, board members voted unanimously to waive a provision in Wilcox's contract that says he would have to pay up to $60,000 for a superintendent search if he leaves before his contract expires June 30.
Had the board enforced the provision, Wilcox was prepared to finish out the contract. Board members favored waiving it, saying it would allow both parties to move on and cost less than paying Wilcox $29,248 in salary through June 30.
As she proposed a reduction in Wilcox's duties, Lerner argued that the district needed to move ahead as soon as possible with new leadership because of the budget crisis and other pressing issues.
Board member Peggy O'Shea countered, saying Wilcox needed to "bring closure" to several issues before he leaves.