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Pinellas School Board calls special meeting to decide superintendent Janssen's fate

ST. PETERSBURG — What was going to be an informal discussion about superintendent Julie Janssen's performance turned this weekend into a special meeting where School Board members can vote on her future.

Four of the seven Pinellas County School Board members have asked to add a special meeting to their scheduled workshop Aug. 23 "to take appropriate action regarding (Janssen's) employment," board attorney Jim Robinson said Sunday.

"We need to have, I don't want to say closure, but a definite decision about Dr. Janssen's employment situation," said board member Linda Lerner, who declined to say whether she felt Janssen deserved to keep her job as leader of the state's seventh-largest school system.

Lerner and board member Robin Wikle, who also has called for the special meeting, said they didn't want to wait until the board's next scheduled meeting — Sept. 13 — to make a decision.

"Whatever may happen on the 23rd, we need the ability to take action," said Wikle, who also declined to say if she wanted Janssen to remain.

Janssen has come under fire this year from board members, teachers and parents for perceived flaws in her communication and decision-making. Some board members have complained Janssen doesn't keep them properly informed and doesn't respond to simple information requests.

The board told Janssen on June 23 that she had two months to demonstrate improvement in a number of areas.

The board was already supposed to discuss her performance during an Aug. 23 workshop, but board members can't take formal votes during workshops. They can vote during regular or special meetings.

In addition to Wikle and Lerner, members Terry Krassner and Lew Williams asked for the special meeting, Robinson said Sunday. Special meetings can be called only at the request of the superintendent, chairman or a board majority.

Chairwoman Carol Cook, one of Janssen's strongest supporters, said last week she needed more information before deciding on whether to call a special meeting. Cook was unavailable for comment Sunday.

Lerner and Krassner said last week they had not seen improvement from Janssen since June.

The workshop is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Cabinet Conference Room of the district's administration building at 301 Fourth St. SW in Largo, but the time and place of the special meeting was not determined.

Janssen, who could not be reached for comment Sunday, has overseen Pinellas schools since fall 2008. Her contract runs through Sept. 30, 2013.

The board can terminate her contract with or without cause, but may be required to pay her a year's salary and benefits depending on the circumstances.

Janssen is paid $203,000 in annual salary plus a $10,800 car allowance and $3,000 communications allowance.

"Everybody knows that you cannot please everyone. And you do the best you can with what you know," Janssen told the St. Petersburg Times last week.

When asked then if she knew what would happen Aug. 23, which is the second day of classes for the new school year, Janssen said she had no idea.

"And you know what, I'm not worrying about it," she said. "It'll happen whether I worry about it or not. I have to get school started."

Times staff writer Ron Matus contributed to this report. Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or [email protected]

Pinellas School Board calls special meeting to decide superintendent Janssen's fate 08/14/11 [Last modified: Sunday, August 14, 2011 11:43pm]
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