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Pinellas School Board hears public's idea on superintendent search

LARGO — Someone collaborative and responsive. Someone who listens to teachers and values the arts. A person who knows how to bring change and leadership, but doesn't necessarily hold a Ph.D.

Those were a few of the qualifications Pinellas County School Board members were urged to look for as they embark on a search for the district's next superintendent.

Because of superintendent Julie Janssen's termination earlier this month, board members on Tuesday opened up the floor to public input regarding how they should conduct a new search and what leadership qualities they should consider.

Just seven people spoke: two arts advocates, three board meeting regulars, a business leader with a possible interest in the job and a teacher's union representative.

Board members, who will discuss their ideas for a search at an Oct. 4 workshop, said little, but listened.

"Total transparency," said Jim Jackson, a former School Board candidate who was sometimes critical of Janssen's performance. "No secrecy, no surprises."

"Someone who trusts a teacher's professional judgment," said Kim Black, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association.

Black also urged the board not to hire an expensive national search firm.

Already, several board members have indicated their interest in conducting a national search using a more inexpensive organization such as the Florida School Boards Association, which conducted the board's last search in 2008.

Sami Scott, a private citizen who watches School Board politics closely and was an outspoken critic of Janssen's, asked the board to consider what they already have in interim superintendent John Stewart.

Stewart, a former state superintendent of the year from Polk County, was hired on a short-term basis with the contractual caveat that he cannot apply for the permanent gig. Board members and public speakers on Tuesday characterized his leadership so far as having a calming effect.

"Let's not go through unnecessary rigamarole if we already know that individually he has proven to us that he is, you know, top drawer," Scott said.

The planned search will be the third conducted since 2004, when longtime superintendent Howard Hinesley retired. Clayton Wilcox, a superintendent from Louisiana, replaced Hinesley, but broke his contract in 2008 to go to work for Scholastic Corp. Then-deputy superintendent Janssen was hired to replace him.

In other action Tuesday, the board voted 7-0 to approve a new teacher evaluation that links teacher pay to student performance.

The plan fulfills a state mandate passed by the Legislature this spring and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.

Pinellas School Board hears public's idea on superintendent search 09/27/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 11:22pm]
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