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Pinellas school board plans public 'listening post' in superintendent search

The Pinellas County School Board has tentatively scheduled an evening workshop to allow community groups to express their hopes for the next school chief.

School Board chairwoman Robin Wikle said she called for the May 2 "listening post" after board members raised concerns about the Pinellas Education Foundation meeting privately with Wayne Blanton, the man the board hired to run their superintendent search.

"The School Board is still driving the superintendent search," Wikle said, "and not any other entity."

The foundation, a business-led nonprofit that raises money to benefit schools, had originally scheduled its own May 3 meeting with Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, to discuss the kinds of qualities its leaders want in a new superintendent.

On Tuesday, foundation board chairman Craig Sher said he wasn't sure whether he wanted board members present and he certainly didn't want it to be a public meeting.

But Wikle said on Friday that she understands Pinellas Education Foundation representatives will be in attendance at the May 2 workshop in lieu of having their own meeting with Blanton.

Sher couldn't be reached on Friday afternoon, but foundation president Terry Boehm said it would be safe to assume the May 3 meeting is off.

"I think the important thing is that people have a voice about the process, and that was our whole thing from the beginning," Boehm said.

School Board members earlier this week appeared unsettled by the idea that one community group could have such exclusive access to Blanton, whom they are paying up to $20,000 to find a new district leader.

"I would rather either have a town hall meeting where it's open to anybody and everybody," School Board member Terry Krassner said.

Wikle said the board is still working out the details for how the May 2 workshop will operate. Typically, workshops, unlike official meetings, do not give members of the public the opportunity to speak.

But Wikle said the purpose of this workshop will be for Blanton and the board to listen to community members.

The board, she said, is in the process of inviting several community groups.

Board members hope to have a new superintendent in place by December, when superintendent John Stewart is expected to leave. Stewart was hired in September as superintendent on an interim basis to replace Julie Janssen, who was fired.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at (727) 893-8707 or rcatalanello@tampabay.com.

Pinellas school board plans public 'listening post' in superintendent search 04/20/12 [Last modified: Saturday, April 21, 2012 12:03am]
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