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Pinellas schools to investigate administrator's role in hiring of daughter's boyfriend

LARGO — The Pinellas County School District will investigate a troubled administrator who played a role in the hiring and employment of her daughter's boyfriend.

Janet Hernandez was the director of professional development last school year when she helped hire Michael Hernandez (the same last name is a coincidence) for a special teaching job at Gibbs High School. District officials told the St. Petersburg Times for a Sept. 21 story that she did not disclose the close, personal nature of their relationship.

Schools spokeswoman Andrea Zahn said in an initial e-mail Monday that there was no pending investigation. About an hour later, after the Times asked why no investigation was planned, Zahn sent a second e-mail, saying she had a chance to talk with deputy superintendent Jim Madden.

"He has had an opportunity to confer with staff and review relevant information and has decided that his office will investigate the handling of the matter in question," she wrote.

School Board chairwoman Janet Clark, reached after the initial e-mail, said she assumed there would be an investigation — and that there needs to be one.

"If it were a teacher, if it were anyone else, there would be an investigation," Clark said. "Maybe we are wrong. Maybe there was nothing inappropriate about (Janet Hernandez's role). But … an investigation would tell us."

Michael Hernandez, who had been dating Janet Hernandez's daughter for at least two years, was a highly regarded science teacher in Hillsborough County when he wrote to her, seeking an administrative job in Pinellas. As head of professional development, Janet Hernandez oversaw the process Pinellas uses to determine who can be an assistant principal.

Janet Hernandez wrote a reference letter for Michael Hernandez and contacted another reference on the district's behalf. The Gibbs job he landed was considered an extension of the professional development office. It was not posted for applications.

Records show Janet Hernandez later signed off on three part-time jobs for him.

Board policy bars employees from holding employment relationships that create conflict between "his/her private interests and the performance of his/her public duties."

Michael Hernandez is now an assistant principal at Northeast High.

Janet Hernandez's job is in flux. Superintendent Julie Janssen, who knows Janet Hernandez from graduate school, wrote her a glowing recommendation when she applied to work for the district in 2008. But employees in professional development said she created a climate of fear and chaos. Janssen removed her over the summer and recommended she become director of dropout prevention. But the School Board shot down that move on a 5-2 vote.

Janssen is now recommending that Janet Hernandez become a program specialist in special education, working out of Richard L. Sanders School in Pinellas Park. That job was not posted, either.

"We don't always post all positions, particularly when we are seeking alternative placements," said Harriet Konstantinidis, the interim assistant superintendent for human resources. "In this situation, the directive was to seek an alternative placement for Dr. Hernandez."

The School Board will vote on the new job Oct. 12.

Ron Matus can be reached at matus@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8873.

Pinellas schools to investigate administrator's role in hiring of daughter's boyfriend 09/27/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 10:12pm]

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