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School Board appears divided on extending Janssen's contract to 2013

In what could be a very close vote, the Pinellas County School Board appears poised to extend superintendent Julie Janssen's contract until 2013.

Today, the seven-member board will consider Janssen's request to lengthen her $200,000 contract, which expires June 30, 2011.

Four board members told the St. Petersburg Times on Monday that they will likely support the move.

"I think she's done an outstanding job," said vice chairwoman Carol Cook, who said she still wants to hear discussion on the matter.

Three members said they have qualms with the proposal to extend the contract until Sept. 30, 2013.

It's just too soon, said board chairwoman Janet Clark. "I'm not comfortable renewing contracts before they're up," she said.

Janssen said she asked for more time overseeing the district's 138 schools so she can follow through on some reforms. "If I'm trying to put anything new in place, for it to be credible, people need to know I'm going to be around more than a year," Janssen said.

Along with Cook, those who said they would support an extension are Mary Brown, Peggy O'Shea and Nina Hayden.

"We're moving in a good direction," O'Shea said. "This is not an unusual extension."

Linda Lerner and Robin Wikle said they were reluctant to extend her contract to 2013.

Janssen said her request, in part, is trying to make up for a slightly shortened original contract. Although the superintendent's position was advertised as having a three-year contract, Janssen was hired as superintendent in late September 2008, so her original contract is for two years and eight months.

Janssen also said she wants the extension because the School Board didn't complete her one-year performance review until January of this year — three months into her second year on the job.

Had board members finished the evaluation in June 2009, as Janssen expected, she would have requested only a one-year extension to 2012, and then come back with another extension request following her next evaluation.

Brown agrees that the board should make up for the time it lost in evaluation delays.

"Basically, we didn't do an evaluation when we should have and then we were late getting evaluations in," Brown said. "In all fairness, the board didn't follow through on it when it should have."

Wikle said she approves of the job Janssen has done so far. But she said extending her contract would mean projecting 41 months out that Janssen will continue to be the right leader for the district.

"I believe the district is in need of continuity and consistency, and Dr. Janssen has brought that to the district," Wikle said. "But as a board member who is elected for oversight and governance, I'm not interested in looking that far out."

Lerner said that after hearing of the board divide at a recent workshop, she began thinking that a compromise extension to 2012 would be more reasonable. "I've no problem with 4-3 votes or 5-2 votes or 6-1 votes," she said. "But, on this one, I would strive for some consensus."

It's a suggestion Wikle said she might be able to support.

But Brown said it was unnecessary. "Why should we ask her to compromise?" Brown said.

The board meets at 5 p.m. today at the district's administration building, 301 Fourth St. SW in Largo.

Times staff writer Ron Matus contributed to this report. Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at (727) 893-8707 or rcatalanello@sptimes.com.

School Board appears divided on extending Janssen's contract to 2013 04/20/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 20, 2010 12:14am]
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