Pinellas County school superintendent Julie Janssen on Thursday announced a sweeping plan to shift more than 30 school leaders among 27 campuses — the most significant upheaval since she took the reins close to two years ago.
Chief among her recommendations: removing Claud Effiom as principal of embattled John Hopkins Middle School, where controversy swirled this spring following a string of eyebrow-raising disciplinary issues among students.
Janssen's choice to replace Effiom is Barry Brown, whom the superintendent knew when she worked at Lakewood High and he was a student.
Calling him "a true turnaround kid," Janssen made Brown an assistant principal at Hopkins in March, pulling him out of St. Petersburg High, where he was an assistant principal. At the time, Janssen said Effiom would remain as principal.
But the plan unveiled Thursday calls for Effiom to become principal of Meadowlawn Middle in St. Petersburg. The principal there is taking an out-of-district job.
"I looked at the district as a whole and made a decision that was in the best interest of not only this school, but all schools, including Meadowlawn," Janssen said in an e-mailed statement.
District spokeswoman Andrea Zahn said Janssen was too busy to comment further.
Kim Black, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, believes Janssen's proposal outlines an unusual number of administrative changes, but not altogether unexpected.
"Janssen had been saying this entire year she would be making changes," Black said.
It all comes at a time when teachers already are feeling unsettled amidst looming budget cuts, Black said.
"The work force is quite anxious right now," she said, "and traditionally education has been a source of stability. … I think some of this was probably expected. But some of it was not."
More shakeups are likely.
Eight other schools, including Osceola Middle, Palm Harbor University High School and Largo Middle, still need principals.
Antelia Campbell, who has been principal of Largo for just a year, will become assistant principal at Dunedin High.
Campbell was moved from Gibbs High School after it earned an F in 2009.
The Pinellas County School Board will vote on Janssen's recommendation June 29, giving all those affected a July 1 start date.
Watson Haynes, co-chairman of the Concerned Organizations for Quality Education for Black Students, said Thursday he is pleased for Hopkins.
Brown relates to students and the community in a way that Effiom lacked, Haynes said.
"Outside of his ability to engage people, to engage teachers, he knows how to talk to students and make the teachers comfortable in their ability to provide discipline to the students," Haynes said.
Former St. Petersburg police Chief Goliath Davis and NAACP president Ray Tampa, who have been involved in conversations about how to improve the campus, also praised Brown.
But Tampa added, "I'm disappointed only from the standpoint that (Effiom) was told that he would be there and he's not there. … He's a smart man and with the proper support he would have done a fine job at John Hopkins."
At 18, Brown was accused of firing a gun into a crowd and hitting a 15-year-old in the head. Initially charged with attempted second-degree murder, Brown later pleaded no contest to three misdemeanor charges and was sentenced to four weekends in jail, three years in probation and 200 hours of community service.
He turned to education, becoming a teacher in 1995 at Boca Ciega High and assistant principal at St. Petersburg High six years later.
Despite his rise, Sami Scott, former two-term SAC chairwoman at Hopkins, said she is skeptical that Brown has the needed credentials for the job.
"Barry is a high school assistant principal," she said. "Middle school is all about child development stages. He doesn't possess the skills for dealing with their behavior, dealing with hormones."
Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at (727) 893-8707 or [email protected]