Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Julie Janssen admits her future as Pinellas schools superintendent is uncertain

For the first time, Pinellas schools superintendent Julie Janssen indicated uncertainty Thursday about whether she'll continue to lead the district in the face of ongoing clashes with School Board members.

Shortly after welcoming hundreds of beaming new teachers during an orientation, Janssen told the St. Petersburg Times that some board members relayed in recent one-on-one conversations that they are not satisfied with her progress since they aired concerns about her leadership in June.

Asked whether a majority wants to replace her, Janssen said: "I don't know. I don't know. It's hard to tell because one day it's one way and another day it's another way."

She added, "They will vote with their heart. They'll do what they think they need to do."

Board member Terry Krassner said Thursday she wants resolution on Janssen's leadership sooner rather than later. She asked board attorney Jim Robinson to explore having a special meeting on Aug. 23 to discuss Janssen, rather than the workshop that had been previously scheduled.

The difference: Board members can vote at meetings. They can't at workshops.

Special board meetings can be called by the superintendent, the chairman or a majority of the board. Chairwoman Carol Cook said Thursday she needed more information before deciding whether to call a special meeting.

"I thought our agreement in (June) was that we would bring it back on the 23rd and discuss the progress that is or is not being made," she said.

Cook, one of Janssen's strongest supporters, declined to talk about the superintendent's performance. And several other board members said they were not ready to talk publicly about any possible recommendations on Janssen's future.

But Krassner and Linda Lerner both said they have not seen progress.

"Things have not improved," said Lerner, a potential swing vote.

"This is a new school year. We need to get off on a positive note," Krassner said. "I just feel like we need closure."

The clanging contrast — of a new beginning for teachers and students, overshadowed by a cloud over the superintendent — was on display Thursday.

Janssen confidently paced the auditorium stage at Pinellas Park High School, cracking jokes between references to new technology in classrooms and the need to infuse literacy skills in every subject.

"Children don't choose to fail," she said at one point. "Together we can soar, and we can make those children's dreams come true," she said at another.

A half-hour later, Janssen said in a brief interview that she has received mixed reactions from the five board members she has met with — all but Carol Cook and Robin Wikle — as part of her annual evaluation process.

The members' written evaluations are due Tuesday.

"Some of the things that they may say, I disagree. But they're in charge," said Janssen.

"So you know, I try to explain it, whatever it is they're talking about, and you go on."

She continued: "You know, I cannot become dysfunctional because I worry about me. Because it's not about me. The important thing is we stay focused. These kids have one year to be in this grade. These teachers have one year to get this done.

"And if I can't continue to do that, I need to get out of the way."

A majority of board members flatly told Janssen in June that she had two months to fix what they considered to be major flaws in communication, decisionmaking and other areas. Wikle said she would ask for Janssen's resignation if that didn't happen. But things have remained turbulent.

Lerner complained when she found out about district reports from news reports rather than Janssen's administration. Several members criticized changes she proposed for the communications department. And this week's 7-0 vote to extend teacher training contracts with the University of Florida — a Janssen priority — belied weeks of angst over the program's cost and worth.

Like the other board members, Wikle and Lew Williams declined to give their thoughts on Janssen's status.

"There will be things said on the 23rd that she would need to hear directly," Williams said. "I want to be fair to her."

Wikle said she'll meet with Janssen on Monday. Until then, "I'm not comfortable talking about her future or her lack of future."

Wikle also said she supported Krassner's call for a special meeting.

Board members Peggy O'Shea and Janet Clark could not be reached for comment. O'Shea has been one of the superintendent's strongest supporters; Clark, one of her toughest critics.

Janssen said the board members who told her they're not satisfied "probably are looking for four votes" to replace her.

"So I take my chances on that, too," she said. "I'm not at the end of my career. I'm going to be working a week after I'm not working here. ... I think my skills are recognized outside this district."

She also said she is not worried about what may happen Aug. 23.

"It'll happen whether I worry about it or not," she said. "For me, every day is, I continue to go forward. If I don't have this job tomorrow, at least we've put things in place."

Ron Matus can be reached at or (727) 893-8873.

Pinellas schools superintendent Julie Janssen

Salary: $203,000 plus a $10,800 car allowance and $3,000 communications allowance.

Contract: Runs through Sept. 30, 2013. The board has the right to terminate it at any time, with or without cause. Depending on the circumstances, the board could be required to pay her a year's salary and benefits.

Julie Janssen admits her future as Pinellas schools superintendent is uncertain 08/12/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 12, 2011 8:39am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Video: Loggerhead sea turtle found in Islamorada resident's pool


    An adult female loggerhead sea turtle, discovered in an oceanside residential pool in Islamorada on Monday, has been rescued and released off the Florida Keys.

    An adult female loggerhead sea turtle, discovered in an oceanside residential pool in Islamorada on June 22, 2017, has been rescued and released off the Florida Keys. [Photo from video]

  2. What Wilson Ramos will mean to the Rays lineup, pitching

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer was stumping for all-star votes for Corey Dickerson during a live interview Wednesday morning on the MLB Network when he lifted the right earpiece on his headset and said, "I hear a buffalo coming."

    Tampa Bay Rays catcher Wilson Ramos (40) waves to the crowd after being presented with the Silver Slugger Award before the start of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, April 4, 2017.
  3. Deon Cain, Duke Dawson, Derrick Nnadi among SI's top 100 players


    Sports Illustrated's countdown of the top 100 players in college football continues with three more local players.

  4. She doesn't care if you accept her, as long as you respect her

    Human Interest

    Mary Jane Taylor finds strength walking quietly among the dead.

    Mary Jane Taylor,18, visits Oaklawn Cemetery in downtown Tampa when she is feeling low. "When I hit my low points in life I go the the graveyard," she says. "people are afraid of the graveyard. I love the graveyard." The transgender teen recently graduated from Jefferson High School. She is  enrolled in summer classes at Santa Fe College in Gainesville studying international business. She plans to transfer to the University of Florida, attend law school and become a civil rights lawyer. (JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   Times)
  5. Few new details in state investigation of Tarpon Springs officer-involved shooting of Nick Provenza

    Public Safety

    TARPON SPRINGS — An investigative report, released this week by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, into the officer-involved shooting that killed 25-year-old Nick Provenza included largely the same narrative prosecutors released this month that ruled the shooting a "justifiable homicide."

    Stopping while riding by on his bike Michael Prater, 15, hangs his head after looking at the memorial at Safford and Tarpon avenues for Nick Provenza, a 25-year-old who was shot and killed there during a car show Saturday by a Tarpon Springs police officer. Investigators said Provenza pulled a knife on the cop who shot him. Friends find it hard to believe a man they described as a peaceful vegan and musician would be capable of such an act. Prater didn't know the victim but was at the car show.