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Pinellas board meeting date changed after debate

LARGO -- Pinellas County school board members have moved their next meeting from Tuesday, May 24, at 5 p.m. to Thursday, May 26, at 5 p.m.

Sounds simple enough. But the change didn't come without some debate.

Superintendent Julie Janssen "walked in" the date change as a last-minute amendment to the board's meeting agenda this morning, first asking the board to approve moving the next meeting date to May 31 at 10 a.m.

Kim Black, representative for the Pinellas County Teachers Association, was surprised by the move and took to the speaker's lectern to make her case:

"This is when you will be voting on staffing models and various cuts," she appealed. To move the meeting to 10 a.m. would exclude most school employees from being able to attend and voice their concerns, she said.

Board attorney Jim Robinson verified the board is expected to receive a list of proposed cuts, along with dollar amounts, that they will decide whether or not to include in the 2011-12 budget proposal.

After taking a 10 minute recess to check calendars and make calls, board members came up with the alternate date of May 26 at 5 p.m.

The reason for the change, Janssen said after the meeting, is a conference in Seattle that she and Cook are attending related to racial equity in the schools. Janssen said the conference is organized by Kellogg Foundation, and she is attending with the hope of eventually scoring additional grant funding to help the district better deal with educational issues related to race, a widely acknowledged weak spot in Pinellas County.