Pinellas will give his opinion to the public before choosing a new school principal

In the latest in a series of off-camera meetings on Tuesday, the Pinellas County School Board dug deep into the job of hiring a new superintendent.

Board members were informed of a series of 6 p.m. community meetings scheduled for February 23, 24 and 28 at Pinellas Park, Countryside and St. Petersburg High Schools.

They made revisions to an online poll, deciding they were more concerned with their district’s strategic plan than with issues such as growth and rezoning that are irrelevant in built Pinellas.

They discussed whether to publish a superintendent’s job description or rely on state law and the contract their lawyer will negotiate.

And they debated whether survey respondents should be encouraged to attend community meetings, which will be held in person, virtually and sometimes in both formats. A series of focus groups is also planned, and some board members are concerned about duplication.

“The survey will actually reach more different people than the focus groups,” said Andrea Messina, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, which is helping with the research.

“You will likely have several thousand survey responses and several hundred on your community forums,” Messina added.

Community events are hosted by the school board association and Pinellas board members will be asked to stay away to avoid influencing conversations.

The board has a tight deadline to hire a replacement for Superintendent Mike Grego, who is retiring at the end of June after a decade on the job.

This timeline invites them to advertise the position in March after gathering feedback through the survey and meetings; identify the semi-finalists in April, then the finalists in May; and select a new superintendent at a special board meeting on May 17.

Although board members said finding superintendents was their most important job, they decided not to televise or livestream their working sessions.

When asked why the meetings were off camera, board chair Eileen Long said it was a question for the district’s director of strategic communications. She then said, “I think we could do it on camera,” but didn’t commit one way or the other.

Longtime board member Carol Cook, who has played a leading role in finding superintendents, said live streaming was not necessary as meetings are open and an audio recording is being released thereafter and accessible to the public.

“They can get it online,” Cook said. “They can listen to it. They can’t give feedback in real time, so I don’t understand what the difference is.

She said she believed interviews with the May candidates would be televised.

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The next working session will be Tuesday at 8 a.m.

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