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St. Petersburg High has a new principal

Julie Janssen will begin in January. She leaves a principal's chair at Countryside High.

By DONNA WINCHESTER, Times Staff Writer
Published December 12, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG - A north Pinellas County principal will return to St. Petersburg on Jan. 6 to head the district's largest high school.

Countryside High principal Julie Janssen, who worked at the Center for Advanced Technologies at Lakewood High School from 1983 to 1998 and served as assistant principal for her last five years there, was named Thursday as the replacement for St. Petersburg High School principal Linda Benware.

Benware is leaving the nationally recognized school to direct St. Petersburg College's new charter school. The "collegiate academy," scheduled to open next fall on the St. Petersburg-Gibbs campus, will graduate students with a standard high school diploma and a two-year associate's degree.

Eleven administrators - three principals and eight assistant principals - applied for Benware's job. Benware said that if she were a betting person, she would have put her money on Janssen.

"I'm sure Dr. Janssen will do a fantastic job," she said. . . . I think the staff is in for a very nice treat."

Area II superintendent Lew Williams, who recommended Janssen to district superintendent Howard Hinesley, said he was extremely impressed with Janssen's resume.

"One thing I was looking for was an experienced principal, someone with excellent communication skills," he said. "I also wanted a person with a strong background in curriculum. Julie fits both of those bills."

Janssen, 54, received a bachelor's degree in education from the University of South Florida in 1970 and a master's degree in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University in 1991. She earned a doctorate in education from USF in 2001.

After teaching for several years at Perkins Elementary School, she returned to her native Belize, where she taught high school for eight years. She came back to Florida in 1981 and taught math at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School before transferring to Lakewood High in 1983. She became principal at Countryside High in 1998.

She is chairwoman of the District Monitoring and Advisory Committee, which oversees the implementation of the choice program for student assignment, and has served as an adviser to other school districts on planning and designing curriculum.

Between now and her last day at St. Petersburg High on Jan. 5, Benware will spend several half-days with Janssen to ensure a smooth transition for the faculty. She also plans to bring the new principal to each classroom to meet the students.

"A changing of the guard makes everyone a little nervous, but I feel quite sure that they will welcome her with open arms when they get to know her," Benware said.

Janssen's job at Countryside High will be posted immediately, Williams said. He expects interviews to begin shortly after the start of the second semester.

- Times staff writer Thomas C. Tobin contributed to this report.

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