School Board's Gallucci says 3 terms are enough

By THOMAS C. TOBIN, Times Staff Writer
Published January 10, 2008

Veteran Pinellas School Board member Jane Gallucci will announce today that she won't seek re-election this year.

The three-term board member said in an interview Wednesday that she plans to become an advocate for public education and a sometime consultant, using her experience last year as president of the National School Boards Association as a springboard.

Gallucci, 59, first was elected to the Pinellas School Board in 1996, unseating incumbent Andrea Thacker. Her term as the board member from District 4 in north county expires in November.

"Never did I ever think I would have a platform for public education and the opportunities that I've had," Gallucci said, recalling a "sheltered childhood" in Scranton, Pa., a small town at the edge of coal country.

She later became a teacher in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, then got elected to the Rockaway (N.J.) Board of Education, becoming its president in 1982.

After moving to Pinellas in 1983, she became a social worker at Morton Plant Hospital, then a guidance counselor with Pinellas schools before running for School Board.

Gallucci has served on the Pinellas board during a long transition era that saw the end of busing for integration, the launching of an interim system known as the choice plan and, last month, the approval of a new plan that returns Pinellas to a race-neutral system of neighborhood schools.

Active for several years in the Florida School Boards Association, Gallucci gradually rose to prominence with the National School Boards Association, becoming the group's 2006-07 president - a post that took her across the nation.

"So it's time to move on," she said Wednesday. "In my gut, it's time to move on to do other things (as an individual), not as a member of a group, to further the needs of public education."

Gallucci called about 25 friends and confidantes Wednesday to tell them of her decision. One was Ed Armstrong, a politically active Clearwater lawyer with a daughter in the school system.

"I think it's a significant loss to the district and the children of Pinellas County," Armstrong said.

Gallucci said she was first drawn to school board life when her New Jersey district failed to provide services to one of her two sons, who had learning disabilities. Years later, she ran again after finding the Pinellas system to be similarly unresponsive.

Asked to list her successes, she said the Adopt-A-School program, which enlists businesses to donate money for classroom supplies, was an idea of hers that grew. She also said she pushed for student rights, working with other board members on a policy change that requires administrators to seek out parents before questioning students in disciplinary hearings.

As the board's chairwoman in 2004, Gallucci led the effort to hire Clayton Wilcox, the first Pinellas superintendent in 37 years from outside the district.

Gallucci said she plans to work in a volunteer role with the education company Harcourt on a program that pushes early intervention for disabled students.

She also plans to work with Sally Ride Science, a company founded by America's first woman in space. Its mission is to engage more kids - especially girls - in technical fields. She said her involvements would not create conflicts of interest during her remaining months on the board. So far, no other candidates have announced plans to run for Gallucci's seat.