JCPS Superintendent Acknowledges Concerns Over Recent Central Office Hire

by Devin Katayama on February 29, 2012

Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Donna Hargens has addressed the controversy surrounding her new chief of diversity, community relations and communications Wednesday and says she’s accountable for her recent hires.

Jamilah Fraser formerly held a communications position with the School District of Philadelphia, but stepped down after serving under Superintendent Arlene Ackerman during a district-wide cheating scandal.

Ackerman reportedly butt heads with teachers unions and city leaders and was leading the district when the cheating scandal broke out, but also while standardized scores were on the rise. Fraser was the fourth and last communications director under Ackerman and she’ll now start in JCPS on March 12.

Board members received a voice message acknowledging there may be some concerns with Fraser, but that out of the 42 applicants, she was the best suited for the position.

“Ms. Fraser was forth coming about her work experience in Philadelphia. I am confident that Ms. Fraser will be an asset to my team as we work to benefit JCPS students,” Hargens said in a message to board members.

Fraser was criticized for protecting Ackerman while she was being ousted in 2011 and she ultimately took a buy out based off her $170,000 salary.

But Hargens stands by her decisions and said she took part in interviews and hiring process.

“I used the expertise of a former superintendent and a communications professional and again it was my decision ultimately my decision to ultimately go with Jamilah Fraser and I understand that I am accountable for that, but again I’m confident that she will be a great member of this team,” she said.

Board member Linda Duncan said she’s concerned with some of the baggage that comes with Fraser, but it was the superintendent’s decision.

Board member Debbie Wesslund said she trusts Hargens and that part of the boards’ role is to hold any decision Hargens makes accountable.

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