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Q&A: Jeffrey Hernandez

Memphis City Schools consultant

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According to The Palm Beach Post, former Palm Beach County School District chief academic officer Jeffrey Hernandez was once the "most despised person" in the school system. The controversy has followed him to Memphis, especially after his post-dated contract was presented to the Memphis City Schools (MCS) board earlier this month.

Hernandez began his career in education as an office secretary in an elementary school. He later worked his way up to principal, focusing on improving student performance with extended school days and additional tutoring, before getting hired by the state of Florida to work with low performing schools. His next jump was to Palm Beach County, where he instituted a district-wide curriculum and student testing every three weeks. That district later returned to a decentralized system that allowed principals to have control over their schools. — Mary Cashiola Flyer: Parents in Palm Beach County had a very strong reaction to your tenure there, even creating a Facebook page called "Testing is Not Teaching." Why do you think that is?

Hernandez: Some parents in Palm Beach County had a strong reaction. In other districts, I've never had any issues.

I can't solve issues when parents don't come to the table to work and find solutions. If you just use Facebook, I don't believe you want to find solutions. You just want blood on the plate.

I was the face of change for the district. When I came to Palm Beach, the state was changing its expectations. We were implementing more assessments. If you have heart problems, you don't go to the cardiologist once a year. We were doing assessments to see what were the areas of difficulties.

We were one of the Gates Foundation finalists. We had a consultant, and they took all the data of the district. When they unpeeled the onion, a lot of information about gaps in achievement came to light.

All that was coming out simultaneously to me coming into the district, but it wasn't me giving the information.

I was the victim of how politics can overpower meeting children's needs. You can't judge my performance from Facebook. To me, that's all rumor and half-truths.

you're making $1,500 a day. that's a lot of money, especially for a district with budget problems.

I invite you to do your research. What MCS and I have agreed to in my contract is below the market value of the expertise and results I bring. $1,500 is not what I charge in other districts.

Why are you giving MCS a discount?

The conditions in the Memphis City Schools are the conditions you need to make improvements for students. The superintendent, the staff, and the board are about school reform. I've also been impressed by the union partnership. Everyone is working together. That's what attracted me here.

what can you say to reassure parents?

My record thus far speaks for itself. I've not worked with a school yet I haven't been able to turn around. And I've had to do that without the leadership, the board, and the community you have in this district.

If I've been able to accomplish that without the stars aligned, I think we can bring the whole package needed to improve the schools.

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