The Commercial Appeal reported yesterday that the Memphis City Schools had quietly hired consultant Jeffrey Hernandez, a former associate of superintendent Kriner Cash's from the Miami-Dade Public School District, at a rate of $1,500 a day to turn around its lowest-performing schools.
Like members of the school board, we wondered exactly who this guy was. Here's what we found.
In April of this year, the Palm Beach Post called him the "most despised person in the Palm Beach County school system" in a story about him vying for a superintendent position in two other Florida counties:
Stripped of most of his duties as the district's chief academic officer in December to appease angry parents and teachers, it was clear his $180,366 contract wouldn't be extended when it expires June 30.
Still, reaction to Saturday's news from his critics was as venomous as that which was unleashed on him shortly after the curriculum he devised was put in place in August.
"Thank God, he's leaving Palm Beach County," said Stacy Gutner, a Boynton Beach woman who was a vocal critic of the test-heavy curriculum Hernandez developed.
A year before, the same newspaper had called him a "35-year-old whiz kid" when he was in the running to become the chief academic officer of the Palm Beach County Schools:
He made a name for himself when, as a Miami-Dade principal, he led a D school, where 97 percent of students qualified for lunch subsidies and 45 percent were still learning English, to an A.
Hernandez was promoted to a district job overseeing 13 D and F schools. In a year, each of the schools improved by at least one letter grade.
Johnson got to know Hernandez this year when the state Department of Education hired him to help turn around chronically struggling schools in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade schools. Hernandez will now get to closely supervise many of the interventions he recommended as an outsider.
Between the two stories, a controversy arose over his curriculum plan, which included standardized lesson plans for teachers, testing students every three weeks, and close monitoring of teachers, and Hernandez was reassigned to work on that district's lowest-performing schools.
His letter of resignation with the Palm Beach County School System was effective June 30, 2010, and it seems he was already working in Memphis before that time.
Here's what they're saying in Palm Beach now:
Hernandez said he has been consulting with the Memphis school district since January, but used his vacation and sick leave to do it. He said he also worked nights and weekends for the Memphis school district.
"What I do on my own time, that's my business," he said. "Since I was leaving (Palm Beach County) I needed to take all my days."