Jefferson High Controversy - New Details

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

The days since Rockford's acting superintendent Linda Hernandez placed Dr. Jackson on paid administrative leave have been filled with school fights that shut down Jefferson High last Wednesday, supportive rallies and new allegations.
"Our certification staff said, why is he being put on paid leave? He doesn't have a certificate," says Regional Superintendent for Boone and Winnebago Counties Richard Fairgrieves.
Fairgrieves says Jackson's provisional certificate to be a principal in Illinois expired August 27th. He says Jackson was sent a letter nine months before that detailing what he needed to do to extend the license. But he failed to carry out the steps.
Jackson still does not want to speak on camera, or put any evidence on the record. But he says he never received a letter about his certification status and he showed me a certificate Monday night, signed by Fairgrieves, that states his provisional principal's license should be good until June '08. Earlier Monday, Fairgreives said that's impossible. He could not be reached for comment Monday night.
"He needs to go back and reread the information we sent him," says Fairgrieves.
But the certification issue is not what got Jackson in trouble in the first place. Hernandez placed him on leave pending an investigation into grades he changed from fail to pass last year, because he said teachers did not tell parents their kids were failing. Many teachers said the move undermined their authority and lowered student standards.
Teachers brought their concerns to the district, but Rockford's former superintendent supported the changes.
"Why do I have to do the work? All I have to do is make sure that my parent doesn't make contact with my teacher. There were written progress reports that were sent out. Many of them could document two, three, four attempts to make phone contact with parents," says Molly Phalen, President of the Rockford Education Association.
Jackson says if teachers, or he himself, could not reach parents after repeated efforts, the students grades were kept as failing.
The school district is examing whether any students graduated without meeting district, state or federal standards. The teachers union believes some did. Fairgrieves was unsure what reprisals Jackson, the district, or former superintendent Dennis Thompson could face if that is the case. Thompson supported the changes last year.
Jefferson's former legal advisor supports Jackson. She says no kids graduated without meeting standards, adding she saw to that personally, along with Jackson. She also says everything was done fairly and with the former superintendent's support. But Fairgrieves says Jackson did not follow standards set to make grade changes.
Jackson met with community leaders Monday night to work on a game plan. He says he'll keep fighting to stay at Jefferson.
Linda Hernandez says she expects there will be some "closure" at Tuesday night's school board meeting.

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  • by dld Location: not Rockford on Sep 25, 2007 at 05:12 PM
    It's too bad Dr Jackson is managing to turn this political and make it about the bad system and social injustice, instead of about his own poor leadership,lack of planning and bad judgement. He's using at-risk kids and their parents so that he can save his own butt. Or at least hold out until he can get a big $ payout. In Michigan they demoted him and finally bought out his contract to get him to go away.
  • by SKYE @ JHS on Sep 19, 2007 at 03:24 PM
  • by Linda Hernandez Supporter Location: Rockford on Sep 18, 2007 at 04:05 PM
    It is NOT a racial thing. Jackson's changing of grades is OK. However, changing grades that allow a student to pass without meeting federal or state guidelines (i.e. State Constitution test) is NOT OK. That is why they are investigating second semester grade changes, not first semester changes that Thompson approved. There is a major difference between semester grade changes and Hernandez is correct to have it investigated.
  • by Marie Location: Poplar Grove on Sep 18, 2007 at 03:11 PM
    Why is that everyone is more concerned about his credentials having expired than his changing of students grades. He is not a good role model for his students at Jefferson High much less any other school. He should not be able to head any other school let alone teach. What he did is immoral and unacceptable and it suprises me that the parents of these children accept this.
  • by Chaney Location: rockford on Sep 18, 2007 at 02:47 PM
    It ought to be investigated as to why at least 2 west side elementary schools have had "deans" in place for 2 years with a retiree principal in those schools as a mentor. The mentor is in the school a limited amount of time for pension reasons. Attorney Katz says that the deans do not act as principals. He is mistaken. Many parents at these schools think that the deans are in fact principals. If the district isn't trying to cover their butts, why bring in an additional retiree at Lewis Lemon just this Monday. The pressence of a new suit and tie as of this week is curious? Linda Hernandez said that these Deans were put in place because of inadequate candidates yet many teachers with proper credentials never received interviews and are highly offended by this remark. The public is entitled to know as taxpayers that the district is now paying the salary for 2 retired principals and 1 dean at an elementary school. What is going on elsewhere?
  • by Veronica Location: Rockford on Sep 18, 2007 at 01:24 PM
    If the former Superintendant supported Dr. Jackson's decision to allow the grade changes of those students whose parents were not informed, then there should not be a problem now. My husband and I applaud Dr. Jackson and the hard work and effort he has put into Jefferson High School. It's sad that the students are not being heard. The students knew what Jefferson was like before Dr. Jackson came and they have seen the tremendous change for the better since his presense. Why is the hard work and effort Dr. Jackson has put into that school being sabotaged . I feel what Dr. Jackson did in changing the grades of those students whose parents were not notified was right. I feel the teachers could have put forth more of an effort whether it was through a phone call, email or note to inform those parents of the child's failing grade. Dr. Jackson needs to be back where he is trully needed and missed.
  • by Dan Location: Rockford on Sep 18, 2007 at 09:32 AM
    Why isn't the staff at Jefferson high supporting him? Why aren't the professionals that meet with him daily being vocal? Unfortunately, their lack of voice is being heard loud and clear. How can he change grades and at the same time NOT be certified. Did anyone track the demographics of the students that had their grades changed?
  • by Rose Location: Rockford on Sep 18, 2007 at 07:58 AM
    Alderwoman McNealey's comments last night at the city council meeting were totally incorrect. This incident with Dr. Jackson is not racist as she stated. I am sure she hopes it is. Her "poor little ole me" attitude has gone far enough. The people in her ward should be searching for someone else to represent them. They would be far better off.
  • by Lori McKeown on Sep 18, 2007 at 06:23 AM
    I commend the school board for taking action. Grade changes is just wrong. When the kids get out into the "real" world they will always expect someone to "take care of it". Kids need to learn and earn the grade, it shouldn't be handed to them.
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