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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