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JCPS “Diversity” Director Raising Some Eyebrows

February 28th, 2012 by jake · 27 Comments

Who is Jamilah Fraser, the new Chief “Diversity Officer” for Jefferson County Public Schools?

Let’s take a look…

This:

The School District of Philadelphia cleaned its media relations house on Monday when Director Jamilah Fraser and two staffers stepped down alongside Superintendent Arlene Ackerman. Fernando Gallard, a long-time (and thanks to calls from me and other reporters, long-suffering) staffer, is now acting Communications Director.

This:

Three members of the communications office were let go the day Ackerman’s separation agreement came to light. Together, communications chief Jamilah Fraser and deputy chiefs Shana Kemp and Elizabeth Childs made $440,000.

This:

The Philadelphia School District — on the heels of announcing last week that it has established a new superintendent search team — made a major announcement regarding its organizational structure and finances.

The School Reform Commission meeting Thursday night revealed the district will have to cut an additional $61 million by June, and named a new “chief recovery officer” to assist in its struggling financial state.

-SNIP-

Capping the school district’s tumultuous last few weeks was the civil lawsuit filed by former district executive John L. Byars. Byars’ suit alleges he was made the scapegoat when critics decried a no-bid contract awarded to minority firm, IBS Communications Inc. Byars alleges that former superintendent Arlene Ackerman not only steered IBS to the contract, but signed off on the $7.5 million plan, even though there were plans to award that contract to the Newton, Bucks County-based firm Security & Data Technologies.

Byars filed his suit Jan. 11, and named acting school superintendent Leroy D. Nunery II, Ackerman, the SRC, the School District of Philadelphia, Robert Archie Jr., Denise McGregor Armbrister, Johnny Irizarry, Estelle G. Matthews, Jamilah Fraser and Shana Kemp as defendants.

This:

When they were employed by the School District of Philadelphia, Jamilah Fraser, and staffers Shana Kemp and Elizabeth Childs were paid to talk.

It was their job as part of the communications staff.

But all three stepped down last week, and according to a City Paper report, the decision was more of an ultimatum than a choice. Citing two anonymous sources, CP delved into the hiring, practices and resignations of the three, whom ex-Superintendent Arlene Ackerman brought on in November.

Among the dirt the sources dish is that Fraser and her two deputies spent their time promoting Ackerman, not the district, and worked to coordinate some of the pro-Ackerman rallies and campaigns — including the goodbye video Ackerman filmed that briefly sat on the district’s website before angry officials took it down.

This:

The three Communications staffers who allegedly orchestrated a personal public relations campaign for Ackerman — former Director Jamilah Fraser, and staffers Shana Kemp and Elizabeth Childs — resigned last Monday, the same day that Ackerman’s buyout was announced. According to one source, the three were told they would be fired if they did not resign because they had gone rogue, spending the majority of their time working for the Superintendent even as she was headed for the door.

These sources say that Jamilah Fraser and her two deputies were dedicated to protecting and promoting Ackerman above all else. (Fraser and her two deputies were hired in November 2010, 11 months after two staffers were fired in the wake of a highly critical Philadelphia Magazine cover story titled “Queen Arlene.”)

-SNIP-

Ackerman, frequently criticized for high central office salaries, paid top dollar to the three people directing her message machine: Fraser received a salary of $170,000 and Kemp and Childs made $135,000 each.*

-SNIP-

As criticism of Ackerman grew louder, the superintendent echoed allegations made by activists that she was unfairly targeted because of her race and sex. According to CP’s sources, the Communications office, under Fraser’s direction, was in touch with the same small group of African-American activists, coordinating and making posters for a July 22 rally in support of Ackerman.

-SNIP-

According to CP sources, during Ackerman’s last week in office, Jamilah Fraser and her deputies fought a rear-guard guerilla public relations war, beginning with a sensational August 18 appearance at a principal’s meeting. Ackerman entered to Sade’s “Is It a Crime?” and recited the Maya Angelou poem “And Still I Rise.”

-SNIP-

Both sources consulted for this story confirm that the video was produced by Fraser and Kemp, working on the taxpayer dollar.

But it gets worse. It’s not just those crazy shenanigans.

Check this mess out…

This:

The Philadelphia educational system is now under fire after it was revealed that many of the city’s schools cheated on their state exams.

This:

The forensic analysis of the 2009 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment results does not assert cheating occurred, but says certain answer patterns and erasures make the results suspicious.

-SNIP-

The Philadelphia schools are willing to investigate the cheating allegations, but spokeswoman Jamilah Fraser said in a statement that such probes are difficult because of teacher turnover, student transience and the vagaries of memory.

The district has received about 10 to 15 accusations of breaches in test security in each of the past three years, and a few have been substantiated through internal investigations, Fraser said. Alleged violations could range from “low-level” offenses, such as failing to cover materials during a testing period, to more serious ones.

She also noted the district has a “very robust test monitoring protocol.” Approximately 75 percent of schools, including charters, receive unannounced visits to random classrooms during PSSA testing, Fraser said.

This:

Did state officials bury 2009 cheating report?

-SNIP-

New state Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis is “concerned” that a 2009 report flagged dozens of Pennsylvania schools for possible cheating – then languished for two years.

Only the best for JCPS.

Tags: Education · JCPS · Scandal

27 responses so far ↓

  • 1 G'town Reader // Feb 28, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Scary & expensive forebodings.

  • 2 Steve Magruder // Feb 28, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    At a minimum, this doesn’t look like the the most enlightened hiring decision.

    Which brings me to my increasingly regular side comment…

    JCPS’ apparently top-heavy administration needs to be audited. (and UofL’s too)

  • 3 J. Bruce Miller // Feb 28, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    This employment decision by JCPS is, yet, another example of the continual and constant ineptitude that continues exhibited by JCPS and its incompetent Board. The taxpayers of this community who fund JCPS with NEARLY A BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR deserve better than what is being provided — and the need is the simple reason why I have joined with Teddy Gordon in the case that’s now before the Kentucky Supreme Court to require JCPS’ busing plan to be re-configured in concert with the existing state statute that mandates a child shall enroll in the school nearest his/her home.

    20 years ago the Kentucky Supreme Court took over the entire Kentucky education system because is was unconstitutional — and the time has, again, arrived for the Court to act.

    Why? Simply because §183 of the Kentucky Constitution requires that Kentucky OPERATE an EFFICIENT school system — and the 1990 Rose case defined ‘efficient’ — WITH NO REFERENCE TO DIVERSITY and with SPECIFIC REFERENCE to educational attainment.

  • 4 Citizen~Z // Feb 28, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    JCPS needs some love… in the form of leadership. I cast my vote of “no-confidence”

  • 5 blowin' in the wind // Feb 28, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    Why would you bring a community/diversity chief from another city?

  • 6 G'town Reader // Feb 28, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    Who created this title? Is this “position” even currently warranted – or mandated – in Jefferson Co.?
    I suppose the one “imported” needs to complete her “retirement package.”

  • 7 Good Seeds // Feb 28, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    I have a feeling the word “diversity” is making the bigots uncomfortable. I just read all of the articles at the links you posted here, but obviously the writer of this post did not. JCPS is in desperate need of some diversity attention. I don’t know whether this woman was a bad hire, but the information at the articles posted doesn’t make it clear that she is. Why not do some real investigating instead of simply regurgitating what some other lazy “reporters” posted?

  • 8 Rob Mattheu // Feb 28, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    How in the heck do you not vet someone like this before hiring them? Any hint of scandal should have been enough to have said “no”. And why would we be going outside for a “chief diversity, community relations and communications officer”. Wouldn’t you want someone who is familiar with the issues, problems, and concerns of the parents of the community? Aren’t there plenty of qualified communications professionals around town?

  • 9 jake // Feb 28, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    Really, “Good Seeds”?

    This bitch was paid a mountain of cash to squander even more cash and overlook a mountain of corruption.

    Take your shit elsewhere. Because that’s the equivalent of saying Sheldon Berman was an amazing supe when he was really just a man who was: spending JCPS blind, cheating on his wife with Robert Felner’s leftovers (vomit) and lying to the public.

  • 10 J. Bruce Miller // Feb 28, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Good Seeds: I have a feeling that you don’t have the remotest idea what you’re talking about when you aver (or opine) that the word “…diversity is making the bigots uncomfortable.” If you’re referring to me, you’re a rank idiot. For your information 4 of my 6 clients before the Ky. Supreme Court are African-Americans. It would be helpful to the discussion if you would educate yourself, first, before spewing your ignorance all over the paper, here.

  • 11 jake // Feb 28, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    +1 to what JBM said.

    I dare say I scream about race more than 99.99% of non-white people in Louisville.

    And half the hyper-conservatives who read and comment on this site and Page One tend to be more keen on calling out racism than me. So… your comments don’t really float in this mess.

  • 12 John Q Public // Feb 29, 2012 at 1:22 am

    This hire is going to blow up in their face. How Fraser made it past even a cursory HR background check is beyond me.

  • 13 I'm So Confused, Helen // Feb 29, 2012 at 2:40 am

    Is Jerry Abramson in charge of hiring people at JCPS now? Or did they just inherit his short list of potential department heads when he moved on to bigger and better retirement accounts to loot?

  • 14 Steve Magruder // Feb 29, 2012 at 3:39 am

    Of course, JBM has some dupes from the African American community who are willing to sell out others to reestablish segregated schools in Jefferson County. That’s not unexpected at all. (Of course, those who are pushing for “neighborhood schools” will never admit to this.)

    As for the position in question, I have no idea whether it’s a necessary one, and I’m not necessarily questioning the need for it. But it does, as I say, provide us yet another indicator that the administration of JCPS needs a very thorough looking at by the state. I’d rather our tax funds go much more into teaching than administration.

    Last, I am not comfortable with calling anyone a ‘bitch’ in political discussion. What is constructive about that?

  • 15 Rob Mattheu // Feb 29, 2012 at 6:10 am

    As a parent, I have no problem with money going toward administration. I have a problem with large sums of money going toward ineffective administration. JCPS does desperately need someone to oversee both communication and service. You can ask five people and get five different answers to your question.

    I do agree with Steve that it’s a bit harsh to call names at this point.

  • 16 jake // Feb 29, 2012 at 7:24 am

    Yeah, it’s totally about wanting segregated schools.

    Head – desk.

    My eyes couldn’t roll any harder.

  • 17 J. Bruce Miller // Feb 29, 2012 at 9:18 am

    A year ago WAVE-TV investigative reporter found that 331 employees of JCPS made more than $100k in salary (alone) and a similarly sized school system only had a couple dozen.

    JCPS has been blowing money around here for decades — on everything EXCEPT educational attainment.

    Last time I looked, the PURPOSE of JCPS was to educate the children of this community. On that score it’s an abysmal failure, which requires the Kentucky Supreme Court to intervene and order the local circuit court judge to correct the problems.

  • 18 Cat // Feb 29, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Steve: Isn’t it racist of you to call Mr. Miller’s African-American clients “dupes”? Do you know them personally? Have they told you they joined this lawsuit so they can, in your words “reestablish segregated schools in Jefferson County”? I find it funny when “do-gooders” get all bent out of shape and start name calling when people of a certain ethnicity stand up for themselves and dare go against the “status quo”. How does shipping kids, regardless of the color of their skin, or excuse me, their parent(s) “economic status”, benefit them educationally speaking? Assuming you are employed, let’s ship you all over town on a cramped bus for 2 hours before work and 2 hours after and then saddle you with homework and see how excited you are to do it all over again day in and day out! Do you have children in JCPS? Did/do they go to their neighborhood school? For the record, I am all for neighborhood schools; however, I wouldn’t send my child to our resides school for all the tea in China!

  • 19 jake // Feb 29, 2012 at 10:16 am

    It’s not racist of him, just ill-informed.

  • 20 Trevor // Feb 29, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Please explain to me why it is wrong to want my kids to go to a “neighborhood school”. Is it not possible to feel that way without being a bigot who wants to return to segregated schools? I bet the Magruder children weren’t up at 5:30 being bussed from one end of the county to the other. I know of no parents who have endured the long-distance bussing of their children who think it was a good thing. Only the overpaid eggheads running the JCPS seem to feel that way.

  • 21 Bill W // Feb 29, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    Ms. Fraser is a defendant in a lawsuit in Philly. When my employer hired me one of my interview questions was are you currently involved in or a party to a lawsuit anywhere. If I had, especially in the same field I would be working in, I’m certain my employer would have told me to have a nice day and pitched my folder in the “Never Hire” drawer in HR…Instead she gets hired. And people wonder why KY is 49th in the nation & JCPS is near the bottom of KY in education.

  • 22 TR SKEPTIC // Feb 29, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Hurricane Katrina and FEMA ‘s News Service (The Recovery Channel)
    JAMILAH FRASER, RECOVERY CHANNEL ANCHOR: “The massive effort to clean up Louisiana is still topping our coverage. And to speed up this process, our commander in chief steps in with some additional assistance.”
    OOPS.. She forgot to thank Brownie for his brilliant leadership.
    Yup, she will fit right in with the bloated, over paid, do-little staff.

  • 23 Julio Snodgrass // Feb 29, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Heck of a job, Hargens. I was at the emergency meeting at Van Hoose this afternoon. If you were there like me, she forced us to watch this video twice. Can’t make this up:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiKDsO8epp8

  • 24 jake // Feb 29, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    This whole mess is dumb as hell.

    Where the fuck do these people come from?

    Way more stupid than the past two supes.

    COME ON, LOUISVILLE. Jesus christ.

  • 25 Julio Snodgrass // Feb 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    In 2005, FEMA personnel orchestrated a taxpayer-funded propaganda effort to brag about the rebuilding underway in New Orleans. Jamilah Fraser was called out on these claims by a CNN reporter:

    http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2005/12/heckuva-job-by-digby-i-cant-believe.html

    This is the same person, who five years later, was accused of using her taxpayer-funded office in the Philly schools to operate a propaganda mill to promote videos of a shady superintendent:

    http://www.phawker.com/2011/08/30/god-save-the-queen-whats-400k-spent-on-spin-when-youre-getting-paid-1-million-to-quit/

    We all had such hope for Hargens. She could fix this tomorrow and revisit the communication chief job. It’s odd because she’s typically such a cautious person. I think she messed up big, and no, I don’t think she was aware of the scope of the problems in Philly and Fraser’s stamp upon them. But it’s not too late to fix this.

  • 26 J. Bruce Miller // Feb 29, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    Julio Snodgrass: It may not be too late for Ms. Hargens to fix the Fraser problem, but my concern is that it probably is TOO LATE to fix the Hargens’ problem. Anyone who made a hire of this magnitude with no examination of the putative employee’s credentials should have their job status (even if they’re a superintendent) placed in limbo.

  • 27 jake // Feb 29, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    Placed in limbo?

    That’s an understatement.

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