PBC school chief academic officer defends 6-figure salary

By Emily Pantelides - bio | email
Posted by Rachel Leigh - email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - After our series of reports aired Wednesday night about Palm Beach County school's Chief Academic Officer Jeffery Hernandez and his 6-figure salary, he decided to finally sit down with us for an exclusive interview.

Mr Hernandez told Fox 29 he wasn't trying to avoid our cameras but had a death in the family recently. He says he's an open book agreeing in an exclusive interview to talk about everything.

In our almost hour long interview, we did talk about everything from his salary to what teachers think of him to the controversial program in Miami and his involvement.

For the first time here's Jeffery Hernandez in his own words.

Emily: "Do you think you are doing a good job here?"
Hernandez: "I think I am a person that does a good job anywhere that I go."

Emily: "I do want to ask you do you think you justify making $180,000 a year?"
Hernandez: "First of all, the position I hold in PBC is a market position. I feel the experience I bring to the position gave Dr. Johnson the authority to appoint me."

Emily: "A lot of people are saying, 'Why did we hire him when we could have kept four teaching jobs?"
Hernandez: "I am in no way going to say with my salary you can buy four teachers or not because, at the end of the day, it takes all the pieces to make the puzzle work."

Hernandez certainly has a lengthy resume, but in question is a program he was involved with called the 'school improvement zone' in Miami. It was a $100 million program that failed, and many said it was partly the reason he was hired in Palm Beach County.

Hernandez: "I was involved in implementing it just like any principal in PBC this year, but in my school it worked."

Emily: "A lot of people would say you were involved with a failed project there. Could that happen here?"
Hernandez: "That's a misrepresentation of info."

Then, we brought up the issue many of you have e-mailed us about: teacher layoffs.

Hernandez: "There are no layoffs."
Emily: "What are all these people talking about if it's not layoffs?"
Hernandez: "None of the non renewals are because of budget because it's not true. The superintendent of the person makes the decision if the person was non renewed non re-appointed."

We read some of the e-mails we've received to Hernandez.

There was one that said: "Mr. Hernandez is the most hated man in the Palm Beach County School system right now."

"I think that the sentence is strong. Most teachers have not had any interaction yet with Jeffrey Hernandez, so many judgements are based on heresy."

Emily: "Do you feel, for lack of a better term, you need to do some 'good PR' because people are unhappy?"
Hernandez: "I believe this conversation we are having right now is the commencement of that - make the community aware of the actual facts."

Hernandez says he's using the Florida continuous improvement model to streamline classes, and, he says, he's implement departmentalization which means teachers teach and specialize in just one subject not all subjects.

He maintains he has not made any major changes at schools yet.