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Board member concerned after superintendent's relatives promoted

​2 of 19 Duval County principal changes include family of Patricia Willis

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A member of the Duval County School Board said he's concerned after learning the son and niece of outgoing Superintendent Dr. Patricia Willis were promoted.

Duval County Public Schools said no policies were violated when the board voted to approve 19 principal changes for the 2018-2019 school year. 

The list included moving Rashard Willis, the superintendent's son, from assistant principal at Jacksonville Beach Elementary School to principal at S.A. Hull Elementary School. It also included moving Deshune Bush, the superintendent's niece, from principal at Biscayne Bay Elementary School to principal at Kirby Smith Middle School.

Board member Scott Shine said he voted in favor of the 19 principal changes during a meeting on Tuesday, but said he didn't realize two of them involved Willis' family members.

"My concerns are that there could have been more transparency about these relationships, and we could've handled this different, as opposed to this being a direct decision by the superintendent," Shine said. "Someone else in the organization could have taken responsibility for this."

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School board Chair Paula Wright said the superintendent did her job and board members must do theirs.

"We received the transaction three days ahead of time and it is our responsibility to look at the list, ask any questions, call the superintendent ahead of time and ask any relevant pertinent questions ... even open-ended questions like. 'Is there anything I need to know?'" said Wright.

The four schools involved in the changes for Rashard Willis and Deshune Bush are A-rated schools.

The district said making principal reassignments at the end of each school year is standard and required. After Dr. Diana Greene takes over as superintendent on July 1, she will have the power to make changes, if necessary.

Greene recently told News4Jax she expected Willis to make the reassignments and will made adjustments if they are needed.

Board members Becki Couch and Cheryl Grimes had no comment when asked about the promotions.

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Board member Warren Jones did not share any concern for the matter, but told News4Jax he would have preferred the next superintendent make the decision.

Board member Ashley Smith Juarez shared the following statement:

In the time that I have worked with Dr. Willis as Superintendent and when she was Deputy Superintendent, I have never questioned her morals, ethics or commitment to DCPS.  When I learned of all 19 Principal moves, I met with Dr. Willis to understand the reasoning behind the changes.

I affirmed with legal that there were no concerns with these or other appointments as I have done at times previously; not because I doubted Dr. Willis but because of process.  Legal had no policy or statutory concerns.

Principal changes are seldom easy.  Dr. Willis could have taken the easy road.  She could have received these recommendations from senior staff and ignored them or set 2 or 7 or all 19 of them aside for the next Superintendent.  She didn't.  She knew principals need the summer to prepare schools to open in August.  She made her recommendations based on the advice of her staff and in the interest of children.  I stand behind my vote to affirm the qualifications of the individuals as required by statute and have no concern about the ethics of their origin.

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Full list of principal assignments for 2018-19 school year:

New School
Principal
Former Position
Arlington Elementary
Charlene McEar l
Principal , Arlington Heights ES
Arlington Heights
Marianne Simon
Principal , Reynolds Lane ES
Arlington Middle
Evan Daniels
External Candidate
Biscayne
Sannaa Hamilton
Assistant Principal , SP Livingston ES
Kirby Smith
Deshune Bush
Principal , Biscayne
Lake Forest
Angela Maxey
Principal , Ribault MS
Long Branch
Maysha Shelton
Principal , Arlington MS
Mamie Agnes Jones
Mary Anne Lee
Principal , Sadie Tillis ES
Mandarin High
John Knisley
External Candidate
Northwestern
Kimberly Brown
Principal , Arlington ES
Reynolds Lane
Kenya Griffin
Principal , Kirby Smith MS
Ribault High
Greg Bostic
Principal , Westside HS
Ribault Middle
Ronnie Williams
Assistant Principal , Ribault HS
Sadie Tillis
Angela Jordan
Principal , Mamie Agnes Jones ES
S A Hull
Rashard Willis
Assistant Principal , Jax Beach ES
Stilwell
Kenyannya Wilcox
Assistant Principal , Westside HS
Stonewall Jackson
Shawn Platts
Principal , Northwestern MS
Twin Lakes Middle
Aurelia Williams
Assistant Principal , duPont MS
Westside
Rebecca Raulerson
Principal , Stilwell MS