August 18th, 2010 5:33 pm | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Schools

Former Jefferson High Principal Let Administrative License Expire

CLARIFICATION: The business manager at Jefferson who is referenced in this report lost her job as a result of a layoff amid budget cuts.

Jefferson High School's former principal, Cynthia Harris, is no longer on paid leave. She's just on plain leave because she let her administrative license expire July 31, and state rules prohibit Portland Public Schools from paying an unlicensed administrator.

According to Oregon's Teacher Standards and Practices Commission, the licensing agency for teachers and principals, Harris didn't submit paperwork to extend her administrative license until about a week after it ran out this summer. She gets no grace period.

At PPS, principals and teachers are responsible for maintaining their own professional licenses. And the day Harris's license expired, the school district stopped paying the principal a salary, says Hank Harris, the district's human resources director. Cynthia Harris earned $120,000 a year at Jefferson. She previously had been a higher-ranking area director with the district but took the principal job at Jefferson in 2007 following the abrupt resignation of another principal, Leon Dudley.

PPS put Harris on paid administrative leave on May 20 of this year, the same day the district completed an audit of the high school's student body funds. That audit revealed a "lack of internal controls" at Jefferson. Almost three months later, on Aug. 13, the district announced Deputy Superintendent Toni Hunter would be Jefferson's principal for the upcoming school year and that Harris would remain on leave. A business manager at Jefferson who was also put on paid leave on May 20 has been let go entirely.

Jefferson faces an uncertain school year ahead as the Portland School Board again takes up the long-delayed high-school redesign this fall. Superintendent Carole Smith had wanted to keep Jefferson as a neighborhood high school, even though enrollment has plummeted at the school in recent years. That would have required growing Jefferson's enrollment from about 400 to 900. Some members of the School Board advocated making Jefferson a focus-option school for 400.

Cynthia Harris's cellphone number was not accepting messages Tuesday evening.
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