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This past Friday Yasmin Hernández, one of the New Jersey Department of Education’s Executive Superintendents who oversee multiple districts, received her annual performance evaluation. Like all her other evaluations since 2016 when she was first appointed an Executive Superintendent by the State Senate, she was awarded top scores–“stellar,” she called them— in 29 out of 30 categories.
Yesterday, April 5th, Hernández was sitting at her desk at work and received what she said was a “bizarre call” from the Human Relations Department telling her to open her email. When she did, she found a notice that she was being terminated, “effective immediately.”
Hernández is the only Latina woman who serves as an Executive Superintendent in New Jersey. She has served in education for 33 years.
When asked by this reporter why she thought she was fired with no notice or any criticism of her performance, Hernández said she “had no idea why” this had happened. “My immediate supervisor didn’t say anything,” she said. “A few months ago I opened up the SLIFE Academy. I am the founding president of the New Jersey Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents. I have worked as Executive Superintendent in Burlington, Mercer, Middlesex, with great success. I have no idea why they’d do this.”
She added, “this has to be political or personal. It’s certainly not professional.”
Hernández learned over the last few days that, as a Senate-appointee, her termination had to be approved by personnel in Governor Murphy’s front office. As part of that process, her long history of top-notch perfomance evaluations was misrepresented.
Hernández was the inspiration behind a new school designed for English language learners and students with limited or interrupted formal education, aiming to help them adopt English as a second language. The program is named for her: the Hernández Newcomer SLIFE Academy, located at the Arthur R. Sypek Center, part of Mercer County Technical Schools District. This is the first school of its kind in Mercer County as well as the rest of the New Jersey. As seniors, students can attend nearby Mercer County Community College, earning half the credits towards an associates degree by the time they finish high school.
Hernández is also on a Trustee of the Mercer County Community College, on the boards of the Mercer County Technical Schools and Special Services District, is on the ELL Committee for the NJ Association of Principals and Supervisors, on the Executive Board for the NJ Teachers of English To Speakers of Other Languages/NJ Bilingual Educators (NJTESOL/NJB), and serves in many other educational leadership roles.
At the ribbon-cutting for the Academy last September (photo above, third from left), she noted that she was approached because she had overseen a similar, if smaller-scale, program in Newark “Our work as educators never ends. We are constantly striving to raise the bar to provide excellence and equity for all students,” she maintained.
She added that this was an endeavor in which she has personal stakes, as the child of Cuban immigrants.
Hernández is highly-regarded in the educational community.