New director of pupil services hired for Twinsburg school

Appointment approved in split vote; concern raised over late notice

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
Tajuana Hunnicutt

TWINSBURG — There will be a new face on the administration team in August.

Tajuana Hunnicutt, currently the Secondary Student Affairs Director with Euclid City Schools, was hired as Twinsburg City School’s new director of pupil services, starting Aug. 1. Her two-year contract was approved 3-2 by the school board at its June 3 meeting.

Hunnicutt will take over from Denise Traphagen, who is retiring at the end of the school year. In addition to the two-year contract, she also has a consultant contract for up to 15 days before her start date.

According to information provided by the district, the director of pupil services is responsible for overseeing gifted, ELL, special education and 504 services. The person in this position also oversees the district’s occupational, physical and speech and language therapists. The individual oversees programs such as home instruction, Special Olympics, transition services, and alternative education programs.

Hunnicutt, who lives in Solon with her family, including her son, Benjamin, 6, and daughter, Hannah, 16, has had more than 18 years of experience in education. She has been in her current position since 2016, according to information from her resume. She started with Euclid City Schools in 2011, where she was hired as a unit principal at the high school.

“I am very excited to join the Twinsburg Tiger Family and serve the district and community as the Director of Pupil Services,” Hunnicutt said after the meeting. “Having many family members and friends in Twinsburg, it is my absolute honor to join the community as the newest member of Superintendent Kathi Powers’ team. I am proud to be able to bring a wealth of knowledge and experience in working with children with disabilities, their families as well as community stakeholders.”

Board President Mark Curtis, Board Vice President Tina Davis, and board member Rob Felber voted for the contract, and board members Adrienne Gordon and Angela DeFabio voted against.

Gordon said she would have liked more time to research the background of Hunnicutt before voting.

“I’m sitting on this board for one primary reason,” Gordon said. “I ran for the board of education because I believe fundamentally that our district can do better for gifted and special education.”

Gordon said the agenda, which included the appointment, was posted at 10:30 a.m. on the day of the meeting, and that she had “no prior experience with the individual being recommended,” other than a short paragraph from Superintendent Kathryn Powers on why she recommended the candidate. Gordon said this position would be in charge of an area the district needed to work in.

“We’ve voted on two settlements this month in this area,” Gordon said. “This person has a big job ahead of them. I will say on paper, in the absence of dialogue and other information, I’d say they looked qualified.”

But, Gordon added, when she looked up the state report card for Euclid, the results of the report card were low. She said she felt she was basing her vote “on a decent resume and a very bad report card.”

Curtis said that the school board’s responsibilities included hiring a superintendent and treasurer.

“The responsibility on hiring personnel, especially cabinet level and administrators, is on the superintendent,” Curtis said. “I’m confident with the process she and her administrative team went through in the process of filling this position. [Hunnicutt] was one of a couple finalists who have the ability to perform the job she is recommended for. The superintendent’s job to make the recommendation to us. I can understand your concern about the critical nature to the job. But I feel confident in respect to the choice.”

The state report card, Curtis added, is not a good indicator of the quality of job the new hire could do.

“A lot goes into the education in any job,” Curtis said. “She works in a high poverty district. It’s unfair to paint an individual with a broad stroke.”

Powers said that Hunnicutt came to the district “with a great deal of knowledge, especially in the area of special education.”

“We have been through a very long process,” Powers said. “We’ve had a lot pf members of the staff participate; we had a parent on the committee. The questions we used were grueling questions, and we used them to vet the best candidates.”

April Helms can be reached at ahelms@recordpub.com.