Dr. James Gray
Dr. James Gray is a professional educator and advocate for educational equity. Unanimously appointed as Superintendent of Jefferson Parish Schools in July 2020, Dr. Gray has been a servant leader for more than 25 years in the roles of classroom teacher, assistant principal, principal and district administrator.
Dr. Gray joined Jefferson Parish Schools in March 2018 as Chief of Schools, where he implemented a plan to deliver rich learning opportunities for students, built capacity in teachers and developed school leaders. Under Dr. Gray’s leadership in the Teaching and Learning unit, JP Schools adopted a district-wide high-quality curriculum, created the structure of a Transformation Network to provide extra support and resources to high-need schools, and implemented a framework, the Three Big Rocks, to drive instructional practices in all schools across the district. These efforts, along with support from the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, resulted in Jefferson Parish attaining increases in student performance for the first time in three years.
Under the visionary leadership of Dr. Gray, JP Schools made history as the largest district in the state of Louisiana to safely reopen schools during a global pandemic. Dr. Gray led the efforts to ensure students were able to receive quality instruction for in-person learning while giving families the choice of synchronous virtual learning. Additionally, Dr. Gray and his team worked to close the digital divide by providing one-to-one technology and internet access for all students. Dr. Gray also ensured students and employees received an extra layer of safety to learn and teach during these unprecedented times by facilitating the launch of the Ochsner Rapid Testing program.
Dr. Gray earned his Bachelors of Science Degree from Grambling State University, a Masters of Education from Nicholls State University, and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He has served on numerous state committees and frequently presents at local, regional and national conferences focusing on effective leadership through cultures of learning and support systems for effective instructional practices. Because he believes in serving others, Dr. Gray co-developed and trained educators across the state on the use of the Compass Leader Rubric, a tool designed to evaluate Louisiana’s school administrators.
Dr. Gray is married to Ashlie Gray, a professional school counselor. They reside in Jefferson Parish, and together, they are the proud parents of three children: twins Jordan and Jalen and a daughter, Briahni.
Chief Legal Counsel
As the chief legal counsel for the Jefferson Parish Public School System, Patricia Adams advises central office and school-based administrators regarding a wide variety of legal and policy issues that arise daily in the K through 12 setting. Adams works closely with the Superintendent and other unit leaders to ensure compliance with state and federal education and employment laws. Adams represents the district before state and federal agencies and prepares contracts and other legal documents. Adams has a B.A. in political science from Tulane University and a J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law. Adams has practiced law in the New Orleans area since 1996 with an emphasis on legal issues related to employment and education. Prior to joining the district in 2012, Adams served for several years as the chief legal officer for the University of New Orleans.
Chief Financial Officer
Sarah Caruso is responsible for the overall fiscal management of the Jefferson Parish Public School System. As the Chief Financial Officer, she oversees the management of the district’s multi-million dollar budget and directs and coordinates the budget & accounting, management information system, and payroll departments. Prior to joining JPPSS in 2015, Caruso was a financial leader in the private sector for seven years. As a supervising senior auditor for Carr, Riggs & Ingram, CPAs, Caruso worked with local parish governments, school boards, and charter schools. Caruso received her Bachelor of Science in Accounting and her Masters of Professional Accountancy from the University of Southern Mississippi.
Chief District Affairs Officer
Germaine Gilson has served the students of the Jefferson Parish Public School System for over 22 years. Prior to her current role as chief district affairs officer, Gilson has been chief of staff, chief student support officer, assistant superintendent of federal programs, as well as an instructional associate, principal, assistant principal, and teacher. A two time JPPSS Teacher of the Year, Gilson has nurtured teachers who have now moved into leadership roles in JPPSS and surrounding parishes. As district liaison to the Posse Foundation, she helped JPPSS students earn more than $6 million in scholarship funds. She also served on the JPPSS District Design Team and co-authored the district’s School Improvement Plan to turnaround low performing schools. Gilson earned her Master of Arts in Administration and Supervision from Xavier University of Louisiana and her Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education from Southern University of New Orleans.
Chief Human Resources Officer
Donna W. Joseph is a lifelong resident of Jefferson Parish, a product of the Jefferson Parish Public School System, and proud graduate of John Ehret High School. Joseph has been a servant of public education for 23 years. Her career started in the entertainment and television industry, which led her to becoming a local business owner. In the early 90’s she decided to follow her dream of becoming a teacher. During her tenure as an educator, Ms. Joseph has served in various capacities: teacher, department chairperson, Title I team leader, bully prevention program director, testing coordinator, assistant principal, recruiter, HR administrator, HR director, and management trustee on the Jefferson Federation of Teachers Health and Welfare Fund Board. Joseph holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in economics and a master’s degree in educational leadership.
Chief of Staff
Gabrielle Misfeldt has spent the last 13 years working with various school districts across the region, state, and country on educational excellence and equality. In her time at Jefferson Parish Schools, she led work around creating the district’s 2024 strategic plan and the differentiated compensation model millage that increased educator pay for the first time in 10 years. As a former paraprofessional, substitute teacher, and teacher, Misfeldt worked with Chicago Public Schools, the Recovery School District, various school districts across Louisiana, the Louisiana Department of Education, Newark Public Schools, and ReNEW Schools. She’s led work around recruitment, staffing, retention, principal training, and strategy. Misfeldt earned her Honors Bachelor of Arts from Marquette University.
Ajit "AJ" Pethe
Chief of Schools
Ajit “A.J.” Pethe is responsible for a wide spectrum of duties designed to remove barriers and ensure student access to a quality education. These include areas such as student exceptionalities, wellness, and mental health. Before joining JP Schools in 2019, Pethe served as Assistant Superintendent for St. Charles Parish Public Schools where he held oversight of many functions, including special education. Pethe is a graduate of Grace King High and holds both a bachelor’s and master’s from the University of New Orleans. As a Jefferson Parish resident, his children attend JP Schools. A former middle school teacher, Pethe also served as principal of Luling Elementary. The school advanced its School Performance Score (SPS) from 75.1 to 102.3 under his leadership. In 2014, Pethe was named Louisiana’s State Principal of the Year. He also holds the title of National Distinguished Principal from the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). Pethe is bilingual and holds a Level 3 Leader endorsement from the Louisiana Department of Education – the highest certification available to Louisiana educators.
Chief Operations Officer
Mr. Puyau grew up in Jefferson Parish and has over 30 years of education experience. He previously served as the superintendent of Vermilion Parish Schools and served six years in a supervisor's role over facilities and maintenance. He got his first teaching job at Worley Middle School and taught special education at Erath High School for 15 years before becoming an assistant principal at Abbeville High School. He is a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana and has his Masters of Education from the University of Southwestern Louisiana.
Chief Academic Officer
Laura Roussel recently worked as Executive Director of School Services and Innovation for The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) and has had a multitude of educational leadership experiences. Roussel worked in a variety of roles at the national, state, district, and school level as well as in higher education. Her work began in her role as a classroom teacher and further developed as she began working in and with schools with the greatest need for reform across a national landscape. Over the last 23 years, Roussel’s experience across the vast landscape has allowed for a deep understanding for all stakeholders and their critical role in implementing practical high-quality reform strategies at every level when seeking to improve schools. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Louisiana State University, her Master’s Degree from Southeastern University, and is currently enrolled in a Doctoral program at Southeastern University.