JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens looks for contract extension - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens looks for contract extension

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - With less than six months remaining on her contract, Donna Hargens will soon find out if her time as superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools will be extended beyond June. 

The Jefferson County Board of Education will begin Hargens' annual evaluation process during an executive session meeting on Monday, where board members will meet with her privately to discuss her performance. 

"We will start the formative evaluation process, which means we will meet with her and have a conversation about the things she is working on," said Diane Porter, chairwoman of the school board. "It's very conversational and gives her a chance to discuss her leadership plan with us."

At the same time, Porter says the school board must also begin talking about whether or not to extend Hargens' four-year contract. 

The board had not been able to discuss an extension until its two new board members -- Stephanie Horne and Lisa Willner -- are officially sworn in. That happens Monday.

"We had to wait until January," Porter said. "Now that they are being sworn in, it's time to have that conversation."

Hargens, who came to JCPS from the Wake County, N.C., school district in August 2011, said she hopes to stay in Louisville.

"I love Louisville, I love what we are doing in Jefferson County and I love the progress we are making," Hargens said in an interview with WDRB on Thursday. "This is a wonderful district where we are intentionally devoted and relentless about making sure we provide a quality education for every student."

In Wake County, Hargens was the chief academic officer and was responsible for improving teaching and learning of that district's 143,000 students. She had also served as interim superintendent for 10 months during a time of political turmoil over that district's assignment plan.

As JCPS superintendent, Hargens makes $276,000 annually. Last June, school board members gave Hargens a primarily positive evaluation that applauded her efforts to improve outcomes for all students and continuously advance the district.

But they also said she must do a better job at communicating with them and with stakeholders. Specifically, they wanted Hargens to have a "focused effort to proactively communicate internally and externally the accomplishments of JCPS students and the extraordinary work of the staff."

This will also be the first year the school board will use the new, state-approved evaluation process called the Superintendent Professional Growth and Effectiveness System

As part of that process, Hargens had to complete a self-reflection based on seven standards: strategic leadership, instructional leadership, cultural leadership, human resource leadership, managerial leadership, collaborative leadership and influential leadership. 

The board will now meet with Hargens to discuss her self-reflection and initial assessment, identify areas of improvement and develop of professional growth plan. Throughout the year, Hargens has been collecting data and evidence that shows growth in the areas identified in her growth plan.

Over the next few months, the board will begin to put together Hargens' summative evaluation, where they will assign her a performance level for each of the standards. 

In June, the board will share their evaluation of Hargens with the public.

"The format of the new evaluation system is very different, but the categories are essentially the same," Porter said. "There are various items that need to be discussed."

Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, has previously been critical of Hargens' lack of communication with the union. 

"There have been times where we've struggled to be part of the decision making process," he said. "That has been a struggle."

McKim said Thursday he didn't want to "get ahead of the school board" and say whether Hargens has done a good job and should get a contract extension.

"It's for the school board to make that kind of judgment," McKim said. "However, she has been accessible to us and I think we have established a better channel of communication with her over the past few months."

Hargens said she believes "all arrows are pointing in the right direction" in JCPS.

"We've met our academic targets two years in a row, our graduation rate is up, our college and career readiness rate is up and proficiency is up," she said. "We know more kids are being successful and that's because we have wonderful staff and principals on the front line."

Hargens added that district officials "know what works."

"Now we need to find out how to get each child exactly what they need," she said. "Our vision is for all of our students to graduate prepared, we don't want to leave anyone behind."

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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