JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens plans central office shakeup - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens plans central office shakeup

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Donna Hargens Donna Hargens
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The second-highest paid employee in Jefferson County Public Schools, General Counsel Rosemary Miller, will lose her job along with four others under a major central office shakeup proposed by Superintendent Donna Hargens.

Hargens plans to outsource the district's legal work, to replace the district's Human Resources director and to create a new cabinet-level job called Chief Business Officer, according to a memo obtained by WDRB News.

Hargens will present the plan to the Jefferson County Board of Education at its meeting Monday.

Hargens notified Miller and assistant general counsel Stephanie Malone earlier this week of the plan to eliminate the Office of the General Counsel, which has a budget of about $600,000 annually. She shared details of her plan with her cabinet Thursday afternoon via telephone conference because she is out of town.

“Our goal is to build capacity in an innovative and efficient organizational structure to best serve the center of our universe, which is our schools and our students,” Hargens wrote in the memo to her staff.

The new structure will allow Hargens to focus more attention on “building relationships, recognizing the work of our employees and the achievement of our students,”she wrote.

Hargens did not return phone calls for comment about the proposed changes Thursday.

Miller, who makes $175,200 annually and has worked for JCPS since 1984, is the second-highest paid employee in the district behind Hargens, who makes $276,000. Malone makes $148,000 annually, while the two other legal department positions total about $95,000.

Hargens also notified Mark Rosen, the district's human resources director , that his one-year contract was not being renewed. 

Rosen was walked out of the central office Wednesday and has been assigned to different position in the district until his contract expires June 30. He makes $124,000 annually.

JCPS will advertise for a new human resources director.

Hargens is also planning to create a new cabinet-level position called Chief Business Officer to oversee Cordelia Hardin, the district's chief financial officer, and the new human resources director. The position is expected to pay between $150,000 and $170,000, and a national search will be conducted.

Yet, Hardin will remain a cabinet member, the memo says.

On the finance side, the Chief Business Officer will analyze current spending against needs and strategic priorities and will plan for analyzing and positioning the district financially in the future, Hargens said in the memo.

Hargens said outsourcing legal services is an “efficient and effective model.”

According to the district's website, the general counsel department serves as the primary legal advisor to the school board, superintendent and staff on all legal matters relating to JCPS.

The office prepares legal documents, such as contracts and deeds. It also provides assistance to staff, and participates in deliberations with employee organizations concerning contracts, agreements and professional negotiations. It also reviews all open records requests that are filed with the district.

The general counsel attends all school board meetings and serves as the liaison with the board's retaining law firm, Wyatt, Tarrant and Combs, LLP.

If approved by the school board, the district will put out a request for bids from law firms, Hargens said.

The district's current contract with Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs calls for the firm to “provide any and all legal services as requested by the (school) board, but not limited to advice and counsel in the areas of litigation, contracts, real estate, labor, administrative law, the law of torts, and general and municipal law.”

Under that contract, initially agreed to in 2008, the district reimburses Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs $190 per hour for services of all partner attorneys; $175 per hour for services of all associate attorneys and $70 per hour for all paralegal services. The firm is also to be reimbursed monthly for other out-of-pocket expenses, the contract states.

According to the district's transparency website, Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs has been paid approximately $610,000 for legal services for from 2012 through March of 2015.

The district has also from time to time used the services of other law firms.

Hargens also plans to move the district's assistant superintendents who oversee academics back to central office, instead of housing them at Gheens Academy.

She says by “pulling them closer to the superintendent's office” she can “work more closely with them and the principals, again focusing on building critical relationships.”

Three other items were mentioned in the memo:

- The supply services department, traditionally part of the Financial Services Division, will now join operations under Chief Operations Officer Mike Raisor. The district's print production facility in Materials Production will also join operations. Graphic design, editing and photography will remain in the communications department.

- The management information systems and digital technology departments will be merged into a single Information Technology department.

- The magnet schools program coordinator and related staff will be moved to Academic Services under the leadership of Karen Branham.

This is not the first time Hargens has made changes in the organization of central office. A 2012 curriculum management audit, conducted by auditors with Phi Delta Kappa International, provided officials with a comprehensive review of how the district operates.

Among the recommendations, it called for Hargens to restructure the central office to streamline communication and eliminate a number of positions that were too “loosely defined.”

According to the district's current salary database, there are approximately 360 employees in JCPS who make $100,000 or more annually and most of those employees are administrators assigned to schools and central office.

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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