JCPS superintendent talks future and finances following contract extension
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Donna Hargens has more than 30 years of experience in education, so we sat down with the leader of Jefferson County Public Schools as she gets ready to start a second contract.
"Lots of positive things led me to apply," Hargens said of joining JCPS in 2011.
An audit that same year made 10 recommendations on how to lead the district, improve education and prioritize spending.
"Over the time I've been here, we've actually done that,” said Hargens. “We've reduced spending and increased the dollars that go into the classroom so that's really important."
In 2014, a state audit found JCPS spends more on administration and less on instruction than districts of similar size. JCPS is now doing a salary study, something that hasn't happened since 1979.
The district has a $1 billion budget and, when asked how the district should look after the taxpayer's money, Hargens said questions are key.
"Ask a lot of questions," she said. “I think questions are a good thing so if the answer to why are we spending isn't because it impacts student achievement and it's going to benefit a student in some way, then it's not a good reason to spend it."
In her first four years the district added assistant principals and mental health counselors, an online portal for parents, and a website showing how every dollar is spent.
But there has been controversy over recent central office shake-ups and mandatory furlough days for staff next year. Plus, policy changes she planned for magnet schools are now on hold because the school board wants more community involvement.
"There was no recommendation, there was no asking for approval,” said Hargens. “It's been a conversation about how do we make our magnet schools better."
The school board also wants Hargens to improve communications outside and inside the district.
She's preparing to send annual layoff notices Thursday to about 130 employees who more than likely will keep their jobs.
"May 15 is a deadline,” said Hargens. “So whenever funding's an issue or overstaffing or you're not sure where you'll need people it's a routine thing we do. Everyone has gotten placed in the past so we anticipate that will happen as well."
Then, it's time to focus on other changes ahead to alternative schools and the opening of two schools of innovation.
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