LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Donna Hargens has accomplished "steady, continuous improvement" during her tenure with the district, but must focus on "internal initiatives" so she can deepen her success, according to an annual evaluation approved by the school board Monday.

"The board commends Dr. Hargens on her consistent achievements over the past four years," the evaluation reads. "Her leadership gives us confidence that JCPS is on the path toward its goal of becoming the nation's best urban school district."

However, the six-page evaluation lists four performance objectives for the 2015-16 year, saying they believe Hargens has "an opportunity now to deepen her success by focusing on these internal initiatives."

The four objectives are:

  • Continuing to improve student learning, with a focus on closing the achievement gap
  • Developing an internal culture that is structured around high-performing teams that values collaboration and fosters an atmosphere of trust
  • Promoting and expanding the capacity of JCPS toward a standard of excellence 
  • Effectively develop and implement a means of improved focus in human resources and on the leadership selection criteria, leadership development, professional development and effective support 
"We are united in our confidence in Dr. Hargens' leadership and appreciation of what she has accomplished in past year," said school board chairman David Jones Jr. 

School board member Linda Duncan said it's very important for Hargens to improve the culture within the district.

"The confidence of some of our employees is shaken," Duncan said, adding that she hopes Hargens can establish a stronger connection with schools.

Hargens thanked the board for their investment in time and commitment to her professional growth.

She acknowledged that keeping all 15,000 of the district's employees "aligned and coordinated" has been a challenge and she's going to work to improve that.

"We've done things to try to bring employees together and engage them," she said. 

Last June, school board members applauded Hargens' efforts to improve outcomes for all students in a primarily positive evaluation, but they have also repeatedly asked Hargens to improve both internal and external communications in the district, as well as give her "immediate attention" to the human resources department.

During her last evaluation in June, board members said they wanted to see "focused efforts to proactively communicate, externally and internally, with our community the accomplishments of JCPS students and the extraordinary work of JCPS staff."

They also told her that fixing human resources needed to be a top priority.

A year later, Mark Rosen and Helene Kramer – the two people Hargens hired to lead human resources and communications – are no longer in those positions. Hargens notified Rosen and Kramer in April she was opting not to renew their contracts, which expire on June 30.

Both Rosen and Kramer were reassigned to other offices in the district.

Hargens said she is continuing to work on hiring replacements for Rosen and Kramer.

"We are in motion to fill those positions and improve in those areas," she said. "Those are important priorities, we are a people-powered business."

You can read the full Hargens evaluation here.

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

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