LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Donna Hargens personally authorized the creation of an $84,000 teaching job at Central High School for a former central office employee whose job was eliminated because there was “no other place for her to go,” according to a top district official.

And the just-retired principal of Central High disputes the district’s assertion that the high school asked for the additional teaching position.

Stephanie Malone, a former in-house attorney for JCPS, will earn double the salary of a starting educator despite not yet having teaching credentials.

Officials say she will pursue certification through the state's career and technical education program, which allows potential educators an alternate route to becoming a teacher.

"It was authorized by the superintendent and done after consulting with human resources," said Michael Raisor, chief operations officer for JCPS. "We created this position because there was no other place for her to go and because Central High School had expressed the desire to expand their law program."

However, Central High’s budget for the upcoming academic year makes no request for an expanded program, and Dan Withers -- who was the school’s principal until his retirement Tuesday – said the school did not ask the district to fund a third law magnet teaching position.

Withers said the school had already expanded its law and government magnet program during the 2013-14 year with the addition of a second teacher and the opening of a new courtroom.

"I have not had a conversation with the district about expanding the program since we expanded the program last year," Withers told WDRB News on Thursday.

But Aimee Green, JCPS’ director of recruitment and staffing, said she had an informal conversation with Withers earlier this year, asking him if he would have an interest in expanding the school's programs. 

Withers said he had no idea JCPS was going to fund a third teaching position in the law magnet, as WDRB News reported on Tuesday. He said no additional students are entering the law magnet program and no additional classes have been added to the schedule for this fall.

The job at Central High was not advertised and Malone's salary will be paid out of the district's general fund instead of the school’s budget. At $84,000, her salary will be roughly that of a teacher with a doctorate and 25 years' experience, according to the JCPS salary schedule.

Malone's job was eliminated as part of Hargens' decision to outsource legal work to save money and "build capacity" in the district

WDRB News requested an interview with Hargens to explain Malone's hiring, but was told Hargens was unavailable for comment.

Raisor called Malone's change in employment a "demotion" and said her salary was set at the highest scale for a teacher to mitigate the decrease in pay from her central office job. Malone previously made $148,600 as the assistant general counsel for JCPS.

"When a person’s position is eliminated, we make every effort to place that person in another position in which they are qualified," Raisor said. "Over the past three years, we have had open positions and were able to do that. However, in the case of Ms. Malone, there weren't any open positions available and she literally would have been the only employee adversely affected by the most recent reorganization."

Raisor added that Malone is a "valued employee who had expressed interest in teaching in the law program who is an experienced attorney.”

When asked why JCPS is spending $84,000 on a new position was neither advertised nor requested -- particularly with the district likely to seek a tax increase in August -- Raisor was unapologetic.

"We had an overstaffed employee we needed to place and thought this was an incredible opportunity to invest the law magnet at Central," he said. "We are not going to apologize for investing in our schools."

Meanwhile, the executive director of the Jefferson County Teachers Association told WDRB News Thursday her organization has heard from a "number of teachers who are very concerned about this."

"We are wondering how this fits in with our contract and how the district is justifying this," said DeeAnn Flaherty. "We have our own attorneys who are looking into the matter for us to advise us on a course of action if necessary."

At Central, Malone will earn more than the two other lawyers who teach in the same program, including her supervisor. 

Joe Gutmann and Charles Koby make $79,200 and $51,150 respectively. Gutmann, a former prosecutor, is the coordinator of the program. Koby has more than 20 years experience as a lawyer and has a master's degree in teaching.

Green said Malone has submitted the "extensive application" for her alternative certificate and that JCPS will send it to the Kentucky Department of Education on Monday. She said Malone will have certification before the first day of school on Aug. 12.

As part of the career and technical education certification process, Malone must enroll in a university, attend the New Teacher Institute and enter be part of the Kentucky Teacher Internship Program during the 2015-16 year. 

Green said Malone won't have to take any classes during 2015-16, but she will have to take six credit hours during 2016-17 to renew the certificate. 

Malone has not returned phone calls for comment.

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

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