Despite overtime cost, JCPS wants to keep holding board meetings - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Despite overtime cost, JCPS wants to keep holding board meetings at school sites

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LOUISVILLE, Ky, (WDRB) -- The Jefferson County Board of Education wants to continue holding some of its monthly meetings at different schools across the district even though it means more overtime paid to operational staff.

According to a proposal by Jefferson County Public School Superintendent Donna Hargens that will be up for approval on Monday, the Oct. 12 school board meeting would be at Westport Middle School, 8100 Westport Road, and the Dec. 14 meeting would be at Ramsey Middle School, 6409 Gellhaus Lane.

In January, school board members expressed a desire to change the location of some meetings to make them more accessible. When initially asked about the projected cost, Hargens said there would be "minimal to no expense" to rotate locations, aside from the $2,300 the district spent to purchase a device to help broadcast the meetings.

But according to overtime expenditures obtained by WDRB News under the Kentucky Open Records Act, JCPS spends about twice as much on overtime for operational staff when the meetings are held off-site instead of the regular location, the Van Hoose Education Center on Newburg Road. The district also reimburses its employees for mileage.

So far there have been three off-site meetings. The first was Jan. 26 at Valley High School, with an overtime cost of $2,490.91. The second was held Feb. 23 at Central High School, with a total overtime cost of $2,201.59. The third was March 30 at Moore Traditional School, with a total overtime cost of $2,886.78.

By comparison, the amount of overtime at a meeting held at central office averages between $1,000-$1,400. For example, at the Jan. 12 meeting held at Van Hoose, JCPS paid $1,141.94 in overtime.

(Even for meetings at the regular location, JCPS still pays overtime to information technology employees, employees who set up furniture and other operational staff because the meetings are held at night.)

There was also concern from at least one school board member, Linda Duncan, that moving away from a central location would be an inconvenience for staff and for those wanting to address the school board. She also people having to do all of the set up for these meetings are not able to do their regular jobs -- like provide service to schools -- because of the amount of time it takes for the off-site set up to occur.

Hargens told WDRB News in a statement Thursday she believes there is "great value in fostering community participation in school board meetings."

"We weighed the costs against the community benefits and determined that periodically holding meetings at JCPS schools is very worthwhile," she said.

School board member Chris Brady, who initially questioned how much rotating the meetings would cost, said Thursday he believes the meetings are beneficial.

"We have dinner together before the meeting and invite community members to visit the school and talk to staff and students," Brady said. "Believe it or not, some of those people have never been to those schools before. I think it's important to foster that kind of community engagement."

School board chairman David Jones Jr., said he agrees, saying that aside from the community engagement aspect, he thinks the meetings are useful to build culture within the board.

"It is good for the board to go together to see the operations that we are overseeing," Jones said. "All of the board members individually spend a great deal of time visiting schools, but to do it together is very useful. I also think its also good to hear from the people who come to the meetings, some whom who would not come to normally central office."

Brady said it's "understandable" there is additional cost when holding the meetings at off-site location that isn't built or set up for school board meetings. He said as long as the cost is "within reason" he's OK with it.

Jones said he believes it's "important for us to get out there."

"I think spending a little extra money to actually see the operations and talk to people outside of central office is a good investment," he said.

School board member Duncan could not be reached for immediate comment on Thursday.

All of the school board's regular meetings are televised live by Insight Communications and can be seen on Cable Channel 98 and an interpreter is provided for the hearing impaired. In addition, the district also live streams its meetings.

Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

Copyright 2015 by WDRB News. All rights reserved. 

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