JCPS seeks another contract extension with public relations firm - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS seeks another contract extension with public relations firm

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - Jefferson County Public Schools is once again seeking to extend its contract with a local public relations that has been providing communications services for the district since August.

The initial contract with Guthrie Mayes Public Relations was not to exceed $9,500 through Oct. 31 and includes "communications related to the start of school as well as other communications on projects as needed" and will be "provided by a senior counselor experienced in project management."

According to an amended contract up for approval at Monday's Jefferson County Board of Education meeting, the agreement increases the contract amount with Guthrie Mayes by an additional $5,200 (not to exceed a total of $24,700) for services through Jan. 31, 2016.

This extension comes two weeks after Superintendent Donna Hargens sought and received board approval to extend the contract by $10,000.

The firm will continue to bill the district $190 per hour, the contract states.

Bonnie Hackbarth, a senior counselor with Guthrie Mayes, has been and will continue to be the primary contact for the district's communications while Hargens continues her search for a chief communications officer. 

At the Sept. 14 meeting, school board member Chris Brady said he was "concerned" about the extended contract with Guthrie Mayes, stating that the district has had "ample time" to hire a communications director.

Hargens assured Brady and other board members that the contract she initially proposed would not be enough to "help us get through the process" of hiring a new communications chief.

Brady told WDRB News today (Sept. 28) he remains concerned about the issue.

"My feeling is that this position should be filled by the end of this year (2015)," Brady said. "We have had plenty of time to find qualified candidates -- this is something we have known about for quite some time."

"Communications is a key part of what our district does," Brady said. "The other issue is that we have other positions (in the communications department) awaiting on this position to be filled. There are other aspects of the communications department that need to be completed and filled in a timely matter and that is just not happening right now."

Brady said he is not in favor of outsourcing communications as a long-term fix.

"This really needs to be a full time position, staffed by someone employed by JCPS," he said. "This has to be someone who is a JCPS employee, it should not be outsourced."

Hargens has been searching to fill a position that has been plagued with inconsistency over the past three years. The previous chief communications officer, Helene Kramer, was notified in May that her one-year contract was not being renewed.

Kramer had been the subject of one district investigation last fall centered around making inappropriate comments about another employee. 

That move came after two other communications staff members -- Ben Jackey and Mandy Simpson -- announced their resignations on separate days within a week upon taking jobs elsewhere.

The communications department has been the subject of restructuring and turnover since 2012, when Hargens froze or eliminated 89 central office positions as part of an administrative reorganization.

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

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