Hargens speaks about resignation as JCPS board begins search for - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Hargens speaks about resignation as JCPS board begins search for her replacement

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JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens speaks publicly for the first time since it was announced she will step down from her role on July 1, 2017. (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News) JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens speaks publicly for the first time since it was announced she will step down from her role on July 1, 2017. (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News)
Tuesday's school board meeting was held at the George Unseld Early Childhood Center (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News) Tuesday's school board meeting was held at the George Unseld Early Childhood Center (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News)

LOUISVILLE, Ky, (WDRB) -- The Jefferson County Board of Education has started the process to find an interim superintendent and hopes to have one in place before Superintendent Donna Hargens steps down at the end of June.

"The board’s goal is to have an interim superintendent in place before July 1 to work with Dr. Hargens to ensure a smooth transition," said school board vice-chairwoman Lisa Willner, in a prepared statement that was shared at the start of Tuesday's school board meeting. "After an interim superintendent has been named, the board will begin its search for a new superintendent to lead JCPS."

Hargens' resignation was announced in joint statement between the two sides on April 13 that said Hargens "regrets that her approach to implementing the strategic plan for JCPS no longer aligns with the board's approach."

"The board and the superintendent believe it is in the best interest of employees and students to have a new leader guide the district," the statement reads. "There is much work to be done."

On Tuesday, Willner said the process to find a new superintendent for JCPS will be "transparent and inclusive."

"The board will seek broad community feedback on what stakeholders want to see in a new leader for JCPS," she said.

Hargens came to Louisville in 2011 from the Wake County, N.C., school district where she had been chief academic officer and served as interim superintendent for about a year before taking the job in JCPS.

Following a work session on Tuesday regarding student behavior and discipline, Hargens spoke publicly for the first time following her resignation.

Hargens said as she wraps up her sixth and final year at the helm, she is most proud of the "integration of a behavior support system" where the district can incorporate restorative practices and Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports to proactively manage student behavior. She also mentioned the district's implementation of the Compassionate Schools Project.

"Lots of positive things have happened, it's been an honor to work in Jefferson County Public Schools and an honor to be part of this community," Hargens said. "And I trust lots of great (things) will happen and build on that momentum."

When she was asked why resign when she had two years left in her contract, Hargens said it was about timing.

"It's an inflection point that is a good point for the district," she said. "It's nothing other than that."

Shortly after arriving six years ago, Hargens outlined some of her top priorities: improving student achievement, engaging the community and developing a ‘unified governance team’ with the school board.

Now that she is stepping down as superintendent, a WDRB review of Hargens’ tenure shows a mixed record. Her attempts to raise test scores fell short, and although she initially spent time visiting schools and building relationships with civic and business leaders, her support in the community and on the school board itself began to fade about two years ago.

Indeed, the most recent test scores show that more than half of  JCPS students are not performing at grade level in reading and math. Even more grim:  the district’s low-income and minority students have continued to lag behind their peers across multiple academic areas and grade levels.

And although the overall four-year graduation rate broke 80 percent for the first time last year, more JCPS schools fell into the ranks of the state’s lowest performing schools in Kentucky -- 19 in 2016, up from 13 in 2011.

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