Doss High principal Marty Pollio named JCPS interim superintendent

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A longtime educator with Jefferson County Public Schools who has served as a principal for the past decade was named the district’s interim superintendent on Tuesday.

Doss High School principal Marty Pollio will take over as interim on July 2, according to an agreement reached between Pollio and the Jefferson County Board of Education. He will earn a daily rate which is the equivalent of $185,000 annually. His current salary as a principal is $150,000.

Pollio, 45, has spent 22 years as an educator – the first two years working at Eastern Kentucky University as a teacher and coach and the two decades as a teacher, coach, assistant principal and principal in JCPS.

"For 20 years, I have dedicated my career to the students of JCPS," Pollio said. "It's an honor to serve as the acting superintendent and I appreciate the work of the district's 15,000 employees who make learning possible every day. I will work to build a positive culture and climate by creating healthy learning environments in each school that empower teachers to keep our focus on the most important people we serve -- our students."

Chris Brady, chairman of the school board, said Pollio is "the right person at the right time to steer this district -- providing stability and direction while giving the board time to name a superintendent."

“Dr. Pollio has a proven track record of turning around struggling schools, increasing student achievement and helping create and implement career pathways," Brady said. "He’s a proven leader who is respected by his peers and has the skills needed to continue moving our district forward.”

Board members had been mum about the entire search process, including how many people they interviewed for the interim role during a six-hour meeting held last week, but WDRB spotted Pollio and another administrator leave the interviews.

JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens announced April 13 she would resign from the district effective July 1. She will continue to earn her $276,000 salary for the 2016-17 year and she will walk away with about $200,000 in deferred annuity, sick and vacation days and health care benefits.

In talking to reporters after the announcement, Pollio said he will be "very much a superintendent like I am a principal."

"I think if you ask any teacher or student that has been part of a school I've led, I'm very active -- I'm in classrooms and hallways, talking to teachers and working with teachers and students," he said. "Obviously, moving to superintendent increases the amount of schools, teachers and classrooms and that becomes a very difficult challenge to make sure you're present in schools. But I don't think there is any better way to evaluate how schools are doing than to monitor culture and climate in schools."

Pollio told reporters he did not "seek out" the interim position. He also acknowledged that while it was an "unorthodox" decision to move from principal to superintendent, he's up for the challenge.

"I have been interested for awhile in being a superintendent but I did specifically seek this position out," he said. "But when I was asked, I was very much in favor submitting my resume and applying."

Brady added these are "unorthodox times" but that he was confident in Pollio's abilities and he wants the community to know the board looked at the "entire depth of its bench" in selecting its interim leader.

An interim principal will be named at Doss while Pollio serves as interim superintendent, but he will return to the school on Wednesday and finish out the rest of the school year, as well as be there for graduation on May 24.

"We have great structures as Doss, great teachers at Doss -- no matter what happens with me -- short term or long term -- I believe the school is set up for success and great things are going to happen for Doss in the near future," he said.

The last time JCPS had an interim superintendent was in July 2011 when retired district administrator Freda Merriweather stepped in for a month after former superintendent Sheldon Berman left on June 30, 2011 and Hargens began on Aug. 1, 2011.

Pollio, a native of Louisville, is expected to serve much longer as the school board will now move to find a permanent replacement for Hargens. 

However, under state law, an acting or interim superintendent is limited to a 6-month appointment that can be renewed for one additional 3-month appointment.

According to the agreement reached Tuesday, Pollio will be allowed to apply for the permanent job.

"I believe that I’m going to do the best job I can possibly do and be successful as superintendent for as long as the board will have me," Pollio said. "A goal of mine will be to continue on."

Under Hargens’ new contract, she will continue to "cooperate with the board in developing and implementing a transition plan that will assist the person who is appointed by the board to serve in the position of interim superintendent or superintendent beginning July 2, to be fully prepared on that date to assume the duties of such position."

Pollio has been the principal of Doss High since July 2015. He had previously been the principal at Jeffersontown High since 2007 and was a teacher at Shawnee High from 1997-98 and a teacher and athletic director at Waggener High from 1998-2004 before becoming an assistant principal at Waggener until he became the principal of Jeffersontown.

Hargens told WDRB on Tuesday she looks forward to working with Pollio during the transition, adding that she will touch base with him tomorrow.

"He's a great choice and it will be a great transition," she said. 

The son of teacher and a teacher turned college basketball coach, Pollio grew up in Richmond, Va., and earned his bachelor’s degree from Indiana University, his master’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University and his doctorate degree and superintendent certification from the University of Louisville.

Shortly after taking over at Doss in 2015, he told WDRB it was "one of the toughest decisions in my professional career” to leave Jeffersontown.

"I believe with my experience and leadership abilities, I will be able to help move Doss High School forward and I am excited about this opportunity," he said in that previous interview.

Moving to Doss – named one of the state’s lowest-performing schools during the 2009-10 – was not an easy task, but in the past two years, Pollio has helped the school post academic gains.

During the 2015-16 year, Doss posted the highest proficiency rates in reading and math that the school had seen since 2011.

And according to an annual JCPS survey of students, staff and parents – over 98 percent of respondents agreed that “my supervisor provides effective leadership” in Pollio’s first year, a 32 point increase from the previous year under the school’s former principal.

Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, told WDRB he believes Pollio is a "great choice" for interim superintendent.

"First and foremost, Marty is an exceptional educator and instructional leader," McKim said. "He's very collaborative and has experience working with deeper learning at Doss, which has been a leader in implementing that (strategy) across the county."

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

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