School & District Management

Kentucky’s Jefferson County Superintendent to Resign

By Denisa R. Superville — April 13, 2017 3 min read

UPDATED

Donna Hargens, the superintendent of Kentucky’s largest school system, Jefferson County, will resign effective July 1.

The announcement of an agreement between the school board and Hargens was made after nearly two hours of discussion in executive session. Hargens’ contract was set to end in 2019.

Hargens’ departure comes as state auditors get ready to visit district schools next Tuesday as part of a top-to-bottom, comprehensive management audit, according to the Courier-Journal. The audit was prompted amid discrepancies in the district’s reporting on the use of restraint and seclusion of students.

A state Department of Education report based on a management review of the district, which was released in February, found significant deficiencies and “critically ineffective or inefficient management” in the Jefferson County school system. The audit could lead to a state takeover.

After the report was released, about two dozen people rallied outside of a school board meeting calling for Hargens’ ouster and for new leadership at the nearly 100,000-student school system.

WDRB reported that in the last two years school employees reported low morale and concerns about discipline and safety.

“Although Dr. Hargens regrets that her approach to implementing the strategic plan for JCPS no longer aligns with the board’s approach, she is grateful for the experience of having provided leadership for the school district for the past six years,” a board statement read.

The board thanked Hargens for her service and highlighted strides in JCPS during her tenure. But the statement also underscored the need to accelerate the pace of improvement in JCPS.

“The board and the superintendent believe it is in the best interest of employees and students to have a new leader guide the district through implementing the strategic plan. Since 2011, JCPS increased its graduation rate to 80.1 percent, doubled its college and career readiness rate, increased overall reading and math for every subgroup, and increased the number of students taking Advanced Placement classes. While the district has moved forward during the past six years, the board believes that the district must accelerate the pace of achievement.”

The statement said the board planned to move forward with a “sense of urgency” to find Hargens’ replacement.

Hargens, who came to Louisville from Wake County, N.C., in 2011, was in the second year of a four-year contract and had been with the district for six years. That’s longer than the average urban superintendent, who stays on the job for a little more than three years, according to a 2014 survey by the Council of the Great City Schools, the Washington, D.C.-based organization that represents big-city school districts.

As part of the separation agreement, the board will continue to pay Hargens her annual salary of $276,000 until she resigns, the Courier-Journal reported. Taking into account compensation for sick days and vacation days, a tax-deferred annuity, and a health benefit lump sum, Hargens could get up to nearly $200,000, the paper said.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said on Twitter that the community was lucky to have had Hargens as superintendent.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.