Despite some heated discussion among Jefferson County Board of Education members, Superintendent Donna Hargens has been granted a four-year contract extension to lead the state's largest school district.Hargens, who came to Jefferson County Public Schools in 2011 and makes $276,000, will get a new term running from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2019, with her current contract expiring June 30 of this year.The terms of the contract are largely the same as her current contract, with Hargens keeping her salary. Hargens proposed deleting a clause that gives her the same percentage raise each year that teachers are given, although the new contract has a clause allowing the board to give her a raise or a one-time lump sum payment after her annual evaluation.Board member Linda Duncan argued against giving Hargens another four years, saying that a two-year contract would be better as the board still looks for evidence that changes Hargens is making are working. She said she'd like to see more evidence that Hargens has improved communication and collaboration and district morale, among other things."If you just grant a four-year contract, to me, it's like saying those concerns don't exist," she said.
Duncan and others also brought up the idea of tabling the vote until the next board meeting on March 9 to give community members, district employees and other stakeholders time for input.But board member Chuck Haddaway called Duncan's reasoning of needing community input "offensive to me" during the work session, saying that community input should have been collected by board members over the months and years. "Let's get it done and not drag it through," he said, questioning what board members were doing with their time "if you have not heard what the community says on the campaign trail (and) in your years of service."Haddaway agreed that dealing with the superintendent contract is one of the board's biggest responsibilities, but said "we have momentum. We have a leader that is doing well."Board chairman David Jones Jr. also pushed against tabling the vote, saying that consulting with the community "seems to me to be a bit of a dodge. ... We've got other stuff to do. We've got work to do."
Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, said last week that the JCTA board has not taken a position on Hargens' contract renewal, but said the teachers union hoped the school board "would allow ample time for community stakeholders and citizens to provide input" before deciding on the new contract. He sent an email to board members on Saturday to that effect.A vote to table the approval of the contract failed 3-4, with Lisa Willner deciding at the last second to vote against tabling and with Duncan, Chris Brady and Steph Horne in favor.The board then voted 6-1 to give the contract extension during Monday evening's meeting, with Duncan as the lone dissent.Hargens thanked the board for the support, noting that she has "the best job in Louisville." She later added that "I take all feedback very seriously. ... No one needs to feel I won't work to improve every day."The board also voted Monday to hold its March 30 board meeting at Moore Traditional High. This will be the third of three traveling board meetings that Jones had recommended when he took over as chairman; Monday's board meeting was held at Central High. After the meeting at Moore, the board will evaluate to see if continuing to host some meetings at schools is a good idea.