The Jefferson County Board of Education has approved the annual evaluation for Superintendent Donna Hargens, and she received positive remarks.
On Monday, the JCPS board unanimously approved Hargens’ second evaluation since hiring her in 2011. Board members cited her ability to build relationships with private business, being able to communicate the district’s strategic plan and her record on student achievement.
The 6-0 vote did not include District 4 board member Chuck Haddaway, who was not present.
The 2012-2013 evaluation looked at three main objectives: effectively implementing the strategic plan Vision 2015, improving student achievement, and assessing and improving organizational management.
It also considered eight general criteria indicators including leadership, management, policy and governance, communication, board relations, community relations, district goals and planning and professional standards.
All indicators and objectives received a “meets expectations” mark from the board, making it the second positive review from the JCPS board.
Comments From Individual Board Members
District 7’s Chris Brady says Hargens has communicated well with the school board and community how her decisions relate back to student achievement. Further, he commends Hargens for being able to re-engage with the business community, adding there now exists a more collaborative effort.
District 5’s Linda Duncan says she appreciates Hargens’ ability to direct funding to schools according to need. She says Hargens has supported priority schools and says she has courage to try new initiatives. Further, Duncan says Hargens has been a strong leader and has stood in the face of criticism.
“I appreciate her courage to stand up for our students, staff and community when outsiders accuse us of being complacent about the academic performance of some kids in some schools or of all of our kids,” she says.
JCPS has been criticized by Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and some community groups for not doing enough to help out low-achieving schools.
Duncan also says she looks forward to how Hargens can pursue team building and how she can continue building the systems to ensure employees can communicate concerns they may have.
District 3’s Debbie Wesslund says she is pleased with the board’s discussion during the evaluation process and that both the board and Hargens remain unified around the district’s strategic plan. She called Hargens’ annual evaluation a “two year story” of reorganizing and managing her office and the school system’s structure.
Wesslund said what comes next is the “first real look” on the impact of common-core standards and the strategic plan based on the benchmarks set last year when the state’s new accountability system was implemented. Hargens’ evaluation included measuring her impact on student achievement, though several board members did say because the state changed its accountability system last year, it’s difficult to compare the data.
The board will use new data that will be released later this year in next year’s evaluation.
Wesslund says the focus needs to turn to support the staff and educators in the district.
District 2’s David Jones Jr. echoed comments from his colleagues who cited Hargens’ communication skills and her ability to implement the district’s strategic plan. Jones—who has participated in several other large boards—applauded the efforts by the JCPS school board.
“In my experience this is among the most candid, the most constructive and the highest quality feedback and evaluation processes I’ve ever been involved with,” he says.
Jones says he hopes similar candor and perspective continues in the district in the future.
District 6’s Carol Haddad says that Hargens has shown interest in early childhood education, which has been a passion of hers. She says the district has gone through a lot of changes, but the board remains united.
In her first performance evaluation, during the 2011-2012 year, Hargens also received a positive review from the school board. Since then, there have been three new board members elected.
Following a lawsuit from The Courier-Journal in 2010, JCPS board has chosen to meet in private to discuss the superintendent evaluation under state law, which was challenged by the Courier-Journal in 2010.
Hargens was hired in 2011 and signed a four-year contract worth $276,000 annually.