Donna Hargens

You say you want a revolution?

Jefferson County parents, teachers and administrators, you’re about to get it.

Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Donna Hargens tells Insider Louisville she’s using a 2011 audit as a guideline to restructure the huge school system, shifting resources from headquarters administrative support operations to schools.

In the process, about 17 JCPS executives will go out the door at the end of June. Their positions were ruled redundant on April 30, though some personnel will remain in new positions. (An independent audit recommended elimination of 26 total positions, but at least five were vacant. A full list is included below.)

Exiting executives include DeVone Holt, special assistant to the superintendent under departed Superintendent Sheldon Berman, Linda Johnson, director of development and Lauren Roberts, JCPS’ long-time public information officer.

Hargens says the terminations are business, not personal. The executives themselves aren’t being terminated because of performance issues, but rather because their positions eliminated as redundant in the restructuring, she said.

“It wasn’t a performance review,” Hargens said. “DeVone is great. He has lots of skills. It is the box that the auditors felt like wasn’t necessary. They felt like the leanest structure would be the six-member (deputy-superintendent) structure.”

The changes come after the audit by Bloomington, Ind.-based Phi Delta Kappa International was submitted last December. Twenty-five auditors spent weeks on the ground interviewing hundreds of people, including parents.

The resulting 500-page report found JCPS to be a system top heavy with redundant executive positions and recommended – among other things – a restructuring of the system’s central office.

JCPS “was a system that had gotten out of sync with needs,” Hargens said in an interview Thursday.

Hargens cited an audit finding that states, “large organizations have a tendency to ‘drift,’ ” becoming internally focused instead of focusing on external performance. “When this occurs, the presence of ‘silos’ appears – the result of certain administrative officers fencing off their areas of responsibility in order to enhance their own power.”

“We drifted away from every position – every dollar – being targeted at high quality instruction,” Hargens said.

The big picture, she said: Reduce spending in Central Services and put more direct services in schools.

With the audit as a road map, Hargens said, JCPS now is moving to cut headquarters support staff and transfer resources to the schools themselves.

“When people say, ‘Well, there’s a revolution going on.’ The revolution is … the schools are the center of the universe, and (Cental Services at the Van Hoose Education Center) revolves around the schools.

Not Van Hoose is the center of the universe, and the schools revolve around us. Do you see how that’s fundamentally different?”

When she arrived last August, Hargens said, she was greeted by 18 directors packed into the superintendent’s conference room.
“I can’t coordinate the work of 18 people to be all aligned, and to be focused and coherent. That structure itself is unwieldy. You wouldn’t see that in business ….”
The JCPS support center  stucture now will be five cabinet members answering directly to the superintendent. Dr. Dewey Hensley, chief academic officer, will have six deputy superintendents, each of whom will oversee 25 schools as well as one assistant over curriculum and one over support services.

Last month, Insider Louisville criticized Hensley’s inability to articulate why the structure is necessary. At the time, Jefferson County Board of Education District 6 Representative Carol Haddad countered,

“Right now, it doesn’t look like it. But in the long run, this move will actually cut (JCPS) total staffing.”

Hargens and Cordelia Hardin, CFO and treasurer for JCPS, said totalling new positions and positions eliminated, there will be a net loss of 13 administrative positions.

The new positions, such as the six deputy superintendents, add a total of $3.1 million annually in salaries, said Hardin.

Last September, Hargens froze all central services positions until they were determined to be mission-essential.

That saved $1.2 million, Hardin said.

Deleted positions cut $7.1 million in salaries for a net salary reduction of $3.2 million.

With the addition of the $1.2 million in frozen salaries, the total savings is $4.4 million annually, Hardin said.

With the addition of the six deputy superintendents under the chief academic officer, “People said,  ‘Your just adding positions.’ But we’re not,” Hargens said.

As assistant superintendent for elementary schools, Amy Dennes had overseen 90 schools. As one of six deputy superintendents, she’ll now oversee 25 schools.

“She can’t be in 90 schools,” Hargens said.

Hargens said there will be other changes as JCPS implements audit recommendations. Elementary school principals will go from working 220 days to 240. School counselors will spend more time counseling students and less time being administrators. Behavioral specialists will be deployed to schools.

“Savings in central services means we can deploy extra hands in the school,” Hargens said. We’ve already seen it happen.”

Positions to be eliminated or incorporated into the new structure:

Assistant Superintendent, Elementary schools

Assistant Superintendent, Middle Schools

Assistant Superintendent, High Schools

Computer Operator Positions, IT (4)

Director V – Communications

Director, Analytical and Applied Sciences

Director, Art, Music, Practical Living & World Languages

Director, Effectiveness and Accountability (Gheens)

Director, Library and Media (Gheens)

Director, Literacy (Gheens)

Director, Performing Arts

Director, Social Studies (Gheens)

Director, Staff Development (Gheens)

Director, Student Development Services (Gheens)

Director, Telecom Services

Executive Director, Curriculum and Instruction (Gheens)

Executive Director, Facilities and Transportation Services

Executive Director, Human Resources

Executive Director, Information Technology

Executive Director, Student Assignment, Health & Safety

Liaisons to Assistant Superintendent (Elem., Middle and High)

Public Information Officer

Special Assistant to the Superintendent, Community Relations

New hires include:

Dr. Michael Raiser is COO

John Marshall is assistant superintendent of diversity, equity and poverty programs

Christie Lanier-Robinson is executive director of communications and community relations




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Terry Boyd
Terry Boyd has seven years experience as a business/finance journalist, and eight years a military reporter with European Stars and Stripes. As a banking and finance reporter at Business First, Boyd dealt directly with the most influential executives and financiers in Louisville.

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