A new report on the JCPS management structure indicates that too many people in the organization are reporting directly to the superintendent. | Screenshot from the Council of the Great City Schools report

JCPS is proposing to change job descriptions of six senior administrators — and bump salaries of two of them by a combined $19,000 annually — though the school board rejected a similar plan two years ago.

Allison Martin

JCPS spokeswoman Allison Martin told Insider that the district is proposing the changes to eliminate inconsistencies in the positions’ experience requirements.

Some of the six positions — chief academic officer, chief communications and community relations officer, chief equity officer, chief operations officer, chief financial officer and chief of data management, planning and program evaluation — required two years of experience, while others required seven or more, she said.

Removing the inconsistencies would aid the district’s call for more “organizational coherence,” Martin said.

As a result of the changes, two of the employees — Chief Equity Officer John Marshall and Martin herself — also would be moved into a higher salary grade. The moves would bump Marshall’s salary by $8,000 annually and Martin’s by $11,000.

John Marshall

Martin did not have salary information for the positions readily available Tuesday afternoon, but using figures from a recent database compiled by Business First, Marshall, after the change, would make about $173,000, while Martin would receive about $148,000.

The combined salary increases for Marshall and Martin would more than offset the roughly $14,000 the district would save under a management reorganization proposal the board also will discuss Tuesday night and which would involve 33 positions, including the creation of 11 new ones.

Martin and Jefferson County Board member Chris Brady in interviews with Insider recently had touted the changes in part because of their cost savings.

Those changes are being made, the district said, based on preliminary results from an organizational review of JCPS by the Council of the Great City Schools. Acting Superintendent Marty Pollio had requested the review to improve the district’s operations by implementing best practices.

While the authors of the report, which has been released, wrote that the district’s employees displayed a “wealth of talent” and “considerable experience and expertise” the council’s team also “found an organizational structure that was both redundant and incoherent.”

The authors wrote that JCPS senior staff members displayed an impressive quality and commitment to the district’s success, but their performance was being hampered by the district’s continuous reorganization, which included critical functions that were not clearly defined or did not exist.

The authors also said that key departments had areas of control that were too large to promote collaboration and instead “tend to foster operational silos … where employees cannot or do not interact with each other.”

For example, the authors wrote, 14 senior staff members directly report to Pollio, “making the superintendent’s span of control unusually large to be effective.”

Salary bump rejected two years ago

The proposed changes in management structures and salaries that the board is projected to consider Tuesday night would increase the district’s operational costs by $5,000, or less than 100th of 1 percent of the JCPS General Fund budget.

But that excludes the $89,000 salary increase that Pollio will receive when he signs his new contract that removes “Acting” from his title. Under his old contract, Pollio earned a daily wage that was equivalent of $185,000 per year. As superintendent, he will receive an annual salary of $276,000, the same as his predecessor, Donna Hargens.

The school board two years ago rejected a Hargens proposal that would have bumped Marshall’s salary, according to a report from WDRB written at the time.

Hargens then had proposed that Marshall’s salary be increased to $169,000, up about $8,000 — though Martin’s would have remained at about $131,000 — because she wanted his salary to be in line with other chief members of her cabinet. Then-Vice Chairwoman Diane Porter, now the board president, voted for the proposal, with members Steph Horne and Linda Duncan voting against, and members Brady and Lisa Willner abstaining. Then-board Chairman David Jones Jr. and then-member Chuck Haddaway were not present.

Duncan at the time referenced repeated criticism the district has faced for its allegedly bloated bureaucracy. Those concerns linger to this day and have been repeated most recently by Gov. Matt Bevin and the Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Agenda (SCALA.)

Brady told Insider Tuesday afternoon that he was inclined to vote in favor of the salary increases Tuesday evening because all chief positions within the district should be paid a similar amount.

Chris Kolb

Board member Chris Kolb, too, told Insider via email that he planned to vote in favor of the changes, saying that they seemed “much more thoughtful, systemic and tied to improving organizational coherence” than last time.

“I think when the changes are complete, which will take beyond this meeting, that we will have a much more streamlined and efficient organizational structure to better support schools,” Kolb said.

The changes are being proposed at a time that the district is under intense scrutiny. The Kentucky Department of Education is expected to soon release findings of an extensive management review that could result in the agency appointing a state manager to oversee the district’s operations, supplanting the authority of the locally elected board and the superintendent.

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Boris Ladwig
Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.