JCPS-79Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Donna Hargens sent a district-wide email to staff Monday attempting “to correct some misinformation that has been circulated” around a study showing JCPS teachers are paid above the market rate — a study that prompted a committee to propose a salary freeze.

Teachers engaged in protests throughout the district after the study was released at an April 26 work session of the Jefferson County School Board, where a committee then proposed a pay freeze for all employees making over $14 an hour. This recommendation was previously set to receive a vote at the board meeting on May 10, and JCPS chief business officer Tom Hudson — who makes $176,000 per year — fanned the flames of criticism further when he stated at a press conference that the community should be outraged by such high teacher pay.

However, this recommendation was taken off the board’s agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, and Hargens now says she was never in favor of such a proposal and above-market teacher salaries should continue.

In Monday’s email — which repeated verbatim her Saturday op-ed in The Courier-Journal — Hargens notes that JCPS leadership and the board initiated the compensation study by an independent consultant at the request of former state Auditor Adam Edelen, who found that many central office employees were overpaid. Noting that the consultant report showed JCPS teachers with above-market salaries, Hargens wrote that this “is wonderful news and something for which this district should be extremely proud. It is also something the board and I want to continue in order to attract and retain the best teachers for our students.”

The superintendent also referred to the “observations” of the Community Advisory Team at the work session, including “that the district might consider foregoing steps and cost-of-living increases.” She added that no recommendations have been made and no action is being requested to follow through on that proposal, which “would be subject to union negotiations.”

Hargens also referred to this community team as “made up of human resource and finance professionals from local companies,” though she neglected to add that nearly half of its members were top JCPS staffers, including herself.

Jefferson County Teachers Association President Brent McKim blasted Hargens on Monday during a walk-in protest, saying teachers were “lied to and disrespected” by Hargens about the intent of the salary study and blindsided by the discussion of teacher salary freezes at the April work session.

The Jefferson County School Board meets Tuesday night, and though nothing regarding pay freezes will be on the agenda, a large number of teachers are expected to be present to show their opposition to such recommendations in the future.

Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]