After four hours of closed-door discussion, the Jefferson County School Board named Dr. Donna Hargens as the next superintendent of the district. Hargens was interim superintendent in Wake County in North Carolina, the 18th-largest school district in the nation.
Hargens was chosen over the other finalist, Dr. Christine Johns-Haines of Michigan.
But both of the finalists have been criticized. Attendees of a public Q and A remarked that both candidates were underwhelming, and the NAACP called for the search to start anew. That was later echoed by the Metro Human Relations Commission.
Board chair Steve Imhoff, says these critiques weren’t much of a factor.
“First of all, I respect the opinion of the 2 or 3 groups of folks that think we should postpone or reopen,” Imhoff said in an interview after the announcement. “But not one board member, including me, think we should reopen. We have two good candidates.”
The school board did not take public comment before making their decision behind closed doors, a fact members of the local NAACP were not happy about before the meeting.
“It’s disrespectful,” Kathryn Wallace of the NAACP said. “We care enough to be here, we want to be in on the discussion.”
After the announcement, Imhoff rebutted. “Well, we’ve had public comment. We had people fill out probably hundreds of those (comment) slips at community meetings.”
The board came to its decision a week earlier than expected, and without member Larry Hujo, who was on vacation.
“To be serious, these are the two best candidates out of the 28 we interviewed,” Imhoff explained. “And yeah, we have the best candidate.”
If Hargens accepts, she will become superintendent on August 1st. She will replace current Superintendent Sheldon Berman, whose contract was not renewed by the board. Berman has accepted job in Eugene, Oregon.