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Local News

JCPS Will Not Participate in USDA Food Program

Jefferson County Public Schools will not participate in a pilot food program through the USDA. As WFPL reported, Kentucky was one of three states chosen by the USDA to participate.

The program would give schools in qualifying school districts free breakfast and lunch to all students, if at least 40 percent of them participate in low-income food programs. But when JCPS asked the Kentucky Department of Education about how much the program would cost, the answer was not reassuring.

“We just need more answers,” said Julia Bauscher, director of school and community nutrition services for JCPS.

“Because otherwise that school may not receive the same level of funding for Title I or their family resource center. So it just creates a lot of confusion and they didn’t exactly have all the answers to the questions that we asked,” she said.

Her concern is that participation in the program might affect other state and federal funds, she said.

“Until USDA and KDE have more definitive answers and we know exactly what the implications may be for other district funding we’re going to wait,” said Bauscher who called the program a “work in progress.”

The district will reconsider the option in the spring, said Bauscher. Jefferson County will watch how other districts in the state respond to the program and it will wait for the answers it needs from the USDA and Kentucky Department of Education, she said.

Of the 102 counties in Kentucky that are eligible for the program, only seven had signed up since last week, said Bauscher. The program might make more sense in areas like Pike County where a high percent of its students are in low-income programs because the district will pay less to support the remainder of students, she said.

In Jefferson County, 83 of the 153 schools qualified to participate, Bauscher said. Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois were chosen by the USDA to be part of the new program.

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Local News

First Day of School For New JCPS Superintendent

The new superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools will begin work on Monday. Donna Hargens will replace interim superintendent Dr. Freda Merriweather.

Hargens will visit Ballard High School where she will meet the districts 300 new teachers and participate in the yearly induction. The rest of the day will be spent with JCPS staff to prepare for the first day of school on Aug. 15, said officials.

The board of education hired Hargens in July after being interviewed by the school board. Hargens was formerly the Chief Academic Officer of Wake County schools in North Carolina. It’s the 18th largest school district in the nation. There she dealt with a controversial student assignment plan. When asked about Jefferson County’s student assignment plan, she said she needed for more information.

Hargens visited Jefferson County shortly after she was hired and was briefed on key issues for the county including student assignment and busing. Her salary will be $276,000 with benefits.

Click here to see a copy of Hargens’s contract.

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Local News

Kentucky to Participate in New School Food Program

Many Kentucky public schools have until Jul. 29 to become part of a new pilot food program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but all may not participate.

The program provides free breakfast and lunch to all students in schools where at least 40 percent of students are on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—or SNAP—or participate in the Free and Reduced Meal Program.

In Kentucky 102 school districts are eligible; Jefferson County is one of them.

In Jefferson County, around 62 percent of schools are eligible, but it’s still undecided whether schools will participate, said a JCPS official.  This is because the federal government will fund a majority of the cost, but not all.

Schools that sign up for the program should have decreased administrative costs, said Andrea Plummer who works on health issues with Kentucky Youth Advocates.

“This is going to help the students have nutrition at the beginning of the day and a lot of times that can help them remain in the classroom and be healthy,” she said. “I think if there is a slight cost, I think those benefits will outweigh that.”

The Kentucky Department of Education is unable to say how many schools have signed up for the program.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Hargens In Louisville To Prepare For JCPS Post

The new superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools is in Louisville for the first time since she was hired for the post last month.

Dr. Donna Hargens will be in town through Tuesday.

She’s meeting with school board members and district officials, including interim Superintendent Dr. Freda Merriweather. She also made a stop at Churchill Park School.

Hargens will take over as superintendent on August 1st.

She says she’s focused on having a smooth first day of school two weeks later, mindful of the transportation problems last year that caused some children to get home hours after dismissal.

“People looked at what happened and learned from it and now have put steps in place. You can ask for more than that to come up with a great first day. I’ll continue to stay close to dr. merriweather and stay on top of the plans that are in place,” she said today.

Hargens will be introduced at Monday’s school board meeting. The board is also expected to vote on her contract, details of which were still being worked out this week.

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Local News Uncategorized

JCPS School Board Names Hargens Next Superintendent

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.

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Local News

Local Food Helpful but Expensive for JCPS

Among the numerous proposals from the White House to fight childhood obesity is one to make school lunches more nutritious. But  even if districts are willing to serve healthy food, they’re not always able.

Jefferson County Public Schools can spend about one dollar for each student lunch. The district has started sourcing local foods, but can’t put natural, healthy and local food on the menu every day, because one serving of one item may take up more than 80 cents of that dollar.

“There’s just…there’s just not enough money in the school lunch program to do that,” says director of nutrition services Julia Bauscher. “We’re still offering hamburgers and spaghetti with meat sauces and whole grain pasta, a veggie marinara that has some local or fresh produce in it. We’re still offering tacos and things like that.”

Bauscher says aside from poor funding, the district also must overcome the lack of processing facilities for local food. To have fresh produce cleaned and chopped adds to the cost per serving. The standards for school lunch nutrition are expected to change next year, and schools that comply can receive a six-cent per meal bonus…which Bauscher says won’t go very far.

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Local News

Human Relations Commission Calls on JCPS Board to Begin New Superintendent Search

A division of Metro Government has joined the calls to re-open the search for a new superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools.

Two candidates for the office visited Louisville this week, but both were met with mild reactions at public forums. Attendees complained that the finalists were generally underwhelming, saying they didn’t answer questions fully, if at all.

The local chapter of the NAACP was the first to call for the search to be re-opened. Now the Metro Human Relations Commission is following suit. In a statement, the commission says the search was rushed and was not transparent. Further, the statement says the two finalists did not represent all members of the community. Both candidates are white, though they are also both female. JCPS has not had a female superintendent in more than a century.

Board of education chair Steve Imhoff has said he would rather not re-open the search.

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Local News

Press Interviews with Superintendent Finalists

Earlier this week finalists Dr Christine Johns-Haines and Dr Donna Hargens appeared at public forums to answer questions from the public.  Many attendees have voiced complaints about the finalists’ lack of experience with and knowledge of issues surrounding Jefferson County Public Schools.  The local branch of the NAACP has even called for the school board to reopen the search.

Here are the press interviews with the candidates after they appeared at the public forums.

Dr Donna Hargens Video


video by Chris McDaniel

Dr Christine Johns-Haines Audio

Audio MP3
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Local News

Second Superintendent Finalist Forum Frustrates Attendees

The second of two finalists for superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools answered questions last night at a public hearing. But local teacher Marsha Spears was not satisfied with what Dr. Donna Hargens of North Carolina had to say.

“I don’t feel like she actually answered many of the questions, when asked what her beliefs were or what she thought, I don’t think she came through with that,” says Spears “she reverted to her experiences or what they had done, but I was never clear on what she actually thought or believed about much.”

According to Spears, neither Dr. Hargens or the first candidate–Dr. Christine Johns-Haines of Michigan–seemed well-versed on the issues facing Jefferson County Public Schools. But, Spears says Dr. Johns-Haines gave more examples of how she could put her experience to good use for JCPS. Spears, as well as others at the forum, also criticized Hargens’s focus on data.

Spears was further disappointed in the attendance for the public forums with each candidate, echoing the sentiments of some at Monday night’s forum. Spears didn’t seem enthused about either candidate bu did say she preferred Johns-Haines.

Dr. Hargens is the second of two finalists for the position. She told the crowd she’s ready to identify and solve the district’s problems.

“My leadership style is collaborative and I don’t like to waste people’s time,” Hargens says “if their expertise isn’t needed to solve a problem, you know you don’t need everybody solving every problem, so I think you need to identify what the problem is and who the right people need to be at the table.”

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Local News

Candidates for JCPS Superintendent Visit Louisville This Week

The two finalists vying for the superintendent’s job at Jefferson County Public Schools will make separate visits to Louisville this week.

Dr. Christine Johns-Haines will meet the public tomorrow evening at 6:00 at Male High School. She’s superintendent of Utica Community Schools in Michigan.

Dr. Donna Hargens, chief academic officer of Wake County Public Schools in North Carolina, will take part in a public meeting Wednesday evening at 6:00at Male.

Search committee member and 15th District PTA President Myrdin Thompson says parents, students and JCPS employees should attend the meetings to ask the candidates how they would handle the various challenges facing the district.

“Education doesn’t take a vacation. It’s imperative that as a community we step forward and attend the open public sessions that are available.”

Thompson further believes both candidates are equipped to deal with the various challenges facing the district, including student assignments.

The Jefferson County school board is expected to make a hiring decision in about a week.

Current Superintendent Sheldon Berman’s contract expires at the end of the month. It was not renewed by the board.