New JCPS superintendent starts job; talks goals for school year

Dr. Donna Hargens addressing new JCPS teachers
Dr. Donna Hargens addressing new JCPS teachers

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It looks like the school year is in full swing at Ballard High School on Monday; the faculty parking lot is full and the auditorium is bustling with activity.

Monday, August 1 marks a new month, a new week, and a new superintendent for the Jefferson County Public Schools as well as the first day for roughly 330 new teachers. Their day started at 8 a.m. as they learned the drill just like freshman. Among those freshmen was Dr. Donna Hargens, who marks day one as the JCPS superintendent.

"I'm not nervous, I'm excited because it's the first day with new opportunities," Dr. Hargens told WAVE 3 News.

This is the start of her four-year deal and she wasted no time making one thing clear to the crowd: the district is nothing without the new teachers and those already working in the district.

"Teachers are the heartbeat of a school system," said Hargens, who got personal at times during her speech to the new teachers. "My dad was a truck driver; my mom was a stay at home mom. Both of my parents worked very hard and they wanted the very best for me."

Hargens also tried to inspire everyone and make them feel at home.

"You are part of a family and a team at your school," she said.

In exactly two Mondays, on August 15, students will also be going back to school at JCPS, meaning there's very little time for Hargens to make any drastic changes. However she feels very comfortable about her position and says it's about the school year, not just the first day.

"The work doesn't start because I started today, the work has been ongoing and the staff has worked really really hard to get ready for the first day. What I'm doing is catching up to where they already are," Hargens said.

She's says there won't be a repeat of last year, when some students didn't make it home until 9 pm because of the busing mess.

"A lot of effort and time has been put into putting practices in place that should make the first day very smooth," she said.

Hargens is anxious to make the whole year smooth and boost achievement at every school.

"No one is ever satisfied with the status quo. I don't' know if we'll ever be satisfied until every student graduates and is prepared to compete globally and that means career and college ready," she said.

For her first few weeks, hargens said it's all about listening, observing, and then planning to take the struggling district to the next level. She also says she wants to wait until research comes back before weighing in on the controversial student assignment plan.

Hargens will earn around $275,000 her first year, with a pay raise equal to a percentage that teachers receive.

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