Wake County Schools Chief Academic Officer Donna Hargens is sticking by her position that decisions about using diversity in student assignment are a school board issue.
As noted in an article that will appear in Thursday's Louisville Courier-Journal, Hargens said that decisions about using a diversity-based assignment policy are “public value choices” best left to “the board's governance role.” It's the same stance she took as Wake's interim superintendent.
“She's like Switzerland — she's neutral,” said former Wake County PTA Council President Liza Weidle in the article. “But she's had an incredible impact.”
That neutrality could be an issue in her bid to become the new superintendent of Jefferson County Schools in Kentucky. That school system is mulling what direction to take on student assignment as it continues to use a diversity-based approach.
Hargens, one of the two finalists for the job, is in Louisville now meeting with the community.
Raoul Cunningham, president of the Louisville branch of the NAACP, questioned in the article whether Hargens would provide sufficient leadership on the issue of diversity, saying she “tip-toed around” the issue when the two talked.
“It's terrible. We couldn't pin her down,” he said.
But also in the article, several education leaders, principals, parents, school board members and former superintendents praised Hargens' role as an academic leader in Wake.
"She's widely admired — I think she's one of the most outstanding curricular people in large districts in the country,” said Fenwick English, a University of North Carolina professor of education leadership, in the article.
Hargens is credited with spearheading efforts to better evaluate educational programs, smooth transitions between grade levels and shrink achievement gaps.
The article calls Hargens a force behind the district's innovative online curriculum site, where teachers can access lesson plans, materials and videos. It gets more than 1,000 hits a day.
She has also pushed teachers to do ongoing assessments of student progress to more quickly fill learning deficits. And she enacted “professional learning teams,” requiring teachers to collaborate regularly on lessons and student progress.
The Courier-Journal is reporting online today that the Louisville chapter of the NAACP is calling on the Jefferson County school board to reopen the superintendent search. The NAACP says they're not satisfied with the responses from both finalists about desegregation issues.