This letter was submitted via our Open Letter Form. Please join in the conversation on our Facebook page.

Dear JCPS,

Why is it that the females in our schools are punished more severely than the boys? I have been in the JCPS system for years, and every year when girls act up, their punishments are almost 3 times as harsh as when boys do the same “crime.” I used to coach for a boys athletic team here, and even though I finished the season with them, they were horrible. Lack of discipline and respect for the teachers and other coaches. It was a norm for a young man to call a female teacher a bitch, and nothing happened. Not one kid ever missed a game. At most, they’d have to apologize to the teacher, and then go on about their day. The boys know this, and used that power to their fullest extent. With their lack of discipline, they could get away with murder.

It bothers me so much because when girls act up, it’s like [School Name Withheld] throws them away. The athletic director and the principals and assistant principals are all sexist, in my eyes. And this is coming from a man. They don’t offer much support to the female teachers and leave them out to dry. When you have young men disrespecting females, that is when an older man comes in to correct him. That maybe happens 6% of the time at [School Name Withheld]…and that is a strong maybe.

This may be a rant, but I am only speaking from what I’ve seen and numerous teacher testimonies. Summed up, I just want ALL of the female teachers to be RESPECTED by the administration, and for both boys and girls athletic teams AND students in general to receive equal punishments across the board.

Thank You,

A Sad Man

Note: Letters submitted via the open letter forum do not necessarily reflect the views of Dear JCPS. Just because these letters’ authors’ names have been withheld here, does not mean they are anonymous to Dear JCPS. Any board member wishing to follow up with the letter’s contributor can contact us for more information.

This letter was submitted via our Open Letter Form. Please join in the conversation on our Facebook page.

Dear JCPS,

I work in one of the elementary schools in the Southwest part of the city. Our school is one of the Compassionate Schools. Three times each week, our students learn how to calm themselves down, and to use words instead of fists. Despite this training, there are students who get caught up in bickering and fights on a daily basis. When asked to use other strategies, we are told by the kids that their parents told them to fight back. Here is a letter I received from a student who engaged in fighting even though I strongly discouraged her from doing so.

“I am so sorry that I hit Q back and I shouldn’t but my mama said whoever hits me I should hit them back and she said if I don’t I’m going to be in real trouble at home and I’m guessing you know what that means so I don’t have to write it down on the paper but Q is the one that started it and I had to finish it because my mom and dad said so but my mama raised me to fight back and I know I shouldn’t have but I’m sorry and I hope you forgive me. I am sorry.”

No matter what we teach our students about compassion, and use your words, and restorative justice, etc., how can our teaching compete with what parents demand of their own kids? It seems to me that parents need to be taught a different way. When will we address that issue?

A concerned teacher

Note: Letters submitted via the open letter forum do not necessarily reflect the views of Dear JCPS. Just because these letters’ authors’ names have been withheld here, does not mean they are anonymous to Dear JCPS. Any board member wishing to follow up with the letter’s contributor can contact us for more information.

This email was sent to Kentucky Board of Education Members. Their email addresses are:

grboyd@bigsandybb.com,
cundifffarms1979@gmail.com,
RFGimmel@atlasmachine.com,
sdhiv1234@gmail.com,
gary.houchens@wku.edu,
alesag.johnson@gmail.com,
Robert.King@ky.gov,
rlmarcum22@gmail.com,
nawannap@aol.com,
ceemore1@gmail.com,
wtwyman@scrtc.com,
marygwenw@cflouisville.org

Dear KBE Members,

As a parent of a recent JCPS graduate from one of our district’s Cohort 1 “priority” schools, I implore you to exercise extreme caution when vote tomorrow to recommend charter schools, and if you do decide to do so, be equally judicious with which elements you can support.

One of the things that makes Kentucky schools special is its emphasis on local control, as exemplified in the innovative decision under KERA to provide SBDM power to local schools. However, the conversation revolving around helping these high poverty gap students via way of charters is invalid if you take into account that my son’s priority school lost its SBDM powers 5 years ago when it entered into priority status.

Another thing that no one seems to be able to genuinely answer is how “school choice” will solve our problems in closing achievement gaps. JCPS is already a district of choice. This choice, combined with overemphasis on high stakes test scores, has been devastating to our students in poverty, who don’t have the same abilities to navigate the system and overcome the hurdles we put in front of them. Our student assignment map that discriminates against our most vulnerable citizens is just one of many examples. There is no sense of community behind my son’s school because they backfill the students who attend there from other communities. Perhaps you should know more about hurdles like these before we assume that they just need MORE choices. Competition has not been proven to improve outcomes in Jefferson County. We need more reasons to work collaboratively instead. Let’s work to make our existing schools better before we throw more variability and competition into the mix.

Speaking of local control, our local school board is should have the final say as to which charters will be permitted in our community. They are democratically elected and have the ability to garner feedback from their constituents about the proposed schools and whether or not the charter proposals and the underlying assumptions, hold water when it comes to how they will address the needs of the students in our community.

Perhaps instead of looking at charters as a solution for persistently low achieving schools, we should look at ways to remove some of the handcuffs we’ve placed upon them. I’m happy to share a litany of these items, should you be interested, in addition to a few I hinted at above. No, these problems are not solved by simply introducing charters as a way of “working around” the system. When we have a leaky house, we must fix the roof, not build a new house down the street.

Furthermore, should charter schools move forward, I would like to reiterate the following provisions that should be a requirement in any charter school legislation in the state of Kentucky:

• SBDMs need to be in every publicly funded school, both public and charter (especially priority schools!)

• The local school board, which is democratically elected by the community it serves, should serve as authorizers

• Non profit. Truly non profit not an arm of for profit company
Should not take tax dollars from existing schools. (Since this year is not a budget year, making funding a sticking point could buy us time.)

• Not closing schools just because they are low performing. Need latitude to serve special needs, at risk, etc without being held to same standards as a school like Manual.

• Remove the unhealthy fixation we have on high stakes testing for all schools, public and charter, but finding less intrusive accountability measures, such as sampling and dashboards, and even self reporting of portfolios of accomplishments

• Schools must be open to all, and should not have ability to refuse applicants or weed out. Barriers to entry already create self selection bias. How will that be eliminated?

• Must provide transportation and free and reduced lunch the same way public schools do.

• No use of public funds for religious schools. (No vouchers for St X, for example.)

• Accountability and transparency is a must. Open board meetings, open records, published minutes, budgets and salaries of all employees, contractors and operators

• There needs to be a minimum enrollment in a charter before it can be funded, demonstrating community need and support.

• There should be a limit to the number of new charter schools opened per year.

• There should be safeguards in place to prevent taking resources from public schools to fund the charters. One of the reasons public schools are currently failing is due to lack of supports and resources. Stripping away funding, or even “high performing” students, or highly involved families, from the mix, creates even greater burdens and hardships on the schools that stay.

• There needs to be equitable access to quality schools in every neighborhood. Closing low performing schools is not an option if there are no other schools in the vicinity.

• We need to treat our teachers with respect and support if we wish to attract quality educators. The idea that we can work them more hours for less money is going in the wrong direction and will see less than qualified individuals with higher turnover than we are currently experiencing in public schools. This is a fallacy with no evidence to support it.

• JCPS is already district of choice. You must demonstrate, without a doubt , not just from selective evidence, that “school choice” does more to fix existing problems. Proponents must provide conclusive evidence before we move forward with implementing a solution that doesn’t fix an existing problem, but only layers on more complexities.
This is a quick list I threw together in the hopes that you will have a chance to review it before you vote tomorrow.

I found the presentations at the work session last week to be one sided. They did not provide an opportunity to cross-examine the evidence by those of us who represent the more cautious approach to charter school implementation. What were the unique qualities of each of the success stories and what made them a success? What specific laws did they implement, which we could we emulate, to make sure we have the same successes? Claims that Nashville was a success story was quickly discredited by Tweets from school board members in Nashville. Arguments that charters serve gap students in urban areas has been disproven time and again by other research groups. Parents, teachers, community leaders, including NAACP, have made it clear that charters are doing more harm than good in many of the communities all over the country where they have entered. THESE VOICES CANNOT BE DENIED! Perhaps it is due to one or two factors that good legislation can and will prevent, but the information presented to the board at the work session was unclear what those specific items are, and therefore you do not have conclusive enough evidence at this time to justify forcing us to implement unproven charter schools in our major cities. WE DON’T WANT THEM! No one has been able to demonstrate to me that any version of charter schools will magically address the needs of the students attending my son’s school and schools like them. Since they represent our district’s most vulnerable, don’t we really need to come up with the best plan for them, regardless if it’s introducing charters or fixing existing schools, before we move forward with any plan?

Please help those who are doing the work at the ground level dig into the ways we can stop failing our most vulnerable students in the Commonwealth BEFORE moving forward with some fancy new idea, which will only create a distraction and drain on resources and energy. I look forward to continuing the conversation. We have work to do.

Gay Adelmann

This letter was submitted via our Open Letter Form.

 

Dear JCPS,

Is there a solution for the number of classrooms without teachers? Recently, several teachers have been pulled from classrooms to fulfill district level positions, which allows them to “support” schools from Gheens Academy. This has left thousands of students without a teacher in a core classroom due to the shortage of available teachers for hire. This is not the first year that this has occurred. I understand that there is movement within schools as positions become available, however I do not agree with taking an experienced certified teacher out of the classroom mid-year and replacing them with a non-certified substitute or inexperienced teacher from an alternative certification program. Placing a new teacher in a classroom mid-year not only sets the teacher up to fail, but the students as well no matter how much district “support” is given. I propose that if teachers are interested in higher level positions that they can apply, be offered, but cannot officially begin the position until the next school year. We have many retired administrators that can be used as substitutes for the remainder of the school year so that vacancies are not created in the classroom and student achievement is not affected.

Thank you,

Concerned School Employee

 

While the letter’s author name is withheld here, they are not anonymous to us. Any board member wishing to follow up with the letter’s author can contact us to make arrangements to do so.

Dear JCPS,

On the topic of continuous improvement, I bring you a question, a suggestion and an invitation.

Question

In May of 2014, state Auditor Adam Edelen published a report that found a few areas where improvement in our district was recommended.

It found:

  • JCPS ranks at or near the bottom in teacher staffing and expenditures for instruction, while ranking highest in the categories of administrators, support staff and instructional aides.1 
  • Specifically, he found that the district pays 369 administrators more than $100,000 a year.2
  • JCPS also had the second-highest student-to-teacher ratio,
  • JCPS ranked the lowest in instructional spending, (at 53 percent of its budget (four of the other five were 60 percent or higher), while ranking highest in administration and operations spending, at 31 percent of its budget.)
  • JCPS students face more restrictions on access to textbooks and had the lowest textbook budgets. More than half of teachers said students couldn’t take home textbooks.
  • JCPS provides inadequate instructional resources for all students (taken from a survey of more than 1,500 of JCPS’ 6,400 teachers)
  • 90 percent of teachers spent personal funds to supplement classroom resources.

Question: How are we doing with these numbers today?

 

Suggestion

Also in Edelen’s audit was a recommendation to add an at-large board member. As a district of choice, we have a need for broader representation. I believe it is time our school board move forward with this recommendation and add not one, but two new positions (in order to keep an odd number for purposes of voting). Have one of those members be from the community at large, and one of those members be student voice.

Invitation

Having attended the KDE work session on charters yesterday in Frankfort. I found the presentation to be factual but I felt that the facts that were presented leaned more toward favor of charters, and may have omitted some of the risks and downsides some of the groups opposed to charters have identified. This is concerning and presents an opportunity for education of our community members if we want to ensure legislation that will not undermine the success of our existing public schools.

Because legislation can move quickly, and the topics can be complex, it is imperative that we begin now educating and informing our community about trappings and pitfalls of charter school legislation and learn from other states that have gone before us.

ed-inc-flyer-1-upOur organization is part of a coalition with Save Our Schools KY, which is a pro public education advocacy group that seeks to educate and inform members of our community about pending charter legislation in our state and to empower and mobilize constituents to communicate concerns with their elected officials in order to ensure quality legislation.

On January 5 we will be hosting the first of many screenings of the film Education, Inc. We also invite other organizations to join in the coalition for a more informed and mobilized community.

If you would like a flyer, please see me afterwards.

Since I still have a few more seconds, let me add:

It is important that the things that make Louisville and Kentucky special not be lost with any charter legislation, and I would like to recommend these topics be included with your legislative agenda. For example, SBDMs should be part of every public school. In addition, charters should not take funding from public schools. Also, JCPS is already a district of choice, so clarification of “what problem we are trying to solve” with charters should be communicated to legislators.

Thank you,
Gay Adelmann

If you know someone who might benefit, please contact us. Moshe will be speaking at tonight’s JCPS board meeting, as well.

This is an email that was sent by an Academy @ Shawnee Sophomore to Dr. Hargens on Sunday, Nov. 27. She asked that Dear JCPS publish it our our open letter forum.

Dear Dr. Hargens,jessica

I wanted to follow up with you in regards to my speech that I gave at the JCPS Board meeting on November, 15th. On your way out the door when my mother mentioned a possible follow up email being sent about #BringBacktheColonel your response was “think about the programs as a whole, not just one person.” So, I went home and read again the letter that was sent home by Ms. Benboe on November 9th, explaining the personnel changes that happened at my school, the Academy@Shawnee, over a 4 day break for the students. What I noticed was the statement about the magnet programs. The following was taken directly from the letter:

FINALLY, OUR MAGNET PROGRAMS HAVE NOT CHANGED; STUDENTS WILL CONTINUE TO RECEIVE SUPPORT AND RESOURCES FOR ALL OF OUR CURRENT MAGNET PROGRAMS.

When Ms. Benboe and the District transfers the magnet coordinator, Col. William Vander Meer with no plans to replace him, then to say that the magnet programs will not change is a contradiction. The programs changed at 2:30 in the afternoon on Nov. 4 when the Colonel was told that he was being transferred to Central High School, effective immediately. We, the students, will not continue to receive ALL the support and resources that were available to us with the Colonel gone. I’ll share with you an example about the aviation program. On November 5th, the day after his transfer, there were about 15 Shawnee Middle and High school students that were to meet him at Hanger 7 at Bowman Field, to take plane rides. Only because he holds a seat on the Board of Directors for Hanger 7, were those students, myself included, still able to go on the plane rides. I actually got to fly a plane and logged air time for the first time that morning. Those types of outings and programs were the direct result from the Colonels passion for the kids, for learning and for the excitement of aviation.

Another example that maybe you are not aware of, is a new program with UPS, which the Colonel was able to arrange for our school. The freshman this year will be paired up with UPS pilots. The pilots will follow and mentor, one on one, the students for their entire 4 years in high school. What an opportunity. Once again it was because of the Colonel’s connections with the community and his drive for the success of the Academy@Shawnee.

I could you give example after example, if you care to listen, of how the Colonel’s 19 years of experience and his community connections promotes all of the students attending the Academy@Shawnee’s Middle and High Schools. He was one of a few administration personal that was bridging the Middle school to the High school.

However, I would like to share with you how I felt when I was attending the Board meeting that night. During the first part of the meeting when schools were getting recognized, I was sitting in the audience getting frustrated, hurt and then angry. All of these schools were talking about teacher relationships with their students and how awesome of an experience that is. Our school has teachers leaving to go to different school to teach every single day. So, to have the few remaining in our building meant the world to me and to the other 150 children that signed our petition. The swift and quiet transfer of the Colonel just feels like a punishment. A punishment in which our school does not deserve. I have already had the experience earlier this year of a teacher being fired by the District and then just 6 days later she was reinstated by the District to her teaching position. So, that is why I am asking you again: Dr. Hargens, will you please transfer Col. William VanderMeer back to the Academy@Shawnee?

Regards,
Jessica Bennett

Trump’s latest appointment is the Secretary of Education. She is pro charter school. Making my career in education I think I’d like to weigh in on this and give my opinion. Having been subject to the deluge of opinions and memes over the past two weeks, why not throw one out there myself?

This post is my own opinion, not on work time, and not to be confused as anything but my opinion as a voting aged, tax-paying American.

I am opposed to charter schools and voucher systems. Not shocking, as I work in education. I’d like to outline why I am against them, and what I think can be done instead. Perhaps it will help you form an opinion on the matter and since on facebook we all love to tell each other what to think, might as well weigh in on something that I know a little something about.

Hidden behind the innocuous name “school choice” are charter schools. Here is a basic fact most don’t know about Kentucky. In most districts you already have a great deal of choice. Outside of a variety of public schools, you have private schools. Before you say that’s a rich man’s game – it’s not. There is a wealth of students in private school backed by charitable ventures. The term “school choice” is used because it sounds positive, and it doesn’t at all point to the inequities that charters can bring to the table. I am 100% in favor of private schools – you want to put one together and fund it, by all means. But if you want to fund it with the collective pot of money known as taxes, I am not for it.

In brief I am opposed to charters because of the following reasons:

  1. Charter schools are an easy buzzword answer to a complex problem. Complex problems never have easy answers. In this case we are playing with the futures of kids. I won’t stand idly by with that much on the line to be decided by a simple answer.
  2. In Kentucky our funding model for schools is not optimal. It relies on average daily attendance rather than enrollment for basic funding and as the years go on the state shifts the burdens of unfunded mandates back to the districts. This creates inequity for the smaller and poorer districts. If the system is not right to begin with, the answer is to fix the system rather than look to an alternative.
  3. Charters can choose who they educate with my tax dollars. They can say no to a poor kid, a special ed kid or whomever they wish. If I am going to pay for the system, then the system has to take all kids. I think that’s an equitable use of my tax dollars. I am not interested in funding a selective school with my taxes. If I want to fund a private school, that is a choice I can choose to make. If instead I am going to toss money into the collective pot for all – then it needs to serve all.
  4. They are not subject to the same mind-numbing bureaucratic red tape public schools are. This red tape is killing our schools. I can go on for days on the amount of inane busywork the state and federal government foist upon teachers and administrators.
  5. Because the current endeavors surrounding “for profit” education should be an indication of the quality of service one could expect.nochoice

The current “for profit” endeavors mostly center around testing. Right now public education is making a lot of folk’s money. It’s not the teachers, or even the administrators (an easy punching bag) and it sure isn’t the kids. Corporations hiding behind “accountability measures” and “intervention programs” are getting rich off the backs of students and schools. Look up how much Kentucky spends on KPREP, ACT, Industry cert exams, and the litany of accountability measures we are all subject to. Look at what your local school or district is forced to pay for these things and ask yourself is that a wise expenditure of funds? I am not opposed to testing, in fact in many instances it serves as an excellent diagnosis tool both in terms of the program provided, and the individual student’s competency level in a given area. However, we are awash in testing to the point where it has become too much. Again, ask your local school or district how much of a student’s year is spent in assessment. Then ask the state ‘why’, and for what purpose is this being done? Then ask how much. Divide that number by the cost of an average educator and ask if that money would have been better served elsewhere. Rather than more money flow into the coffers of Pearson, ACT, or another edu-corp it would make more sense to put that money on the front line in buildings and districts, working with students.

This system of accountability and the dollar signs attached to testing is one of my chief complaints of public education. Trust me, I love public education. It is what I’ve dedicated my adult working life to, and I believe in it, value it, and am champion for it. I will also be the first to say we have gone off the rails as a state and moreso a nation on the altar of testing. It’s too much and it’s doing a disservice to students, teachers, and administrators. I am not against accountability, but we’ve gone to far. I don’t want my kids spending 5-10 days a year doing standardized tests, and I don’t like the fact that we do it to students right now. I could say no (and then lose my job rather quickly) or use my not at work voice and advocate to anyone who will listen to be voices to change that aspect of our system.

My fear is that introducing private enterprise into school business will be much the same as the edu-corps and their introduction into the money making business of accountability. Right now they’re making wheelbarrows of money off testing. I can’t imagine the harm that will come when they get into the classroom. I’m sure it will look but under the hood will be hidden some darker things. If you want an example go google some charters. Look at their results, and then at their admission policies. If they are killing it in the for profit world and they are educating ANY kid (ESL, ELL, Special ed, impoverished) that walks off the street- more power to them and they need to share their special recipe. Until I see replicable models of charters that work with the same students as the public school has to take, I won’t believe they’re anything more than a private school with selective enrollment being paid for by my tax dollars. I’m not OK with my taxes paying for some kids to be successful, and some not by design. If I’m going to pay for it I’d like them to have an even shot.

The argument for a charter and “school choice” is an inviting argument. It’s built on the narrative that public schools are failing. In some places they are. Either through poor funding, poor management, or other issues, they are failing. However, in many places they are chugging along just fine. When was the last time you read a story “local public school is doing just fine” or instead saw “Detroit schools are falling apart and are full of mold.” Ask yourself which one is more provocative to report on? Rather than critically look at the system we rely on short snippets and sensational stories to guide our opinions. Again, these are the lives of students and their futures. I’d urge you to take a broader view of the system. If all you see is at the local level and you pay your taxes and feel anger that the local school isn’t doing well. I get it. So you hear the talk of school choice and it sounds good. I’ll ask you to consider instead improving the system in place. It’s not broken, and in many cases it’s great. It does however have numerous problems, some of its own design, and some out of its hands. In the hands of the voters are many of these decisions.

I would urge you to become informed about some of the systemic issues facing public education and be an advocate to change them, and in some cases outright fix them before you look at charter schools as a solution.

The second argument for charter schools is “I’d rather be able to direct my tax money how I see fit”. I can understand that sentiment, but I believe an educated society is a benefit to all. I would instead say you are paying to have kids educated in the democratic process, become thinkers, doers, and contributors to society. While it might be ok to look at a voucher in your pocket as a better means to self-govern what happens with your kids I’d ask you to consider the whole first. I believe a well-funded public system is a benefit to all. If you do not, you have options- private school and homeschool. Both can require sacrifices to achieve. I’m willing to say the benefit to the whole of the community (paying taxes to fund public schools) than the benefit to the individual (a voucher in your pocket). You may not agree with that, and you may not agree with the two alternatives I listed and that’s OK. You probably wouldn’t agree when I further say I think we need *more* tax money being funneled to education. If I had my way we’d spend far more on education than we would many other things. The beauty is we can both be advocates for what we believe in, and I will hope that those who feel as I do outvote those who feel as you do.

Outside of the basic taxes for the individual versus taxes for the collective good if you want some suggestions to improve the system rather than look at charters as the silver bullet I’d be happy to give some.

Here’s my take based on my experience. It’s only my opinion, so take it for what it’s worth:

  1. Equitably fund schools based on need. Divest yourself of the idea that all schools in a district should be funded equally. It doesn’t work. We know this. We see it every year. Instead if you want a more equitable outcome- put more money to places that have more need. Provide the school with the educational resources to educate the clientele that walks in the door. Advocate for this. Points 2-9 really are 50% of the battle, and this one is the other 50%. If you need proof look at a couple of things. Pick our state or any state and look at the bottom 5 schools by the available metrics. If they were the same bottom 5- 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago AND they were funded relatively on the same model over the years- then the problem lies with the system of funding, not with the school.
  2. Cease summative end of the year testing in favor of interim, shorter assessment to look at student growth. Move away from the accountability altar and instead spend the massive amounts of money spent in its name on improving the direct education of students, rather than creating data for praise/ blame and to categorize schools. If you are a non-educator and can explain to me our current accountability system correctly- I’ll give you a dollar. If you are an educator I’d almost challenge you to the same. We have gone in 15-20 years from relatively no accountability to dying at the altar of testing. There MUST be a happy medium that can satisfy the politicians and public who want results, and the educators and students who have to spend instructional time on this endeavor.
  3. Advocate to the state department to stop any mandated change/ law/ procedure unless it comes with state funding to make it happen. Districts are being crippled by state mandates that they must dip into their local tax based coffers to pay for.
  4. Provide the resources for real behavior intervention. That means different places (re: schools) for chronic offenders so that they can get real help AND resources and support inside of existing schools as a frontline. A good alternative school works. There are several in the state- Oldham, Bullitt, many others. It can’t be set up like a prison, it must have the resources in place to teach replacement behaviors. Also in the same vein have a court system that isn’t overburdened with cases. Our judges don’t have enough time to see the issues that come in front of them. The answer isn’t limiting reporting the issues, the answer is putting more people to the problem in terms of adjudication, and support to change behaviors. I am 100% in favor of holding a kid accountable, but we can’t take the pithy approach of “whoop em, it worked for me”. No, it probably didn’t. you probably had more support in place. Many of our students don’t have the supports in place to succeed and if we force them (which we do with compulsory attendance laws) then the burden comes to society to put the structures in place to support them.
  5. Drop the agrarian calendar. We aren’t farmers anymore. The summer break we have doesn’t serve kids in terms of retention of content. Summer slide is real. Instead to give students needed breaks, go to a calendar that is year round with more one to two week breaks interspersed in it.
  6. Take a hard look at IDEA and current special education laws and have an honest look at whether or not they are truly helping students with diverse learning needs, or creating even bigger gaps. Do not take this as anti-special education- instead hear me when I say that this area requires much work.
  7. Take a hard look at any union or employment contract that doesn’t give administrators a non-cumbersome way to part ways with poor teachers. On the other side of the coin, create a structure that does the same to remove poor administrators before their damage is measured in years. Don’t take this point as being anti-union, it’s not. Take it as being pro-effective teaching. Truth is some teachers and some principals aren’t suited for their roles. When it is apparent it should not take years to remove them from their positions. I am pro union. I think it protects workers from mismanagement and exploitation. I do think though we have in many cases swung the pendulum too far away from that and have protected folks who have no business working with students. Like accountability there has to be a happy medium.
  8. As a society figure out a way to hold parents to more accountability for involvement in schools. I don’t know what this would be, but we all know we need it, and it starts at home. Solve that and you’ll get a nobel prize I think.
  9. Lastly: Stop demonizing the outliers. By that I mean the sensational article about the random kid who does something bad. Or the teacher that makes a bad choice. Or the administrator who does something unpopular. Realize that the outliers aren’t the norm. Celebrate the good things that are going on every day in schools.

This post was written by a principal within JCPS who has asked to remain anonymous.

Good evening. My name is Stephen Cain.steve

I had been the Chief Flight Instructor at The Academy @ Shawnee for the past 10 years. I come before you tonight to ask why you Board members indirectly, and Dr. Hargens directly, have done anything/everything in your power to destroy success at The Academy @ Shawnee.

I left Shawnee this past summer because, after 10 years there, I saw negative trends, or at least, no positive changes in the future and I felt powerless fighting for advances. I had a very difficult time deciding what to do because I loved, and still love, my students.

I’ve held my tongue the entire time because of possible/ probable retribution from administrators and a past principal, but now I can’t any longer.

All of the hard work and effort to build a nationally respected aviation program, an outstanding NJROTC program and robotics program, by people like Keith Look, Col Will Vandermeer, Mr. Tito, Tyler Shearon, Crystal Darensbourg, Master Chief Vermillion, Mr. Armendariz, Mr. Mike, Mr. Suggs, Mr. Rose, many additional staff members, and so many dedicated parents are being killed by the top administrators and board members at JCPS.

Several years ago, when Dr. Look left, Dr. Hargens did not seek advice from the school community for a new principal and she gave us a disastrous replacement after about six months. That person almost singlehandedly ruined the school. Once he disappeared in Spring 2015, we went without a replacement until 36 hours prior to the new school year and once again without listening to the input from the school, parents and students.

The school population wanted someone with knowledge of Shawnee students and their unique challenges as their new leader. Faculty, staff, parents, and most importantly students want consistency in leadership because they were going through another leadership change in less than 2 years. Yet once again Dr. Hargens found someone else. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that Mrs. Benboe is a good person and has worked hard to improve the situation at Shawnee, however she came from outside our Shawnee community and had no idea of the overwhelming challenges Shawnee students face. This put her and the students at a disadvantage.

We have all recently seen the magnitude of issues boiling over at the school and yet, once again, Dr. Hargens has directly interfered in the school and dismissed three of the most respected staff members. WHY? When teacher turnover is already an issue at the school, why create more? How is that in the best interest of the students at Shawnee?

So, as I asked at the beginning of my statement: why have you Board members indirectly, and Dr. Hargens, directly done anything/everything in your power to destroy success at The Academy @ Shawnee? If you want to close The Academy @ Shawnee, be straight forward and say so. Don’t kill it by 1000 cuts.

These students deserve better from their leaders.

Editor’s note: The Academy @ Shawnee lost their SBDM powers 5 years ago when the school went into Priority Status. The school community has had very little influence over the decisions that have been made at the school level, and the continued abuse and neglect of that school, as well as their inability to exit priority status, lies fully at the feet of district leadership.

Watch the entire video here (there is a brief video outage at the beginning), including an interruption from Vice Chair Porter when she was concerned Mr. Cain might say something negative about district leadership’s “chosen” principal.

It was a heated local school board race. Three of the seven seats were up for grabs. The school district – reeling from egregious mismanagement where questionable decisions and adult-centered shell games frequently put appearances and spin over needs of students – was ripe for change. Meanwhile, education reformers hidden in plain sight continued to feign best intentions while doing irreparable harm to our most vulnerable students, all in the name of accountability.

One of the incumbents, who spent over $120,000 on his election four years ago, has been mired in conflict of interest concerns since day one of his term. This heir of a healthcare tycoon, himself a venture capitalist, had the ability to spend twice that amount, if necessary, to hold on to his seat during this race. As the current board chair, he was seen by many as a wealthy but benevolent philanthropist, and a likely shoo-in, despite his recent apparent support of outsourcing district responsibilities to private interests, and enabling a lack of accountability from district leadership. Going up against him was going to take a candidate with gumption. The teachers’ union declined to back anyone in this race, for fear of ending up on the chair’s bad side should he win reelection.

Meanwhile in another district, the current incumbent who had built a reputation for asking tough questions and challenging status quo, was being challenged by a dark horse, outsider. This challenger, a human resources consultant, had only moved back to town a year ago, after having spent the last 28 years in Wisconsin. WISCONSIN! But for some unclear reason, this outsider had garnered an endorsement from an elusive PAC. This PAC, run by a handful of millionaires who probably do not have their own kids in public schools, was spending upwards of $300,000 on his marketing campaign. For a local school board race! Why would such an organization back an outsider over a popular incumbent board member?

I’ll tell you why.

The school board race in question took place in Louisville, Kentucky. With $6.4 Billion at stake, Kentucky is the largest of the 7 states yet to pass charter legislation. And with over 101,000 students and an annual budget of $1.4 Billion, Louisville is home of the largest school district in the state of Kentucky — Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS). We have a target on our backs. Our new Republican governor ran his campaign on the promise to bring charter schools to our state, and has declared his desire to start in Louisville and Lexington, our two largest communities, which also have high urban populations. The charter gauntlet had been thrown before the election, so it’s no surprise that those who stand to profit from privatization and charter school legislation, would be willing to invest big bucks into putting a business-friendly candidate in place. We suspect this is why the “favored son” was there, as well.

And now the good news.

candidates interest meeting

Ben Gies, James Fletcher and Chris Kolb attend a candidates’ interest meeting hosted by Dear JCPS.

Local public education advocacy group, Dear JCPS, frustrated with the board leadership for the lack of oversight and consequences for repeated failures of district administration, decided enough was enough. Speaking at a board meeting on May 10, we informed board members that they “either take this bull by the horns or we will vote you out!” In July, we took our promise one step further and conducted a candidates’ interest meeting. Several potential candidates were identified, three of whom actually filed. We mounted an active grassroots campaign, worked with labor unions and members, and helped mobilize boots-on-the-ground to support the campaigns of the three candidates (two from the meeting and one incumbent) who had publicly denounced charter school legislation and privatization efforts. Our group helped educate and inform the voting public of the dangers and motivations of outside business interests and hidden agendas … AND THEY LISTENED! Voters resoundingly VOTED OUT the incumbent board chair, who, according to his successful opponent’s Facebook page, outspent him 10 to 1. Voters also resoundingly REJECTED the dark horse, dark money candidate from Wisconsin in favor of the proven incumbent who asks tough questions and holds district leaders accountable. All three of the group’s favored candidates were elected, despite the contrary endorsements of local papers, business leaders and big money at play!

But don’t start celebrating yet.

While Louisville and Lexington voters clearly recognized the risks to public education and voted blue in the November 8 election, the rest of our state did not. Our State House, the last Democrat-controlled legislative chamber in the South, fell to the Republicans. This, combined with an already Republican-controlled Senate, and newly elected religiously overzealous Republican oligarch-turned governor, means there will be absolutely ZERO checks and balances in place to prevent harmful and extensive anti-public education legislation from passing in Kentucky. While Louisville’s recent school board selections mean we will finally have a fighting chance to stop the intentional harm that education reformers are doing at the local level, they can only do so much once the floodgates are opened at the state and national levels.

Please send reinforcements. We have a difficult two years ahead of us. I’m not sure how much longer we can hold them off.