Dear JCPS,

I briefly reviewed the results of the recent audit. It seems that the documents I read about the audit, and nearly every other document about or by JCPS, rarely address real-life problems faced by students and teachers…issues that the general public are rarely aware of. Here are a few:

  • Students who are supposed to be receiving counseling and mental health services are not getting their needs met. There are too many students needing too many services and the 1 mental health counselor in the school can’t possibly meet the demand. Kids are falling through the cracks.
  • Teachers can’t teach. Kids can’t learn. The district has created an atmosphere that inundates teachers and other school staff with an unimaginable amount of paperwork, meetings, number crunching and data, data, data. In moderation, these are all great and necessary. But it’s primarily bullshit. These mandates keep teachers so stressed out with deadline after deadline. Paperwork has truly become a part-time job.
  • West End schools are failing. JCPS IS a disaster. Kids need more help. Teachers need more help. Students in these schools experience trauma on a daily basis, yet programs, policies and promises never live up to the hype – they never produce results because the people making the decisions are those who have worked hard to climb the ladder and ‘get out of the classroom’. Teachers are under such scrutiny. More and more demands are placed on teachers’ very limited time. We are expected to teach cookie-cutter, scripted lessons to students who act out, due to trauma, in the way of fighting, throwing objects, kicking chairs, destroying property – crying out for help. Clearly, they need MORE help. Clearly, they are living a trauma-based life. THEY NEED MORE. COOKIE-CUTTER, DISTRICT approaches DON’T WORK. We know what’s waiting for our students of poverty. Why not offer real interventions that could change the trajectory of their lives? Why not ask teachers what help THEY need to better serve their students? Does the district even care?
  • Many principals push all the district mandates without thinking about the specific population of students they are serving; without thinking about all the demands that are placed on teachers and how hard they work day in and day out. Everyone in education it seems touts “students come first.” This is such crap. Nothing is further from the truth in my opinion. It should be, “covering our butts” comes first. The people who know their students best, are rarely asked what they need to help their kids. And even if you were asked, you couldn’t tell the truth for fear of retribution. It’s one way – the district’s – or the highway.
  • Here at JCPS, there’s one way to teach. If kids can’t recite the standard they are learning, then you’re an ineffective teacher. If the wording of the learning objective is misstated, uh-oh. If you’re not using the script of the “research-based” brand-new program we’re shoving down your throat, whoops. I’m not a teacher. I’m a robot. My poor kids.
  • PLC’s are exhausting. Nobody likes them. Just another avenue for administration to regurgitate what the district erroneously considers “best practices.” PLCs are the epitome of number-crunching, uber-focus on data, more tracking, more paperwork, more of “you’re shit teachers and you’re not doing it the way we believe it’s right.”
  • BULLYING IS AN ISSUE! Some administrators either don’t know how to handle it, don’t believe they can change it, or they completely disregard it on a systemic level. If only parents knew! It’s ridiculous.
  • PGES is another way JCPS covers their butt. It’s more paperwork. It’s more deadlines. It’s a joke.
  • Teachers work hard and put in very long hours, often to the detriment of their family-life, health, etc. They love their students. They truly don’t stop when the bell rings. I would ask that the district and admin cut us some slack, for crying out loud. Give us a voice. Let us teach!

How in the world did we get to where we are in education today? Prior to the last 4 or 5 years, I felt I was truly able to teach and meet the needs of my kids. Not sure if it was the initiation of Common Core or the beginning of Hargens rule. Regardless, I am so frustrated and I feel helpless and hopeless. It’s time to REALLY start putting our kids AND teachers first.

Signed,
A JCPS Teacher

Join us! Call for Resignation of JCPS Superintendent!

The community of JCPS stakeholders (parents, teachers, staff and community leaders) will come together tomorrow night to issue a vote of “no confidence” in our superintendent’s ability to continue to lead our district and ask for her to step down.

At least 5 of the 7 JCPS board members have expressed concern in her ability to lead, as have numerous organizations and community members. However, we understand that with more than two years left on her contract, terminating Dr. Hargens, even with cause, can be costly and time consuming. With potential negative outcomes from recent BOE executive sessions and the state audit, we believe it would be in everyone’s best interest if she would step down from her position immediately so that the board can appoint an interim superintendent who can fully cooperate with the state audit team and help get our district back on course.

There have been repeated examples of mismanagement and misreporting of data, denial of/failure to address problems, misrepresentation of facts to board members, media, state and community members, with zero accountability. Our kids can not afford to wait any longer as our district continues in this out-of-control downward spiral, which has invited legislators to propose overreaching bills such as HB151 (neighborhood schools bill), paved the way for unproven charter schools to siphon money away from public schools, and more recently resulted in an unprecedented state audit and potential takeover. We do not feel the superintendent is equipped to guide our district going forward, much less through the state audit.

The press conference will take place from 6:30 – 7:00 pm tomorrow night outside of VanHoose, prior to the 7:00 board meeting. Any groups or individuals wishing to speak to the press or during the board meeting on Tuesday evening, please contact moderator@dearjcps.com or call (502) 565-8397.

In addition to attending the event, please sign this petition. The petition has over 6,000 signatures so far.

The Jefferson County Public School (JCPS) District is conducting the 2017 Comprehensive School Survey (CSS) until March 24, 2017. Be sure to share your feedback here, as well.

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 Continue Reading

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. Continue Reading

Dear KDE Board,

One thing I think we can all agree on is that we deserve to have great schools in every neighborhood. We have a great high school in the West End. But it doesn’t serve West End students who live around the school.shawneehs

I bring this map to your attention to demonstrate that there are existing challenges that some of our priority schools face that must be understood before a charter school can be expected to solve problems for all of our students. And that’s what it’s about — ALL students.

We love our public schools. We need to water them and help them grow. Not bring in competition which creates winners and losers. Collaboration is the rising tide that will lift all ships. But don’t throw our babies out with the bath water.

As part of parent advocacy group Dear JCPS, it’s true we’ve been vocal but that’s tough love, because we want improvement. We have been working closely with our elected school board officials for a year and a half to shore up the items that will improve student achievement

We have to fix things at their foundational level.

As a parent of a student from a priority school that appears to be the target of charters, I have concerns that there are assumptions being made about what our real problems are.

MISCONCEPTIONS

Misconceptions about priority schools are more of a label than anything. This label creates additional burdens. Not helpful. High stakes tests do more harm than good in our gap populations. Challenge your core understanding before you try to fix a problem that is misunderstood.

So many things people don’t understand about what really contributes to failing schools:

  1. Myth. teachers are the problem. – Teachers in priority schools are some of the most mission driven, hardest working, talented and compassionate folks you’ll ever meet. Slapping a new sign on the building or “allowing” teachers to work harder for less money doesn’t help with teacher turnover. It will make it worse.
  2. Myth. Charters help Gap students in urban settings – NAACP doesn’t think so. That is why they placed a moratorium on charters.
    Change the population by requiring an enrollment process? Why didn’t we think of that! If we wanted to change our scores we could do that tomorrow be changing the student mix. But that’s not what public schools are all about. And why closing low performing schools without truly understanding the situation is not a good solution for the kids.
  3. Myth. Charters improve outcomes of public schools in the communities where they are. That’s one report. I can give you 100 examples of reports that say otherwise. But maybe there are situations where this is true but you don’t have enough information to know which elements contribute to that factor.

Accountability doesn’t take into account the students you are serving. Test scores don’t tell full story. Creates emphasis on wrong thing. Causes adults to chase wrong goals.

Bottom 5% does not take into account that were being held to same standards as the magnet only schools that pick their students.

My son just graduated from a priority school. Through all of his opportunities he’s now at the Naval Academy. (Hence all of the nautical references in this speech.)

CLOSING

Even if we introduce charters, don’t forget we will still have public schools. What about those students whose parents can’t navigate and they are the ones who are left behind? We still need help in our remaining schools. Not distractions. Not bandaids. Not layers on broken problems. Charters won’t address the root problems and those who remain in public schools will never see these issues addressed.

If we have identified factors that make charter schools successful, don’t we all deserve them? Why not apply these changes across the fleet?

As they say in the Navy, Don’t give up the ship.

We have to think about our students. All students.

We are headed down a channel that could be shaped by decisions made here today.

On this Pearl Harbor day, Don’t let today be one that will live in infamy. No pressure.

Thank you.

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