Dear JCPS,

As Jefferson County Public School Board of Education members, I hope that you are aware of the extremely negative consequences of Dr. Hargens’ latest ploy to gain finances at the detriment of the teachers.  For years, a teacher’s retirement pay included compensation for unused sick leave.  For many retiring teachers, this is a substantial contribution to the pay schedule that the teachers will depend on for the rest of their lives. Central Office offered this perk to teachers to encourage them to attend school every day, without using the ten sick days allotted each year.  A substitute teacher is necessary on many occasions, but most would agree that the level of instruction with a substitute teacher cannot compare to that of the classroom teacher.  Also, Central Office must pay the salary of the substitute in addition to the salary of the regular teacher.  So in terms of both quality instruction and salary outlay, Central Office benefits when the regular classroom teacher is present.  This is a win/win situation.  Instruction remains on its highest level, and those teachers who came to school every day even through illness and personal turmoil are rewarded for their loyalty.

If you were at retirement age, would you continue if you thought your retirement pay would be drastically diminished?  Very few could afford it.  This is your LIFETIME salary.  I know many teachers who are beyond retirement age, but they love their jobs and prefer to keep educating children.  However, I personally know two who regretfully retired or will in the next few months because they do not trust that their sick leave salary will be available in this contract.  Why should they trust???  They entered a school year with no contract!! They agreed to work without knowledge of their payment.  How many workers in the work force would agree to this?  The JCPS School Board and the Central Office were aware of the first day of school.  Why weren’t the proper meetings held to insure that the contract was settled?  And because of that lack of trust, JCPS is going to lose the wisdom, the experience, the carefully- built program leadership of loyal employees who would prefer to work but don’t trust the leadership to continue to do the right thing for the students and the teachers of Jefferson County Public Schools.

You must do the right thing and stop any consideration of the termination of the sick leave reimbursement.  Dr. Hargens says in the Courier Journal : ” The whole reason for a district, the whole reason for being, is learning.”

I wonder. . . . . . . .

This letter was submitted via our Open Letter Form. Their information, while known to Dear JCPS, is kept anonymous for their protection. Board members may request to be put in contact with these authors at any time.

August 8, 2016

Dear JCPS,

Please be cognizant of the message you are sending to both employees of JCPS and to the community at large regarding the value of teachers within this district.

Today I spent my entire day presenting professional development to my colleagues. This consisted of a presentation, handouts, and instructional activities, all of which I volunteered to develop on my own unpaid time—time spent working instead of enjoying the waning days of my summer with my family. This professional development will hopefully help to further improve already great teaching practices happening in our building. But I am not a Goal Clarity Coach, or a Resource Teacher—I am a classroom teacher who chooses to not only accept opportunities to lead my fellow educators, but who chooses to seek out and make those opportunities on my own time and my own dime.

In the midst of this valuable work today that was preparing us for a strong start to another great year, we received a disturbing email from our teacher’s union regarding ongoing contract negotiations, which we had thought were pretty much resolved. Talk about deflating morale.

In light of this email, I felt it necessary to remind you that as teachers, we have chosen to dedicate our lives to giving other people’s children a future filled with opportunities to live up to their potential.

I cannot emphasize enough that we do not teach for the paycheck. Teaching in urban high-poverty schools comes with a unique set of challenges, especially in our district where students are bused all around the city and come to us from a variety of previous education and home experiences. This is a challenge that those of us working in JCPS have accepted, but our commitment should in no way be taken lightly. Please understand: We choose to teach because it is a calling to do something to benefit the future of our community, our country, and our world.

In the past six months, your shareholders—teachers, support staff, students, parents, preservice teachers, taxpayers, etc.—have repeatedly seen you trying to take things away from certified and classified educators. First with the misleading audit and the surprise report, to the last-minute freeze on step raises, and now with the list of demands we received today. In a district such as ours, with students who have very real, extreme, and diverse needs, is it not a priority to recruit the best and the brightest coming from teacher education programs? What is the message you are sending to them about what it is like to work in JCPS?

Tomorrow we will all sit in our schools and listen to Dr. Hargens’s YouTube video. If it is anything like last year, I predict it will be full of platitudes about how wonderful JCPS is and how excited we are to be starting another great year. She’ll probably point out an abundance of examples that prove we are #JCPSReady. Again, another fact I should not have to remind you of, but none of the schools would be #JCPSReady to start school on Wednesday without the work of teachers across the district.

In every decision you make in the future as JCPS school board members, it is absolutely crucial that you consider the message you are sending to current and future employees as well as to the families of our students and to the students themselves regarding the value of the educators who go above and beyond every day to educate this community’s children. If you don’t appreciate us, how can we expect them to do so?

Sincerely,

A teacher who doesn’t stop when the bell rings

In an effort to focus on transparency and accountability, and separate facts from rumors, I have created this timeline of events as it pertains to the Butler High School Dress Code hair policy, as well as responses from district administrators. Any corrections/clarifications can be sent to moderator@dearjcps.com.

It started here, on Wednesday, July 27:

Actual dress code:butler dress code

Thursday afternoon:

“We will provide guidance to our schools to ensure their policies are not obtrusive, do not conflict with board policy and most importantly do not infringe on the many cultures embraced across our school district,” Hargens said in a statement.

On Friday, July 29:

SBDM met, and in a meeting that lasted less than 4 minutes, voted to suspend the policies that related to hair. Butler HS suspends controversial hair policy – Wave3

On Monday, August 1, Hargens published this op-ed (emphasis is mine).

There has been much confusion about the long-standing policy, which was updated by the Butler School-Based Decision Making (SBDM) council last year to spell out specific hairstyles for males that were prohibited, and I’m truly sorry that confusion has created both unnecessary hurt and embarrassment for some students.

I commend Principal William Allen and the Butler SBDM council for moving immediately to suspend the portion of the dress code that referenced hair. This allows the Butler community to focus on starting the school year off strong, and to have that broader discussion with students, parents and staff.  Principal Allen is a thoughtful, responsible and collaborative leader, inclusive of all voices, and he has said he will call a meeting in the coming days for that opportunity.

In this case, Mr. Allen modeled the best and most appropriate way to deal with questions regarding policy: by taking them directly to school leaders first. He demonstrated, as he has during his entire career with JCPS, how effective leaders address difficult situations.

A Butler student who attended Friday’s meeting aptly summed up the situation:  “Instead of making assumptions, you all should have asked.”  As adults and leaders, we can learn a great deal from the voices of our students.

On Wednesday, August 3

Good afternoon, Mrs. Adelman!  The Butler minutes you requested are now up on the website at https://sppublic.jefferson.kyschools.us/sbdm/_layouts/15/WopiFrame.aspx?sourcedoc=/sbdm/Shared%20Documents/045SBDM_June916.pdf&action=default.  Please let me know if you need anything else and have a great evening!

Shawna L. Stenton, Ph.D

SBDM Minutes from June 9, 2016 reflect change made to handbook.

sbdm attendeessbdm minutes

 

 

 

 

Butler SBDM approves new hair policy – Wave3

 

Good morning Academy @ Shawnee Leaders and Supporters,

I wanted to follow up regarding previous conversations I’ve had with each of you in different settings and during different times, over the past few years.
First let me start by saying the purpose of this email is not to place blame or criticize or throw anyone under the bus. We are a very large district and it’s really hard to get everyone on the same page at the same time, much less come up with a plan of action when there are so many moving parts and interested parties to consider.
I tried to start by sharing some of this history, as well as concerns and suggestions at Tuesday night’s board meeting, but 3 minutes is not nearly enough time to cover everything, tie it back together to make a case, much less respond to concerns, brainstorm for better ideas, etc. when the dialogue is only one way. But these concerns continue to remain urgent and to date they have not generated the attention I had hoped for or expected. My hope is that by sending this global follow up email we can try to pick up on some of the more urgent items since school starts in less than two weeks. These are just ideas, and other folks may already have the ball on this, or there may be factors I am not aware of, but I can’t allow another year to go by without at least attempting to see what can be done.
I realize I may be butting in where I don’t belong, and am probably stepping on people’s toes, and possibly many of these ideas are already in the works. But because some of these issues have gained momentum and agreement with previous leaders, including Dr. Barber and Amy Dennes, and every time we gain new leadership, we seem to start from scratch, I didn’t want to take any chances. I feel this loss of continuity and repeated delay has done a huge disservice to our students and students in the West End.
Below is a series of problems and proposed solutions that I would like your feedback on before school starts on Aug. 10. And if possible, hopefully some of the proposed solutions, or a variation thereof, can be implemented in time to affect this year’s student population.

PROBLEM:
I met with John Collopy last spring and he explained to me that one of the reasons Shawnee has such a high cost per student, (in addition to the fact that we are charged for Early Childhood’s cost center and shared costs with ESL, but their populations are not factored into the divisor), is also that there are certain fixed costs that remain the same whether you have 500 or 2000 students in a building. Several leaders I have spoken with have agreed that growing the school to around 700 students would allow much more economies of scale.

PROBLEM:
Shawnee has met all of its AMOs for the past 3 years, but it cannot get out of priority status because it cannot move out of the bottom 5%. Growing the magnets and retaining or attracting students from the West End and our resides who might apply to schools like Manual or Male, or even be assigned to a school across town but prefer to stay in their community, is another way to raise the scores. Failing schools have nothing to do with the teachers, or the building. Test scores have everything to do with the student population mix and the income and wealth of the families in attendance. Even with ESSA changing soon, we owe it to this school and this community to do right by them now. This school year.

 
PROBLEM:
I volunteered during the first day of school last year and there were 100 students from the West End there who either were at the wrong school but thought that Shawnee was their resides school, or had not completed any registration paperwork and were not in our system. We had to triage them in the auditorium, which was an all-day affair. If they were in the right school, we couldn’t build a schedule for them until we got them entered into the computer system. If it turned out they were in the wrong school we sent them home, even though they WANTED to be there, and may have qualified for a transfer! Once the first day of school starts, students are no longer allowed to apply for a transfer.

IMG_0349

SUGGESTION:
Could we ask for the mobile registration bus to be at Shawnee during our high school orientation on Aug. 3? And again on the first day of school? This would speed up the registration process and allow for a quick decision as to whether a student qualified to apply to our magnet.

SUGGESTION:
Could we get the word out to the Shawnee community that they can apply for a transfer the day of registration if it is not their resides school. Perhaps yard signs and announcements in the paper. I will help any way I can.

SUGGESTION:
Can we make an exception for this community that experiences the greatest amount of burden caused by busing (reference the high school boundary map presented Tuesday night)? I realize that could lead to having to hire or relocate additional teachers at the last  minute, but that sounds like an adult problem, not what’s in the best interest of the students.

SUGGESTION:
Can we reach out to students who did not get their first and second choice, who feel that they have no alternatives but to attend their resides school and let them know about the opportunities that exist at Shawnee?

Please provide Ms. Benboe and her staff the support they need to find some way forward on this topic of recruiting and growing the school to 1) reach the economies of scale needed to run efficiently, 2) serve the students and families who live in the west end and wish to attend Shawnee and 3) recruit more students from the east end to obtain better integration using “more carrot and less stick.”

The Academy @ Shawnee is a shining star in the West End and has the potential to transform that community. Let’s make sure it gets the oxygen it needs to breathe and flourish. Please?Just as you are only as strong as your weakest link, a school district is only as strong as its weakest schools. I look forward to your replies, additional ideas, suggestions, concerns, etc. We have important work to do, and I believe some of the most important work of all starts here.

Thank you for your time, I’ll be following up with an update at the August 9th board meeting.

Sincerely,
Gay Adelmann
260-633-0463

Dear JCPS,

In a previous episode of “How JCPS Turns,” Superintendent Hargens mentioned that three JCPS seniors were awarded scholarships in excess of one million dollars. One of those students defies widely accepted paradigms because he comes from a priority school.

Not only did this student earn unprecedented scholarship dollars but this valedictorian was accepted into several prestigious universities as well as the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy. This Governors scholar scored a 32 on his ACT he took six AP classes to dual credit classes at Morehead State he wants to fly F 35’s off the back of the landing ships, become a career Marine officer and eventually apply for the astronaut candidate program.
My son, Peyton Adelmann, is proof that a school’s priority status means nothing about the opportunities that exist nor the quality of instruction or rigor available. He demonstrated that you can go to the lowest performing school in the state and still get the best education possible. Low test scores are not because of the building. They’re not because of the teachers. You can be successful in any school in the district as long as you have someone to advocate for you, access to necessary wrap around services, and you’re not trying to overcome the effects of trauma and poverty without necessary resources.

So, on tonight’s episode of “As JCPS Turns,” we will focus on disparities that  prevent some students from achieving Excellence with Equity.

IMG_0349
Please take a look at the high school boundary map I handed you. There is a noticeable difference between the colors of this map. I understand why we have this map the way that we do. It’s in order to achieve integration. However, if it was truly about excellence with equity, we would be sending as many students from East to West as we do from West to East. I realize that’s not always easy to do, but we could be doing a better job getting the word out about the wonderful opportunities that exist at schools like Shawnee. We could be using more carrot and less stick to achieve this goal. Help us get the word out that it’s worth the bus ride or car ride to come down to a magnet school in the West End.
Instead, we take the most disenfranchised part of our population and further disenfranchise them by sending their kids across town. We separate them from their community. We criticize them for not being involved parents. Sometimes, these kids can’t stay for afterschool activities or can’t get the assistance they need because they might not have a way home. They may be on a bus an  hour each way to a school that’s potentially no better than one in their own neighborhood.
Then because we’ve bused all of the Shawnee kids out of their neighborhood. And by the way, these other schools have the luxury of attending schools in their neighborhood, but we have no sense of community for these West End students. Their neighbor goes to a different school than they do. Then we have to backfill. Shawnee buses in from the Portland area.  We need to find a way to revisit this map and unwind it.
We have students in our neighborhood who want to come here. This is evidenced by the First day of school when approximately 100 high school students show up thinking or hoping we are their school. Instead, we send them away! If they want to be in our school, and they qualify for our program, we need to find a way to accommodate them so that our school can reach an efficient economy of scale, and raise our scores at the same time.
Three minutes is not enough time. I will be back next meeting to finish my story.

No Child Left Behind created an accountability system that highlighted standardized testing. The Every Student Succeeds Act (passed by government in 2015) gives states the opportunity to redefine what accountability looks like for each state. However, the draft regulations provided by the US Dept. of Ed don’t remove NCLB’s emphasis on testing, and seem to be working against the intent of the new legislation. For example, the new draft regulations state that “robust action” – read: punitive action – must be taken against schools that don’t test 95 percent of students.

Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt recently provided testimony to the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (29 minute mark) and expressed many of the same concerns many educators and stakeholders have been echoing in JCPS and in school districts across the country.

They are seeking public feedback on these ESSA regulations to maintain flexibility/autonomy for states and local districts, and to get free of onerous federal testing requirements before they are finalized.

To give feedback: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/05/31/2016-12451/elementary-and-secondary-education-act-of-1965-as-amended-by-the-every-student-succeeds

Feedback is open to all educational shareholders. He’s looking for 1,000 comments by August 1.

Thank you!

Additional resources:

You can find guidance and information here: http://www.getESSAright.org

For more information on the specifics of this new federal law and decision making points on the local level please see:
www.nea.org/ESSAbegins

Attached is Sarah Markey’s ESSA presentation.

Dear JCPS,

It is evident that our school system, like every school system, has its flaws. Some of these issues, such as employee’s salaries and the code of conduct, have rightfully been brought to the public’s attention over the past 6 months. There are no “easy fixes” for issues like these, as we have all witnessed via board meetings that deservingly last for hours. That said, as a teacher with JCPS, there is one “easy fix” that will solve a multitude of problems.

Ban cell phones. It’s simple. As a teacher at a school that encourages the use of cell phones for research in the classroom, it is evident that they cause more harm than good. It is flat-out impossible for one teacher to monitor 25+ students’ actions on a cell phone. I understand that one cannot simply make a “blanket statement” like the one above, but that arguments must surely be justified with solid evidence.

I have experienced the pros and cons of a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) school first-hand, but my argument is not simply for our local community. Rather, it is an international issue. On June 15, 2015, The Boston Globe’s Linda Matchan wrote “a study released in May by the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics looked at 91 schools in four cities in England, where more than 90 percent of teenagers own a mobile phone. The study found that test scores were 6.41 percent higher at schools where cellphone use is prohibited.” In a district that unfortunately places so much emphasis on standardized testing, this should be a no-brainer. Get rid of the cell phones and see an increase in test scores. Furthermore, “the researchers concluded that mobile phones ‘can have a negative impact on productivity through distraction,’ particularly among low-achieving students, who benefitted most from the ban, with achievement gains of 14.23 percent.” If we, as JCPS, are truly trying to raise students’ test scores who are novice and apprentice to the proficient and distinguished level, then we are making it more difficult on ourselves. Ban cell phones and see a decrease in the novice and apprentice range and an increase in the proficient and distinguished categories. The numbers are there, and numbers don’t lie.

Personally, I must admit that there are pros to students having cell phones in the classroom. These include instant access to research, an easier ability for parent/student contact, the ability for students to listen to music as they work, and the ever-so-misguiding label of being a “technology friendly” school.

That said, the cons far outweigh the pros. As stated above, the main issue is monitoring. I may be able to ensure a student is researching a topic by using proximity control as I pass by their desk, but after I pass, I cannot control if that student then logs onto SnapChat, Instagram, Facebook, or any other social media platform.

My second concern is maintaining students’ attention while teaching. I adopted a new policy in my classroom this past year that was somewhat successful. Upon entering the classroom, students put their phones in a box on my desk. Yes, I put my phone in as well. Then, when it came time for students to work on their assignment, I would allow them to retrieve their phones for research and music. However, the majority of students would continuously use them for the wrong purpose. Sure, I could write a referral, but we’re supposed to be cutting down on those, right? We’re fighting a losing battle, and it’s frustrating.

My third issue revolves around cell phones being used to plan fights. This has been an increasingly dangerous problem that has continued to escalate in JCPS schools over the past few years. Students will trash talk one another via texting or social media, then plan to fight during lunch, in a stairwell, or in another teacher’s class. Then, when they do fight, it is more difficult for administration or security to get to the altercation because, you guessed it, dozens of other students are recording the fight on their phone.

And whatever you do, do not try to take a student’s phone. That is simply dangerous. Here are a few examples if you need further evidence:

Nationally:
http://www.northjersey.com/towns/paterson/paterson-freshman-charged-with-assault-after-classroom-attack-on-teacher-1.1239201

http://www.wcvb.com/news/weymouth-hs-teacher-allegedly-attacked-for-taking-students-cellphone/32371212

Locally:
http://www.wlky.com/news/Eastern-HS-student-arrested-accused-of-attacking-staff/38282504

http://www.wdrb.com/story/30667651/prp-hs-student-accused-of-assaulting-teacher-over-
cell-phone

My last concern involves not all students being able to afford cell phones. If you have an activity that requires a cell phone and a student cannot afford it, the student almost feels as though they are being called out. I’ve seen the look in their eyes. It’s the “please don’t call me out for not having a phone” look. It’s a stigma that is out of their control, and that is not their fault.

We are the people on the front lines, the people who face these obstacles every day, and the people raising our future. The teaching world is already full of infinite obstacles. I have to teach a student who slept on broken glass last night. I have to teach Algebra 2 to a student who is on a second grade reading level. I have to teach a student who lost their brother to gang violence over the weekend. Many of these obstacles are unfortunately out of our control.

That said, our teaching world is also full of obstacles that we can control. Obstacles such as proposals for pay freezes and a relaxed code of conduct. Obstacles like JCPS putting off the vote on the code of conduct until the summer, when teachers are more likely to be vacationing with their families than protesting for their livelihood. Obstacles like JCPS’ own Chief Business Officer Tom Hudson (who makes $176,000 a year) publicly stating “what I don’t understand is why the community hasn’t been outraged that we’ve paid these people (teachers) this much money over the years.” Obstacles like cell phones.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. What I will do is encourage other JCPS teachers, administrators, and parents to share their stories about the pros and cons of cell phones in school. That said, the evidence is clear. If JCPS wants increased test scores and decreased disciplinary issues, it’s time to ban cell phones.

According to the 6/14 #JCPS BOE Meeting Agenda, the Superintendent’s Year in Review (reprinted below) will be used to inform the evaluation of the Superintendent by the Board and is in addition to evidence that responds to the seven leadership standards established in the Superintendent Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (SPGES).

Also according to the meeting agenda, the Board adopted SPGES for use in the evaluation of the Superintendent for the 2014–15 school year and thereafter at their October 27, 2014, meeting. The Board will act upon the Superintendent’s annual performance evaluation at the June 28, 2016, meeting.

To streamline the review process, we have reprinted the contents from the Year in Review below, and broken it up according to the standards with which each section aligns:

YEAR IN REVIEW
2015-16

The 2015-16 school year began on August 12, 2015 and concluded on May 26, 2016. The school year gave us the opportunity to continue making a positive difference for all students as we started the process of implementing our Strategic Plan Vision 2020 Excellence with Equity. As stated in our vision, we are working so that “all JCPS students graduate prepared, empowered, and inspired to reach their full potential and contribute as thoughtful, responsible citizens of our diverse, shared world.”

Standards 1 & 2 – Strategic and Instructional Leadership

Standard 3 – Cultural Leadership

Standard 4 – Human Resource Leadership

Standard 5 – Managerial Leadership

Concluding Thoughts

The complete, original Superintendent’s Year In Review can be found here.


Because our board members can’t possibly be aware of or participate in every example of these events, we want to hear from you. Help us provide feedback that will help inform a thorough and balanced evaluation for the Superintendent for the 2015-2016 school year. Comments can be added via Disqus below, emailed to moderator@dearjcps.com or posted on the related thread on Facebook.

Alternatively, you can complete our Superintendent’s Evaluation Survey that collects a set of evidence-based responses for each of the standards.

Historically, the month of June is when the Superintendent receives her annual evaluation from the board. In order to ensure that this year’s evaluation is authentic and comprehensive, guided by “real-world examples” of JCPS “evidence,” Dear JCPS would like to request the community provide feedback from their perspective, and we will share that feedback, in aggregate, with our elected board officials during future board meetings.

To bring you up to speed:

Here is a link to the superintendent’s evaluation from last year:
http://ftpcontent4.worldnow.com/wave/pdf/completereport.pdf

Here is a link to the “evidence” she has collected and is providing to the board to assist them with this year’s evaluation (click on the Evidence button under each standard). Ignore the button that links to the standards and comments, as they are left over in this form from last year:
https://webapps.jefferson.kyschools.us/SuperintendentLeade…/

And…

Here is a link to a questionnaire for YOU to provide genuine STAKEHOLDER input that you would like for the board to consider when preparing this year’s evaluation:
http://dearjcps.com/advocate/superintendents-evaluation/

You may complete the survey as many times as you need in order to provide more than one rating and/or set of evidence per standard.

This letter was submitted via our open letter form. It does not necessarily reflect the views of Dear JCPS.

Dear JCPS,

JCPS is reflective of the racism instituted by our society. Employees and students alike are continually discriminated against on every scale. Black students make up over 50% of all discipline issues but make up way less than 50% of the population. Teachers routinely punish black students for offenses that white students get away with far more often. I have taught for over 15 years and I’m sick of it. I see it daily and at every school I’ve been it’s the same. Cultural competency is not a priority at JCPS where most often teachers are white. This is the same problem Judge Olu faces because our kids are being judged and punished by those who are not their peers and don’t understand.

Employees are also routinely disrespected. Every Black male hired is seen as muscle instead of a competing intellectual. Black men with good reputations and solid teaching and/or academic coaching experience are often overlooked for promotions. The district has less than 2% African American administrators. Blacks usually have to wait twice as long as white applicants to be moved into a promoted position.

I’m tired of not being considered for promotion but someone who has half of my experience is continually being promoted. I was told directly by my supervisor that I did not get promoted to an assistant principal position because the other administrators felt there were too many black administrators at my school. I’ve heard this before. No one ever complains about too many white administrators but they get uncomfortable with black admin.

I have stellar records for raising test scores for students and teachers who serve them. I’ve been in education for over 15 years and like so many other Blacks in the district I get by passed by less qualified individuals who are in tune with the”good Ole boy” network.

STOP THE RACISM JCPS. YOU’RE FAILING THE ENTIRE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY.

Signed,
Angry Black Man

NOTE: While the author’s identity is protected here, they are not anonymous to Dear JCPS. Any board member wishing to address the concerns shared here can contact our administrators to make a connection.