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Dear JCPS,

XXXXXX is a school in need of something. My child attends there and wants to learn but tells me everyday how disrespectful the kids are to teachers and some teachers spend half their class time trying to gain control of the class.

My daughter has a class with a teacher who can barely speak English and has repeatedly asked to be transferred to another class but it was refused..however a child of another race was transferred out who tells the same story about this teacher..2 different periods where half the class is failing.

I have contacted the counselor and requested my child be transferred still not happening..I’ve contacted the board with my concerns and was told they’d be forwarded to the principal..a week later still no response. My child has a 504 that clearly states her problems and it goes ignored…
My child is falling through the cracks here and nobody seems to care…i guess she has to fight a teacher to get attention (sarcasm)..the focus seems to be on all the bad kids there..

so someone

please

tell me.

what to do

 

Anonymous submission from a JCPS Parent

Dear Anonymous,

Iroquois is not on fire. You are! Bring your buckets of water if that’s what you think because you’re a liar with your pants on fire.

Our school isn’t perfect. You won’t find one that is. Sometimes we have above average challenges and at all times we have an above average staff to meet those challenges. If you’re actually on our staff, Anonymous, you are the weakest link. Transfer season opens in three months and I’ll do your paperwork for you, will gladly help you pack, and hold the door for your tired behind to leave quickly, quietly, and reverently.

You’ve attacked my wonderful principal, our dedicated counselors, our committed staff (amongst whom are proud alumni), and worst of all, our students. You see, my own children, scores of extended family, and all of my godchildren were educated at Iroquois. My son was valedictorian and graduated magna from UofL. Professors couldn’t believe he’d graduated from Iroquois. I could. It’s a great school where, without regret, I’ve dedicated 20 years of my life. I’ve never had a bad day there. Challenges? Yes. I signed up for public school and everything that comes with it. I love my school.

What peeves me about you, Anonymous, is that you choose to hide behind your words. I would not normally give such messiness the time of day, but you attacked something dear to me—my school. You attacked someone dear to me—my colleagues and students.

Stay comfortable in your misery, sad person, because what’s said in the dark will come to the light. But before you post again, let me go low for a moment. According to my writing scoring rubric, I would like for you to work on the following—this one’s on me:

1. Organization is key. Group your rambling thoughts coherently.
2. Though we could understand your miserable letter, transition words would make it a smoother read. If you’re going to insult us, at least smooth out the wrinkles in your pig’s ear.
3. Ramp up your vocabulary to better represent the best of your thinking—unless your vocabulary as presented actually does represent your level of thinking. In that case, sign up for Iroquois where we will teach you to strengthen, well, everything you’ve written.
4. Use concrete examples and skillfully interweave them throughout your writing. Tie in example, explanation, etc. Give your audience a full picture to prove you know what you are writing about. Try not to “list”.
5. Be truthful in your writing. Authenticity is also key.
6. Own your writing with a closing that includes your signature and printed name.

If you are amongst us at the school, you have lost the respect and trust of your colleagues. Maybe you need a hug. Maybe you need Jesus. I don’t know. But what I do know is, while our school is not for every teacher, our school is for every student. We value Iroquois and, like any commitment, we take the ups and the downs with grace. And for those of us who are committed, and I’m included in that number, it has been and it remains a distinct pleasure to work for everything Iroquois.

Don’t ever write another letter like that again.

Aletha Fields
(c) Aletha Fields, 2019

A teacher sent us this additional background on the cell phone issue.

Dear JCPS,
 
Our cell phone policy is contradictory and ineffective. The directive at the beginning of the school year was that cell phones were completely banned between 7:30 and 2:20. They were not allowed in hallways during passing, not allowed at lunch, not allowed in classrooms. Teachers cannot make exceptions for educational purposes.

If students are on their cell phones, we are supposed to warn them that they are not allowed to be on their cell phones. We are to warn them even if we warned them every day for the last month. If they continue to use their cell phones, we can call for a staff member to come get the student. The student gets to choose whether they want to give up their phone for the rest of the day, or keep their phone and go to ISAP. We must also call the student’s parent if this happens.
 
There are a number of loopholes in this system. First, it’s tough to keep track of who you have given warnings to today and who you haven’t. It takes extra time out of class to manage that. If a kid gets on their phone anyway (and they usually do, since there’s no effective consequence), then we have to stop class to call for someone to come to my room. We then have to deal with the disruption to class that will cause. Students have learned that the last 5-10 minutes of every class is a free-for-all because there isn’t enough time for someone to come get their phone before the next class. The last class period of the day is the Wild West because worst case scenario if they take your phone, you’ll get it back in a few minutes anyway.
 
We are supposed to enforce the policy in the hallways during passing. The way this works is the kids walk down the hall with their cell phones in hand and ear buds in their ears. Teachers tell them to put them away. Half of them put their phone down until they’re a few steps past the teacher and then get right back on it. The other half ignore the teachers altogether. Either way, there will be no administration enforcement so the exercise serves no purpose except making teachers look futile and powerless.
 
The day after the incident with the teacher at Iroquois, I kept track of my class with the worst phone issues. Students were working on group projects. At the beginning of class, I told students to put their phones away (this is how I have to start every class, since there are usually quite a few in use after the bell despite the ban). I gave the class instructions on what they should be doing, and told them that anything requiring technology should be done on the chromebooks I had checked out for their use. I again repeated that students should not have cell phones out for any reason (it’s November but I still have to explicitly state this classroom expectation that has not changed since August). Within the first five minutes, I had to warn EIGHT students to put away their cell phones. By the end of class, TWELVE phones had to be confiscated in a class of 27 students.
 
The next day, it starts all over again. The same kids who were on their phones the day before have to be told again that it’s against the rules, and to put their phones away.
 
Every day, they get angry and offended by being told to put their phones away. The warnings just tell a kid how long he can stay on his phone before the possibility of a minor consequence might occur. It’s exhausting to keep up with. But God forbid you don’t give a warning to that kid that you’ve had to tell to put their phone away every school day for the past four months, because if you don’t then the kid, the parent, and admin will raise hell with you.
 
It doesn’t matter how engaging a lesson is, the kids wouldn’t notice because they’re blasting their music and messaging their friends on snapchat. Every time I tell a kid to put their phone away, every time I call to have their phone taken, I know I’m running the risk of disrupting my class, or setting up a violent reaction. Best case scenario, I’m losing precious minutes of instructional time pursuing a policy that is not working.
 
I don’t have the answers, but this ain’t it.

Signed,
Anonymous HS Teacher
Dear JCPS,

I am a teacher at Iroquois High School. We are on fire. The recent news reports only show a very small portion of the absolute hell our school has become. Today (Friday 11/1/19) I witnessed no less than four fights. This is the norm. A kid sat in traffic on Taylor Boulevard.

We have multiple staff attacked. Let me tell you about the district response:

They sent a bunch of central office people over to stand around. Assistant superintendents Zeitz, Rogers, and a couple others. They don’t know our kids or staff. They stood around and pretended to help, but didn’t do anything.

Half of our teachers don’t even show up anymore, and I’ll be blunt that many of our teachers are terrible, but they’re all we can find.

Our principal is DONE. Our assistant principals don’t want to be here and the kids don’t respect them. Our counselors are done and don’t want to be here.

Our building is on fire and the district does NOTHING.

We need a real principal, real leadership, and real support with chronic misbehavior. JCTA does nothing to support us. We need real leadership and real support.

Please help us.

Iroquois Business and Education Academy Teacher

Dear JCPS,

I am scared for the future of Black children in Louisville. School was an empowering experience for me, but my son is treated like a number in a prison. The ClassDojo app is revealing serious implicit bias and I am disappointed at the apathy surrounding the motivation of him and his classmates. I’ve witnessed adults yelling at children on multiple occasions. I’ve witnessed a teacher dragging a child out of a classroom on more than one occasion. I see our advanced children be forced to do”busy work” while exhausted teachers “discipline” other children. I am sad about the state of our schools. We can and we MUST do better for our young people. My son’s school has no PTA. I love the principal and appreciate many of the staff members, but overall I am concerned that our children and being discarded like trash.

~ SM

Board member: Chris Brady

 

Louisville Judge sides with Dear JCPS co-founder. Orders JCPS to release PTAs’ financial records to the public.

“In these challenging times, as educators and decision makers explore the glaring inequities in our district and seek ways to resolve them, Dear JCPS wants to make sure every student has an advocate in their corner — especially our most vulnerable students.

District leaders are to be commended as they grapple with tackling glaring disparities in the current student assignment plan, closing achievement gaps, and reducing behavior and discipline inequities. In addition to these visible inequities, there are often unseen disparities among parental involvement, volunteer and community participation, and fundraising between schools primarily comprised of students whose parents have the social, political and financial capital to advocate for their students to ensure they attend “the right schools,” while those whose parents lack the time, transportation, technology or literacy to navigate the complex system of “choice,” do not.

To that end, Dear JCPS co-founder, Gay Adelmann recently made a routine records request of the largest school district in Kentucky (27th largest in the nation), to obtain copies of local PTAs’ financial records for the past 5 years. These records, which, according to the “Redbook” are required by Kentucky law to be filed annually with each school’s year-end audit, consist of a preliminary budget and a one-page year-end financial review. Her hope was to identify schools that might benefit from a little extra help with programming or fundraising and raise community awareness so that these disparities could be taken into consideration while the district is actively tackling the bigger picture issues.

As often happens when records are held in multiple locations, or when district personnel are unavailable during summer break, the district notified Adelmann that additional time would be required before these records would be made available to her. They informed her she would receive the documents on August 30.

On August 12, Adelmann received an email from Kentucky PTA attorney Coy Travis informing her that his client had filed a complaint in district court to seek injunctive relief in order to prevent the district from turning these records over to her. A hearing was set for August 15 in which she was invited to appear.

With less than three days to prepare, Adelmann sought counsel from pro-bono attorneys and open records experts. They helped her prepare this brief, which was filed during the hearing, but none were able to accompany her in court.

At the hearing, Judge Cunningham was critical of the Kentucky PTA’s request but decided to defer the decision to the Attorney General’s office, in the event all parties were not be able to work out an agreement before then. Adelmann, without an attorney to represent her, trusted the Judge’s decision, and agreed to meet with Kentucky PTA attorney after the hearing to see if they could come up with a mutually beneficial solution. He assured her he would try to help her obtain the documents as long as she asked the “right way.”

Amye Bensenhaver, a former assistant attorney general for Kentucky and a widely recognized open records expert, during this week’s episode of Save Our Schools With Dear JCPS on Forward Radio 106.5 FM said, the Attorney General should never be put in the position of telling an organization NOT to release open records. His job is to get involved when entities SHOULD release documents but are refusing to do so.

TFW the state PTA sues to block the release of routine open records (naming you as a defendant because you’re the one…

Posted by Gay Adelmann on Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Upon further consideration following last week’s court decision, it appears Judge Cunningham agrees. On August 27, as these court documents show, he sided with Adelmann and filed an order for JCPS to release the documents. Kentucky PTA has until September 16 to appeal.

At a time when privatizers are trying to get in through every nook and cranny, influential entities such as Kentucky PTA should be dedicating resources toward revealing predators and exposing their influence. This lawsuit does the opposite.

How much money and time is this lawsuit costing their dues-paying members and taxpayers? More importantly, where was this level of activism when charter schools, vouchers and loss of local parental voice on SBDMs were on the menu? In the past 10 years, only one resolution has been passed at the Kentucky PTA annual convention, and it was one that was initiated by Adelmann.

“This district is taking great steps toward addressing disparities that exist between our school communities. One of those less-often-seen inequities is the availability of parents’ time, talent and treasure,” said Adelmann. “The PTA should be helping us fight undue influences that promote and maintain inequities in our school system, not facilitating it.”

Transparency is the only tool we have to ensure that those with money and power are not using it to advance their agenda while others cannot. As a powerful, influential entity themselves, we have to ask, “What is Kentucky PTA trying to hide?”

Below are some quick links to some of the recent blog posts, board speeches, member letters and news stories regarding the 15th District PTA.

Please visit our Facebook page for more information.

By Gay Adelmann

Dear Kentucky PTA Members and Concerned Citizens,

I am a very engaged public school parent in Jefferson County. I want to warn you about something happening in Lexington this weekend. Kentucky PTA is holding their state convention, and along with it, their officer elections.

Two of the officers running on the nominating committee’s “slate” hail from the 15th District PTA board, which represents Jefferson County. Our district PTA is currently mired in controversy. 

For example, there have been unaddressed reports of excessive Redbook violations, election tampering, inappropriate use/handling of funds. Some active volunteers have been called “uncooperative,” “ineffective,” “disobedient” or “disloyal” when they refused to do the administration’s bidding, even if it went against Redbook or the best interest of their students.

There are a handful of PTA leaders from Jefferson County who have been squatting in some of these positions for a decade or more, cycling through from school to district to state and back, sometimes serving in schools where they don’t have children, pushing out authentic parents who are wanting to serve. They have been making last-minute rule changes in order to shut out parents and volunteers with whom they disagree by extending their own term limits, holding clandestine elections and limiting who can vote. The most recent District PTA elections are an example of this

The current state PTA president, who also hails from Jefferson County as the past president of 15th District PTA, once along with her husband and father held positions on the board simultaneously. Therefore 3 of the votes and 3 of the points of view guiding decision-making came from one shared perspective. Her husband is one of the candidates being challenged on today’s slate.

Our district PTA’s immediate past president, who also served as the state PTA’s nominating committee chair that devised the above slate, is another one of those candidates, and is also being challenged.

Serving as a PTA volunteer leader is an exhausting, thankless job. We are grateful for the service of these leaders, and in fact, I would not be here today if it weren’t for them. However, we feel that our board is no longer reflective of the needs and demographics of our district, and its time to take a different tact.

National PTA is Pro Charter

Perhaps one of the reasons this is happening is that National PTA is pro-charter. And in this climate of charters, vouchers, state takeovers, and SBDM power stripping, we would be naive to dismiss the possibility of pro-charter leaders. I’m not saying that’s what they are, but if they are not, why don’t they have the courage to push back on National PTA for their controversial stance that harms Kentucky children? To educate and inform their members so they can stand up for our children?

From the National PTA website.

I served on the 15th District PTA Board in Louisville from 2014 to 2017. I constantly warned fellow board members about the likelihood of charter school legislation ahead of the 2017 session and the destruction they have caused in other states. In late 2016, I made a motion to simply “educate and inform PTA members about pending charter school legislation.” It passed. However, months went by and no action on this motion was taken by PTA leadership at either the district, state or national level. We weren’t asking them to take a position, just educate! They finally published the National PTA’s position on charters. That’s it. Session ended in March and guess what! The ALEC-backed legislators got their charter school bill through in the final hour on the final day. Don’t you think that might have ended differently if PTA had found some way to advocate for Kentucky’s most vulnerable school children, who will be most harmed by this legislation? Would we still be fighting against vouchers and a funding mechanism this upcoming session? I don’t think so. 

Members Have Another Choice

I and another JCPS mom have decided to run from the floor at this weekend’s election, in order to give members another option. We realize that most parents can’t afford the $75 late registration fee, $129 in hotel costs, ability to take two days off work, etc., so we’re attempting to represent those who cannot be there. We just want you to be aware, get involved, ask questions, and help us ensure PTA is serving all of Kentucky’s children, especially those who don’t have advocates at the table. It’s our moral imperative.

Gay Adelmann is co-founder of Dear JCPS and Save Our Schools Kentucky. Her son, Peyton, graduated from a so-called failing school in the West End of Louisville and is now a senior at the US Naval Academy. 

Dear JCPS,

I understand JCPS legal counsel has issued a “hands off” directive regarding oversight of external organizations.

And hand’s off is fine as long as principals and administrators are told the same thing. 

But they’re not, and that’s problematic.

I understand that we are under intense scrutiny from the state. Criticism from the audit revealed that our board may have been overstepping in this regard. And we have an upcoming audit and we don’t want anything that could lead to additional state criticism that could potentially lead to state takeover.

I get that.

However, couldn’t excessive Redbook violations, election tampering, Inappropriate use/handling of funds, etc. also leave us vulnerable?

We’ve heard reports from some members who have been called “uncooperative” or “ineffective” when they refuse to do the administration’s bidding

We’ve heard reports of Nepotism, squatting in positions for decades, election tampering, cycling thru positions from school to district to state and back, sometimes in schools where they don’t have children, again, when there are authentic parents wanting to serve.

These organizations could be changing bylaws to allow them to extend term limits, hold clandestine elections and limit who can vote, while changing rules in order to shut out voices of authentic parents and volunteers.

These external organizations have access to our students and their families. They have access to district resources dedicated to them in terms of staff, office space, materials and production.  are assured representatives can serve on committees, and are named in documents that govern the oversight of elections that can impact school policy and hiring.

They are not subject to open records. They could be holding vendor fairs in your schools, charging fees to the vendors and not delivering what is promised. Some could be manipulating external organizations to achieve financial means that are disallowed by school and district activity funds.

And they are holding inaccessible elections that are not democratic. For example, one organization’s state convention is this weekend, if you want to vote for officers, you have to pay a $55 registration fee, take time off work, drive to Lexington, pay another $129 in hotel fees, etc.

Who, I ask, is voting for these officers that are supposed to be representing all of us? Do they represent all of us? Or only some? What about our most vulnerable?

Some of these organizations are not racially reflective of district makeup, some of these organizations are pro charter, or at least not anti privatization.

We would to naive to not consider possibility infiltrators. We are allowing these organizations to use our kids to make money and push an anti public school agenda. These organizations should be focused on kids learning.
How do we gauge their effectiveness?

Not every organization is bad. Not every volunteer is an infiltrator. Not every administrator is corrupt. In fact, 99% of them are good. But we’d be naive not to realize that some of them have found ways to exploit the system to their own advantage. To take advantage our our children, especially our most vulnerable populations. 

And our board has been elected to represent us, and therefore protect us and our children.

And you have a handout from Redbook that says:

The school or district, with approval of the local board of education, may establish additional guidelines/requirements for the external support/booster organization.

Thank you.

Shawnee Parent, Carroll Bennett, addresses the JCPS Board of Education on June 11, 2019.

Dear JCPS,

I am a parent of a recent graduate from the Academy At Shawnee, and I became aware of a situation, not at my child’s school, but at another school that serves a very similar population.

I learned that a principal had recruited a teacher to run for president of PTA. How is this not a conflict of interest?

On top of that, this principal had also recruited an outsider to serve as treasurer and had another teacher file to run for a VP position. I believe she did this in order to push out these parents and have those who are loyal to her take majority control of the school’s PTA.

I also learned that the elections were held at 9:30 am during the last day of school, and that people were being allowed to join the PTA and vote on the spot. This gave teachers, who were already in the building, a distinct advantage over parents. This also put them in a precarious position of voting according to their principal’s wishes.

I learned that JCPS employees were helping with the election, and even handling money. And that officers from the State PTA were working with the principal to make decisions about that election that should have been made by the still active PTA board. I learned that lies were told about why the election was postponed, and parents’ characters were tarnished in the process.

Why would a teacher need to be president of the school’s PTA when there are parents willing to do so? Could it be so they can spend the money how the principal wants them to? Could it be so she can get the PTA to put the “agreeable” parents on the SBDM? I have learned that the teacher running for President has a husband and daughter who work in that school. And that they were picked by an SBDM over other qualified candidates. This seems like a conflict of interest since the school’s PTA is involved in the SBDM election process.

I am glad the election was postponed, but I don’t understand why it’s necessary at all. The slate of officers that was proposed by the current board should not be challenged by a bully administration that wants to maintain control. And when it is, this should raise major red flags.

This district, and this board, need to set some clear boundaries that ensure PTA elections, SBDM elections, and PTA monies are off limits to district administration manipulation.

And now I’ve learned that the district has been hit with a class action lawsuit involving racial discrimination. As a taxpayer, I think the board should play a role in at least ensuring there are best practices and protocols in place to prevent this from happening again, because I don’t want to see my tax dollars wasted on lawsuits, if it is possible to avoid another one.

Thank you,

Carroll Bennett,
Concerned Parent and Taxpayer