Accountability

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?”

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

Obstacles in PTA election appear to oppress voices of people like me. Protect JCPS integrity. I have done my part. Will you do yours?

Dear JCPS:

Our city boasts about being a compassionate city. In my humble opinion, that means that we care about all people and when we have policies in place, then careful consideration has been taken to ensure the equitable treatment of all people. On May 7, 2019, I went to the PTA election to place my vote as a paid member. It appeared to me that obstacles had been put in place to oppress the voices of some, especially people like me. For example, I had not received my PTA card; however, my name was on the list as a delegate. So, I was told that I could not vote without my card when I had been assured that my card would be present when I arrived to vote. I was hassled about not having my card and then told that the school where I have membership had not submitted their dues. Finally, after consulting with the PTA lawyer and some other people, whom I did not know, I was finally able to vote. From my understanding, there were white members who came without their membership card or with blank membership cards and they were not hassled at all. They were pleasantly greeted and allowed to vote. This is not compassionate! This is not fairness! It is shameful that I as a Black person still have to fight for my right to vote in 2019!

Sign our petition by clicking on the image.

In addition, the ballot contained names that were highlighted and other names that were not, which is an injustice in and of itself. All names should have been presented in the same font without any names bolded. As a teacher, I am well aware of what bolded text means. We teach our students that bolded text indicates emphasis; therefore, certain names were emphasized while others were de-emphasized. This does not allow all candidates to be treated fairly and equitably.

Next, I saw one of my former church members in the parking lot. She had been ostracized from the building because, supposedly, there was a screenshot taken of her saying that the PTA was corrupt. If she did say this, what happened to freedom of speech! She was not infringing on the rights of others. She was simply exercising her freedom and was told that she could not oversee the vote count on behalf of the candidates running from the floor because she was not “neutral” because of this claim.

My question is where are we really as a school system? And by associating with organizations that are not fair and equitable what are we teaching our children?? JCPS’ ethical policy states that when associates of JCPS are doing things that could embarrass JCPS, then these things should be addressed and it is the responsibility of everyone associated with JCPS to address these things. I have done my part by bringing these things to the table. How will you do your part of protecting the integrity of JCPS.

Sincerely,

Anonymous Black Teacher

The views expressed here are those of the author, submitted via email at moderator@dearjcps.com or via our open letter form. While the full name of the author has been withheld here, they are not anonymous to us. If a school board member would like to follow up on the content of this message, they may contact us via email to request a connection with the author.

And Why We Are Asking Members of the JCPS Board of Education for Their Help

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Dear JCPS,

Thank you for your time! My name is XXXXXX XXXXXXXX. I am a parent of students that attend XXXXXXX and XXXXXXX Middle. I am writing this letter to make you aware of circumstances involving the 15th District PTA. First, let me give you background information about myself.

  • PTA President of XXXXXX Elementary for 2 Years
  • National PTA Award of Excellence Award
  • Raised over $25,000 that went to create different outlets that caused a shift in the minds of students as well as parents
  • Served for the past 8 years on different SBDM Boards at XXXXX Elementary and XXXXXXXX
  • Fellow of the GCIPL (Prichard Committee)
  • Served on Head-start and Early Childhood Committee in Development of George Unseld Early Learning Center
  • Zones of Hope Newburg
  • Advocating for Parents in JCPS when needed

After seeing several posts on how help was needed in 15th District PTA, I decided that I was going to run to be a Board Member. I wanted to run so that I could go into the schools and help the PTA’s that had low parent involvement and struggling with raising money to get tools needed to help with children. I was notified by the Nominating Committee on a Thursday and was told that an interview had to take place on that same weekend. A weekend in which I already had prior engagements. I voiced my thoughts on how I was not available. But ended up receiving a call anyway because they had a deadline to meet.

The interview went really well from my standpoint and I even gave ideas because they said that they needed ways to get volunteers and I suggested a program that we had come up with at XXXXX Elementary that worked successfully.

That following week the nominating committee had chosen their slate and I wasn’t on the list. I started to think about things and I researched Bylaws and decided to run from the floor. I decided to run from the floor because the Board that was chosen by the nominating committee didn’t reflect the students that the Board represents. I made a post about running and then it became others who wanted to be involved and wanted to see change. We joined together and had people who had made a commitment to change for all children.

We all notified 15th District PTA about what VP Positions that we wanted to run in. We then all had an appointment with the President of the PTA and she spoke about the position and its expectations. I also was told on my call that the reason I wasn’t chosen by the nominating committee was that I had a business. In which, this threw me off because what does that have to do with my commitment to the position that I was applying for and how does a committee who didn’t even ask me about my business know what I can do and who I have behind me? At the time of the call, there were three African American women who all were running from the floor for VP2, VP4, and VP 5.

We all had kids that were in the same District (Area 4) but we knew that it wasn’t just our kids that we were advocating for it would be all kids. In the interview process, the conversation ended up being that we all should run in the same District in which we would all run against each other. We worked it out among ourselves so no one would run against each other. But when the Ballot came out and in the VP 4 Slot it was two of us running against each other. People were told when they showed up to vote, if anyone wrote on the Ballot to correct it the ballot was voided. Ten ballots were voided that night. I can’t help but wonder if they were efforts to correct the VP 4 situation.

I have tried to communicate with the District PTA prior to the actual election day and had a lot of unanswered questions. But I believe the thing that really got me is that the Ballot highlighted who they wanted on their Board versus us. We had questionnaires that we had to fill out and if you read those you would be surprised at how much we have been involved in advocating for children. But I wasn’t chosen because we do not fit into a box and I fight for children at all cost.

I am asking the Board to look into this election and how it was unfairly rigged. We are asking for an election that is not about who the Board Members are connected to but about who can make a great impact on the welfare of all children. Please look at how many members serve as the Head of a Local PTA, District PTA, and State PTA. If the same people are recycling positions how can we create change and how can change occur if they choose who they want and not allowing those who serve as members to choose?

In conclusion, I know that suppressing schools to have 5 Delegates per school to vote for an election and then the actual Board having access to those members is not right. It is sad to see so much going on for an organization about advocating for children.

The views expressed here are those of the author, submitted via email at moderator@dearjcps.com or via our open letter form. While the full name of the author has been withheld here, they are not anonymous to us. If a school board member would like to follow up on the content of this message, they may contact us via email to request a connection with the author.

Dear JCPS:

I am a parent of four boys in JCPS but today I am discussing my experience with one son that previously was a student at XXXXX and I currently have a 1st grader that my husband and I have decided to transfer out for the upcoming 2019-20 school year.

During my four years at XXXXX it has been a challenge from the beginning. The Teachers do not like you in the classroom and it was to the point that I had to explain to the Teacher as his Mother it is essential for kids to see their parents in the school. During field trips yet again you had to twist arms to be included. The holiday parties parents were never welcomed and the excuse was they didn’t have room for you or they didn’t want you to see the kids with issues. It was not welcoming at all.

Dr. XXXXX told me instead of complaining I needed to volunteer and change it! I began to do so. I joined the PAC, SBDM, FRC and eventually became XXXXX’s PTA President. These many hats helped me to gain insight of the climate of the school and was the only way I was able to forcefully but politely become involved as much as I could.

This is where all the problems truly occurred. The minute I asked Staff for PTA membership and to assist in PTA family and school activities the Staff was very offended and felt that wasn’t their responsibility but it was only to Teach. Yes! I agree they are only Teachers but we were a four member board that was determined to offer a low income, poverty stricken the same offerings as any school with a higher income would receive.

Mostly, I received harsh criticism and as supportive as Dr. XXXXX, the current Principal, at XXXXX was, it didn’t help. The Teachers felt the need to begin anonymous calls to 15th district which caused an investigation to occur and was found the money was ALL accounted to be in order. The Teachers that spend more awake time with our kids would not speak, including some Administration as well. My fibromyalgia doctor offered to come to Career Day and I was told they would contact me but never did. How many doctors would take off to do community work for a school? How many schools hate a Parent that much that they wouldn’t use him? They would ban together and throw away flyers, intentionally not support so they thought many activities would flop. Of course, it made it rough for us and we didn’t make alot of money but we did things right. The activities always was a blessing to the families! We had zero complaints from families. When in-school functions occurred they would leave us alone and we would have to try our best to get Parents that had no Parental Involvement to assist us. We relied heavily on our families. We also sought out help from Frost/ Stuart PTA would bring kiddos, Valley, PRP and Doss students needing community help hours.

My husband was the basketball coach for two years and he dealt with resistance and trying to find ways to sabotage the games by threatening to punish the kids. Also, I think out of all the lack of support, nastiness, in-your-face arguments, to the point I no longer feel my son could truthfully thrive there. How can I now not trust my son’s school.

Lastly, the worst of all was on November 9, 2018, while yet again trying to do something fun and free, was our schools 1st ever XXXXX Dance. This morning, my former Treasurer, was accused by a Teacher of trying to run her over in the parking lot. This situation was attempted to be handled in house but this Teacher that despised our PTA states the apology my Treasurer email and even was instructed by Dr. XXXXX to say in his presence and she did. Later, she says that wasn’t good enough. She simply slipped her feet on wet road and her life and family life was forever changed. Ultimately, her 13 years at XXXXX is now gone and her kids she states is scarred by this. She will be homeschooling her current kindergartner and fifth grader. It led to depression and other medical issues.

To add the biggest punch of all during the dance I was popping popcorn, became ill and ultimately made it outside on the concrete and had a heart attack. I have never had any cardiac issues. I am so thankful for my former Treasurer, My Mom who is a former Teacher, XXXXXX XXXXXXX, who volunteers all the time. Also, about five volunteers showed up and Dr. XXXXX was there to keep it going while I left by ambulance with the fire dept assistance.

When I returned the Teachers would turn their backs and still do. The few I did bond with no longer speak. Why should my son have to move his school because these women felt they had a sense of entitlement and they care less what happen to me or my family. Why should I have to stop serving such a wonderful set of families? I had to because my family, friends and the Principal felt my time is up. I can no longer continue to fight. Yes, it is still hard but I see now how some JCPS Teachers, Administrators as well as 15th District can turn their back on you.

I was a former PTA President at XXXXXXX for four years and XXXXX for 2 years. Due to my heart attack I was asked by [15th District PTA President] to put in my resignation since I wasn’t coming back. The Board was only left with my VP because my Secretary left with me due to the toxic environment. I talked to [15th District PTA President] about this and she promised she would make sure these kids had a nice rest of the year. She requested three ideas and I told her I would do whatever is asked of me to help the transition along.

It hasn’t happened. She was dishonest to me. They decided that [15th District PTA President] would be XXXXX’s President, [KY State PTA President] would be the Vice President and the parent that was left on the board. This was the current XXXXX Elementary PTA. The problem with this I should have realized that the agenda wasn’t for the XXXXX kids when they had no kids at the school and my conversation always was Pro- Teacher. [15th District PTA President] felt that Dr. XXXXX pitted the PTA board and the Staff against one another. I quickly corrected her.

What bothered me as a volunteer for 15th District is I never heard from them after the complaints and accusations rolled in by XXXXX Staff to cause havoc. I was told anonymously by someone that knew my character from 15th District. When I was home recuperating from the heart attack there was not a whisper until mid January when a Teacher contacted [15th District PTA President] and told her that she heard I resigned. Yes, it was an agreement in conversation with Dr. XXXXX because that toxicity would ultimately continue and this would not be safe for me.

My experience with [KY State PTA President] was nothing at all! I never have had a personal conversation from her. I received a call from her staff stating she heard some things and needed my books via call. When I asked for clarification she was too busy. My board knew we were ok based on books but the bias due to the state Kentucky was in with the way she treated us was very unprofessional. We were set to have a joint meeting even after my heart attack because the school still wanted to hound me with complaints. [15th District PTA President] told me it was because the PTA did the spirit wear, snow cones and fundraiser. I told her on the phone that this was ludicrous because what PTA doesn’t do it! Plus, all our fundraising went straight to KPREP!

It was an excuse to control and be a school that all is ran by Staff. What is it now! Exactly, what we feared. Now, the kids are not doing anything and the money is feeding the Staff repeatedly and select agendas that should have already been paid for is being wasted.

Why am I not allowed to volunteer when I ask? Why was I not allowed to be a delegate to vote in the PTA election when I asked? Why was I quietly removed from the SBDM and told my time was up? Why do the children and families spend their hard-earned money for two years and not one thing has been done for them but only to take money from them? I was yelled at in meetings, felt threatened and treated like I didn’t belong. The saddest part is they deserve more and their goal is to keep Parents clueless. They don’t know how to fight for their kids. How many more schools treat their Parents this way? I am learning I am not the only one. We wonder why our children are in the condition they are in.

A sad Day, Mrs. XXXXXXX XXXXXXXX

The views expressed here are those of the author, submitted via email at moderator@dearjcps.com or via our open letter form. While the full name of the author has been withheld here, they are not anonymous to us. If a school board member would like to follow up on the content of this message, they may contact us via email to request a connection with the author.

We are pleased to introduce five amazing candidates who have stepped up to bring needed change to the 15th District PTA Executive Board. All of the candidates running from the floor have received the Dear JCPS endorsement.

Click on the candidate’s name to view their full profile page. Sign up to be a voting delegate by contacting your school’s PTA President before May 3. Vote on May 7 between 4PM and 6:45 PM at LCCC. No banquet ticket is required to vote, but you must bring your PTA membership card and ID. If you do not have your membership card, please ask your PTA President for a replacement.

Jamique Washington
2nd Vice President

Amanda Rhye
3rd Vice President

LaTasha Harrison
4th Vice President

Sharika Anderson
5th Vice President

April Zimmerman
Secretary

LaTasha Harrison
4th Vice President

What PTA positions have you held in the past and what PTA/PTSA are currently a member of?

I have served as a member of the PTA for the past 12 years. I held the position of President at Price Elementary for two years and on the first year won the National School of Excellence Award. I am currently a member of the Alex R. Kennedy PTA and Moore Middle PTA.

What prompted you to seek this position?

As a member of the 15th District PTA Board of Directors, I hope to support the growth of future PTA leaders and to be an advocate for the health, education, and welfare of all children. While providing outlets and avenues that empower our parents and children to reach their greatest potential.

What about the position excites you and why do you want to join the 15th District PTA Board?

I am excited about the opportunities of working with different schools and building relationships that will allow the PTA to grow as a whole. I believe that there is so much more that we can offer our children and parents if we work together and build together.

Will you be comfortable being an ambassador or advocate for our association and our mission which includes National PTA Resolutions and Position Statements? If so what makes you passionate about our association?

I am excited to be an ambassador for the National PTA. The PTA is the largest volunteer child advocacy association in the United States. The PTA was founded on being influential on federal policies that promote education, health and the well-being of all children that resulted in kindergarten classes, child labor laws, school lunch programs, a juvenile justice system, and the strengthening of parent-teacher relationships. I am passionate about advocating for our children and parents.

Joining a board requires working as part of a team. How would you describe your ability to work on a team? The role you think you will play as part of this team?

I enjoy being a team player any successful organization is successful because of great minds working together. I actively listen to others. As a team player, I can absorb, understand, and consider ideas and points of view from other people. I am a very effective communicator and problem solver. I have the willingness to share, information, knowledge, and experience.

A 15th District PTA Board position is an important commitment. Are you able to give the time necessary to fulfill this role and to attend all PTA board meetings and events?

Yes, I have the time necessary to fulfill my duties. I am very excited about being a part of the 15th District PTA Board. I am committed to fulfilling my duties and excited to bring new innovative ways to work with students and parents.

Questions and responses are taken from the 15th District PTA Website, where you can also find information about the candidates on the slate, the election and how to become a delegate.  

#EndSchoolClosures Put #StudentAssignmentFirst #StopTheStateTakeover of @JCPSKY. #WeChoose Equity

Dear JCPS,

I am opposed to any plan to close and/or merge schools, or build any new schools, until a new student assignment plan has been finalized.

Thank you! For more information, check out the following links:

September 3 at 9:37 PM

Dear JCPS,

Pardon me while I rant! The recent news that the state is lowering its standards for teacher certification, no longer requiring a Master’s Degree, has put me over the edge. Besides the feeling of cheapening my degree, and those of my colleagues, this news comes just a few months after learning (with little or no warning) that the state will require all elementary art and music teachers to be certified to teach art and music. While this may sound like a good idea on the surface, it is in reality a ridiculously, poorly thought out, unrealistic, and unnecessary burden on our schools!

Hear me out….

I am certified to teach k-5 (elementary education) reading, writing, math, science, social studies, etc., BUT, I am now….after teaching art and music at my school for 9 years….suddenly NOT certified to teach art or music!!?

So guess who is teaching art and music at my school this year, as I was forced to move to 1st grade….NOBODY!!

That’s right….my school, and several other JCPS schools, currently have substitutes filling these “VACANCIES”!!!

So my students, who were looking forward to being in Art Club, or Percussion Ensemble, or Choir, get none of that, much less an experienced art and music teacher. There are simply not enough certified art and certified music teachers in Jefferson County to fill all the positions. Also, I was not given even a year to acquire this extra piece of paper that says I can do what I’ve been doing (and doing well, by most accounts) for the last nine years.

Have I mentioned that my Bachelor’s Degree is in ART!!!??? I also have several years of music training under my belt (way more than math and science, I can say)!! So through no fault of my own, I must now figure out how to jump through all the ever-increasing paperwork hoops required of a regular classroom teacher (if the general public only knew how much time-consuming, bs, paperwork/computerwork teachers had to do….taking them away from doing things that would actually benefit students and instruction..).

Meanwhile, the classroom I was fortunate to teach art and music in for 9 years, sits empty…waiting for the next sub to show up!!

This rant is nearing its completion! While a lot of this may sound like it is just me being upset about my situation….at the root of it is MY students, and the students of other JCPS schools, as well!! They deserve better!! Rant over….for now!!

Thomas Matthew Bleuel

 

What follows next are the comments that were received on Thomas’ post.

Editor’s note:
Clearly Jefferson County Public Schools is already feeling the effects of this short-sighted Koch-orchestrated maneuver. Combined now with the new exit exam to graduate high school that will be voted on Oct. 3, the “50% of schools now at risk of failing” narrative, the shady replacement of KBE members and commissioner, the attempted takeover of the state’s largest district, and the MYRIAD other hate-filled, ignorant comments from our governor, how can anyone NOT see that these OUT-OF-STATE GRIFTERS are playing from a playbook? It’s been executed in 45 other states, just look around us! Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Arizona, YOU NAME IT, they’ve tried it, and many other states are seeing the light. WHY CAN’T WE? It’s time to wake up and stop this nonsense by voting pro public education on November 6. Read our Connect the Dots article to see all of the conflicts of interest we’ve uncovered, and we’re just scratching the surface!

UPDATE: This rant was originally posted 3 weeks ago….the status is quo!! Nothing has changed, except the amount of quality art and music instructional time our students are currently missing out on due to this ridiculous turn of events!