Accountability

Dear JCPS,

I am a parent of four JCPS students who is deeply concerned about academic achievement and about school discipline methods and especially about the disparities in these areas for students of color and students with disabilities. Do I think JCPS has work to do? Yes. Do I think a state takeover is the way to do it? No. Here’s why:

National data on the effectiveness of state takeovers has failed to show that this is an effective model for improving a district. An analysis from the Pew Charitable Trust found no clear-cut evidence that this type of intervention leads to better student performance or fiscal management.1 A study from Rutgers University found that while they may yield more gains in central office management, student achievement often falls short.2 A Vanderbilt University study of state takeovers in the state of Tennessee found that schools that remained in the local school district outperformed similar schools that were taken over by state government.3

Furthermore, examination of such takeovers in New Orleans and Detroit found that such takeovers had harmful effects on students of color and students with special needs. In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit against New Orleans’ Recovery School District (RSD), presenting evidence that the rights of more than 4,500 special needs students had been violated because the state did not insure that they had equal access to educational services. According to the lawsuit that was eventually settled in 2015, special needs students faced discriminatory enrollment practices, difficulties accessing adequate evaluation services and illegal discipline for manifestations of symptoms of students’ disabilities.4

In Michigan’s state-run Education Achievement Authority, more than 6000 suspensions were issued for a student population of 10,000, more than 60% of which were for minor infractions such as truancy, insubordination and disorderly conduct, with suspension rates for students of color disproportionately higher.5

In the two hours of research I did on state takeovers, I could not find a single report or article that cited real data that showed that state takeovers are more successful than other interventions. So why should JCPS parents, teachers, administrators and community supporters possibly want this action taken?

The Center for Popular Democracy, in its report on state takeovers of low-performing schools, notes that in many cases, when states do this, they do so after first failing to meet their own constitutional obligation to provide a district with adequate resources for students to be given a fair and substantive opportunity to learn.

According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, funding for education in Kentucky was reduced 5.9% from 2008-2015 and per-pupil funding in Kentucky has dropped 15.8% from 2008 to 2018, making Kentucky one of the 12 states with the deepest cuts for K-12 education since 2008.6 So why should the state, which one could argue, has failed to meet their constitutional obligation to resource the district adequately, now be able to infringe on local citizens’ democratic rights by taking over the district?

Finally, this board newly appointed by Bevin is comprised mostly of people who have no experience with public schools. In fact, some may have a vested interest in seeing public schools fail to make way for charter schools. So how can we trust them to act in what is the best interest of our public school students? Even if their motives are pure, how many of these board members have actual experience working with our most marginalized students who struggle to achieve academically? What knowledge and experience do they have in closing achievement gaps for public school students? If this is really their goal, why did they remove an education commissioner who actually had classroom experience and extensive knowledge in this area, and was given a glowing recommendation by the board four months before he was removed?

As a JCPS parent, I will continue to push JCPS to provide a better education and appropriate discipline fairly and equitably for all students. But who should I trust to oversee this work? A newly appointed state Board of Education filled with people with no public school experience and a vested interest in charter schools? Or our own democratically elected school board and new superintendent who has experience with our district and a vested interest in seeing it succeed? I’m going with door number 2.

Cindy Cushman
JCPS Parent


1 Mitchell, Corey. 2016. “Study Raises Questions About State Takeovers of Districts.” Education Week.
2 http://ielp.rutgers.edu/docs/developing_plan_app_b.pdf
3 R. Zimmer, A. Kho, G. Henry, and S. Viano, “Evaluation of the Effect of Tennessee’s Achievement School District
on Student Test Scores.” December 2015. Available
http://www.tnconsortium.org/data/files/gallery/ContentGallery/ASD_ Impact_Policy_Brief_Final_12.8.15.pdf.
Accessed January 3, 2015.
4 Dreilinger, Danielle. 2013. “Unrelenting New Orleans Special Education Problems Alleged in New Court Filings.”
The Times-Picayune.
5 The American Federation of Teachers, “State Takeovers of Low-Performing Schools and School Systems Are Not
the Answer: Evidence from Louisiana and Michigan.”
6 Leachman, Masterson, and Figueroa. (November, 2017). “A Punishing Decade for School Funding.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. https://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/a-punishing-decade-for-school-funding

Dear JCPS,

I wanted to check back in with you since it has been quite some time.  I think you now see why I have been reluctant to divulge my name up until now.  Here we are months later and Principal Mayes still sits at his desk at Manual running the show.  It infuriates me every day that he has remained in this job, not on administrative leave, while this investigation takes place.

Manual parents, students and staff STILL REMAIN IN THE DARK about this supposed investigation into Mayes’ completely inappropriate behavior and conduct.  No one from the district has ever reached out to us to give us any sense of what is going on.  When you call the superintendent’s office no one will answer your questions and they give you the brush off. Everything is just as I expected — the district is silent just waiting this situation out and brushing everything under the rug.  The posts to dear JCPS have ceased because we all know that the countless incidents of his vile behavior reported so far by students, alumni, staff and parents have not truly been paid attention to.  Those of us brave enough to speak out (on behalf of countless others too fearful to do so) are disappointed and feel defeated that the district has not taken our concerns seriously.  If they really cared for the students at Manual, they would have put Mayes on leave months ago.  This wasn’t one allegation, it was countless ones.  Alumni speak about his abuses going back years and years.  How the district didn’t outright fire him over all of this is truly shocking, but the fact that he remains in charge at Manual is unconscionable.

Sincerely,
Concerned Manual Parent

The views expressed here are those of the author. If you or someone you know has a concern regarding events taking place at Manual or another JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter form

Dear JCPS,

1. This has caused an enormous amount of stress on the student body. Anyone not anticipating that doesn’t understand the teen population, as suicide is the #2 cause of death among 15-24 year olds (National Institute of Mental Health). Anyone failing to believe that students are stressed (in whatever forms) in this environment, either have no teens or aren’t paying attention to them. This is a great time to be proactive rather than reactive and demand appropriate action before we have a reason to mourn another teen suicide.

2. Another Manual employee is facing allegations that occurred outside the school & outside this state. Mr. Mayes sent an email to parents in the interest of “transparency.” Per the email, the employee was removed to ensure the “safety” of students until the matter was resolved. Mr. Mayes is on tape making inappropriate comments to students in his office with no other adults present & he admitted to making the statements. Yet, he remains at the school. What is different between that employee & Mr. Mayes?

3. No one went nuts because Mr. Mayes said he was discriminated against. People went nuts because he tried to minimize or invalidate the students’ lived experiences. As the leader, his role was to listen to there concerns and resolve them. Instead, he told them why he “had a problem” with a certain matter and began telling them about his life experiences. When the students began to counter, he interrupted them and said such things like “that’s your perspective.”

4. Mr. Mayes is correct. It is the students’ perspective just as it was his. Everyone has a perspective and they should all be respected. Everyone is free to have their own perspective. No one is free to mistreat, intimidate, etc. others because they have different perspectives.

5. Every one deserves to be treated with the same God-given dignity & respect no matter what! We are all made in His image & did nothing to earn dignity & respect. No one has to earn dignity & respect from us no matter who they are, what they look like or how they identify themselves.

6. Perpetrators (especially those in power) know exactly how to make it difficult for victims to raise charges against them. This setting was perfect.

7. People all over the world are being congratulated and awarded for standing against social injustice. Most notably, at the moment, are sexual assault victims in this country. Somehow, though, for the students at a high school here in Louisville, KY, it’s a problem. 

8. This sign is at school. The students followed it and are suffering because they actually trusted the message, but are receiving tons of criticism.

 

Manual Parent

 

The views expressed here are those of the author. If you or someone you know has a concern regarding events taking place at Manual or another JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter formWhile 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 this complaint, they can contact us to make a connection with the author.

Dear JCPS,

As a current parent, I want to discuss three main issues:

1 – Why is Mr. Mayes still the principal?

2 – My child is afraid to go to school

3 – JCPS, your silence conveys that you don’t care what is going on

How is Mr. Mayes allowed to still be there as principal?  We now know what he has said to students (as recent as 2017) alone with them in his office.  We now see that students are too intimidated to speak out until they are graduated and gone.  How is this acceptable?

My child is now afraid to go to school.  He’s not afraid of a schoolmate bully, but instead an ADULT one that sits in the principal’s chair.  (child says)“If he has taken other kids out of class to talk to them, that could happen to any of us. It has happened to some kids I know at school, and they say it is scary and he throws his power around.  One kid supposedly had to sign some paper about something he did.  You can’t think straight if you think you might somehow be in trouble or convinced that you are in trouble when you really didn’t do anything.  How do you really know what you are signing?  If you get taken to the principal’s office, you are in trouble, right?”  Friends at other schools are also asking my child what is going on at his school because his principal has been in the newspaper saying crazy things to students.   This is supposed to be an environment of learning, yet it is not because the kids (and teachers he reports too) are so preoccupied with and distracted by the outrageous things the principal has done and said.  We know Mr. Mayes has run down students (past and present), their heritage, teachers, administrators by name, JCPS district employees and more. How is any of this acceptable?

 

JCPS, this is on you.  We haven’t heard anything from you, but thankfully we have heard about it from the media.  How many MORE people have to come forward with credible and specific incidents (all of which are establishing similar patterns of intimidation and bullying behavior) before something is done?  I guess 2, 5, or even 7 accounts isn’t enough – there were 7 accounts in the newspaper on Sunday.  How many more must there be?  The Courier Journal has done their due diligence to interview these former students.  JCPS, have you spoken to these students?  As a Manual parent I have had ZERO communication from you, JCPS, as to what is going on here and what you are or aren’t doing about it.  Dr. Pollio, if you really want this Superintendent’s job, you certainly aren’t acting like it.  You aren’t being proactive and keeping us as Manual parents informed on this extremely important matter.  It sure seems like the district is taking sides with administration instead of with students and their well being.  Here is a quote from the newspaper article that drives this point home – “JCPS reprimanded Mayes last month for comments he made in the recorded conversation.  But, according to Oct. 27 reprimand letter obtained by Courier Journal, Mayes was chided for speaking negatively about fellow JCPS employees during the recording, not for his race-related comments.”  Mayes didn’t get reprimanded for what he said, are you kidding me?  This clearly shows that you favor the adult over the kids here, and that is a real travesty.

We are still a relatively new family to Manual and I’m considering transferring my child out.  I don’t want my child in the building with Mr. Mayes anymore.  However, my child should not have to be the one to go, it should be the principal.  Based on his actions, Mayes is in no way fit for this job.  Manual now needs a kind, honest and stable leader that focuses on the well-being of every single student.  The days of intimidation and fear from the top down need to be over…immediately.

Sincerely,

Current Manual Parent

 

The views expressed here are those of the author. If you or someone you know has a concern regarding events taking place at Manual or another JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter formWhile 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 this complaint, they can contact us to make a connection with the author.

Note: The Courier Journal article regarding the reprimand has since been updated to reflect the true content of the reprimand letter.

 

The views expressed here are those of the author. If you or someone you know has a concern regarding events taking place at Manual or another JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter formWhile the 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 this complaint, they can contact us to make a connection with the author.

Dear JCPS,

In the weeks since the incident at Jeffersontown High School, questions have been raised about whether the district should continue to have School Resource Officers (SROs). As I have followed this issue on social media, I have been dismayed, not that there are those speaking out in favor of SROs, but that so many are refusing to even acknowledge that there is another side to this issue. This is an important conversation that needs to be had. And both sides need to be heard.

I am a parent of six children who are former or current JCPS students, three of whom are black males. As a white parent of black sons, I have had a rude awakening to what black parents have known for years: the unjust criminalization of black men in this country is very real, very painful, and very damaging to the young black males we are raising.

I can cite numerous examples in my sons’ young lives in which they have already experienced this. I will share one with you here. One of my sons has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which causes speech and language delays, as well as brain damage in the area of the brain that controls emotion. By the time he was in kindergarten, he had an IEP which included instructions on how to handle him if he became escalated. His kindergarten teacher evidently neglected to read his IEP and had a conflict with him one day that ultimately resulted in him physically attacking her. Having been on the receiving end of his attacks before, I knew how upsetting they could be. However, he was also small for his age and clearly developmentally delayed. So I was shocked when I arrived at the school to meet with her and the first words out of her mouth were, “Just so you know, I plan to press criminal charges.” On a five-year-old. Who was small for his age. With a mental health disability.

Thankfully, when I reminded her of his IEP and pointed out that she didn’t follow it, she chose not to follow through. But I have often wondered in the years since, if that school had an SRO at the time, would he have already been under arrest by the time I arrived? If the teacher had had her way, he would have been. I also came away wondering what made her look at my child and see a criminal instead of a scared, damaged little boy?

The answer to that is the color of his skin. Dr. Kristin Anderson notes in Psychology Today that studies in facial perception have shown that white Americans interpret anger in a neutral facial expression for African American males, but don’t do so for other people. In video simulation studies people fire at an armed target more quickly if he is African American than if he is white, and they decide not to shoot an unarmed white target more quickly than an unarmed African American target. If a target is black, respondents require less certainty that he is holding a gun before they decide to shoot. Anderson suggests that this is at least partly due to our brains being conditioned by what we see on TV, where “African American men are overrepresented as criminal suspects and underrepresented as victims of crime in comparison to actual crime statistics.”

No matter how well-intentioned any of us are, or how much we abhor racism, we all (including African Americans) have been conditioned to criminalize black men. This truth is lived out in our criminal justice system.

According to the NAACP, African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites. African American children represent 32% of children who are arrested, 42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are judicially waived to criminal court. Added to this, a report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission published just last month noted that black men serve sentences that are on average 19.1 percent longer than those for white men for similar crimes.

Parents of African American males in the school system are justified in our concerns that SROs in the schools actually threaten our sons’ safety. If they get arrested at school, the consequences for them are much more likely to be greater than they are for their white counterparts. The Justice Policy Institute notes that not only are black students three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white students, one study showed that white students were more likely to be disciplined for provable, documentable offenses — smoking, vandalism, and obscene language — while black students were more likely to be disciplined for more subjective reasons, such as disrespect.

The Institute also noted, “A landmark study of Texas discipline policies found that 97 percent of school suspensions were the choice of school administrators. Only 3 percent of students had broken rules that made suspension a required punishment, such as carrying a weapon to school. And those discretionary suspensions fell particularly hard on black students: they were 31 percent more likely to receive a discretionary suspension, even after controlling for 83 other variables.” One report from the Justice Policy Institute found that, even controlling for a school district’s poverty level, schools with officers had five times as many arrests for “disorderly conduct” as schools without them. Those arrests disproportionately affect black male students. As noted above, those black male students get significantly harsher consequences once they have found their way into the juvenile justice system than other students do.

As long as we live in a society where African American men serve sentences 19.1 percent longer than white men for similar offenses, I don’t want police officers in schools.

As long as we live in a society where African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites, I don’t want police officers in schools.

As long as we live in a society where African American children represent 52% of the arrests of children that get waived to criminal court, I don’t want police officers in schools.

As long as we live in a society where black students are being disciplined at school at higher rates for the same offenses as other students, I don’t want police officers in schools.

As long as we live in a society where a kindergarten teacher can look at a five year old black child and see a criminal instead of a damaged, scared little boy, I don’t want police officers in schools.

Does this mean I don’t care about school safety? Of course not. Does this mean I think SROs should be pulled out of all the schools with no alternative plan in place? Absolutely not. It simply means the district needs to examine this issue closely and determine if SROs truly makes everyone safer, or in fact threaten the safety of one segment of the population. If this is the case, then we need to look at other alternatives for keeping our schools safe – one that makes EVERYONE safer, not just some.

Sincerely,
Cindy Cushman

 

The views expressed here are those of the author. If you or someone you know has a concern regarding events taking place at JTown or another JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter form.

Dear JCPS,

– Sadly, today I found out that the investigator cannot grant anonymity to current parents who want to speak out. All names will be in the official record for Mayes to see. So, with that requirement I can’t imagine any current parents willing to share their stories, and that is a real shame. With the fear that Mayes could remain in the position, at this point I don’t feel comfortable with my name being available to him and his ability to retaliate against my child and me. The abuse continues, but no one feels safe to tell their story. Also, I have a younger child who really wants to attend YPAS, so there is no way he would get in if Mayes ever found out that I complained about him.

– I was glad to see a new post on dearjcps.com today, especially from a member of the community who read the C-J article. I feel like that is perhaps now the only way for the district to feel pressured to let him go, if the community at large causes an uproar (and/or if more alums continue to come forward with more stories). It is an absolute shame that we current parents can’t safely share our stories and must rely on others outside of the school to do that work for us. If you feel comfortable in doing so, please let Mr. Albrecht know that a current parent is very thankful for his willingness to speak out by name, because those of us inside the walls cannot for fear of retaliation. If he knows of other upset community members, I hope they are willing to speak out as well. Perhaps the district will do something about the situation if the community is outraged by a principal who has treated former students this badly and should not keep his job.

I do plan to leave an anonymous message with the Superintendent’s office that I am very upset that the investigation will not allow confidentiality to current parents. I will say again that this is a way for them to as much ensure that no new allegations will come to the forefront and they can disregard what alums have to say. What a sad state of affairs for JCPS and the kids in the system. I can’t wait until all of my kids are older and graduated to be out from under it. The system is not supportive of students.

 

Concerned Parent

 

The views expressed here are those of the author. If you or someone you know has a concern regarding events taking place at Manual or another JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter form.

Dear JCPS,

I am deeply troubled by Sunday’s article concerning Principal Mayes at Manual HS and his interactions with minority students. His comments reported by these former students because of fear of retaliation should be taken very seriously by the board and executives of JCPS. Anyone who makes these comments does not belong in a position of authority in an educational setting. I have a granddaughter who hopes to attend Manual and this is troubling for her future.

Ken Albrecht

 

The views expressed here are those of the author. If you or someone you know has a concern regarding events taking place at Manual or another JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter form.

The following open letter was sent to Dear JCPS by a member of the community who does not have students at Manual. Some of the statements in this letter are inaccurate, such as calling the recording “illegal.” In the spirit of transparency, we wanted to share this letter with our followers so that all sides can feel they are being heard. Please feel free to add your comments below or submit your own open letter.

 

Dear Ms. Porter,

I want to comment on Jerry Mayes illegal taped meeting with some of his students. Since when do the students go to someone the don’t trust to talk about a concern? I do not have any children in school, but feel like this was a set up. Jerry Mayes is been called the Man behind the Miracle. This school is unique and he is the perfect fit. He has (2) adopted black daughters, so being a bigot is just not true. This is not at all about him being a racist. It’s about kids trying to get power of the best PUBLIC SCHOOL in the state. I beg you to NOT let that happen.

Thank you for listening to my opinion.

Vicki Ziegler

 

The views expressed here are those of the author. If you or someone you know has a concern regarding events taking place at Manual or another JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter form.

The following statement, which was released to Manual’s PTSA Facebook group, is being published on Dear JCPS with permission from the author.

Yesterday I learned that two local news stations ran stories suggesting that, as the sponsor of the BSU, I may have conspired with another teacher at Manual to entrap the principal into making inappropriate racial remarks to students.

This is not true. I did not tell or suggest that any student record the principal, nor did any student inform me of a plan to do so. Other students and parents involved in the situation have confirmed this.

Although I would like to give a more detailed account of this experience and others involving the principal, several people have advised me to reserve the information for the ongoing JCPS investigation into the allegations against him. I remain focused on the larger question of resolving this conflict at Manual High School in a way that protects and honors our students, their safety, and their concerns.

Jamie Miller
Manual Teacher/BSU Sponsor

The views expressed here are those of the author. If you or someone you know has a similar concern regarding events taking place at Manual or another JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter form.