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Letter from Maupin parent to Board Member Chris Kolb:

Chris,

Again I can’t thank you enough for all the time that has been spent trying to help us when you didn’t have to.  When I read your comments yesterday, I was starting to be okay with Maupin possibly losing this program.  It was not until I read the research paper that Dr. Herring and Joe Leffert created that made me rethink everything.  Attachment C, that you can find on the board website talks about all the considerations or recommendations for Maupin Ele. This research paper was well written and clearly written to only side with those who believe that Maupin should not stay Catalpa.  There was not one single attachment given to the board talking about the great things happening at Maupin.  About any of the kids who have started to show signs of improvement.  The kids who have improved in their reading levels or about how many of those kids last year who couldn’t identify those letters, how many can they now? What about how the slow implementation of this program was the downfall for the Catalpa model.  What got me was these statements from that document the first being ”  Both magnet parents and teaching staff have had difficulty understanding and discerning how to blend the Waldorf traditions with the KY Core Academic Standards, timelines, and benchmarks.” Not sure who that was supposed to be directed to, but I have no difficulty understanding or discerning anything.  Most of my confusion is because of the false information I continue to receive from those with all the answers.

And then there was this statement “Waldorf education needs support of Waldorf parenting.  Poor and working class parents employ different parenting practices (accomplishment of natural growth vs. concerted cultivation –Lareau) than their middle class counterparts”.  They are absolutely correct but change would happen if we supported those poor and working class parents learn how to incorporate Waldorf parenting. That is exactly what I am trying to do but feel stalled having to fight this fight.

The other things they outlined were well documented but I would like to see what would this look like if we have known all of this last year. What would this have looked like if this time last year we were working to make improvements for the  16-17 school year.?Give MWhy didn’t they draw up all this last year right after the test scores came out?  Were they holding on to a wish and a prayer instead of going in and making changes?  Did they do all this just to watch it fail, just to see what would happen? They didn’t hurt anyone but the kids, it’s the kids that are affected not the adults.

Waldorf Education has several key differences from “Mainstream Education” including the following:
· Waldorf schools as well as their teachers require strict certification. A curriculum is followed which is considered developmentally appropriate within which the child has a certain amount of freedom to determine their own learning.
· Waldorf place a strong emphasis on imagination and children are encouraged to make their own toys from material at hand.
· Waldorf is outspoken about children not being exposed to popular media and social media. Computers are limited to the upper school grades as children should develop and create their own worlds.
· A strong sense of society is incorporated into the methodology – teaching children to look after themselves, think for themselves, caring for others and avoidance of violence. Teachers are encouraged to explore new ideas and to allow them to be guided by exploration of students.
· Textbooks are limited and mostly used to supplement learning such as math and grammar in the higher grades. Children compile their own “textbooks” through the year, filling them with information of their experiences of what they have learned.
· It is common that teachers stay with a class from first to eighth grade. This way a deep human relationship can be built, which is not possible where teachers frequently change.
· Reading is not taught until second grade. Waldorf educators believe that in the early years children should be read to, be told fairy tales to stimulate imagination and be allowed to play.
· In the Waldorf School writing is taught before reading and the alphabet is explored as a tool to communicate with others through pictures. This way writing evolves out of art and children’s doodles instead of reproduction of written content.
· In Waldorf schooling kindergarten is play-based and does not introduce alphabetic principles.
· Sample Primary (1-3 Grade) Curriculum is: Pictorial introduction to the alphabet, writing, reading, spelling, poetry and drama.  Folk and fairy tales, fables, legends, Old Testament stories. Numbers, basic mathematical processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Nature stories, house building and gardening.

These things outlined here, if implemented properly, would change everything about the life of a student who lives in the West End. This is something beyond different but could be the answer to our kids learning issues.  The kids who were tested never had the chance to spend a year under this training.

I urge you to vote No to this recommendation.  As a community we will work to make this work.  Give us what they promised 2 years ago and make sure the implementation is done correctly.   I ask that they give us a chance to make it work and for us to show you that this program will not only change this school but it will change the community around this school.  We need another year to show you, let my second grader who will be in 3rd grade next year show you want a JCPS student with Waldorf education looks like.  She will show you how a kid on an IEP can impress you with her ability.

Carla Robinson
Maupin “Resides” Parent

Dear JCPS,

I don’t want an apology from MAG. I want an apology from Dr. Hargens.

To make a public spectacle about cutting teachers’ pay (and being forced by the union to grant years-of-service Steps) based on erroneous data is unacceptable. ( Why weren’t the figures given to department heads to compare to actual payroll data? It would seem SOMEONE would cross reference the salary figures, in at least a few departments, prior to recommending something so drastic as cutting pay.) This action alone is enough to diminish trust in the district’s ability to make sound decisions. Honestly, I lost trust long ago.

Click to play.

But, Dr. Hargens’ statement that this $40 million mistake is the cause of teachers feeling undervalued and unappreciated is what I find absolutely unforgivable. It’s not just a feeling. It’s a fact that teachers are undervalued and unappreciated, specifically and precisely, due to this district’s policies that create over-worked, exhausted, paper-pushing teachers; a fear-based, top-down administrative approach, and policies that strip teachers and students of time, creativity, and a voice.

Clearly the atmosphere in our communities and in our schools has changed dramatically – violence, drug use, poverty. high-stakes testing, budget cuts. Teachers’ roles have changed and responsibilities have spiked. JCPS’ policies have failed to acknowledge, much less support these changing roles and THIS is the cause of teachers’ reality of being undervalued and unappreciated.

Signed,
Frustrated

Dear JCPS,

In life, when you fail to take action in a timely fashion, your decisions will be made for you. Fail to pay your mortgage or your car note? Fail to turn in paperwork? Forget to make an important decision? You know how it goes.

That’s what is happening right now in our school district. We are facing a litany of legislation and overreach from Frankfort, in many ways directly attacking JCPS. On top of that, we are being subjected to a management audit from KDE. I believe all of this is a result of inaction and indecision by our district leadership.

For example, we saw the writing on the wall with regards to inequitable and outdated student assignment plan for some time now. In September, there was even a work session around this difficult and delicate topic. But as far as I know, no action has been taken.

And then suddenly, as if out of the blue, we find ourselves potentially faced with the possibility of having to blow up our student assignment plan, leaving our most vulnerable students the ones to take the greatest hit. This led to scrambling to make maps and respond to attacks instead of bringing forth recommendations and action plans while they were still our ideas. It’s hard work, which is why we need strong leadership. Instead we tend to be reactive, not proactive.

In addition to having HB151 thrust upon us, we are about to have to potentially surrender some of our badly needed tax dollars to support so called “public” charter schools. How are we supposed to juxtapose that exposure with our billion dollar problem with our growing facilities needs?

Not only is our inaction causing us to have decisions made for us, we are not even putting up a fight. Instead of creating an effective defense against unscrupulous education reformers. We seem to be rolling out the red carpet. This must stop!

Awhile back, you supported the district’s legislative position with regards to superintendent hiring the school principal because she is the one who is held accountable. Look at the situation Shawnee is in. This is not a new problem that just came to our attention today for the first time. Where is the accountability? Who is coming to their aid?

Over the course of the past two years, we’ve watched a poorly planned implementation of School of Innovation. And as a result, on Friday, Maupin lost its SBDM. They were made promises that were left unfulfilled and students are paying the price. Who is being held accountable?

We focus on adult problems instead of kids. We deny problems exist instead of addressing them. There seems to more interest in kicking the can down the road or playing shell games than in doing the heavy lifting of doing it right the first time. We are afraid to take risks, to be bold and decisive.

For the last several months, and longer, board members have expressed frustration with how long they’ve been waiting on reports, proposals, solutions, etc. We knew we had problems that needed to be addressed, but yet more months go by where nothing seems to happen.

I share your frustration. And yet, we continue repeating same mistakes.

I hear repeated requests from board members to “do something.” Again, last board meeting, regarding the facilities plan. However, those pleas seem to be directed at the JCPS staff, instead of the person who has the authority to make action happen. The person who is supposed to be accountable to you.

Really, there is only one employee you supervise. That is who you should be looking at. That is who you should be demanding to take action. She is the one who needs to do something. And if she doesn’t.

You must.

Inaction has led us to this predicament. We cannot afford to be indecisive. We must take control. Before more is done to us.

Something must be done before the contract renewal season. While there is still time for someone to guide us through the audit and staffing for a turnaround. May 15, I believe.

We repeatedly hear and personally experience the culture of fear, intimidation and retribution in JCPS, instead of openness to constructive criticism. Under toxic and ineffective leadership, staff become paralyzed. Don’t look at the staff. Many of them are just doing what they must do to survive. To keep their jobs. They are not to blame.

This starts at the top.

Hold your direct report accountable.

I ask you please. Do something.

Join us! Call for Resignation of JCPS Superintendent!

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

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

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

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

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

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

This email was sent to Kentucky Board of Education Members. Their email addresses are:

grboyd@bigsandybb.com,
cundifffarms1979@gmail.com,
RFGimmel@atlasmachine.com,
sdhiv1234@gmail.com,
gary.houchens@wku.edu,
alesag.johnson@gmail.com,
Robert.King@ky.gov,
rlmarcum22@gmail.com,
nawannap@aol.com,
ceemore1@gmail.com,
wtwyman@scrtc.com,
marygwenw@cflouisville.org

Dear KBE Members,

As a parent of a recent JCPS graduate from one of our district’s Cohort 1 “priority” schools, I implore you to exercise extreme caution when vote tomorrow to recommend charter schools, and if you do decide to do so, be equally judicious with which elements you can support.

One of the things that makes Kentucky schools special is its emphasis on local control, as exemplified in the innovative decision under KERA to provide SBDM power to local schools. However, the conversation revolving around helping these high poverty gap students via way of charters is invalid if you take into account that my son’s priority school lost its SBDM powers 5 years ago when it entered into priority status.

Another thing that no one seems to be able to genuinely answer is how “school choice” will solve our problems in closing achievement gaps. JCPS is already a district of choice. This choice, combined with overemphasis on high stakes test scores, has been devastating to our students in poverty, who don’t have the same abilities to navigate the system and overcome the hurdles we put in front of them. Our student assignment map that discriminates against our most vulnerable citizens is just one of many examples. There is no sense of community behind my son’s school because they backfill the students who attend there from other communities. Perhaps you should know more about hurdles like these before we assume that they just need MORE choices. Competition has not been proven to improve outcomes in Jefferson County. We need more reasons to work collaboratively instead. Let’s work to make our existing schools better before we throw more variability and competition into the mix.

Speaking of local control, our local school board is should have the final say as to which charters will be permitted in our community. They are democratically elected and have the ability to garner feedback from their constituents about the proposed schools and whether or not the charter proposals and the underlying assumptions, hold water when it comes to how they will address the needs of the students in our community.

Perhaps instead of looking at charters as a solution for persistently low achieving schools, we should look at ways to remove some of the handcuffs we’ve placed upon them. I’m happy to share a litany of these items, should you be interested, in addition to a few I hinted at above. No, these problems are not solved by simply introducing charters as a way of “working around” the system. When we have a leaky house, we must fix the roof, not build a new house down the street.

Furthermore, should charter schools move forward, I would like to reiterate the following provisions that should be a requirement in any charter school legislation in the state of Kentucky:

• SBDMs need to be in every publicly funded school, both public and charter (especially priority schools!)

• The local school board, which is democratically elected by the community it serves, should serve as authorizers

• Non profit. Truly non profit not an arm of for profit company
Should not take tax dollars from existing schools. (Since this year is not a budget year, making funding a sticking point could buy us time.)

• Not closing schools just because they are low performing. Need latitude to serve special needs, at risk, etc without being held to same standards as a school like Manual.

• Remove the unhealthy fixation we have on high stakes testing for all schools, public and charter, but finding less intrusive accountability measures, such as sampling and dashboards, and even self reporting of portfolios of accomplishments

• Schools must be open to all, and should not have ability to refuse applicants or weed out. Barriers to entry already create self selection bias. How will that be eliminated?

• Must provide transportation and free and reduced lunch the same way public schools do.

• No use of public funds for religious schools. (No vouchers for St X, for example.)

• Accountability and transparency is a must. Open board meetings, open records, published minutes, budgets and salaries of all employees, contractors and operators

• There needs to be a minimum enrollment in a charter before it can be funded, demonstrating community need and support.

• There should be a limit to the number of new charter schools opened per year.

• There should be safeguards in place to prevent taking resources from public schools to fund the charters. One of the reasons public schools are currently failing is due to lack of supports and resources. Stripping away funding, or even “high performing” students, or highly involved families, from the mix, creates even greater burdens and hardships on the schools that stay.

• There needs to be equitable access to quality schools in every neighborhood. Closing low performing schools is not an option if there are no other schools in the vicinity.

• We need to treat our teachers with respect and support if we wish to attract quality educators. The idea that we can work them more hours for less money is going in the wrong direction and will see less than qualified individuals with higher turnover than we are currently experiencing in public schools. This is a fallacy with no evidence to support it.

• JCPS is already district of choice. You must demonstrate, without a doubt , not just from selective evidence, that “school choice” does more to fix existing problems. Proponents must provide conclusive evidence before we move forward with implementing a solution that doesn’t fix an existing problem, but only layers on more complexities.
This is a quick list I threw together in the hopes that you will have a chance to review it before you vote tomorrow.

I found the presentations at the work session last week to be one sided. They did not provide an opportunity to cross-examine the evidence by those of us who represent the more cautious approach to charter school implementation. What were the unique qualities of each of the success stories and what made them a success? What specific laws did they implement, which we could we emulate, to make sure we have the same successes? Claims that Nashville was a success story was quickly discredited by Tweets from school board members in Nashville. Arguments that charters serve gap students in urban areas has been disproven time and again by other research groups. Parents, teachers, community leaders, including NAACP, have made it clear that charters are doing more harm than good in many of the communities all over the country where they have entered. THESE VOICES CANNOT BE DENIED! Perhaps it is due to one or two factors that good legislation can and will prevent, but the information presented to the board at the work session was unclear what those specific items are, and therefore you do not have conclusive enough evidence at this time to justify forcing us to implement unproven charter schools in our major cities. WE DON’T WANT THEM! No one has been able to demonstrate to me that any version of charter schools will magically address the needs of the students attending my son’s school and schools like them. Since they represent our district’s most vulnerable, don’t we really need to come up with the best plan for them, regardless if it’s introducing charters or fixing existing schools, before we move forward with any plan?

Please help those who are doing the work at the ground level dig into the ways we can stop failing our most vulnerable students in the Commonwealth BEFORE moving forward with some fancy new idea, which will only create a distraction and drain on resources and energy. I look forward to continuing the conversation. We have work to do.

Gay Adelmann

Good evening. My name is Stephen Cain.steve

I had been the Chief Flight Instructor at The Academy @ Shawnee for the past 10 years. I come before you tonight to ask why you Board members indirectly, and Dr. Hargens directly, have done anything/everything in your power to destroy success at The Academy @ Shawnee.

I left Shawnee this past summer because, after 10 years there, I saw negative trends, or at least, no positive changes in the future and I felt powerless fighting for advances. I had a very difficult time deciding what to do because I loved, and still love, my students.

I’ve held my tongue the entire time because of possible/ probable retribution from administrators and a past principal, but now I can’t any longer.

All of the hard work and effort to build a nationally respected aviation program, an outstanding NJROTC program and robotics program, by people like Keith Look, Col Will Vandermeer, Mr. Tito, Tyler Shearon, Crystal Darensbourg, Master Chief Vermillion, Mr. Armendariz, Mr. Mike, Mr. Suggs, Mr. Rose, many additional staff members, and so many dedicated parents are being killed by the top administrators and board members at JCPS.

Several years ago, when Dr. Look left, Dr. Hargens did not seek advice from the school community for a new principal and she gave us a disastrous replacement after about six months. That person almost singlehandedly ruined the school. Once he disappeared in Spring 2015, we went without a replacement until 36 hours prior to the new school year and once again without listening to the input from the school, parents and students.

The school population wanted someone with knowledge of Shawnee students and their unique challenges as their new leader. Faculty, staff, parents, and most importantly students want consistency in leadership because they were going through another leadership change in less than 2 years. Yet once again Dr. Hargens found someone else. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that Mrs. Benboe is a good person and has worked hard to improve the situation at Shawnee, however she came from outside our Shawnee community and had no idea of the overwhelming challenges Shawnee students face. This put her and the students at a disadvantage.

We have all recently seen the magnitude of issues boiling over at the school and yet, once again, Dr. Hargens has directly interfered in the school and dismissed three of the most respected staff members. WHY? When teacher turnover is already an issue at the school, why create more? How is that in the best interest of the students at Shawnee?

So, as I asked at the beginning of my statement: why have you Board members indirectly, and Dr. Hargens, directly done anything/everything in your power to destroy success at The Academy @ Shawnee? If you want to close The Academy @ Shawnee, be straight forward and say so. Don’t kill it by 1000 cuts.

These students deserve better from their leaders.

Editor’s note: The Academy @ Shawnee lost their SBDM powers 5 years ago when the school went into Priority Status. The school community has had very little influence over the decisions that have been made at the school level, and the continued abuse and neglect of that school, as well as their inability to exit priority status, lies fully at the feet of district leadership.

Watch the entire video here (there is a brief video outage at the beginning), including an interruption from Vice Chair Porter when she was concerned Mr. Cain might say something negative about district leadership’s “chosen” principal.

Dear JCPS,

I have a senior at the Academy@Shawnee in the Aviation magnet program. My husband and I stepped out on faith when we agreed to allow our son to attend school at Shawnee to pursue his interest in aviation and aeronautics. We did not make this decision lightly and visited the school on a number of occasions to get a handle on the climate and safety of the school. Never once, over the past couple of years, did we feel unsafe at the school or did I fear for my child’s safety.

Unfortunately, this year has already been very trying and I do fear for my son’s safety. I am constantly hearing of fights and extreme misbehavior, sometimes it seems like it is daily. Monday’s incident found my son going to his math class, in the hallway where this fight was happening, and he was locked out of his classroom! I understand an additional officer hired for security also quit the same day – it was her first day.

My son’s safety, as well as his classmates, is not my only concern. How many teachers and staff members are at risk and how much teaching/learning time is wasted dealing with theses continual disruptions? Turnover at Shawnee is worst than ever. Communication from the school to parents is poor at best. I learned of Monday’s incident and arrests on the news when I arrived home from work. Dr. Hargens, I would like to know what are you doing to correct the situation? I want to know what is happening tomorrow and the next day to keep our kids safe?

Respectfully,
Parent Name Retracted

Dear JCPS,

I have been hearing from teachers and staff all over the district that while the public and administration seem to be aware of the bus driver shortage, they do not seem to be aware the problems our schools are having getting substitute teachers, or the hardships that it creates for teachers, staff and students. So, yesterday I posted the following question to our private group (made up of over 1,500 teachers and parents/guardians):

“Our district’s sub shortage is widespread and having detrimental effects on teachers and students. Tell me your story.”

While I realize you are probably aware of the shortage, you may not be fully aware of every type of situation or impact that occurs as a result, and resulting potential solutions. While this is in no way a comprehensive list, I do hope that you find the information helpful and useful. I know that our teachers and staff appreciate feeling heard on this topic, and our students will benefit from a quick resolution.

The comments are anonymous here, but they are not anonymous to me, and I can arrange for follow up with any of the comment contributors, should you require additional information.

I will continue to update this post as more feedback comes in.

POST UPDATED ON OCT 30.
Continue Reading

Dear JCPS,

Jefferson County Public Schools needs to increase security personnel and surveillance capabilities in their schools.

My children attend [High School Name Redacted] High School. On September 26 my daughter’s purse was stolen at school, along with her car. No thanks to the school or the police, we located the car, and were able to retrieve it with a spare set of keys. Her purse turned up at school minus the wallet and keys. A week later her license and student ID turned up at school – still no wallet or keys. Continue Reading

UPDATE:
I received a call from my school board member, Steph Horne, explaining that the board does not set policy regarding these types of activities, and that principals are informed and the gatekeeper for what happens on their campuses. Although this event has been taking place for years, she said that I brought up a good point that principals or other staff may interpret the governor’s recent “overstep” as superseding the existing policy and state law, and agreed that it would be a good idea if building staff were reminded of the existing policy so that they are empowered to enforce that policy, should the need arise. Policy states that the event is to take place during non-school hours and that it was to be student led. Nowhere in the communications I saw did it state that this was policy, and if it had, it would not have evoked the response it did from many of our members in our private group of 1,500 parents, teachers and community members.

Ms. Horne sent an email to Dr. Hargens asking that a reminder be sent to building staff. I consider that to be an appropriate and timely response, as requested in my original letter. Thank you Ms. Horne!


(This message has been revised based on feedback from community.)

In response to this message from our Governor, and concerns raised by Dear JCPS members in our private group (made up of over 1500 parents, teachers and community members), I sent the following message to our board members:

Bevin Proclaims Day of Prayer Over Students

Dear JCPS,

I am confident that our board is aware that any adult-led prayer activity should be prohibited from taking place on any JCPS campus during school hours. In case the activity centered around a single religion isn’t non-inclusive enough, attached is a snapshot from the organization’s brochure, which further exacerbates misconceptions about other faiths, behaviors and lifestyles:

prayer

Prior to the Sept. 27 board meeting, Dear JCPS would like to know what steps the district intends to take to publicly and proactively disavow such an egregious overstep of the Governor’s authority. We are looking forward to your reply.

Thank you,
Gay

Gay Adelmann
Co-Founder, Dear JCPS
Founder, Save Our Schools KY
Charter Member, Network for Public Education
260-633-0463