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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

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

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

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

YEAR IN REVIEW
2015-16

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

Standards 1 & 2 – Strategic and Instructional Leadership

Standard 3 – Cultural Leadership

Standard 4 – Human Resource Leadership

Standard 5 – Managerial Leadership

Concluding Thoughts

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


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

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

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

To bring you up to speed:

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

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

And…

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

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

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

Dear JCPS,

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

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

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

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

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

Signed,
Angry Black Man

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