Budget

Dear JCPS,

My name is A.B. and I am a freshman at Doss High school. I am writing this letter to tell you my view on busing. I think that we should keep busing, because it has many up-sides. Also there are ways we can fix the situation to improve academics.

One of the biggest problems with busing is the long rides. Many students are on the bus for about 1-2 hour a day. I know this because I am one of those students. Do I think it is a long ride? Yes but, it doesn’t mess with any of my after school activities or academics. Busing also mess with the amount of each race there is at a school, but some areas are going to be majority one race no matter what because of the neighborhoods. Stopping busing won’t fix this problem.

If we keep busing, it eliminates racism and students get a better education. The fact that students are coming from completely different areas means that they are more likely to come from completely different backgrounds. It also gives students opportunities to go to school in an area with more money than the neighborhood they live in. The purpose of busing is to desegregate schools. Desegregate means to eliminate segregation which would bring race closer. Bringing different races together is especially important in this day and age with the new president.

We need to keep busing for many reasons. One being it helps desegregate. Another is the opportunities it gives students. Also it helps improve academics. There are many cons but the pros outweigh them.

Doss High Student,
A.B.

Dear JCPS,

Hey! My name is K.M. and I am a 14 year old Doss High School student. I want to talk to you about JCPS busing. I’m not for busing because nobody wants their kids on an hour bus ride. Like for example racial integration is worthy goal, and busing is an easy mean to achieving that goal. Children in higher socioeconomic areas naturally have more opportunities than children who do not. Putting children in schools that’s in their neighborhood is not a good idea, some neighborhoods is mostly blacks and others is mostly white and putting them all in one school is going to cause segregation.

Far away schools is not working for the parents is either, parents cannot be involved in school if it is too far from their home. Parents are forced to send their kids far away from home for a good education.

Busing was started in the 1970’s to ensure that schools were not all black or all white. African American’s lived in the west end, while whites lived in areas like St. Matthews or the country. The whites would have a long ride to and from school every day like an hour or 2 ride. The west end kids would go to school far from where they live to, like some might go to school far like Seneca.

Busing causes white flight where families move their children from public city schools to private and suburban institutions. They put all whites inside the same school that causes more and more fights same with African American’s it’s going to cause more and more fights.

It also gives students the opportunities to go to schools in areas with more money. On the other hand busing too costly for school districts that must purchase the buses to establish the program. Example staying after school and buses have to take you home and you live far away that is going to cost a lot of money.

Sincerely, KM

Dear JCPS,

I’m L’R B and I attend Doss High School. My opinion on busing is that it should continue. I bring this up because my Civics class gave me a task to write a letter to JCPS arguing for or against busing using the evidence I found from my research. I think busing should continue because it helps racial integration, it gives students opportunities to go to schools in areas with a better environment, and it eliminates racism. I will come up with a better student plan to help busing continue.

Busing brings great experience to lots of students. You meet people of all kinds teaching you that a difference in race doesn’t matter. Also busing shows a student in a poor environment a look at how it is to live well. Students from different races get to learn from each other. It brings everyone together.
If I could solve the problems people have with busing I would change a lot. First thing I would do would be change the school time to later hour so students have more time to be picked up. I would also add community schools for parents who want their children close. Students who have trouble getting along, I would have a counseling for them to get better. If the student likes the counseling I would continue, if not ill switch their school.

Overall there’s a lot of good things busing allows us to do. I’ll say the bad opinions against busing aren’t good enough to stop it. Busing is wonderful for everyone and lots of people enjoy it, let’s not repeat history by basically segregating schools. I hope this letter gives you a view on how some students feel.

Thank you,
L’R B

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.

Pardon my language, but sometimes no other words will do.

JCPS school board meetings are long and tedious, filled with acronyms and monotonous educational doublespeak. So it’s easy to understand how a series of events from this past Tuesday night’s meeting might have been missed by our general public, and possibly even by many of the people in the auditorium. Unless you were paying close attention throughout the meeting, and picked up on some of the body language and careful volleys, you might have missed the shit that went down. But down it did go.

I hinted on my personal Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon that the shit was hitting the fan. But, since I have bills to pay, and being a public education bulldog is a volunteer thing, it took me until midnight Friday night to download the board meeting video and parse out the juicy turds for your dining pleasure. But here they are. Sorry for the delay and suspense.

Earlier in the meeting, Ms. Horne states that she has concerns that items on the consent agenda aren’t always as they seem. When items indicate that they are a money donation, she says she should be able to trust that they are a money donation and not a personal service contract or some other in-kind donation. Seems reasonable. “Are … each of the items … something you will stand behind as being true?” Superintendent says, “absolutely.”

The fan has been turned on.

Later, Horne’s body language when she asks to add an evaluation of the superintendent to the planning calendar indicates she has clearly put her shit-wading boots on. I added this clip because it was just so enjoyable to watch.

Aaaand here comes the proverbial shit.

Later in the meeting, Horne brings up her concerns regarding a budgeting process meeting that principals were invited to that she says the board had not approved. “The board approved a money donation in September, but not actually the consultant that is in our schools.” While she supports budget planning, she notes that she has a problem with this particular activity because it was done without board’s approval. “It’s a truthfulness issue,” and brings up an “ethical dilemma.” She goes on to compare this event to the recent misrepresentation with the Everyone Reads program. “I do want to express that to the JCPS community. I will try to be a better watchdog.”

Vice-chair Porter then provides an opportunity for general counsel to respond, who advises that he had reviewed the item and saw no legal issues with it. Horne seizes another opportunity to point out that having the board’s attorney reviewing contracts and also advising the board is a conflict of interest. “I see it as a legal conflict and I’m very concerned about the independence of our general counsel.”

Hargens interjects with “just to be clear … “, which only makes my bullshit radar go off even more. Honestly, I didn’t learn anything new from her “clarification.” If anything, it only confirmed Horne’s concerns and raised my suspicions.

Please watch the videos and let me know what you think. Maybe this story is not a big deal, but my spidey senses tell me otherwise. And, you might want to make sure you have your raincoats on at the next board meeting, because it could get messy in the front rows. (Think Gallagher!)

By the way, the budget consultant they are referring to is with District Management Council, who was featured in this article last October, “Cashing In on Special-Needs Kids.” #NowAreYouStartingToGetIt?

I appreciate Steph Horne for calling out her concerns and holding our district administrators accountable. She is my shero! Stay tuned!!

Dear JCPS,

When my son was in the eighth grade he and I made a point to attend the Showcase of Schools. At the time, his goal was to find out how to apply and audition for the orchestra as a cellist at YPAS. It was a Friday night and there was a nice turnout for the showcase, busy but manageable, until we reached the booth for Manuel/YPAS. The crowd at their booth was overwhelming to say the least. After standing in line, for what seemed like an eternity after a long day, my son asked if I would continue to wait in line while he checked out the rest of the booths – I readily agreed.

Little did I know, that the little boy who used to dream of flying or becoming an astronaut would be reawakened that night. You see,besides music,my son always loved airplanes and rockets and flying. As he grew, his love of flying machines took a back seat to music as his talent blossomed and his time was spent learning to play the piano, cello, guitar and bass. As I waited in that line, my son found out about a school where he could learn to fly and another dream could become a reality.

We never did make it to the front of the line at the Manual/YPAS booth but we did spend the rest of the evening talking with Dr. Look and Mr. Cain about the opportunities at the Academy@Shawnee. My son was hooked! Needless to say I was surprised to find out about the aviation magnet, I had no idea it even existed. Then I also had to wrap my mind around the fact that we just went from the possibility of him attending the “best” school in the district to perhaps one of “worst” (and in a rough part of town). Continue Reading

Color me perplexed, puzzled. Over the last several months, we have read article after article regarding the sad state of affairs with JCPS. Some of it is deplorable, some stunning, none flattering. Yet [on Thursday] you endorsed someone who has been on the board and not acted to stem the continuing flow of bad decisions which have had such a negative impact on our youngest and most vulnerable citizens. There is a reason that so many current and former employees have endorsed Chris Kolb for the District 2 seat on the board. When the paid employees of this organization do not support the current administration, it is time to sit up and take notice. Below are just some of the 50,000 union workers who are asking for a change:

  • The Fairness Campaign (C-FAIR)
  • The Greater Louisville Central Labor Council (includes the Jefferson County Teachers Association) View Press Release
  • Service Employees International Union (SEIU 32BJ/SEIU) View Press Release
  • Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, District 34 View Press Release
  • Rep. Jim Wayne, District 35
  • Rep. Joni Jenkins
  • Councilman David James, District 6
  • Teamsters Local 783 (Bus Drivers) View Press Release
  • Teamsters Local 89
  • Stand Up Sunday/Black Lives Matter
  • Retired JCPS School Board Chair Steve Imhoff
  • Jefferson County Association of Educational Support Personnel / AFSCME Local 4011
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 369

Chris IS that change they long for now. He has attended Board meetings for the last 6 years, has spoken up countless times for the children, teachers, support staff, bus drivers who serve our children day after day.

You close your statement, “Jones is needed now to continue the work he started in his first term”.
I respectfully disagree. We need someone new for the sake of our children. I am not an employee of JCPS but rather a very concerned citizen of our community who is saying, “ENOUGH”.

Pat Bush
Louisville, KY 40205-2515

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 is in the process of aggregating responses from school board candidates as they respond to various groups in the district, as well as endorsements they receive. We will continue to add them here as they are brought to our attention. Be sure to check back after the candidates school board forum hosted by the 15th District PTA on Wednesday for a link to that video, as well. Our questionnaires and formal endorsements will be forthcoming. If you have a question you would like school board members to answer that you do not see on these sites, please email them to moderator@dearjcps.com.


Below are candidates for the upcoming school board elections, and links to their websites.

District 2
David Jones Jr. – Incumbent
James Fletcher
Chris Kolb

District 4
Benjamin Gies
Keisha Allen

District 7
Chris Brady – Incumbent
James Sexton
Scott Majors
Fritz Hollenbach


Below are organizations who have received responses from candidates:

FOR’s Aim Higher subcommittee advocates in Jefferson County Public Schools for improved outcomes for low-income students, immigrants, students of color and other marginalized students. As part of that work, we asked this year’s candidates in the three school board district races about their positions on important issues of policy and use of JCPS’ human and financial resources. Six of the nine candidates responded.
 

Go to https://louisvillefor.org/school-board-candidate-responses/  to find the 13 questions, background facts, the candidates’ responses, and what school district you live in.


For the last two election cycles, GLI and the Business Leaders for Education (BLE) have collected and shared information on candidates with our members and whoever wishes to access this information on our website. We believe this is a very important race and that it is critical that voters know the stances of all potential school board members. 

While GLI is active in public policy and in education, we do not endorse candidates. We have posted candidates responses verbatim here and encourage our members and community members to read them. 

A map detailing Jefferson County’s school board districts can be found by clicking here.

GLI 2016 JCPS School Board Elections


From JCTA’s Website


Endorsements from some groups, such as Bluegrass Institute, cause concern:

Two years ago, this story from WDRB, revealed that corporate interests may be driving some endorsements, and Dear JCPS encourages proceeding with caution when considering these endorsements.  So far, they have backed David Jones and Fritz Hollenbach. This is a red flag to our group.

If your organization has endorsements or candidate questionnaire responses you would like to see added to this page, please send an email to moderator@dearjcps.com.


Dear JCPS,

Why are we here? I mean, what business are we in?

Education, right? That’s the main thing.

If we think of the student as our customer, and teaching is the main thing, Who, then, is the most important person in the district?

Teachers!

And this should be doubly true for our persistently low achieving schools serving our most at risk students? Right?

Yet, our priority school lost another science teacher this week. A school that already has the highest teacher turnover in the district. A school that also has some of the lowest test scores.

Is the correlation of high turnover and low test scores a coincidence? No. Relationships matter. Momentum and institutional knowledge matter. Promises and goals matter. Like Christy Rogers said, “I’ve been with you for the past 3 years. I know you, I know your momma.” Teachers who stay know where students struggle. And they can help students achieve their futures.

Why did we lose this teacher? Did she quit? Was she fired? Did she move to teach in another school or district? NO. She was one of the good ones, in a key content area in a struggling school, you know, the main thing. You still with me?

To show her how much we appreciate her as a teacher WE PROMOTED HER out of the classroom.

Why are we rewarding the best teachers with “promotions” to leave their teaching positions? Seems counter intuitive. Paying them more to do less of something they are actually good at. Teaching. What we need the most of. Teachers.  We are a school system. Our primary function is TEACHING. Those should be our highest paid jobs in the district, not the admin jobs.

And while I’m on the subject. The state audit revealed that our district is top heavy in high level district level admin jobs and so far, our district leaders have attempted to freeze teacher and staff salaries, eliminated numerous essential mid-level district staff, but as far as I know they have not touched the top heavy positions that the audit identified. In fact, by my calculations, they have added to those numbers. WHEN can we expect to see high level positions identified in the audit addressed?

Let’s remember to make the main thing the main thing. Let’s treat teachers like the mvps they are. Let’s reward them by paying them well to stay IN THAT ROLE. Let’s provide them the tools they need to be successful IN THAT ROLE, such as smaller class sizes and supports and interventions when their students struggle. Let’s create an environment that fosters collaboration over competition. Let’s give teachers voice and autonomy. Especially in priority schools. Let’s recognize them for the hurdles they’ve overcome, not demoralize them for the test score that didn’t move because of factors beyond their control.

If we make the main thing the main thing by putting teachers at the heart of what we do, then as a district we can get back to building relationships and reducing teacher turnover (which also generates costs savings, despite what was factored into the budget).

When talking about actual salaries vs cost to onboard new teachers. Does not take into account cost to relationships. Cost to momentum of programs. Cost to student learning successes. Cost to achieving vision 2020.

Shortsighted to only look at spreadsheets and not classroom dynamics. Without asking why these increased incidents are occurring. Without seeking teacher input, you are missing some very important nuances. If we preemptively and proactively spend money on tools and supports teachers and students need to be successful up front, we won’t have to spend even more money on things like metal detectors and other punitive measures.

Thank you.