This is a DRAFT of our legislative priorities for 2020. We want your input! Please help us rank them and provide examples of each of the categories listed below. Suggested edits and additions also welcome.
ACHIEVING EDUCATIONAL JUSTICE in JCPS “with E’S”
FROM OUR JCPS BOARD MEMBERS & SUPERINTENDENT, we demand:
I am a teacher at Iroquois High School. We are on fire. The recent news reports only show a very small portion of the absolute hell our school has become. Today (Friday 11/1/19) I witnessed no less than four fights. This is the norm. A kid sat in traffic on Taylor Boulevard.
We have multiple staff attacked. Let me tell you about the district response:
They sent a bunch of central office people over to stand around. Assistant superintendents Zeitz, Rogers, and a couple others. They don’t know our kids or staff. They stood around and pretended to help, but didn’t do anything.
Half of our teachers don’t even show up anymore, and I’ll be blunt that many of our teachers are terrible, but they’re all we can find.
Our principal is DONE. Our assistant principals don’t want to be here and the kids don’t respect them. Our counselors are done and don’t want to be here.
Our building is on fire and the district does NOTHING.
We need a real principal, real leadership, and real support with chronic misbehavior. JCTA does nothing to support us. We need real leadership and real support.
Pardon me while I rant! The recent news that the state is lowering its standards for teacher certification, no longer requiring a Master’s Degree, has put me over the edge. Besides the feeling of cheapening my degree, and those of my colleagues, this news comes just a few months after learning (with little or no warning) that the state will require all elementary art and music teachers to be certified to teach art and music. While this may sound like a good idea on the surface, it is in reality a ridiculously, poorly thought out, unrealistic, and unnecessary burden on our schools!
Hear me out….
I am certified to teach k-5 (elementary education) reading, writing, math, science, social studies, etc., BUT, I am now….after teaching art and music at my school for 9 years….suddenly NOT certified to teach art or music!!?
So guess who is teaching art and music at my school this year, as I was forced to move to 1st grade….NOBODY!!
That’s right….my school, and several other JCPS schools, currently have substitutes filling these “VACANCIES”!!!
So my students, who were looking forward to being in Art Club, or Percussion Ensemble, or Choir, get none of that, much less an experienced art and music teacher. There are simply not enough certified art and certified music teachers in Jefferson County to fill all the positions. Also, I was not given even a year to acquire this extra piece of paper that says I can do what I’ve been doing (and doing well, by most accounts) for the last nine years.
Have I mentioned that my Bachelor’s Degree is in ART!!!??? I also have several years of music training under my belt (way more than math and science, I can say)!! So through no fault of my own, I must now figure out how to jump through all the ever-increasing paperwork hoops required of a regular classroom teacher (if the general public only knew how much time-consuming, bs, paperwork/computerwork teachers had to do….taking them away from doing things that would actually benefit students and instruction..).
Meanwhile, the classroom I was fortunate to teach art and music in for 9 years, sits empty…waiting for the next sub to show up!!
This rant is nearing its completion! While a lot of this may sound like it is just me being upset about my situation….at the root of it is MY students, and the students of other JCPS schools, as well!! They deserve better!! Rant over….for now!!
Thomas Matthew Bleuel
What follows next are the comments that were received on Thomas’ post.
Editor’s note: Clearly Jefferson County Public Schools is already feeling the effects of this short-sighted Koch-orchestrated maneuver. Combined now with the new exit exam to graduate high school that will be voted on Oct. 3, the “50% of schools now at risk of failing” narrative, the shady replacement of KBE members and commissioner, the attempted takeover of the state’s largest district, and the MYRIAD other hate-filled, ignorant comments from our governor, how can anyone NOT see that these OUT-OF-STATE GRIFTERS are playing from a playbook? It’s been executed in 45 other states, just look around us! Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Arizona, YOU NAME IT, they’ve tried it, and many other states are seeing the light. WHY CAN’T WE? It’s time to wake up and stop this nonsense by voting pro public education on November 6. Read our Connect the Dots article to see all of the conflicts of interest we’ve uncovered, and we’re just scratching the surface!
UPDATE: This rant was originally posted 3 weeks ago….the status is quo!! Nothing has changed, except the amount of quality art and music instructional time our students are currently missing out on due to this ridiculous turn of events!
I would like to address issues at Jeffersontown Elementary. The culture there is toxic and dysfunctional. The “adults” don’t trust each other or the administration, unless you are in the it club. The principal literally screams at parents who take questions to the board instead of asking her. Well, when you attempt to talk to the principal she NEVER looks up from her phone. She also sits out in the lobby/ main office area on Facebook or texting and ignoring parents who are coming into our building. Within the past 2 weeks we have lost our secretary and bookkeeper. I ask you with the front office completely leaving, the principal basically on her phone all day long and screaming at our parents. Why has the board not ask questions or investigated why the whole front office has had a turn over. Our attendance clerk also left over the summer due to drama.
I’m more concerned that the board is practically ignoring the fact that we’ve lost an attendance Clerk and secretary and a bookkeeper within the past 2 months. I’m also very concerned that their culture there is so toxic that the students notice that teachers don’t speak to each other and the teachers don’t trust each other. I cannot condone or survive in a toxic dysfunctional culture which is what J-Town Elementary has now become. Which is very sad considering what an amazing reputation it had in the past. We are losing students it’s due to the lack of professionalism of the main leadership in the building. I honestly believe that Dr. Hooper or any one from Central office would be appalled if they could see what the true Jtown has become not the dog and pony show they put on when the visits are scheduled. Dr.Hooper because it was his school.
The views expressed here are those of the author. If you or someone you know has a concern, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter form.
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.
For the first time in decades, the new board selected a superintendent who is “one of us,” not another corporate shill recruited by outsiders and “education reformers” with their own agendas. Dr. Pollio understands Louisville’s complex history and challenges and has demonstrated his ability to turn things around. This time it’s different!
A state takeover at this time would undermine the progress currently under way and add yet another layer of bureaucracy to the mix. Any “deal” or compromise outside of existing KRS regulations creates an “unknown” scenario that could potentially:
• Take decision-making power away from elected board members
• Take SBDM and local decision-making ability away from schools
• Allow decisions that could resegregate our schools
• Put teachers’ contracts and pensions in further jeopardy
• Pull funding from our struggling public schools
• Pave the way for a predatory, profit-driven charter school agenda that’s been in the works for nearly a decade
Gov. Matt Bevin, newly appointed KBE Chair Hal Heiner and interim KDE Commissioner Wayne Lewis, and others, have been working behind the scenes since at least 2011 to pave the way for out-of-state investors to profit from our public schools. They’ve shown us their true intentions with our district. If we compromise with them now, they’ll keep coming back for more! Learn more about the real agenda at www.dearjcps.com/exposed.
Our JCPS board meets again this Friday night at 5:15 PM where they may vote whether to accept a compromise with the commissioner. Contact your board member, and tell them we will stand with them as they stand up for us!
The Public Has A Right to Know!
These folks in Frankfort have been working with wolves-in-sheep’s clothing in our community, pretending they want to close the achievement gaps for black and brown students. Yet, these are the same people who supported the gang violence bill and sales tax increases to fund pensions! They have resources to assist with directly aiding problems of community (homelessness, home repair, equitable housing), yet they CHOOSE NOT TO!
They have prejudices about our minority and low-income families’ struggles. Stereotypes we know are not true. They privatized prisons to make maximum profits off black and brown people and now they want to do the same for our schools, feeding the pipeline to prison even faster! This tactic is called “disaster capitalism.” Yet this is a disaster THEY created! We want JCPS to focus on educating our kids. These outsiders would rather force our district to manufacture widgets!
The entire Louisville community is finally paying attention. Now is our chance to hold district leaders accountable and expose this hidden agenda by outsiders!
This state takeover was led by folks who did not attend public schools and most of their kids never attended, either. Yet, they know how to fix our broken school system? We don’t need more of their “solutions!”
They may have denied us a hearing but that doesn’t stop us from and see what’s going on for ourselves!
I am in writing this email in support of Mr. Steed. My daughter [Name Withheld] was in the Louisville Best Hood group. I want to express the importance and relevance that this group has had on my child. I am so grateful she had the opportunity to learn real world content. I have heard some of the concerns around a lesson that taught the students of what they would do in an traumatic event around overdosing. I feel strongly saving one life is critical for our young people to learn. Many of our students live in an environment where overdosing is happening on a daily basis. To NOT have these conversations is detrimental to them and their families. In the past, students learned CPR, however in today’s times YES they need to learn how to save a life. We as a district should stop tip toeing around life and death issues. JCPS has for too long been ignoring the issues that affect black and brown communities and data proves this statement. Mr. Steed has been a pillar in many schools with addressing students needs. He should not be punished. His action were not malicious in any way. He should be commended for thinking out side of the box in addressing a societal issue which we all know spills into the classroom. Again I would appreciate your consideration of this email as a parent support letter as well as his colleague. As an educator I have been so excited to know that both of my daughters had him as a teacher. I would recommend any students I know to have him as a teacher. I can recall many students that had him speak highly of him. He is a teacher that develops relationships with all of his students. As anyone in education could state Building Relationship is key in student success and students feeling save and have a sense of belonging. Thank you for your time and attention in this matter.
My name is Robert Fulk, Principal of The Marion C. Moore School in Louisville, KY JCPS. We are the largest school in the city of Louisville with an enrollment of over 2,150. I have over 240 folks that work for me here at Moore and right now, they are scared. I’d like to take a moment and give you some context as to why Pension Reform is so critical not only to our school, but to the Commonwealth, and our future generations of Kentuckians.
Without a doubt, I am invested in the future of our Commonwealth. I am Kentucky born, and my adult life has been in service to the school system. I own property, pay taxes, and volunteer my time to better my city and state. I am a member of the Board of Directors for the Olmsted Parks, the school board for St Nicholas Academy, and an active parishioner of OLMC. I am a father of three wonderful kids, and married to an educator. I am the principal of the largest school in the city of Louisville. THE Marion C. Moore, grades 6-12. We have over 2,150 students. I took this building over last year as it was failing, culture was terrible, and our programs were abysmal. In a year we’ve added engineering, Electricians track, Culinary Arts, Medical pathways, and dual credit for our students. We have opened the doors to prepare our students more fully for their next step, and our culture is growing rapidly, daily. In a year we have shown marked improvement in any measurable category and we are quickly becoming known for our turnaround. A big component of this is hiring. Last year I hired 78 staff. This year I’ve hired 37. One of the driving factors in new teachers in the pension, and for those of us already vested it is a huge component of why we choose this work. It is an essential recruitment and retention tool. Without the pension, I will lose quality applicants. This is an undeniable fact from any study on pension reform. We are already paid less than comparable fields with as much education, and removing the pension from this equation is shackling a system even further. I ask those of you that are businessmen and women, could you sustain high performance in your industry with my current hiring ratio? We are proud that in a year we have cut our hiring in half, but removing the pension will only make this problem worse. It is not sustainable.
By my best estimate I have paid in over $140,000 in my career, and this is my 14th year. 11%+ per paycheck, without fail, and without griping. Yet here we are now and I am told I may lose what is promised to me in an inviolable contract. Like any employer-employee relationship, teachers and school administrators accept their employment in schools based on assurances that they would receive certain levels of salary and benefits. More importantly, these assurances are in law. Each year that they have already worked represents a year in which they performed their obligations under that contract. The legislature must live up to its obligations as well, and continue to provide the benefits it has committed to provide for each of the years that the employee has already worked. Any retroactive reduction of benefits, including sick leave accumulation, would represent a breach of contractual obligations. The current plan presented this week is not good. Aside from the defacto pay cut of 3%, the burden placed on the district of 2%, and the provision of putting the pension aside if you work more than 100 hours for a state institution (how will we have retired subs, retired administrator covering schools in between principals, or retired folks teaching at public universities?) this plan is not keeping the promise.
I have, and all of my people have fulfilled my end of the contract faithfully. As principal of the largest school in the city of Louisville I average about 70 hours a week of work. I do not get social security. I am compensated well, but if you remove the pension from the equation good luck finding people with as many degrees as an average principal has (and eventually a Doctorate) that will work on average 3300+ hours a year for our students. I am the norm for an effective school principal. Removing the pension from our field will result in less qualified teachers, and in my case, school leaders. You do not want this, not for the future of the Commonwealth. I have worked my time with the assurance the pension will be there. I am expecting to retire in 17-18 years or so when I hang it up that my pension will be there, intact; as quite frankly it is your obligation to fulfill this contract. Whether or not you or the previous body of legislators have mismanaged, underfunded, or otherwise kicked the can down the road is immaterial to me, my teachers, my classified folks, and any else in education. We have done our part.
You have an obligation to me, and to the 240 employees in my building, and the rest of us around the state. This will be the primary issue on which I base my votes for either of your reelection, and what I communicate as a member of our community. I urge you to do the right thing and protect our pension. We have done our part, faithfully. I will confess, I believe this will be found on deaf ears. I have contacted Senator Seum, and Representative Donahue several times with no response, a trend mirrored by several of my staff, as these men are our legislators for the Highview area. This issue is essential to us, and to the future of the Commonwealth.
I send this to you as a citizen of our Commonwealth, a sitting school principal, the HS role group representative of JCASA, a volunteer on numerous boards, and as a father who is relying on his pension for his twilight years. Please consider what you are doing to the future of the Commonwealth.
White privilege is real. So is generational, institutionalized racism. Nowhere is it more prevalent than in our public school system. But often, those who make the rules have a hard time seeing how those rules can limit access to opportunity for others. While these issues are nothing to make light of, sometimes you need a hands-on approach to help white students or family members understand their privilege. We hope this example is of benefit to those who wish to approach these sensitive, yet undeniable, issues with an open heart and open mind. (Download a PDF of the flyer here.)
There are two sets of CARDS. Educational injustices experienced by students of color go in the FAT CHANCE pile (click here to print your own cards). Tax breaks, stock market gains, work bonuses, opportunities due to “who you know,” etc. go in the PRIVILEGED COMMUNITY CHEST.
They choose their TOKEN (the IRON, because it’s the only one that’s left), and the game commences.
When they notice that the board is not set up equitably, they complain. You respond with, “That’s in the past. We’re all equal now. Let’s play!“ You roll and proceed to move forward the correct number of spaces.
When a player lands on a “DRAW A CARD” SQUARE, you draw from PRIVILEGED COMMUNITY CHEST. Your opponent draws from the FAT CHANCE pile. These distinctly different stacks of cards represent the systemic disparities still in place from generations of targeting, profiling and redlining of the black community reflected in policies and norms throughout society today.
When your opponent lands on YOUR PROPERTIES, they pay you RENT. If you own all properties in a COLOR GROUP, their rent is DOUBLED.
When you land on THEIR PROPERTIES, same thing. Except, they probably don’t own any properties, you bought most of them (or inherited them) before they got there.
Eventually, they will inevitably land on one of your HOUSES or HOTELS and they won’t have enough cash to continue. If they happen to have purchased a property, they have the option to MORTGAGE their property to the bank in order to stay in the game. However, they only get half the LOAN AMOUNT on the back of the card.
When your opponent runs out of cash, they have to GO TO JAIL, while you continue to roll the dice until all assets have been acquired. If they complain about any of the rules, you say, “That was one of the rules that was decided on before you got here. Don’t like it? Get here earlier next time.”
OBJECT OF THE GAME:
To inspire whites to understand their privilege enough to research it and develop talking points so they can respond to others who try to marginalize it by saying racism or privilege don’t exist, and to commit to fight to create equitable learning opportunities for our children of color.
Credits: Created by Gay Adelmann. Inspired by Shelton McElroy and Jane Elliott.
Disclaimer: We realize this post will probably upset some of our white followers. However, in this current climate, and the increasing suffering of our students of color, we believe it’s a chance we must take. If you disagree with the examples presented in this post, it’s possible that you are not one of the ones impacted by them. The FAT CHANCE CARDS were created based on actual examples experienced by students of color in our district. These hurdles continue to happen every day in our schools. And we cannot end them until we acknowledge they exist.
We are pleased to report an update to this story. We have heard that this item will be coming off Tuesday night’s agenda. Advocacy works!
Tuesday night, the JCPS Board of Education is looking to revise the minimum job requirements of library director for JCPS, just in time to replace our current retiring director.
In order to become a librarian, I had to obtain an additional Master’s degree in Library and Information Science. This was after I already had a Master’s in Education and a Master’s in Literacy. I have a Rank I, three Master’s degrees and a Bachelor’s degree. Despite all of my credentials prior to obtaining my LIS degree, I still needed an additional degree to become a librarian. And even though I had nine years of teaching under my belt, I really wasn’t qualified to be a librarian until I had completed my degree. Through the completion of this degree, I learned the skills and tools necessary to become a librarian.
Despite what people believe, no, librarians don’t just read books to kids all day. Librarians are more important than that. We are advocates for literacy, research, and support in learning endeavors in schools. We are the go-to spot for current, relevant and factual information. We are essential guides to finding the best resources to achieve goals. We are essential in promoting schoolwide literacy initiatives. We are essential in creating a school culture that promotes and supports the foundations that students need to succeed. We teach teachers. We select materials that support learning. We do so much more above and beyond the minimum job requirements of any teacher. We encourage new readers, foster book groups and promote communities of reading. We are the backbone of each and every school in JCPS.
With that being said, a librarian director for JCPS should be just as qualified to lead more than 155 librarians in our district. A teacher with an admin degree doesn’t have the skills necessary to lead and advocate for our librarians. How can a person with an admin degree lead and teach 155 teachers when they themselves don’t have any concept of what it means to be a librarian? How can a person who has no knowledge of library and information science lead librarians when they have no experience being/doing what a librarian is/does?
I own a car. I’ve been driving for well over 20 years now. I’ve own multiple cars in my life of a variety of makes and models. I’m pretty competent in driving a car and identifying most of the parts of a car. But when I need my car serviced, I take it to a qualified mechanic who knows how everything works under the hood because they know how to diagnose and repair. They have the experience, tools, and training to get the job done. Just because I have experience with cars doesn’t mean I know how to speak the language of a mechanic, or repair the car. It doesn’t mean I can repair my own car, or train mechanics how to repair a car.
Likewise, just because a person has “leadership experience working with diverse populations” doesn’t mean they have the tools, skills, and experience necessary to lead, teach, evaluate, advocate for, and direct 155 librarians in the field of library science. I urge you to vote against these revisions. JCPS doesn’t need a body with an admin degree to fill an open position. We need someone who knows who and what a librarian truly is.
In February, I wrote to you as a parent of a Maupin student with my concerns about the possible impacts of an audit on Maupin Elementary after being placed into “priority status”. My original concerns, quoted below this letter in many ways have not changed. The only thing that has become clear since that time is that the District continues to take actions that will lead to the end of the Catalpa model at Maupin unless you take action to forge a different path.
From early on in the implementation of this program, the leadership of the school and district have continuously reneged on promises, degraded the integrity of the Waldorf model, and made unilateral decisions that silenced the voices of teachers and parents at the school and in the Parkland neighborhood and have brought us to this precipice point. While I could write you a long letter describing the ways my family has dreamed of having access to Waldorf education for our children and would never have the economic access to attend a Waldorf school outside of a public school system (something that is true), today, even though my family will be affected by this decision, the reality is that as a family with many underserved privileges that come with white skin and being perceived as “middle-class”, I know that my family will ultimately be okay whatever decision is made. However, this is exactly this reason that I am writing to you today. The reality is that families in West Louisville who bear the brunt and the burden of racial injustice in this community will be harmed by the removal of the Waldorf program at Maupin.
It should be acknowledged that in the beginning of this program, neighborhood families, as I understand it, were skeptical that Waldorf was right for their community (and made me hesitant to choose this magnet for my child), but over the two years that this program has begun to sink its roots into the community, neighborhood parents have shared the many ways they have come value the Waldorf approach to education. If these families were not given a voice the process of bringing the disruption of a new model to their school two years ago, we absolutely owe them the opportunity to be major contributors to the process now.
During a parent meeting at Maupin in February, Principal, Maria Holmes expressed that she felt that Waldorf was not providing equitable education for many students whose unstable life situations caused them to leave the school and need to integrate into a different educational setting. While I appreciated and agreed with this concern, I have ultimately come to disagree with the conclusion that Waldorf-type education would necessarily lead to this imbalance. Because here’s the reality: education will never be able to educate away poverty, and systemic racism. I’d love to be proven wrong, but I don’t believe there is any program or system that can actually wipe out the affects of poverty, racism, and trauma that educators are tasked with “educating out of the classroom”. Maupin did not “fail” because Waldorf creates inequitable ways of educating. Frankly, I believe It failed because the district and principal, consciously or not, did not believe that it could succeed with black children. They actually reinforced the stereotype that they could have addressed by providing the kinds of supports that begin to address inequity: access to health care and mental health services, family supports, access to jobs and job training for parents, supporting programs for home ownership and economic development, etc.. But these are big problems that are seen outside of the scope of education—these are the challenges of dismantling systemic Racism with a capital R. The Kentucky Department of Education and indeed, JCPS have shown and time and time again that they don’t see the need to do that and would prefer to fall back on blaming teachers, parents and students for their failures as measured by standardized tests measuring unstandardized lives.
So right now, I see that the board actually has two choices. 1.) The board can vote to support a system that ultimately always chooses to protect itself. I get it: KDE is sort of driving this bus right now; so, choosing not to go along with the district’s plan is going to be incredibly challenging. It will be a fight. OR 2.) You can decide to make a choice that values the input of community stakeholders who have the most to gain or lose by this decision and you can demand a leadership chain (including finding a new superintendent immediately) that is willing to do whatever is needed to tackle the BIG R issues that get in the way of education. And if the Waldorf model stays at Maupin, the school and TEACHERS MUST be given absolute support to fully implement the model at every level of the school.
Thank you for considering this perspective. I hope you will hear the families of West Louisville.
Did you know Dear JCPS is 100% volunteer run and every expense is paid from our own pockets? But volunteers don't have unlimited resources, and burnout is high. If you think we are providing a valuable service, isn't it worth at least what you pay for your annual PTA membership? Please give today.
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