Teacher Shortage

Dear JCPS,

My name is M, and I am a junior at the Academy @ Shawnee. You might recognize me from this time last year when I stood before you and spoke about how I never had a math teacher at all last year and didn’t receive what I deserve as a student because of it.m

Well, I stand before you at this moment because once again my fellow classmates and I or not getting what we need and deserve. Recently, a lot of changes have been made to my school and the most problematic or infelicitous change has been the change in staff. If you aren’t familiar with the background of most students at my school, most of (them/us) come from a lamentable background and don’t have a perfect support system. The people who were taken away from our school were some of the most understanding, caring and solicitous staff at my school. My school is not just a regular school. We need more than your average school and we definitely need and deserve more than what is being given to us.

Before I close, I would just like to ask that the next time you make a decision about what is being done to a school whose background and culture you aren’t familiar with, I would like to ask that you think about who it really affects, and that is the students.will

Thank you.

Student’s name has been replaced with first initial.

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

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?

Parent Name Retracted

Opinion letter submitted to the Courier-Journal

The public education community – made up of students, parents/guardians, teachers, staff, and community leaders – is fighting a difficult battle, playing out locally as well as nationally, to save our public schools from a well-funded, well-orchestrated movement to privatize public education.

While some of these efforts may be well-intentioned, most are uninformed, self-serving, or downright evil.  These outside groups range from politicians (many of whom don’t even have kids in public schools), to venture capitalists, to religious groups. Some are simply looking for a silver bullet. Others believe replacing highly qualified, certified teachers with less expensive, easier to bully personnel, or denying services to students who are more costly to educate, will help them put more cash in their pockets. Kentucky is by far the largest state yet to open the flood gates to access to our tax dollars earmarked for public education by way of charter legislation, so others are scurrying to secure their piece of the pie. While yet another group perceives an opportunity to use public funds to create schools that will promote their regressive or non-inclusive agendas, and these opportunists are even positioning themselves on boards that can influence the direction of this legislation.

True proponents of public education view it as the single most important pathway to success for every child, and we want to ensure that it remains equitable and accessible. Fighting this noble fight, day in and day out, to stave off these wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing, is hard work – especially when there is no money to be made, and no slick collateral or full-time marketing departments to support our efforts. Therefore, your endorsements for these candidates, who represent everything we are fighting against, felt like a punch in the gut.

One of your endorsed candidates for JCPS school board, Fritz Hollenbach, just moved back to Louisville last year, after having lived in another state for the last 28 years. Yet, this dark horse, newcomer candidate has already received around $250,000 in financial backing in the form of TV advertisements and mailers from an outside organization that is funded by a handful of millionaires, not stakeholders, pushing their own agenda. Meanwhile, the incumbent, Chris Brady, is truly a local candidate, which is what school board representation should be. His campaign budget is 1/10th that of your endorsed candidate. He a JCPS parent, educator and has lived here most of his life. He has demonstrated that he is willing to take a stand against the status quo and that he is a true defender of public education.

Similarly, your endorsement for David Jones, Jr. seems to overlook that this is another candidate – a venture capitalist no less – who is also spending 10 times the amount of his competitors to maintain a position that is essentially a “volunteer” job. He has been very supportive and “hands off” with our superintendent, despite repeated evidence that the data her team reports to the board members is erroneous, and we have seen a further decline of school safety and a widening of achievement gaps under his leadership. Chris Kolb, a JCPS graduate, a JCPS parent, an experienced educator, an active school volunteer, and a community leader with a track record of advocacy for children, intricately understands the problems plaguing our schools and our district and is passionate about public education. He will put public education ahead of profit.

Does your editorial board understand:

  • What it’s like be demonized and demoralized due to the overemphasis of the fallacious metric of high-stakes test scores?
  • How it feels to live under the constant threat of a state takeover or closure or having to shake things up every two or three years if gains are not made fast enough?
  • The harm that is done when we force educators to endure a competitive environment over a collaborative one?
  • The frustrations of dealing with a district that is constantly trying to implement “ivory tower” solutions when teachers’ and parents’ voices are not sought at the local school level?
  • The culture of fear, top-down bullying tactics, erroneous data used to guide decision making, and cover-ups and denial, and many other outrageous things that continue to take place in our district on a daily basis?

I do. Which is why I have been attending practically every board meeting and work session for over a year, and our group is in constant communication with our board members. We know which board members ask tough questions, speak up and even vote against the grain when student needs are not put first. So, I know how I came to my opinions. Having not seen your editorial board members at any of these meetings, I can’t help but wonder how they arrived at theirs.

TRUE public education advocates, who have been staying up-to-date with the educational crisis we are in, encourage support for Chris Kolb in District 2, Chris Brady in District 7, and Ben Gies in District 4.

Just remember this slogan: We ALL win with Chris, Chris and Ben!

Thank you,
Gay Adelmann

meGay Adelmann is a parent of a 2016 graduate from the Academy @ Shawnee, and co-founder of Dear JCPS, a stakeholder advocacy group that solicits feedback from constituents and amplifies that information to the JCPS Board of Education so that they are able to make more informed decisions.

This letter was sent to the JCPS Superintendent and Board Members by an Academy @ Shawnee parent on Nov. 3, before the student-initiated WDRB news stories aired. Student names in this letter have been replaced with first initial. The instructor who was instrumental in the student’s decision to transfer to Shawnee and fly the plane at Bowman Field has been transferred from Shawnee against his wishes.

Dear JCPS,

My husband and I are finding ourselves more and more fearful about our daughter, J’s, health and safety as she progresses in her first year, although a sophomore, at the Academy@Shawnee. Her freshman year she attended Atherton, our reside school.

J was exposed to the programs that the school offers because our son, W, attends the Academy@Shawnee middle school. She was able to go and do some amazing activities because the middle school was invited to participate and she tagged along. One Saturday morning, they both got to take a ride in a small aircraft at Bowman Field’s Hanger 7 for Free! While W was hesitant, J was “all in” for the ride and loved it. I tell you this because it was one of many small but pivotal events that led us to the heavy decision to transfer J from Atherton to A@S for the Aviation Program.

Last year when we dropped off W for school, he walked into the left side of A@S and had hardly any contact with the high school side of the building or the students attending. It kept us isolated from the high school. We became active with the school’s PTSA and got to know several parents with children in the high school. While listening to them, it seemed the biggest concern was teacher retention and subs. When I expressed my concern about the high school’s bad reputation and making the decision to transfer J, these parents put me at ease. Academy@Shawnee is the best kept secret in town with so many great things happening. She will love it! So, cautiouslywe transferred J for the 2016-17 school year from Atherton to A@S.

I wrote an email to Dr.Hargens on Friday, September 16th expressing my concern.

While teacher retention seemed to be the biggest focus last year, this year, it is the SAFETY and HEALTH of the children, namely our daughter, J. I wrote an email to Dr.Hargens on Friday, September 16th expressing my concern about the 3-5 fights DAILY and asking for additional security. The following Monday, she called me and said that the data showed only 3 fights for the whole WEEK. My reply was “[The data] is wrong. Continue Reading

Dr. Hargens and Members of the Board,

I am the mother of M, a junior at the Academy@Shawnee who is also a member of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council.

When my daughter was in her final year of middle school at Highland Middle, I carefully considered all her options for high school, both in and out of JCPS. M was determined to attend Shawnee. She was certain she wanted to join the Aviation program, and begin the process of becoming a pilot.

After attending the Showcase of Schools that year and meeting some of the parents and teachers, then visiting the school and meeting Dr. Barber and more teachers, I agreed to let her go.

There have been so many great things that have happened in her life since M has been at Shawnee. In addition to aviation, she is in ROTC, plays basketball, tennis, is on the swim team, junior class president and more. In addition to being on the Superintendent’s council, she has been afforded many more leadership opportunities. We are grateful for each of these.

Her teachers are wonderful. It’s easy to see that Shawnee teachers are there because they care. We have felt that way from the beginning. While I feel they would do their very best to protect as well as instruct her, I am more than concerned about her safety.

There have been multiple fights this year, and I am scared. M tells me about the fights that she sees, many times she is up close for a full view. Although I am relieved she has never been in one of these altercations, I worry about her being caught up in “crossfire”.

Aside from being a distraction from learning, it is also very dangerous. The easy, comfortable feeling we had two and half years ago has turned into worry. There are so many great kids at Shawnee and they deserve so much more than what they have to endure. There are so many great things going on at Shawnee but if my child is not even safe, or if she or I don’t feel she is safe, I question why I let her stay.

I am sure that student safety is a top concern for all of JCPS’ leadership and I know the answers aren’t always easy ones. I just want to see a change at Shawnee. I want the school to flourish and live up to the legacy it proudly holds and for each student to have the opportunity to succeed.

Thank you for your attention,
Concerned Parent

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.

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

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.

Something I threw together for my meeting with the Governor’s aides today.paradigm-shift