Teacher Shortage

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

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.

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

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

tshirt backWith the release of Kentucky schools’ test scores, parents, district leaders and legislators are cautioned to keep in mind that our schools (and our kids) are more than a test score. The notion that this single metric, which has been shown to correlate more closely with income (or wealth) than it does a student’s intelligence or potential, or a school’s ability to provide a quality education, is harmful to students, teachers and schools. This unhealthy overemphasis on state test scores:

  • results in a “test-and-punish” mentality that devalues students and demoralizes teachers for factors beyond their control, instead of supporting and acknowledging the hurdles and accomplishments of those serving our highest-needs populations,
  • promotes a competitive vs. collaborative environment that pits schools against each other, instead of encouraging nurturing learning environments that reward the sharing of best practices and resources,
  • forces legislators and administrators to place pressure on teachers to focus on short-term, adult-centered concerns instead of permitting highly skilled educators to use their training to teach the lessons that are truly in the best interests of students,
  • creates unnecessary anxiety, health and self-esteem problems for students, while simultaneously snuffing out their love of learning,
  • squeezes out meaningful subjects and activities, such as art, music, and extracurriculars, as well as time for lunch and play,
  • results in disproportionate emphasis on remediation for our high-poverty, high needs (GAP) populations as compared to mainstream populations, which comes at the expense of enrichment, interventions and meaningful instruction for high-needs students who might benefit from it the most,
  • contributes to excessive teacher turnover in persistently low-achieving schools or schools with higher needs populations,
  • increases incidence of behavior and discipline problems, and
  • leads to age-inappropriate activities and content, including teaching our children to properly fill in bubble tests as early as kindergarten!

Worst of all, persistently low test scores have been linked to closing neighborhood schools that serve our most vulnerable students, while opening the door to privatizers and swindlers who are more interested in getting their hands on our tax dollars than they are in improving student outcomes.fish

High-stakes test scores are the blood diamonds of public education,” says Gay Adelmann, co-founder of Dear JCPS and founder of Save Our Schools KY. “Well-meaning adults who buy into the hype that these test scores measure the success of a school, or the ability or potential of a child, unwittingly perpetuate the war on public education.

With the passage of ESSA, local school systems have the opportunity to design a broader, more student-centered accountability system, such as a “dashboard” approach. Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt said during a town hall meeting in April, “If we don’t come out with an accountability system focused on students, then we’ve failed. It can’t be about adults chasing points. The system needs to promote what’s best for students.” The new federal act requires the system to be in place by the 2017-18 school year, too late to mitigate the detrimental effects of this year’s test results.


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.