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Karin Bennett, Greg Tichenor, De’Nita Wright and Austin Norrid, Opinion contributorsPublished 9:58 a.m. ET March 11, 2019 | Updated 1:54 p.m. ET March 11, 2019

JCPS says there’s an urgent need to invest in new buildings throughout the county. It’s promoting the plan as a cost-saving measure and critical step. Marty Pearl/Special to Courier Journal, Louisville Courier Journal

We believe that putting student assignment first is key to avoiding a state takeover.

The Jefferson County school board is discussing rearranging the facilities before resolving student assignment. At the upcoming JCPS board meeting on Tuesday night, our elected school board members are expected to approve a $120 million Facilities Capital Fund proposal, which will result in a net loss of three elementary schools in southern and western Louisville. 

Read full article here:

https://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/2019/03/11/jcps-must-fix-student-assignment-avoid-state-takeover/3126036002/

February 25, 2019

SBDMs are under attack!

I wanted to let you know about several items that are gearing up for passage in the immediate future that can have serious negative implications on our public schools and local councils’ decision-making authority.

First is Senate Bill 250, which was introduced and passed the Senate Education Committee in less than a week. It is poised for passage in the Full Senate this week and will likely move quickly to the House. The bill, sponsored by Julie Raque Adams, has been championed by Greater Louisville Inc. and puts business interests over our student well-being. 15th District PTA President Autumn Neagle testified in Frankfort on Thursday against this bill, stating their organization, which is responsible for parent representative selection, was not even consulted for input before it was filed. SB250 consolidates more power in the hands of the Superintendent by taking it away from parents and teachers who serve on these committees.

Many “priority” schools in the West and South Ends have already lost their principal selection power, further limiting their ability to pull their schools out of priority status. THIS BILL WILL REMOVE PRINCIPAL SELECTION POWER FROM EVERY REMAINING SCHOOL IN JCPS. The bill also reduces the amount of transparency and accountability the administration is required to provide to our elected board members and the public. These efforts are a continuation of a national movement by business leaders to end-run local control and decision-making in order to further their agenda to divert tax dollars away from public schools and into charter schools and private schools. House Bill 205, makes these so-called scholarship tax credits legal, representing a very real threat to our schools.

Finally, the JCPS School Board has been mandated by the state to make significant improvements to their student assignment plan, which is expected to be voted on this summer. However, a massive facilities proposal is set for passage ahead of this decision, expected to be voted on at the March 12 board meeting at 7 PM at Van Hoose. The proposal includes the closing, merging and relocating of nearly a dozen schools in the South and West Ends, reducing the number of seats available in these schools, thereby severely limiting any changes the committee might recommend based results of community feedback. The proposal also depends on a dangerous merger of Breckinridge Metro and Minor Daniels, and relocating them into a non-neutral neighborhood.

Below are some actions you can take THIS WEEK!

  1. Call 800-372-7181 and leave a message for ALL HOUSE MEMBERS to vote NO on SB250 and HB205 because they undermine public school local decision-making and funding, opening the door to powerful outside interests to profit from tax dollars intended for public school children.
  2. Visit www.dearjcps.com/advocate and send a one-click email to all JCPS board members asking them to vote NO on any facilities proposals that would limit the student assignment committee’s ability to make authentic changes to the current plan prior to gathering and evaluating community feedback. Failure to drastically improve the student assignment plan could result in another attempted state takeover of JCPS in 2020, this time successfully.
  3. Show up or sign up to speak at the March 12 board meeting at 7 PM at Van Hoose to share your concerns.

The success of our public schools is dependent upon taking action now. The events are unfolding rapidly, so our window to act is short. Since time is of the essence, please contact me at 502-565-8397 with any questions.

Thank you,

Gay Adelmann
President and Co-Founder, Dear JCPS
President and Co-Founder, Save Our Schools Kentucky

Following my experience, this year,  with the North Oldham High School Academic Team as a certified Quick Recall Official, I have changed my mind from supporting charter schools to opposing them. Teachers and Public Schools need to be fully supported fiscally  with competitive pay and funding. This can be justified in terms of educational  success and the future success of Kentucky students and their impact on the economic and social standing of the state. This also applies to Kentucky higher education.

Harold Trainer

Prospect, Ky

Watch the video here.

Dear JCPS,

Our district is headed for a state takeover in 2020 UNLESS we come up with an authentic, community-supported student assignment plan now!

We did not escape it. We only postponed it. We know auditors will be back.

What are we doing about it? Quietly making minor tweaks to the student assignment plan? Or planning a revision that our community can get behind?

We know their intentions are to justify takeover of our district, which means the removal of your powers. I know you know this, but again, I ask, what are you doing about it? Your district administration isn’t going to save you. It’s up to you. It’s why we elected you.

I am not speculating when I make the following statements:

There is a national movement to privatize our public schools, and convert them into charters or worse. Taking over the board gives them power to do this, even if they don’t get their funding mechanism.

They desire to take away local control. Look at what they are doing with SBDMs. I am disappointed that Dr Pollio has come out in support of this bill, by the way. I agree he needs more power, but let’s take it from the state, not from us.

They want to have say over our student  assignment plan. Look at HB151 from 2017. But the plan they come up with will be ill-informed and cause more harm than good. Especially to our most vulnerable students who always bear the brunt of ivory-tower decisions.

Closing schools before these vultures have even taken us over is having you doing their dirty work for them! LOOK AROUND THIS NATION at what is happening. Don’t be complicit.

Don’t close a single school in a black, brown or poor community, at least not until you hear recommendations from the student assignment committee. Don’t build a new school in any part of town until you know where the student assignment committee feels the greatest needs are. You are tying their hands and forcing them to work with a plan, instead of the other way around.

This is a teachable moment. We encourage board members to educate their constituents, not put your own district’s wants ahead of the greater good. This is a sin that’s been committed far too often in this district.

The audit mandated a revised student assignment plan. It was the poison pill. But it’s also our brier patch. Authentic, community-supported student assignment plan is our ticket to prevent state takeover.

Please do not blow it.

We’ve been busing our most disenfranchised students from their communities, many against their will, making it impossible to attend parent teacher conferences, pick their child up from school when sick, participate in after-school activities. If it’s good enough for them, why isn’t it good enough for us?

Why aren’t we having this conversation?

If you pass this facilities plan based on projected growth, without considering this possible proposal, you essentially shut us out. Perhaps that’s the district’s plan. But is it yours? We elected this board to represent the taxpayers, parents and students. To course-correct when the administration puts their own or outside interests first. You have 18 months to show us what you’re made of. But this time, it won’t be us voting you out. It will be Wayne Lewis and ALEC and their enablers.

Let’s ask parents with means, transportation, and time to carry some of this burden for the next decade. Why shouldn’t families in the West End have the same opportunities my child had?

Watch the video of the guest speakers from Tuesday night’s @JCPSKY board of education meeting here.

Speakers at Tuesday night’s JCPS Board meeting included Dear JCPS officers, Tiffany Dunn, Gay Adelmann and Michael McCloud. They addressed the state takeover, putting students first, and the proposed policing of JCPS students. Here is the text from Ms. Dunn’s speech:

My name is Tiffany Dunn. I’m a national board certified ESL teacher at a wonderful school, Lassiter Middle.

At our November 13th faculty meeting we were told by our administration,

“We are operating as if we are already under state control.”

This was said twice for emphasis.

My question to you is, “why?”

JCPS parents, teachers, and stakeholders fought hard and made it clear we had no interest in being controlled by a privatization-minded, predatory state board of education and commissioner. We succeeded, but only to have our district wave the white flag anyway?

What does “operating as if we are already under state control” look like, you ask?

Our professional learning communities have been hijacked. We have district personnel sit in our meeting every single week. Instead of having collegial conversations about student learning, we are being forced to give common assessments. On the same day. No matter where we are in our teaching. And then analyze the contrived data as if it’s legitimate.

We’re also being told we have to do project-based learning – the SAME project as our PLC members. Have any of you looked at the research on PBLs? It’s dismal. John Hattie has it at a .15 effect size – what does this mean? To be considered effective – a strategy should be at least .4. PBL effectiveness even falls behind charter and religious schools, which not surprisingly, weren’t much better.

This type of control is not only attack on teacher autonomy, it’s an attack on student learning.

Along with the classroom control, we have become obsessed with MAP testing and student data. We are losing precious class time to assess students. Most appalling is that ESL and ECE students are being denied their reader accommodation on the reading portion of the MAP test.

So, these results aren’t even reliable or legitimate! Next Tuesday, our school is having a reward day for students based on MAP growth. We are losing two more class periods of instruction. Less than 1/3 of our 6th grade students qualified.

I ask you, “Why are we using test data for rewards? What are we trying to accomplish? Shame students into learning? As if they’re trying to do poorly?”

Wayne and his cronies want nothing more than to see us fail – it fits their narrative and it will line their pockets. Following a takeover agenda will only get us one place – taken over. It was and always will be the end goal.

Instead, JCPS needs to align itself with research-based strategies, not data mining. Teachers should be treated as the experts, not babysat by district and school administrators.

Below is the text from Gay Adelmann’s speech:

I sure hope that teacher does not experience any retribution for speaking up for her students tonight.

No teacher should ever experience negative consequences for doing what’s best for their students.

And that includes our teachers who speak out against these threats of privatization and excessive testing and everything that goes along with it.

Dear JCPS,

My name is Gay Adelmann. I am the co-founder of Dear JCPS and Save Our Schools KY.

In May of 2016, I stood up here and told the current board chair he needed to put the interests of our students ahead of the interests of privatizers. He didn’t listen. And he’s gone now.

In August of 2016, Dear JCPS cofounder Erin Korbylo stood here and told Dr. Hargens that we gave her a vote of no confidence because she worried more about what business leaders thought than about doing what was best for students. She’s also gone now.

In fact, the first time I spoke to this board was in 2013. Before Dr. Pruitt was even the commissioner. Only two of you are still here. And here Wayne Lewis comes in from nowhere, telling you how to fix JCPS. And you jump through every hoop he sets for you.

Don’t worry about them. The superintendent reports to this board, this board reports to us – the voters. Our students are your customers. The customer comes first. Not Frankfort, not business and chamber leaders (who probably don’t have kids in our schools), not these disingenuous Alec-funded fake grassroots groups.

Because no matter what you do! It’s a shell game. It’s a moving target. They’re going to find a way to say our schools are failing. So you might as well do what you know is right.

Not only did voters keep out the privatizers out of our district, we pushed back on a state takeover and charter school funding. While we weren’t pleased with the compromise, because we knew it would lead to more of the same, living in fear of being taken over

You’ve gotten a two year stay of execution. Use it.

Spend it doing what’s best for students — especially our most vulnerable. Not jumping thru hoops for unqualified, outsiders with a privatization agenda.

Here’s something I don’t think the community understands.

What may be fine for mainstream students, like many of ours, is not fine for our most vulnerable. ESPECIALLY when you have a district of CHOICE!

I did not realize this until I saw it first hand as a Shawnee parent.

When you have choice and diversity, two things we TREASURE, you cannot allow them to use these qualities against us and destroy our district in the process. Fight back! Help them understand.

When you treat students as data (in the aggregate, the average, the statistic, instead of the wet clay that they are), you learn to manipulate it to give you what you need to make Frankfort happy, instead of giving each student what they need individually to “reach their full potential.”

Our most vulnerable students are the ones who end up being used as pawns to make the data look good for the adults.

We know that these practices are abusive. They’ve told us! Resist doing what you know is harmful. Give exceptions – fight back – for schools with high needs populations. For vulnerable students. Because what works for the mainstream often throws our most vulnerable students under the bus. And we’re losing a generation of kids.

If any elected official has a problem with our district cutting back on this state-mandated abuse, let them say so publicly. So we know who to vote out next time.

Put students first. Not in aggregate. Not the averages. Not data points. Not the mainstream.

All students, especially the most vulnerable.

Support excellent teachers like Ms. Dunn. Allow her to do what she knows to be best for her students, and everything else will follow.

Thank you.

Tiffany Dunn and Michael McCloud wait their turn to speak.

We do not yet have a transcript of Michael McCloud’s speech but will post it here when we do.

If you have a message you would like to submit to Dear JCPS, please email moderator@dearjcps.com.

Dear JCPS,

I have students that range from K-5th Grades I transport daily to and from school. At best, these students are on the bus approximately 45 minutes in the morning and approximately 1 hour in the evening, depending on traffic. It is my responsibility to safely transport all my students to and from school. I have students that refuse to sit down safely in their assigned seats, inappropriately touches other students, use foul language, eat and drink, breaks pencils and crayons and throws them at other students, throws food (most recently threw bags of carrots at other students), fight, speaks ill of other students family members to include making fun of other students less fortunate and cursing out the bus driver and being extremely disrespectful. One more thing on this note, they will fabricate lies against the bus driver and for that I am glad we have cameras. I have written approximately 150 disciplinary referrals so far this year. I have had a couple of suspensions for 1-3 days, however, I also have repeat offenders. I had one student this past week get suspended for 5 days, but, after 2 days, their suspension was lifted and allowed to return to my bus. Unfortunately, most of my students that get suspended from riding the bus, does not go to school. With all this said, my concern is for all students safety. The few that cause these problems are jeopardizing the safety of everyone on the school bus. It is just a matter of time when one of my students get hurt, then who will the blame fall on? Usually, it’s the bus driver. I have to keep one eye on my student mirror and the other eye on the road, which can become unsafe. We can only stop the bus for 5 minutes to address any discipline issues. In the winter months, it starts getting dark by 530PM. Needless to say, I have been extremely late dropping off my students because of discipline issues ( 630PM the latest time so far this year). I am making it very inconvenient for the majority of my students and their parents because of the actions of a few, which is not fair either. If the repeat offenders were held accountable, and go through the suspension process, and continue to be disruptive, then the parents or guardians need to be responsible for getting their child to and from school, no matter their personal difficulties doing so. If the student misses school in excess of the attendance policies, the parents are ultimately responsible and should be dealt with in accordance with the applicable laws concerning truancy. If expulsion from the school bus is not an option, then move that student to a closer school nearest to their home,as a hardship transfer. By far, my bus has less problems than most, but, the safety issue remains the same. How many referrals are too many? I had a member of my management team tell me, as we were speaking on the discipline problems of one of my students, ” That student only has had 3 referrals.” I honestly think more than one referral, you have an obvious problem. Let’s force the parents and guardians to get involved more. Children will only do what they are allowed to do and a piece of paper is not going to stop their disruptive behavior if they realize they are not being held accountable. There has been problems in the past in which the school can’t reach the parents, whether a disconnected phone number or the parent refusing to respond. 9 out of 10 times, I find copies of referrals that were sent home for a parents signature and to be returned to school, ripped up into pieces and thrown on the bus floor. Bottom line, the students are required by law to attend school. Having transportation should be considered a privilege, not a right. We need to get a hold of our students at the elementary level and not just pass the problem on to middle and then high school. As students get older, their behavior becomes more violent. Let us not continue to allow unsafe behavior to go unpunished. I don’t want to see any of my students get hurt or worse. We are JCPS and We have an established standard on school bus safety. Let’s start enforcing it and stop pointing fingers at everyone else. It’s our problem, let’s fix it!! Thank You for your time.