While everyone in Louisville is focused on Derby, let’s talk about another horse race.  One that’s been rigged for nearly a decade.

When the Supreme Court ruled that districts could no longer use race alone as the determining factor for student assignment, Jefferson County came up with a more elaborate plan. It may have been well-intentioned, and it may have served the majority of students in JCPS, but it left one school in particular out in the cold. That school was the Academy @ Shawnee, in Louisville’s highly segregated and disenfranchised West End. A part of town where residents already suffer from high poverty, high trauma, high gun violence and drug influence, high rates of incarceration, food insecurity, lack of employment, lack of transportation, lack of shopping, higher rates of abandoned homes, and so on. You get the picture.

While other schools used race, educational attainment of parents and zip code to determine which students would attend, and a target between 15% to 50% of families in the most affected tier was achieved, it was necessary for one school to have a much higher concentration of students in poverty in order for the plan to work. The Academy @ Shawnee was the only high school to have a saturation level of 87%.

Its aim is to leave no school with more than half its students from low-income, low-education and high-minority neighborhoods. Except for Shawnee High School. Under the proposal, Shawnee would still draw 87 percent of its students from low-income, low-education and high-minority areas — more than double the rate of any other high school.

Let’s talk about the student assignment map itself. In order to achieve this student assignment plan above, the district had to carve up the neighborhood immediately surrounding Shawnee and assign the students to one of a dozen or so schools around Louisville. Then to fill Shawnee, they had to backfill from the Portland and Highland neighborhoods.

District officials could have created a satellite attendance zone for Shawnee in a more affluent area of Jefferson County to diversify enrollment. But they chose not to.

And if the school had been given the resources and supports, as well as some empathy and latitude when their high-stakes test scores do not keep up with a school like Manual, for example, so that they could focus more on meeting students where they are and less on “keeping up with the Joneses” authentic progress could have been made. But former Superintendent Hargens was tone deaf to those requests, which is why many members of the community, including our organization, pushed for her resignation, as well as the removal of board members who propped up her continued failures. And instead our community elected board members who vowed to hold her accountable and remove her.

If one was paying close attention, they might think this horse race was rigged in order to make Shawnee an ideal sacrificial lamb for a conversion charter school. Bevin told us in December of 2016, there were going to bring Charters to Kentucky and they were going to start in the West End.

Charters are NOT proven to improve outcomes for students of color. However, supports, interventions, smaller class sizes, less emphasis on high stakes tests, early childhood education, and 100 other things are. And on top of that, state law ties the hands of district leaders, forces adults and schools to “compete” for a Hunger Games type situation where the bottom 5% of schools continue to face radical punitive measures if they do not perform well. It’s dog eat dog, so collaboration from a peer at another school is out of the question when you’re both near the bottom. Administrators have lamented how they feel relief when another school fails, because at least it wasn’t them! It’s an awful paradox to put them in.

Why not try removing the unfair handicaps instead of taking JCPS down a path of privatization and even greater opportunities for waste and fraud?



Dear JCPS,

I am the Robotics instructor at Newburg Middle School.

I will tell you that Newburg is undefeated in VEX IQ robotics this year and we’re representing Kentucky and the USA at VEX Worlds next week.

Our Math and Reading scores are 34% and 37% respectively on state assessments, yet we have beaten all other middle schools in the state in robotics. Based on our scores, most people would not think this was possible. That is because these state tests are not accurate assessments of what kids in a school can do. I can guarantee that from first hand knowledge.

Our kids have been successful because over the last two years my school has secured over $35,000 through grants and donations to build a robotics and engineering program. Now my kids can be successful because they are exposed to the material and the technology. Our robot to student ratio is 1:2.

Any school can do what we’ve done IF we can get proper funding for our public schools. State tests are NOT reliable performance reviews and they need to STOP being used to measure a school’s success.

JCPS Teacher

Dear JCPS,

I am a parent of four JCPS students who is deeply concerned about academic achievement and about school discipline methods and especially about the disparities in these areas for students of color and students with disabilities. Do I think JCPS has work to do? Yes. Do I think a state takeover is the way to do it? No. Here’s why:

National data on the effectiveness of state takeovers has failed to show that this is an effective model for improving a district. An analysis from the Pew Charitable Trust found no clear-cut evidence that this type of intervention leads to better student performance or fiscal management.1 A study from Rutgers University found that while they may yield more gains in central office management, student achievement often falls short.2 A Vanderbilt University study of state takeovers in the state of Tennessee found that schools that remained in the local school district outperformed similar schools that were taken over by state government.3

Furthermore, examination of such takeovers in New Orleans and Detroit found that such takeovers had harmful effects on students of color and students with special needs. In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit against New Orleans’ Recovery School District (RSD), presenting evidence that the rights of more than 4,500 special needs students had been violated because the state did not insure that they had equal access to educational services. According to the lawsuit that was eventually settled in 2015, special needs students faced discriminatory enrollment practices, difficulties accessing adequate evaluation services and illegal discipline for manifestations of symptoms of students’ disabilities.4

In Michigan’s state-run Education Achievement Authority, more than 6000 suspensions were issued for a student population of 10,000, more than 60% of which were for minor infractions such as truancy, insubordination and disorderly conduct, with suspension rates for students of color disproportionately higher.5

In the two hours of research I did on state takeovers, I could not find a single report or article that cited real data that showed that state takeovers are more successful than other interventions. So why should JCPS parents, teachers, administrators and community supporters possibly want this action taken?

The Center for Popular Democracy, in its report on state takeovers of low-performing schools, notes that in many cases, when states do this, they do so after first failing to meet their own constitutional obligation to provide a district with adequate resources for students to be given a fair and substantive opportunity to learn.

According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, funding for education in Kentucky was reduced 5.9% from 2008-2015 and per-pupil funding in Kentucky has dropped 15.8% from 2008 to 2018, making Kentucky one of the 12 states with the deepest cuts for K-12 education since 2008.6 So why should the state, which one could argue, has failed to meet their constitutional obligation to resource the district adequately, now be able to infringe on local citizens’ democratic rights by taking over the district?

Finally, this board newly appointed by Bevin is comprised mostly of people who have no experience with public schools. In fact, some may have a vested interest in seeing public schools fail to make way for charter schools. So how can we trust them to act in what is the best interest of our public school students? Even if their motives are pure, how many of these board members have actual experience working with our most marginalized students who struggle to achieve academically? What knowledge and experience do they have in closing achievement gaps for public school students? If this is really their goal, why did they remove an education commissioner who actually had classroom experience and extensive knowledge in this area, and was given a glowing recommendation by the board four months before he was removed?

As a JCPS parent, I will continue to push JCPS to provide a better education and appropriate discipline fairly and equitably for all students. But who should I trust to oversee this work? A newly appointed state Board of Education filled with people with no public school experience and a vested interest in charter schools? Or our own democratically elected school board and new superintendent who has experience with our district and a vested interest in seeing it succeed? I’m going with door number 2.

Cindy Cushman
JCPS Parent

1 Mitchell, Corey. 2016. “Study Raises Questions About State Takeovers of Districts.” Education Week.
2 http://ielp.rutgers.edu/docs/developing_plan_app_b.pdf
3 R. Zimmer, A. Kho, G. Henry, and S. Viano, “Evaluation of the Effect of Tennessee’s Achievement School District
on Student Test Scores.” December 2015. Available
http://www.tnconsortium.org/data/files/gallery/ContentGallery/ASD_ Impact_Policy_Brief_Final_12.8.15.pdf.
Accessed January 3, 2015.
4 Dreilinger, Danielle. 2013. “Unrelenting New Orleans Special Education Problems Alleged in New Court Filings.”
The Times-Picayune.
5 The American Federation of Teachers, “State Takeovers of Low-Performing Schools and School Systems Are Not
the Answer: Evidence from Louisiana and Michigan.”
6 Leachman, Masterson, and Figueroa. (November, 2017). “A Punishing Decade for School Funding.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. https://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/a-punishing-decade-for-school-funding

Dear JCPS,

I have done a brief review of the Bellwether report commissioned by the SCALA education subgroup and I wanted to share some information that should call into question the validity of conclusions drawn by or from the report.  Specifically, the Bellwether report cites a number of other reports that have been discredited when subjected to academic peer review.

For example, the Bellwether report includes multiple references to “A 21st Century School System in the Mile-High City.”  A review (attached) of this report by (White – University of Colorado Boulder) found:

A report published by the Progressive Policy Institute calls for aggressively closing more public schools and expanding charter schools and charter networks. It highlights reforms adopted by Denver Public Schools, notably a “portfolio model” of school governance, and argues that these reforms positively impacted student test scores. However, causality cannot be determined, and the report did not attempt to isolate the effect of a multitude of reforms— including charters, performance pay, and a new performance framework—from larger complex forces shaping student demographics in the city. Written in a reportorial voice, the only data presented are in the form of simple charts. The lack of conventional statistical analyses thwarts the reader’s understanding. The report also characterizes the reform’s adoption as a “political success” born of a healthily contentious electoral process. In doing so, it down- plays the role of outside forces and moneyed groups that influenced the form of reforms, and it disregards missed opportunities for meaningful engagement with community stakeholders. Finally, while the report acknowledges the district’s failure to close achievement gaps and admits limitations with the evaluation system, it never explains how a successful reform could generate a widening gap in performance between student groups by race and class.

The Bellwether report is also based on “Measures of Last Resort: Assessing Strategies for State-Initiated Turnarounds.”  A review (attached) of this report (Malen and Rice – University of Maryland) found:

The stated goal of this report is to strengthen the evidence base on state-initiated turn-arounds and to provide guidance to help states use turnaround strategies more effectively. The report draws on multiple sources of information to develop a conceptual framework and profile of state-initiated turnaround strategies, to array the evidence on the effectiveness of turnaround initiatives, and to identify key elements of a successful turnaround strategy. However, given multiple methodological limitations, the report fails to elevate either the research base or the policy discourse. Specifically, the methods used to carry out the original research (e.g., analysis of state policies, interviews with stakeholders, and illustrative cases) are neither explained nor justified. Likewise, the methods employed in the eight evaluations selected to assess the effectiveness of turnaround approaches are not described, and the evidence base produced by these evaluations is not sufficient to support the sweeping claims made in the report. Equally important, the report neglects to consider relevant research on the specific mechanisms (e.g., school reconstitution, intensive professional development, private management systems) that states use when they employ the broad turnaround strategies discussed in the report. As a result of these problems, the report does not enhance the evidence base or provide the substantive guidance state policymakers require to make informed decisions about the use of various school turnaround strategies.

These examples illustrate a broader problem with the Bellwether report – it is based on reports that would more accurately be described as policy advocacy documents than objective research.  As such, making consequential decisions that would impact our community based on the Bellwether report would not be advisable because the report’s validity is highly questionable at best.  Basing high-stakes decisions on such untenable evidence could lead to significant negative consequences and unintended outcomes.

I hope this information can be shared broadly, including with the full SCALA committee and that all involved will review the attached peer analyses carefully.  I have also attached an additional analysis of portfolio districts, by William Mathis at the University of Colorado Boulder, which individuals may wish to review.

Brent McKim
JCTA President

Portfolio Districts Analysis – Mathis

Measures of Last Resort Report Analysis – Malen

21st Century School System Report Analysis – White

Dear JCPS,

I wanted to check back in with you since it has been quite some time.  I think you now see why I have been reluctant to divulge my name up until now.  Here we are months later and Principal Mayes still sits at his desk at Manual running the show.  It infuriates me every day that he has remained in this job, not on administrative leave, while this investigation takes place.

Manual parents, students and staff STILL REMAIN IN THE DARK about this supposed investigation into Mayes’ completely inappropriate behavior and conduct.  No one from the district has ever reached out to us to give us any sense of what is going on.  When you call the superintendent’s office no one will answer your questions and they give you the brush off. Everything is just as I expected — the district is silent just waiting this situation out and brushing everything under the rug.  The posts to dear JCPS have ceased because we all know that the countless incidents of his vile behavior reported so far by students, alumni, staff and parents have not truly been paid attention to.  Those of us brave enough to speak out (on behalf of countless others too fearful to do so) are disappointed and feel defeated that the district has not taken our concerns seriously.  If they really cared for the students at Manual, they would have put Mayes on leave months ago.  This wasn’t one allegation, it was countless ones.  Alumni speak about his abuses going back years and years.  How the district didn’t outright fire him over all of this is truly shocking, but the fact that he remains in charge at Manual is unconscionable.

Concerned Manual Parent

The views expressed here are those of the author. If you or someone you know has a concern regarding events taking place at Manual or another JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter form

This post is a work in progress. We are putting together a list of key #Louminati articles that were released, in the order they were released. We will soon be updating this post with our interpretation of how these stories fit in to the big picture.

First, a reminder of the Hargens, Jones and Hudson trifecta.

JCPS administrator: Community should be ‘outraged’ about high salaries – Posted: May 02, 2016 11:05 AM EDT

OPINION: Comment | ‘Outraged’ parent addresses CBO – Gay Adelmann, Guest Contributor Published 2:57 p.m. ET May 5, 2016 

JCPS school board chairman David Jones Jr. loses bid for re-election – Posted: Nov 08, 2016 6:50 PM EST

Dozens call for JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens to resign – Posted: Feb 21, 2017 4:29 PM EST

With Charters On Horizon, Mayor’s Ties To School Choice Emerge – By  – 

Dr. Hargens to step down from position as JCPS superintendent – Ana Rivera, WHAS 11:35 PM. EDT April 13, 2017

JCPS opts not to renew chief business officer Tom Hudson’s contract – Posted: May 19, 2017 12:44 PM EDT

Secret Christiansen Report, Commissioned by Tom Hudson, Conducted by “friend” of Tom Hudson, Never Before Seen By JCPS Board, Parents, Public, KDE – Oct. 31, 2016

Not sure what prompted this guy to have an opinion about public schools in Jefferson county, considering he’s been here less than two years. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that he receives funding and support from a group of Libertarians tied to the Kochs, and Art Laffer. But it shouldn’t be surprising. Everyone and their dog has an opinion about how to fix schools they’ve never set foot in or supported in decades, all based on tired stereotypes and assumptions.
State takeover is the last best hope to save JCPS | Opinion – Jordan Harris, Contributing Columnist  – Published 10:21 a.m. ET – Nov. 21, 2017

Columnist’s school-takeover rhetoric is straight from the Koch playbook | Opinion – Gay Adelmann, Guest Contributor – Published 9:33 a.m. ET Nov. 25, 2017

Fast forward to January 2018…

When this surprise, one-sided story comes from leaks by our ousted CBO. What is the motive? Agenda?

JCPS Internal Investigations Of Employee Misconduct Fall Short – By  

OPINION: The cowardice of JCPS leaders puts kids and staff at risk. The state must step in | Tom Hudson, Guest contributor Published 5:05 p.m. ET Jan. 26, 2018

By invitation only: Meet Louisville’s power brokers – By STAFF | 

Denying secrecy, private Louisville ‘steering committee’ releases members’ names

, Courier Journal Published 5:35 p.m. ET Jan. 30, 2018 

Louisville’s rich have joined to help set the city’s agenda, and they’ve got an eye on JCPS

, Courier Journal Published 8:05 p.m. ET Jan. 30, 2018

OPINION: Outspoken JCPS critic Tom Hudson helped make the same mess he groused about | Brady

OPINION: Tom Hudson is deceptive and delusional in his criticism of JCPS school board | Chris Kolb

Report: JCPS needs strong executive calling the shots, not the school board and union
, Louisville Courier Journal – Published 8:08 p.m. ET Feb. 1, 2018 

The list of funders for Bellwether Education Partners consists mainly of conservative privatization advocacy groups and charter schools / charter advocacy groups. Below are some examples…

· Academy for Urban School Leadership

· Academy Prep Foundation

· ACE Charter Schools

· Algiers Charter Schools Association

· American Center for School Choice

· American Enterprise Institute

· American Federation for Children – Alliance for School Choice

· Archdiocese of Boston

· The Aspen Insitute/Stevens Initiative

· Black Alliance for Educational Options

· Boston Charter Fund

· The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems

· Brooke Charter Schools

· Center on Reinventing Public Education

· Charter Parents United

· Charter School Growth Fund

· Charter School Partners

· Chicago International Charter Schools

· Chiefs for Change

· Citizens of the World Charter Schools

· Collegiate Academies

· Community Charter School of Cambridge

· DC Association of Chartered Public Schools

· DC Prep

· Democracy Prep Public Schools

· Digital Promise

· Downtown College Prep

· Education Reform Now

· Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School

· The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation

· Equitas Academy Charter Schools

· Freedom Preparatory Academy

· Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice

· Friendship Public Charter Schools

· George W. Bush Institute

· Georgia Charter School Association

· Hebrew Charter School Center

· Hope Street Group

· Illinois Network of Charter Schools

· Ingenuity Prep Public Charter School

· InspireNOLA

· Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice

· K12 Inc.

· KIPP Colorado

· KIPP Foundation

· KIPP Houston

· KIPP Kansas City

· KIPP Los Angeles

· KIPP Massachusetts

· KIPP San Antonio

· KIPP St. Louis

· Lake Wales Charter Schools

· Laura and John Arnold Foundation

· M.C. Adams Public Charter School

· Massachusetts Charter Public School Association

· Mastery Charter Schools

· National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

· National Association of Charter School Authorizers

· New Schools for Baton Rouge

· New Schools for New Orleans

· New York City Charter School Center

· New Schools Venture Fund

· Noble Network of Charter Schools

· The Oaks Academy

· Perspectives Charter Schools

· Philadelphia Leadership Academy

· Reason Foundation

· ReNew Schools Charter Management Organization

· Revolution Prep

· Rocketship Education

· Roman Archdiocese of Boston

· Scholar Academies

· St. Ignatius Catholic School

· Stand for Children

· The Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Agenda

· STRIVE Preparatory Schools

· Students for Ed Reform

· Sylvan Learning

· Teach for America

· Teach for America – Bay Area

· Teach for America of Greater New Orleans

· Teach for America – Northeast Ohio

· Tennessee Achievement School District

· Tennessee Charter School Center

· Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE)

· Texas Charter School Association

· Thomas B. Fordham Institute

· Thurgood Marshall Academy

· Thurgood Marshall College Fund

· Valley Christian Schools

· Voices College-Bound Language Academies

· The Walton Family Foundation

· YES Prep Public Schools

Dear JCPS,

1. This has caused an enormous amount of stress on the student body. Anyone not anticipating that doesn’t understand the teen population, as suicide is the #2 cause of death among 15-24 year olds (National Institute of Mental Health). Anyone failing to believe that students are stressed (in whatever forms) in this environment, either have no teens or aren’t paying attention to them. This is a great time to be proactive rather than reactive and demand appropriate action before we have a reason to mourn another teen suicide.

2. Another Manual employee is facing allegations that occurred outside the school & outside this state. Mr. Mayes sent an email to parents in the interest of “transparency.” Per the email, the employee was removed to ensure the “safety” of students until the matter was resolved. Mr. Mayes is on tape making inappropriate comments to students in his office with no other adults present & he admitted to making the statements. Yet, he remains at the school. What is different between that employee & Mr. Mayes?

3. No one went nuts because Mr. Mayes said he was discriminated against. People went nuts because he tried to minimize or invalidate the students’ lived experiences. As the leader, his role was to listen to there concerns and resolve them. Instead, he told them why he “had a problem” with a certain matter and began telling them about his life experiences. When the students began to counter, he interrupted them and said such things like “that’s your perspective.”

4. Mr. Mayes is correct. It is the students’ perspective just as it was his. Everyone has a perspective and they should all be respected. Everyone is free to have their own perspective. No one is free to mistreat, intimidate, etc. others because they have different perspectives.

5. Every one deserves to be treated with the same God-given dignity & respect no matter what! We are all made in His image & did nothing to earn dignity & respect. No one has to earn dignity & respect from us no matter who they are, what they look like or how they identify themselves.

6. Perpetrators (especially those in power) know exactly how to make it difficult for victims to raise charges against them. This setting was perfect.

7. People all over the world are being congratulated and awarded for standing against social injustice. Most notably, at the moment, are sexual assault victims in this country. Somehow, though, for the students at a high school here in Louisville, KY, it’s a problem. 

8. This sign is at school. The students followed it and are suffering because they actually trusted the message, but are receiving tons of criticism.


Manual Parent


The views expressed here are those of the author. If you or someone you know has a concern regarding events taking place at Manual or another JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter formWhile the full name of the author has been withheld here, they are not anonymous to us. If a school board member would like to follow up on this complaint, they can contact us to make a connection with the author.

Dear JCPS,

As a current parent, I want to discuss three main issues:

1 – Why is Mr. Mayes still the principal?

2 – My child is afraid to go to school

3 – JCPS, your silence conveys that you don’t care what is going on

How is Mr. Mayes allowed to still be there as principal?  We now know what he has said to students (as recent as 2017) alone with them in his office.  We now see that students are too intimidated to speak out until they are graduated and gone.  How is this acceptable?

My child is now afraid to go to school.  He’s not afraid of a schoolmate bully, but instead an ADULT one that sits in the principal’s chair.  (child says)“If he has taken other kids out of class to talk to them, that could happen to any of us. It has happened to some kids I know at school, and they say it is scary and he throws his power around.  One kid supposedly had to sign some paper about something he did.  You can’t think straight if you think you might somehow be in trouble or convinced that you are in trouble when you really didn’t do anything.  How do you really know what you are signing?  If you get taken to the principal’s office, you are in trouble, right?”  Friends at other schools are also asking my child what is going on at his school because his principal has been in the newspaper saying crazy things to students.   This is supposed to be an environment of learning, yet it is not because the kids (and teachers he reports too) are so preoccupied with and distracted by the outrageous things the principal has done and said.  We know Mr. Mayes has run down students (past and present), their heritage, teachers, administrators by name, JCPS district employees and more. How is any of this acceptable?


JCPS, this is on you.  We haven’t heard anything from you, but thankfully we have heard about it from the media.  How many MORE people have to come forward with credible and specific incidents (all of which are establishing similar patterns of intimidation and bullying behavior) before something is done?  I guess 2, 5, or even 7 accounts isn’t enough – there were 7 accounts in the newspaper on Sunday.  How many more must there be?  The Courier Journal has done their due diligence to interview these former students.  JCPS, have you spoken to these students?  As a Manual parent I have had ZERO communication from you, JCPS, as to what is going on here and what you are or aren’t doing about it.  Dr. Pollio, if you really want this Superintendent’s job, you certainly aren’t acting like it.  You aren’t being proactive and keeping us as Manual parents informed on this extremely important matter.  It sure seems like the district is taking sides with administration instead of with students and their well being.  Here is a quote from the newspaper article that drives this point home – “JCPS reprimanded Mayes last month for comments he made in the recorded conversation.  But, according to Oct. 27 reprimand letter obtained by Courier Journal, Mayes was chided for speaking negatively about fellow JCPS employees during the recording, not for his race-related comments.”  Mayes didn’t get reprimanded for what he said, are you kidding me?  This clearly shows that you favor the adult over the kids here, and that is a real travesty.

We are still a relatively new family to Manual and I’m considering transferring my child out.  I don’t want my child in the building with Mr. Mayes anymore.  However, my child should not have to be the one to go, it should be the principal.  Based on his actions, Mayes is in no way fit for this job.  Manual now needs a kind, honest and stable leader that focuses on the well-being of every single student.  The days of intimidation and fear from the top down need to be over…immediately.


Current Manual Parent


The views expressed here are those of the author. If you or someone you know has a concern regarding events taking place at Manual or another JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter formWhile the full name of the author has been withheld here, they are not anonymous to us. If a school board member would like to follow up on this complaint, they can contact us to make a connection with the author.

Note: The Courier Journal article regarding the reprimand has since been updated to reflect the true content of the reprimand letter.


The views expressed here are those of the author. If you or someone you know has a concern regarding events taking place at Manual or another JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter formWhile the name of the author has been withheld here, they are not anonymous to us. If a school board member would like to follow up on this complaint, they can contact us to make a connection with the author.