At Tuesday night’s board meeting, Dear JCPS co-founder, Gay Adelmann, addressed the JCPS Board of Education, citing the potential for lawsuits with regards to the new student discipline law, the district’s documented failures to educate students in the juvenile justice system, and the willful incompetence when keeping track of these students, which appears to remain in existence today. We made demands for accountability and put them on notice. “There will be lawsuits.” Watch the video, which has been augmented with audio that was silenced when the mic was cut at the 3-minute mark, to hear the rest of what the board heard that night.
With the announcement from the DOJ about LMPD, I’d like to bring a few other items to the public’s attention by highlighting several examples of abuse of power, lies, fraud, cover-ups that we are aware of, not just in LMPD but also in JCPS. The “patterns and practices” cross over to other departments and other agencies. They investigate themselves and find no wrongdoing. The local agencies who are supposed to oversee them appear to be in on it. All of our cries for justice get swept under the rug. The media buys whatever they sell them and everyone moves on. We must get national attention and more scrutiny from those who don’t have a legacy of power to protect.
A couple of years ago, I wrote about Brian Thurman’s Story. A white West Louisville resident who was murdered by LMPD officer Harry Seders. Honestly, I think it was an accident by a nervous cop who panicked, but the elaborate schemes that followed in order to downplay, cover up and mislead the public turned this unfortunate incident into a crime. From the subsequent murder of protestor and activist Travis Nagdy that same night, to keep crowds of protestors from descending on the scene, to the lie they told to the media, to the ongoing denial and terrorizing of our community, the series of events have yet to be acknowledged, much less corrected. How can we trust our police to protect us when they can’t even acknowledge the harm they cause?
There’s also the story of Omari Cryer who was smoked out of a friend’s house, chased like a dog and shot in the back. The Kentucky State Police was brought in to “investigate” but it appears that all they did was help doctor the video that was finally released much later. Eye-witnesses reported three shots were fired, but the audio does not seem to match what the video shows, which is three bullet wounds, including one in the back.
And most recently, the two (three) teen boys who were shot by LMPD for being somewhere they probably shouldn’t have been. Why did it take two weeks to release the video? At least this time, they’re calling it “unintentional” but the cop himself said, “I just want to get them” and “I got one.” Sounds intentional to me. If they didn’t do anything wrong, why aren’t they being fully transparent?
We don’t want LMPD (or any police) in our schools, because they cause harm and then lie about it! They have bias and repeatedly don’t treat our black children the same way they would treat white children. They do not know how to recognize trauma, disability, even impacts of poverty and lack of access to quality education, so their first instinct often is to treat them as criminals, not students who need to be diagnosed, deescalated and redirected. The pattern continues and the stories that make the news are after repeated injustices.
They’re not the only ones who cause harm and lie. Here’s an example of current school board members trying to “explain away” why one of them was so hot to redistrict school board boundaries. Having caught my own school board member in the act of several hard to explain scenarios, I documented this one so others can hopefully start to see what I have been sounding the alarm about and help me get to the truth. Regardless of the reasons why they did it, they certainly knew there was more to the story and went to great lengths to cover it up. See for yourself here.
And there are dozens (if not hundreds (thousands?)) of stories of misconduct, harassment, fraud, cover-ups, racism and retaliation against JCPS employees, students and parents. Remember the part during the press conference where US Attorney General Merrick Garland mentioned LMPD calling Black people monkeys? Well, that happened in JCPS, too. A Black JCPS counselor at a mostly Black elementary school who reported it and other abuses by a racist White kindergarten teacher where she worked, got demoted, attacked, labeled, and abused, mentally and emotionally, and more, for simply doing her job. And, despite having been strong-armed into settling her case with the district, the denial and abuse they inflict CONTINUES to this day — and other state and local agencies are also implicated! Here’s a link to the latest development in her story.
I first started speaking at board meetings in 2013. We have always tried to be an ally to this board. We worked to support your efforts to remove an ineffective leader. We organized to replace a board member who gave her cover.
(Watch the 3 minute speech here.)
Throughout the years we showed you, Dr Pollio, how parents of color and their accomplices are pushed out of PTA for bringing forward their concerns about discrimination in their schools. Instead of being asked how we can improve, they are treated like the problem
We showed you how educators and staff are lied on, pushed out, blacklisted for reporting abuses of children, especially black children, even though they are Mandatory reporters. We Brought you evidence of how the grievance process has been manipulated against black employees and how internal investigations process can be fraudulent, self-serving with no accountability or recourse.
Administrators and principals have been allowed to hijack PTA for their own purposes. Rigging sbdm elections to put “yes people” in them.
Meanwhile their PACs rig internal elections and accept dark money contributions and are able to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars into candidates who repeatedly vote against public education with zero consequences.
Administrators bully us but not them. And you pretend you don’t notice.
In between, there was a pandemic. The requests of parents, teachers and organizers who work with our district’s most impacted community members every day were delayed, denied, disrespected. By you (Marty). By you (Chris). By you (James).
We told you how powerful white-led organizations were abusing their power to continually drown grassroots voices out. We elevated concerns of shut-out teachers, staff, students and parents only to be labeled “rogue groups” by these whyte leaders that have been holding their organizations hostage and out of reach of their members, for decades. You allowed it. Some of you even participated in it.
Why keep bringing solutions only to have them mocked, ridiculed or ignored? Or to risk personal attack or retaliation?
Teachers showed up in red by the thousands in 2018 and 2019 telling anyone who would listen what they need. Leaders of organizations attacked their own members instead of standing in solidarity with them.
And here we are. That anti-CRT moment has not passed.
Unchecked white supremacy has created a rise in white nationalism and fascism that is knocking at our door. We can’t ignore it. We have to name it, denounce it and smash it, before it is too late. Our district is the last stronghold that protects 170 other districts across the state. We can’t expect someone else to save us.
Our inequitable system allows special interests to infiltrate these outside groups, pour hundreds of thousands of dollars in to gaming the system, their PACs outspend us 100 to 1, leaving democracy out of reach for PTA moms like me.
Yet JCPS Lobbied to take power away from parents and teachers dismantling SBDM. The opposite of what stakeholders asked you to do.
Add a parent and student to SBDM.
Stop putting a paid employee in a gatekeeping role with outside organizations.
Not everyone who opposes the mask mandate is tied to white nationalists. Not knowingly, anyway. But the lead organizer at the August 2 anti-mask rally was Dr. Frank Simon. You may already know his name and reputation. His group, American Family Association of Kentucky is a known anti-LGBTQ+, pro charter, “stop the steal” hate group. Their national organization is a designated hate group on the SPLC website.
Regardless of one’s position on masks, the district’s masking policy that is now in effect is a continuation of a policy that was in effect at the end of last school year and was unanimously reconfirmed as part of the district’s “back to school” protocols at the July 19 board meeting. It’s not new. What changed is the community COVID levels went back into the red right before school started. The biggest reason this policy is being placed in jeopardy RIGHT NOW is because a vocal minority of mostly white people, organized by hate groups, election deniers and white nationalists, have been putting pressure on board members to reverse their decision, not based on science or concern for our most vulnerable, but because dogwhistles, hate and fear make a great recruiting tool for their base. Unfortunately, the teachers union president has been adding fuel to the fire by conducting unwanted mask surveys of questionable validity, which James Craig further promoted as justification for his (so far) failed attempts to add the item to the board’s agenda.
All this back and forth on asked-and-answered issues takes time away from REAL issues, such as the teacher shortages, busing challenges, opportunity gaps, and back to school plans, not to mention all the neglected issues that were only exacerbated by the pandemic. It sets a dangerous precedent to allow a board policy to be put in jeopardy because if they can overturn an issue as important as this, which could negatively impact the health and safety of our most vulnerable (the board vote to deny James’ motion to amend the agenda on August 16 was along racially divided lines), what’s to stop them from overturning the new student assignment plan next month? What else could be placed at risk?
It is dereliction of duty for a member of our school board to give in to these demands and try to overturn a popular and recent JCPS Board decision simply because dark-money funded domestic terrorists (the same folks who have been storming board meetings, not just in Jefferson County, but nationwide, wanting to ban books and historically accurate curriculum) are now making demands about masks. Especially since these are the same armed and dangerous people who are believers of the “big lie,” representing the same ideology that has been referred to by President Biden as “Semi-fascism”. And especially since the teacher and staffing shortage means we need to take every precaution to keep as many adults healthy and safe for as long as possible. The masks are a simple thing to ask people to wear, and a much more dangerous thing to take away. The imbalance in the attention that is given to this issue is indicative of the intent to distract and recruit for a group that aligns with the destruction of public education. After everything we’ve seen and learned, elected leaders who can’t recognize these tactics or worse, agree with them, are not fit to govern a public school board.
Until those leading the insurrectionists are held accountable for their actions, there is no reason to assume they’re not preparing for and capable of doing worse if they are allowed to continue to spread disinformation in order to recruit and radicalize their base. Because we see them organizing in our own back yards, there is no reason to assume they’re not planning something similar here following the mid terms. Especially if the Constitutional Amendment to ban abortions fails.
But yesterday, Lindsey Graham warned of “riots in the streets” if Trump is indicted. Mid term elections may not be the only milestone they are monitoring.
I don’t know what to expect at tonight’s JCPS Board meeting. Hopefully it’s a non-issue, but considering what’s at stake, it’s important to stay vigilant. Better safe than sorry. I just want to encourage #AllEyesOnJCPS.
If anyone wishes to email board members to encourage them to continue to stand firm against these bullies and domestic terrorists, you can easily find a one click link to all of their email addresses at www.dearjcps.com/advocate.
You may watch the board meeting on the district’s You Tube Channel here:
Someone sent us a copy of the email they sent to their board member and we are sharing it with their permission:
Good morning, (Withheld),
I had a few things I wanted to add to the message that I sent you via email a couple of days ago. I tried to call the phone number listed for you but it said your voicemail was not set up. I have read some of the scuttlebutt about the mask policy. I have heard at least one board member say that no other school district is following the CDC guidelines so why are we.
First of all I find that argument to be really childish. But if we want to talk about things that JCPS does the other districts don’t do in order to protect our students and our staff, we could look at our policy of requiring $5 million in cyber liability insurance for anyone providing us with a digital resource that requires the sharing of student or staff PII. No other district has this requirement. JCPS has established itself as a leader in protecting student and staff data. Why should JCPS be any less vigilant about the health of students and staff?
As someone who has immune compromised family members, and a couple of three-year-old grandchildren, I am watching to see what the board will do so that I can help my children make the decision about whether JCPS is going to be a good place, a safe place, for them to send their children when the time comes.
It seems to me a no-brainer that as an educational institution we would follow the science. Thank you for your consideration.
I am. I’m tired of people in positions of power ignoring or even disrespecting concerns that are brought forward by authentic JCPS stakeholders. I’m tired of them cherry picking what data or science they follow or even spreading disinformation in order to further their own political agendas. The mask survey that was conducted by the teachers’ union leadership was ill-conceived and politically motivated, in an effort to move us toward a premature vote. On top of that, it was found to be compromised, but that didn’t stop them from doubling down on wrong. There’s so much more, which is why we need an audit and an investigation. But until then, please check out my latest blog post. And watch tonight’s work session.
On Wednesday, June 29, 2022, I was lured to Twitter by a random notification that Louisville’s illustrious junior education reporter had Tweeted something we all needed to keep our eyes on. Turns out, it was about me, or so I thought.
The tweet read,
If you are running for JCPS school board and you have a publicly visible photo or video of yourself sitting in a bathtub, please consider removing it from any platform where it may be screenshot and sent to me at this time.
Aware that I had at least two examples of a “publicly visible photo” and one Tik Tok “video” containing “damning evidence” of the fact that I do indeed take baths, I immediately went to my Facebook and Tik Tok accounts and disabled the artifacts in question. Not that I’m ashamed of them, mind you, but because I didn’t know what else to do other than comply with Olivia’s threat.
Running for school board invites all kinds of crazy, including death threats from randos who question your morality for standing up for bodily autonomy, defending LGBTQIA+ rights and the teaching of accurate history and science. Of the four of us running for the District 3 Board seat in Jefferson County Kentucky, I am the only female, and I am by far the most outspoken on these issues. The last thing my family needs is for the media to gin up reasons for the zombies to come for me.
The tweet went on to say,
To specify, I'm fine with you fully clothed modeling a potential new bathtub for your home.
But if you are actively taking a bath, and have uploaded evidence to the internet … you have until EOD Friday until you make next week's newsletter.
Since my images didn’t quite meet Olivia’s prudish criteria of a “fully clothed model” showing off a “potential new bathtub,” I felt pressured into taking the images down or invite next-level hell after realizing her Tweet also included the threat of making “next week’s newsletter” if I didn’t comply by “EOD Friday.” In fact, since I didn’t not see her Tweet until an hour or so after she posted it, I knew “the enemy” was already scouring my timeline in search of this “damning and shameful evidence.”
What does what a local reporter is “fine with” even matter? Isn’t she supposed to report the news, not be judge, jury and executioner of a candidate’s campaign by tainting the candidate as some kind of immoral sleezy character? But isn’t that what her Tweet was intended to do? To shame the offender into taking it down? Whether the Tweet was directed at my opponent, Steve Ullum, who it turns out had one photo that I saw circulating, or me, who had two photos and a minute-long popular Tik Tok video, was unclear.
But, if the plan was to blackmail me into taking the video down, their scheme backfired. As word got out that it might have been me who “violated” Olivia’s code of ethics, support and curiosity started to roll in. A renewed interest in the video and disgust by those who saw the intrusion into private lives and body shaming as unacceptable turned their smear campaign upside down. As I acknowledged the content and reactivated the TikTok, I was suddenly notified by one of my informants that someone all-knowing had informed them that it wasn’t me she was Tweeting about after all. While I was relieved to learn this, something still didn’t add up. Support suddenly dried up, and in fact, I was accused of “manipulating” one of my informants into supporting me. But the most curious part was how they knew it supposedly wasn’t me.
At a minimum, this experience reminded me of the shenanigans that took place last spring, and the reasoning behind why they might have wanted that video taken down. Two of the candidates for whom the teachers’ union is trying to justify their continued endorsement and big spend, were implicated in that video. One of them condemns my opponent for caving under pressure by disruptive right wing radicals, which created an opening for a sinister bill like HB208 in the first place. Coincidence? Decide for yourself.
The story begins here.
On the morning of 3-4-21, I woke up to discover I had been thrown in Facebook jail for calling “Let Them Learn” parents “selfish white people” which is exactly what they are for trying to force people who are at high risk of death and long-term health effects back into crowded, dilapidated classrooms just so they can get THEIR children out of their hair while they are forced to work from home. Let Them Learn is one of several right wing radical groups that popped up recently to antagonize Black and Brown families, storm our school board meetings and cut in front of everyone, including some who’ve been waiting generations for their concerns to be addressed.
How is this hate speech? Because I pointed out that they are white? I’m white. White people hold the majority of decision-making seats in our country, and we have not experienced the generations of violence and discrimination that our Black, Brown, (not to mention LGBTQIA+ and women) friends, family and neighbors have. Facebook has really played a supporting role in the dismantling of our freedoms and I believe they should be sued, prosecuted, and punished, but we’ll get to that later. Any lawyers interested in taking on a class action suit against Facebook (or any of these clowns), please contact me.
Back to the story. Decide for yourself. Here’s a retweet of the first Tweet I made on March 4, 2021.
This is what got me thrown in FB jail on 3-4-21, so I came to Twitter to get my message out. 3-4-21 was also the day I learned how to Tik Tok. https://t.co/ZyXeYeqGHe
— Gay Perry Adelmann for JCPS District 3 (@GayAdelmann) June 30, 2022
After Tweeting this and more events that were unfolding in Frankfort in real time, specifically calling out HB208’s sinister intentions, and a fun little sideshow I came across while “flipping channels” between the House and the Senate closed circuit TV programs. It was of another JCTA endorsed candidate
I took to TikTok and shared the “offensive” bathtub scene as part of the edutainment . Could it be that it’s not the shoulders-up, wet hair, version of me in a bathtub that offends their sensibilities, but the truth telling that I direct viewers to pay attention to on Twitter? On the video, I call out weak and racist actions by elected officials who were endorsed by JCTA’s PAC, one of whom is running for reelection to the seat Steve Ullum and I are challenging. Coincidence?
My belief is that this vague Tweet was part of a smear campaign intended to intimidate me into deleting my TikTok video. When it became clear to those conspiring on this scheme that I wasn’t going to let them shame me and scare me into deleting my video, they suddenly changed course and revealed to everyone that it was not me they were trying to expose after all, but Steve, who I mentioned above.
Pay no attention to the fact that the one photo of Steve in a bathtub that was circulating didn’t hold a candle to the photos and videos that had been on my timeline. So, either these “informants” are easily gaslit and will believe whatever lie JCTA’s dark money white supremacists conjure up, or they’re in on it. How else could they be sure it wasn’t me she was referring to? Something about this story doesn’t add up.
This wouldn’t be the last time Craig sided with rabid white parents demanding they be able to expose other people’s children to the dangers of COVID. In March of 2022, he advocated for JCPS to drop the mask mandate.
He once again succumbed to pressure from the loud, gun-toting, temper tantrum throwing few, instead of science, and definitely not considering our most vulnerable students, employees, and their families.
From WAVE3, regarding the March 8, 2022 Board Meeting:
Board member James Craig suggested the motion to match CDC and state health guidelines updated last week, categorizing prevention steps based on “low, medium, or high” numbers of cases and hospitalizations.
During the meeting, Board Member Kolb lays out a great argument why masks should remain required in public schools, starting around the 31-minute mark.
The board voted 4-3 on a motion from member James Craig to let Superintendent Marty Pollio make masks optional for Kentucky’s largest school district, in accordance with state and federal guidance.
The “no” votes Tuesday came from board members Chris Kolb, Corrie Shull and Diane Porter, while Craig, Linda Duncan, Sarah Cole McIntosh and Joe Marshall voted in favor of the motion.
But I digress…
The March 2021 vote was a nail-biter, too. My theory is that Board Chair Porter had already committed her vote to someone, either Superintendent Marty Pollio or Board Member James Craig, that she would provide the “yes” vote if it was a tie. They already knew Craig, McIntosh and Duncan were going to vote “yes” because they all wanted to get reelected and their constituents are mostly either privileged or racist white people. A vote that puts minority, vulnerable populations ahead of their own doesn’t play well at election time. She knew there was a strong chance she was going to be a swing vote. When Marshall voted “yes” at the last possible moment, she was able to vote no and save her political capital for another day. If she was truly opposed to the motion, why didn’t she use her agency to influence others to join her in voting no? Especially since she pointed out that COVID impacts her district.
Here, on March 1, we even interviewed Joe Marshall, asking him to explain his rationale for casting the fourth and decisive “yes” vote. We shared our ongoing frustrations with him.
On March 3, 2021, I blogged about HB208 and the dark-money-back-room-dealers’ scheme and how it just backfired. The astroturf groups overplayed their hand, and then they showed their hand. Someone apparently doesn’t want you following these breadcrumbs. But in classic fashion, their scheme will once again backfire. Their meddling simply shined a spotlight on what we had put behind us,and we think the public will be interested to revisit them.
I believe a crime was committed with this smear campaign. I believe it was an effort to intimidate me into deleting my TikTok video. I have filed complaints with the FBI and Courier Journal. I will make the contents of those complaints public in the near future.
Below is an email I sent, as well as a disappointing response I received, following a meeting we had with Dr. Pollio and Amy Dennes regarding offering parking and a shuttle for families attending Showcase of Schools in 2017.
While searching for your email addresses this morning, I fortuitously came across this plea I sent over a year ago (one of many), regarding some of the same concerns that remain in existence today. I wanted to forward it along to accentuate the challenges that we have faced when attempting to get JCPS to address the chronic disparities that exist in our system. I hope you are as excited as I am about the prospect that under new leadership we finally have an opportunity to make some strides in this area!
I look forward to further pursuing the longer-term strategies we discussed regarding deconstructing the inequitable student assignment plan that exists today. In the mean time, I hope that you can provide us with:
Addresses – (in Excel, with student names redacted) of ideal targets for Showcase of Schools in our most affected communities. We will sign any confidentiality agreements you require.
Showcase Parking Assistance – If you are able to acquire some parking passes for the Fairgrounds, we will need to determine a distribution method, but if not, then perhaps we could explore the possibility of inviting people to park in the CB Young parking lot. Attached is a mock flyer I created, just as an example of what we could hand out if this second option were to work out.
Literature – Flyers or choice brochures or something to hand to families as we discuss the exciting opportunities that exist within JCPS
Booth Space – A table at Showcase of Schools on the 28th
Manpower – Any JCPS staff or volunteers to assist with these efforts would be welcome
Support – a point of contact to escalate our group’s questions, concerns, in order to keep this project moving in a timely and responsive fashion
Please let me know the status of the above at your earliest convenience so we can start preparing our messaging and activities over the next two weeks. We look forward to working together to begin to level the playing field for our most vulnerable students and families within JCPS.
Their response was to take our idea and offer it to others to implement:
Email Sent: Oct 16, 2017, 2:50 PM
From: Dennes, Amy P <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: me, email@example.com, et al
Gay, After further discussion, we decided that we have to post an RFP for services because we recognize that there are lots of organizations that could help us in this work. We appreciate your forward thinking and hope that you will submit a proposal.
Four of the seven JCPS Board of Education seats are up for grabs this November. If you’ve been thinking you would like to see things done differently in JCPS, this may be your chance to find someone to run for school board in your area, or maybe even file to run yourself! The deadline to file is Tuesday, June 7.
The seats that are open are the ones currently held by Diane Porter, James Craig, Linda Duncan and Corrie Shull. Their bios can be found here. As of the date of this page’s publishing, only James Craig (District 3, incumbent) and Matthew Singleton (District 5, Linda Duncan’s seat) have filed to run in November.
Visit JCPS School Board Central – 2022 for information on how to file, who is running, their positions on important issues, and other updates as we head into election season.
I can’t say for sure what makes everyone tick, but what I can do is notice when a person’s actions don’t align with their words, or when they do things that cause harm to people they claim to be trying to help, despite us literally telling them to their faces that their behaviors are harmful. Whether they are doing it intentionally (like they are paid infiltrators), or because their value system causes them to sympathize with fascists, or they have some kind of mental health disorder that causes them to easily fall for the gaslighting and bullshit. I don’t know. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. The outcome is the same. So until we devise a “privatizer-breathalyzer,” we’re going to have to err on the side of caution.
So, let me tell you the reason for making this post now. We’ve always known we couldn’t trust everything that came out of BIPPS, Pegasus, SCALA, Pritchard Committee, Kentucky Youth Advocates, or even JCPS, JCTA, KEA, KDE or PTA for that matter. But we demonstrated that we could easily organize and shut them down, and we did several times between 2013 and 2018, so it’s only been of late that the dark money is really clamping down and pulling out all the stops. I believe this includes activating some “sleeper cells” that have been laying dormant while aiding and abetting the devil’s work in the mean time. Two of those individuals are now running for House as Democrats, so I just wanted to warn you. Not everyone who says they are with us really are. I believe you deserve to know some of the facts that I have been made aware of so you can do your own research and form your own opinions. So for the next few days, I will do my best to provide you with such information.
The first bit of data I would like to provide is about my experiences with Jonathan Lowe. Jonathan is a candidate for the “new” House District 34. I first met Jonathan when I began publicly expressing frustrations with the district and they had trouble keeping my objections under wraps. We had coffee together early on in my “squeaky wheel” phase. I remember having to beg to get that meeting, and as we sat there that rainy morning in the middle of the Heine Brothers on Douglass Loop, as I came hopeful to share valid, quantifiable concerns and well-thought out solutions, I still remember the words he said to me that ran through my heart like an arrow. He said, “it’s detrimental to my career to be seen with you.” Like we were somehow doing something wrong! Shouldn’t appeasing a disconcerted customer be seen as a good thing? Honestly, the rest of the meeting was so depressing because I realized it didn’t matter what I said to him from that point forward. After the meeting was over, I went back to my car and cried. I also made this post.
Later on, after the SCALA-led JCPS school board chair “sewer billed” the renewal of Dr. Hargens’ contract against the wishes of the community, causing us to be stuck with her for another four years. We organized a rally at Van Hoose one Tuesday evening to ask (demand) her to step down. Some time between that event and the day she actually did resign, I ran into Jonathan at a committee meeting in Frankfort. I can’t remember the bill we were there to speak on but I remember getting a cold shoulder from him and saying something to him like, “Dude, I’m on your side.” This elicited an outburst from him so loud that we had to step into an empty committee meeting room across the hall. He said, “You’re trying to get my boss fired!” I corrected him and said, “no, I’m trying to get her to step down.”
On another occasion, Mr. Lowe chirped with glee when some of the language he wrote while working for the Legislative Research Council made it into the charter school bill. See, this is what made me think he has never really felt one way or the other about charter schools. From an employment perspective, he was in a role that would likely thrive either way. So, it dawned on me, FINALLY, that perhaps, the Hargens administration saw charter schools as “inevitable” and they were doing the best they could to untether some assets so that it would be easy to allow the predators to have easy access to some low-performing schools in West Louisville and keep their precious Manuals, Males, Browns and other “public privates” off limits.
So, when Matt Bevin got elected in November of 2015, he proclaimed something to the effect, “We’re going to bring charter schools to Kentucky and we’re going to start in West Louisville.” Next thing I knew Hal Heiner, Bevin’s pick to eventually become KDE chair, was scouting locations such as Shawnee and Maupin. My sniffing around and exposing fraudulent acts at both of these schools, which I will document in future posts, is what caused for JCPS administrators and PTA leaders to conspire to have me voted off the 15th District PTA Board three months before my term ended. For any doubters, I will post the recording of that meeting, as well as my confrontation of them the following evening, below:
Want to see more?
I was at Shawnee one day and I saw Jonathan walking to his car. I rolled down my window and said, “I hear Hal Heiner was here today. How did it go?” Fine, or something to that effect. I don’t know. But I decided to do an open records request to see what I could find out about his visit. Sure enough, Jonathan was knee-deep in these events. Why knows why they were there? They didn’t say it was about charter schools, but it didn’t have to be. They were already public with their intentions. Why are we parading these schoolchidren and buildings to known predators?
To those who say Jonathan was just doing his job, can we really fault him for that? Personally, yes, I do, because simultaneously we were bringing him evidence of harm and wrongdoing, and he treated me like the enemy while he helped these predators and outsiders gain access to our schools and students. That’s problematic.
This was just Shawnee. I have a whole other set of data regarding his role with what went on at Maupin. Besides, nothing has changed. He has showed us that no matter who signs his paycheck, he will be loyal to them, not the students or taxpayers. He still works for JCPS, and JCPS administration does not always do the right thing! So can we really afford to take any more chances? Every chess piece and every square on the chess board is sacred. We must be organized, with specific demands and specific goals. Here’s a link to an invitation I sent out regarding the person who is running against Jonathan in the Primary on May 17. Please help us get Sarah Stalker elected to House District 34 so we can avoid allowing another establishment, status quo lawmaker making ivory tower decisions for the rest of us. When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.
What else do you call it when the party in supermajority power continues to pass wildly unpopular legislation by just one vote? It certainly feels coordinated. As if everyone knows their part.
Whether it’s the confirmation of Gary Houchens in 2019 (Sen. Julie Raque Adams – District 36 in Jefferson County), or the passage of HB563, Chad McCoy’s voucher bill, passed the House by just one vote (twice!) in 2021. And now, in 2022, the VERY SAME GOP House Rep, who is also the majority whip, manages to eek out exactly enough votes to get the previously dead on arrival charter school bill across the goal post, in just a week’s time, five years after it BARELY passed into law but couldn’t muster enough votes to allow the wolves in waiting to tap into the rich, evergreen SEEK funding pipeline. In less than a year, coming off a pandemic and during a time of incredible tension and turmoil, they manage to pass both the crowning jewels of canned ALEC legislation by exactly the right number of votes. How does one get so lucky? Especially when, if you ask around, other than a few special interest groups, vouchers and charters are unwanted in Kentucky. Something doesn’t add up.
Do you seriously expect me to believe that the strongest union in the state couldn’t convince a single one of their endorsed candidates who voted yes to support not only JCPS’ publicly known stance, but their own purported efforts? It’s certainly what many union members I spoke with believed their dues were funding. Is this not part of the screening questions when deciding who to endorse or continue endorsing? Apparently not. Unless…
Since 2017 or so, we tried to sound the alarms that JCTA leadership is at a minimum not anti-charter, and in fact, appear to be working for the other side. And JCPS is not off the hook, but they tend to be a little more slippery. But in future publications, I intend to demonstrate in greater detail how district leaders made intentional efforts to sacrifice Shawnee and Maupin to the charter school charlatans.
It’s been a “close call” far too many times for us to keep falling for it. Especially when you consider the lackluster effort both JCTA and JCPS put forth to stop the entire swath of anti-JCPS legislation that came out of recent sessions. Hell, JCTA’s entrenched white leaders put more effort into retaining control of their union than they did stopping any one of these bills, including the 20-year efforts to dismantle Kentucky’s public schools and defund teachers’ pensions.
And as you can see in the video above, JCPS had board members saying to us they were going to stop anti-CRT legislation in 2022 by getting the business community to come out strongly against it. In fact, they saw absolutely no need working with grassroots groups because they were confident their approach would stop it. Guess what. It didn’t.
Could it be that some of these JCTA-endorsed lawmakers who cast what could be considered the “lone deciding vote” were also encouraged to lay down and allow these measures to pass? It certainly leaves one to wonder.
Today at 1:00 PM, you will gavel in for day 57 of a 60 day session. Presumably, you will be asked to vote on HB9, the charter school funding mechanism bill, today or tomorrow, before the 10-day VETO period begins, allowing you enough time to override the Governor’s veto. I beg you to be fully aware of the following facts before casting an affirmative vote, should you intend to do so.
Using SEEK funding formulas to allow taxpayer dollars to “follow the child” to a non-public entity to manage, is not only unconstitutional, it’s misguided, for the simple fact that not all students cost the same dollar amount to educate. We have created a system that FICTITIOUSLY evaluates a school’s performance based on test scores. Therefore, that system perceives the best schools as those that produce the highest test scores for the least amount of money. It’s a system that creates “cost center managers” who are forced to try to weed out students with a “lower ROI.” These students already wind up at a disadvantage within the public school system. Charter schools have no CHOICE but to operate from that same mentality, and charter school legislation gives them plenty more “outs” than their public school peers, which will mean more incentive to game the system to educate students as cheaply as possible, to do what? Benefit their bottom line! And if they fail? No worries. Predators in other states have modeled how easy it is to just close up shop, keep the assets, change names and do it all over again. We have CREATED that formula, and that’s a big part of what’s already failing our minority children in JCPS, not public schools that are forced to implement it. We know this, because many of our students and educators in Jefferson County live it every day. If you want to close achievement gaps, FOCUS ON FIXING THAT instead of legislating around it and further tying our hands! Help us bring transparency by prohibiting gag orders on lawsuit settlements, for example! Ask us what we need! Not union leaders. Parents! Teachers! Students!! Grassroots groups! Add a seat at the table, don’t take more voices and resources away!
Whether the dark-money-backed lawmakers and their slick ALEC talking points want to acknowledge it or not, charter schools, and even many public schools, DO cherry-pick their students. From simply having an application in the first place, to pushing out students for subjective reasons, to making a parent’s or student’s life so miserable they give up and quit, it can and does happen. It is hardly ever blatant discrimination. Although, there’s plenty of that too.
Take for example, the lead pastor of the “group of Black pastors who have been wanting to open a charter school in West Louisville for decades.” I first met Jerry Stephenson after he organized a press conference in front of Westport Middle school during an off-site JCPS school board meeting in October of 2015. Being boots on the ground when Bevin and Heiner started pushing for “charters in the West End” we started talking with teachers, administrators and parents about what our families in West Louisville REALLY needed, and discovered ALL THE REASONS WHY CHARTER SCHOOLS WOULD MAKE THINGS WORSE, NOT BETTER, FOR OUR FAMILIES.
My son was attending the Academy @ Shawnee’s aviation magnet at the same time the district was choking off resources, shutting down programs, not replacing leaders, presumably to prepare her to be handed off as a sacrificial lamb to the charter school wolves in waiting, but we didn’t recognize that at the time. We just knew that nothing that was happening made sense, including forcing the resignation of a dynamic principal over the summer, and denying a replacement, and instead coming up with a 4-pronged plan out of central office to completely overhaul Shawnee’s leadership structure, school operations plan and create considerable upheaval in students and families’ lives, without anyone actually setting foot in the building and asking stakeholders what was needed, what’s worked and hasn’t worked, etc. A handful of us had just formed a PTSA at Shawnee, so, with the school building being absent of leadership, we became the information clearinghouse and conflict-resolution “adults in the building.” A coalition of parent and teacher acquaintances had begun working on addressing racial injustices that we kept running up against in JCPS, and we requested a meeting with their group. Myself, a JCPS ESL teacher and another JCPS parent went to their church facility for a meeting.
Seven or eight Black men, including Jerry Stephenson, were sitting around a conference table in an upstairs room in their old church building. They had just eaten and women were clearing their plates. A conversation about how JCPS was failing Black students began. Jerry did most of the talking. Very early on into the conversation, it became clear that his perceptions about JCPS were based on outdated stereotypes. We did not disagree about the problem, just the solution. We raised specific, current examples of students falling through the cracks, and patterns that we were working to address. We talked about how charter schools would impede that progress and create even more “pass the buck” opportunities while offering no real benefit in return. We shared with him research on ALEC and the historical evidence of the harm charters have caused in other states, and how we would be harmed if similar predatory, profit-driven legislation were allowed to pass in Kentucky. He countered with, “there was nothing wrong with making a little profit.” He stated that he also objected to the “liberal agenda” being taught in schools. He also spoke about his desire for schools to teach religious moral concepts. One of the ladies who was there with me kicked me under the table at one point, it had gotten so bad. I know I wasn’t quite sure what to make of our visit, but one thing I DID know was that tax dollars should not be used to fund it.
In December, 2015, right after Matt Bevin was elected Kentucky Governor, he announced, “we’re going to bring charters to Kentucky and we’re going to start in West Louisville.” It clicked with me that he meant Shawnee High School, and several of us tried to attend that announcement meeting, which was nothing more than a publicity stunt. Anyone who had been seen outside holding a sign was locked out when the meeting began. Others came and went, but whenever anyone from our group approached the door, a bouncer stood in front of it and waved us away. I posted about it. The press reported on it. I finally was allowed in after Bevin had left, and I had the opportunity, once again, to chat with Pastor Jerry (who hails from Indiana), as well as Milton Seymore, who had participated in the press event, about the fallacies of the arguments they were making and to once again ask the “what about the kids who remain in public schools,” and “how does a charter school fix that” types of questions, to which there were no answers.
What they DID answer for me was one of their reasons for wanting to start a charter school was based in bigotry. Once again, the “liberal agenda” became the concern. When pressed for more specifics, he informed me he was opposed to programs that supported gay, lesbian, bi and trans students. At that moment, two other pastors used the intimidation of their physical presence to “correct” me when I dared to disagree with him. I blogged about that experience, too:
But that’s not all. In this video, I showcase some of the disinformation that is being used to resurrect this bill. It was a bad bill in 2017 and it is a bad bill now. HB9 is a bigoted, wasteful, unconstitutional, disingenuous affront to minority, LGBTQ+, disabled and poor students, of whom JCPS serves the majority of in this state. Yet, charter schools being forced upon a community that has OVERWHELMINGLY SAID WE DON’T WANT THEM, is an affront to all of the taxpayers of Jefferson County. If you pass this bill into law, you are FORCING us to FUND a failed experiment with our own tax dollars and using our own children as guinea pigs so outsiders who fund some of your colleagues’ campaigns can make a quick buck off our backs and the backs of our children. This bill, which was resurrected from the dead only a week ago, will pump blood into the heart of the beast that we already slayed, and that blood comes from our public school children and their families, who are already on life support.
In summary, if this bill passes, you will be FORCING OUR HAND, the hand that provides a good chunk of those SEEK funds that school districts across Kentucky rely on. This short-sighted bill, and the unchecked bigotry behind it, is going to cause Jefferson County to implode. It will either force us into bankruptcy, or will force us to “sue you to stop you.” Either way, it will have created a no-win situation that will only waste more time, money and lives. Black lives. And they matter. At least to us in Jefferson County, they do. If they matter to you, too, you will vote no on HB9.
The sound cut out during our livestream, but I was able to reconstruct it for you here. Please watch and share.
If you feel you may have witnessed or experienced what may amount to a pattern or practice of discrimination in JCPS, bullying or coverups, or retaliation for reporting it, please complete our survey. All responses will remain anonymous.
Between the weekend hubbub over the “Russian assets” in teachers’ pensions, to the lawsuit that was announced against JCPS this morning, we haven’t had a moment to rest. Much less process what it all means, but in case you missed it, here is a recap:
Better Schools Kentucky (BSK) is the Political Action Committee (PAC) that decides who to endorse for state and local elections and where to spend resources and campaign contributions. We are aware of several abnormalities regarding the selection of those who are chosen to serve on this PAC, which serves as the lobbying arm for the largest school district in the state of Kentucky, Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA). which we want to bring to the public’s attention.
The abnormalities in question started first with the 2020 BSK election, and continued into the 2021 officer election, where the entire executive board was also on the ballot (a once every three years phenomenon). The BSK election challenge and results can be found here. An email isolated to complaints about the officer election can be found here.
On Jan. 12, 2021, several white JCTA leaders took to Facebook to spread disinformation about me (Dear JCPS co-founder and page moderator Gay Adelmann) in order to distract from a 4-hour livestream that I had started a couple of hours earlier on my personal FB page. There were several false statements made on a post on Tammy Berlin’s Facebook page, which can easily be disproven. One claim made by another female white leader accused me of “stalking and harassing” her when she appeared on a nearly 16-minute long livestream on the Dear JCPS facebook page from the Senate Steps to protest the confirmation of one of Bevin’s pro-charter school appointees to the KDE, Gary Houchens. Anyone can watch the video to see that she walked into the frame at the 14:30 mark after we had been livestreaming for quite some time. In fact, you can see the person holding the camera changed two times before she came into frame. The person holding the camera at the 13:13 mark had brown shoes, and several times during the feed, you can see me moving about the space (not behind the camera) and I’m wearing black shoes.
It’s not the first time this small handful of powerful white leaders have slandered me for speaking up for racial justice in JCPS. In 2019, they held a 40+ -minute press conference referring to me and others as “rogue groups” because we elevated concerns from Black educators and parents who wanted to encourage a stronger resistance to the attacks on education, pensions, and in particular, Black and Brown JCPS students and families. JCTA President Brent McKim told numerous media outlets that I was looking for “lucrative” service contracts, for example.
Upon the recent discovery of possible ties to Russia (we brought attention to having possible ties to the Jan. 6 insurrection in 2021) regarding the teachers pensions, which JCTA lobbyists, as well as BSK endorsed lawmakers, have been intimately involved with, the complaint, along with the email above and related EXHIBITS have been submitted to the (Office of Education Accountability (OEA) as of 3/4/22.
Let’s hope an entity with resources and ability to research the ties to Russia and other illegal or unethical activities can get to the bottom of what’s really going on in Kentucky!
We know everyone’s busy and there’s a lot going on right now. Much more than usual! So, we wanted to make it easy for anyone who wasn’t able to keep up in real time to find the video of the testimonies given in the trial of one of the LMPD officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor. To date no one has been held accountable. As facts from this trial are revealed, we need everyone to keep #AllEyesOnKentucky.
On Feb. 2, 2022, Brian Flores sued the NFL and three teams — the Dolphins, Broncos and Giants — alleging discrimination regarding his interview processes with Denver and New York and his firing last month by Miami.
The 58-page lawsuit was filed in Manhattan federal court Tuesday and seeks class-action status.
Flores alleges he was “treated with disdain and held out as someone who was noncompliant and difficult to work with.”
Flores, who is Black, alleges that the Giants and Broncos interviewed him only to satisfy a league-mandated diversity requirement, and not to offer him a legitimate chance at their head coaching jobs.
Does any of this sound familiar? We think it does.
After a highly qualified, outspoken anti-racist ESL teacher in JCPS was overlooked while a choice position she had applied for at a JCPS school across town was held open for the wife of a controversial KY House Representative who conveniently continues to receive the teachers’ union endorsement despite often co-sponsoring ALEC bills and voting for pretty much every racist, anti-public education bill his corrupt party brings forward. She was able to apply for the position, and receive the offer, prior to even being qualified. Oh, and the principal behind the deal-making was none other than the spouse of the district’s HR director.
The NBCT teacher, who has 8 years experience teaching ESL to middle school kids in JCPS, was only granted an interview after she complained that protocol had not been followed. Jason Nemes’ wife was teaching in another district and had ZERO experience teaching ESL or teaching to middle schoolers, and her husband has been working hard in Frankfort to pass laws that could lead to deportation of parents of many of the students she teaches. Tell us again how hiring her for this position is what is best for ESL students?
PS. We’re still pretty upset. However, I think some folks overplayed their hands long ago and they are running out of runway. From Brian Flores’ lawsuit against the NFL to Dr. Kimberly Mucker-Johnson’s lawsuit against JCPS, these patterns and practices are starting to come to light.
We want to send a message to individuals who have actively contributed to the harm, and the coverups, as well as those who have been complicit, your days of being able to do so without consequence are numbered.
If you feel you may have witnessed or experienced what may amount to a pattern or practice of discrimination in JCPS, bullying or coverups, or retaliation for reporting it, please complete our survey. All responses will remain anonymous.
As I sat and listened to a replay of Tuesdays’ House Education Committee Hearing where HB 63 was FINALLY heard after three false starts, and white lawmakers shared testimonies of their favorable experiences with SROs, I couldn’t help but notice one thing. Not one of them put themselves in the shoes of Black people when considering how “safe” they felt, and “how well it works” to have armed police in their schools. In fact, the committee chair (Huff) and the bill sponsor (Bratcher) did a bang-up job making sure the Black voices who came to speak against the bill were the very last ones to be heard, if at all.
Not only was HB63 at the top of last week’s agenda, only to be scratched last second after many of us had driven from Jefferson County to speak against it, myself included. Two previous times the bill had been on the agenda, the entire meeting was canceled. So when it made the top of the agenda this week, I thought, “fourth times a charm,” and we made arrangements for a member of our group to drive to Frankfort for the 8:30 AM meeting, once again.
Due to various people of privilege’s schedules, despite HB63 being at the top of the agenda, the meeting kicked off with a “performance” by a very impressive young white student who remarked that he was asked to speak because February was National Trades Month (or something like that). He spent a great deal of time quoting Kentucky educator Carl Perkins and expressing the importance of diversity and equity in the types of programs students should have access to. Not that I disagree with any of that, I hardly think that’s what is meant when people refer to diversity and equity. I doubt the young man saw the irony in the words that he spoke, but I suspect the adults who recruited him and helped him practice knew exactly what they were doing.
Two more times throughout the meeting this handsome young high-achiever received compliments and accolades from white lawmakers who had very little problems allocating precious speaking time to this concern, while Black speakers from Jefferson County continued to wait to be called upon.
Then came two other bills that were heard prior to introducing HB63’s bill sponsor. The first was one on tornado disaster relief for Western Kentucky, which of course should be enacted. The second one was on “Erin’s Law,” which would potentially implement curriculum that would reduce child abuse, an area where Kentucky currently ranks highest. Both very important bills that were dedicated speaking time, including justification for not having to make up days because everyone has been dealing with trauma and needs time to get some normalcy back in their lives. While I don’t disagree, I just can’t help but wonder where the compassion is for our students who suffer from gun violence, racial discrimination, high poverty and over policing?
And after listening to bill sponsor Rep Bratcher wax on endlessly about how he was bused to Shawnee his 11th and 12th grades, and he never felt unsafe having SROs there, to reminiscing with Rep Charles Miller, who used to be his principal at PRP, about what he and his teammates did under the bleachers that led to him getting paddled by him. Those were the “good old days,” weren’t they, boys?
Our representative left Jefferson County before 7 am so that he could arrive in room 145 of the Annex building in time to sign up to speak. Once everyone with a microphone had exhausted their treasure trove of personal white experiences with SROs, there were a few minutes left to hear from the Black people. One man spoke as a parent of a Black JCPS student and Sadiqa Reynolds of Louisville Urban League did an outstanding job as well, even going so far as to ask, “how dare you?”
The vote was called. Every single yes vote, including some Democrats who should know better, was white. The bill passed out of committee. It now heads to the House floor and on to the Senate.
Our friend asked why he was not called on to speak and he was told that “they ran out of time.” Please listen to this week’s episode of Save Our Schools with Dear JCPS for a recap of the House Education Committee Hearing on HB63, and ESPECIALLY to the speakers at the very end.
Again, I ask, when will the lives and experiences of Black and Brown students matter?
Senate Bill 1, a title reserved for the bill of the highest priority, passed the Kentucky Senate in a rare Saturday session, just 5 days into this year’s 60-day General Assembly. It is a heinous bill that undoes key components of KERA and puts the final nail in the SBDM coffins. The archived file is not yet available on KET, but if you would like to hear the discussion before then, you can listen to it here.
On Tuesday, January 4, Kentucky General Assembly began their 60-day session, in the midst of a raging pandemic. Despite the Omicron variant driving our state to new record numbers of cases and one in three who take the COVID tests testing positive, on Wednesday, January 5, I masked up and drove to Frankfort to meet with lawmakers and share some of our concerns about several racist bills.
While there, I also inquired about the opportunity to testify against Senate Bill 1, which had been assigned to the Senate Education Committee. SB1 focused on two things, and two things only. Taking principal and curriculum selection authority away from local, site-based decision making councils (SBDMs). By weakening SBDMs, they take away some of our key arguments about why HB14 and HB18 are unnecessary. The dismantling local decision-making ability, of course, has been a driving factor behind this bill for six or seven years. And our continued pushback is a key reason it has not passed. Until now, during a time when our democracy is facing the greatest threat of our nation’s history, and our ability to address injustices and be heard is the lowest it’s been during most, if not all, of our lifetimes.
By Thursday, January 6, #SB1 had already had two readings on the Senate Floor and was poised for passage. As a looming snowstorm threatened school closures and driving conditions, adding insult to injury when it comes to the limited access we’ve had to our halls of freedom since the pandemic set in nearly two years ago. After encountering several vehicles that had spun out on the ice and snow, experiencing added delays and dangerous conditions, I called again to make sure I was on the list to speak, so I could focus on driving safely and arriving alive. I arrived moments after they collected the sign-in sheet, so they almost didn’t let me speak. But after some interventions by one of the Senators sitting near me who overheard the kerfuffle and advocated for me, they kindly did. Here is my testimony.
While sitting in one of the waiting rooms, I learned that a Saturday Session had been called. Not much ado had been made about it in any of the news media I follow, so being there in person gave me the opportunity to find out some of these things and pass them along to our coalition members. You see, our super-majority GOP legislature had been working diligently on gerrymandering their districts and guaranteeing their re-elections, so Saturday was the soonest they would be able to approve those maps, and they wanted to get that out of the way as soon as possible.
On Saturday, January 7, I had no idea SB1 was even on their Saturday agenda, but when a friend alerted me it was being debated so quickly, I turned on my handheld mic I carry with me and captured what I could. #SB1 passed the Senate 25-9.
If you missed today’s floor debate, you would normally have to wait until the following day for them to load the replay on KET Archives. However, I have decided to share my audio recording, with added screenshots, so you can see who was speaking when, for those who are interested and able to take the time to watch it while it’s still fresh. (I apologize for the washing machine and cussing sounds in the background.)
EXCLUSIVE. #SB1 is a heinous bill that undoes key components of KERA and puts the final nail in the SBDM coffins. It passed the KY Senate in a rare Saturday session, just 5 days into this year’s 60-day session. A great deal of misinformation was provided during the floor debate prior to its passage. The archived file is not yet available on KET, but if you would like to hear the discussion before then, you can listen to it here.
As mentioned above, this bill strengthens their arguments for HB14 and HB18 because it takes away the authority to make curriculum decisions at the local school level, so we need to be calling our House Reps in opposition to this bill, in addition to HB14 and HB18.
Please join us for a press event at the Capitol on Tuesday at 12:45 PM and Rally Wednesday at 2:15 PM. There will be indoor and outdoor options for the rally. Please mask up.
The Squallis Puppeteers has a new puppet show out and it’s super timely. And if you’re one of the lucky winners, you could host an in-person screening at your school or venue. See our entire 1-hour interview or watch the 1-minute preview below, then click the link to find out how to enter:
LOUISVILLE, KY – There were over 30 individuals signed up as guest speakers at Tuesday night’s school board meeting, but only about six were able to be heard before the chaos erupted after a white women, who had come at the invitation of Beanie Geohegan, a known right-wing radical, changed her seat in order to more easily confront and ultimately threaten a Black mother. One of the speakers with their group, Dr. Frank Simon, spoke about his concerns for Black students, yet ironically, they not only refused to listen to what the Black parents and students had to say, they instead threatened and attempted to silence them. Further frustrations were expressed when one of the officers, who was Black, took the side of and protected the white woman who had instigated and escalated the situation, instead of the parents and children who were being berated by a racist.
Here’s a glimpse of some of the local news coverage:
In solidarity with the four brave female US Olympic gymnasts who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, we are releasing more details of a situation we became aware of last year. We want victims to know they are not alone.
As we continue our series on “patterns or practices” of wrongdoing in Jefferson County Public Schools, in particular, this story focuses on “falsified reports.”
A top story out in today’s Courier-Journal reveals a sordid history of abuse, misconduct and denial, inside and outside of the classroom for William Bennett, the Science teacher at Moore High School who was recently involved in an altercation with a student after telling him he was just going to be “another Black boy shot.” The trail of dirty laundry and terminations runs from Etown, to Hardin, to Bullitt County, before Bennett finally landed a teaching job in a high minority population district. It turns out Bennett was fired from his hometown school system, Elizabethtown Independent Schools, in 2001 after he was arrested for breaking into an apartment “to see if his then-girlfriend was cheating on him,” according to the article by Olivia Krauth.
This incident, while one of the most egregious in recent memory, is not all that unique. In fact, I was just about to release my latest blog post entitled, “Our Schools are Not Safe for Black and Brown Kids,” when I became aware of this latest update on William Bennett and decided to lead with it and some intel of our own. Please check out my latest blog, which also details two other incidents of violence toward Black JCPS students since the start of the school year. The post will be updated.
As COVID cases continue to spike in Jefferson county and across the country, amidst a newly reported outbreak in respiratory virus infections, as well, Jefferson County’s public school system is no exception. Add to the mix a vindictive Kentucky GOP supermajority that plotted and schemed with the likes of one-term governor, Matt Bevin, to pursue their political party’s agenda and strip executive powers away from his popular and charismatic replacement, Andy Beshear. These executive powers had previously allowed any Kentucky governor the right to grant a district in crisis more than 10 days of “non-traditional instruction” or NTI, and not risk their SEEK funding being held hostage for doing so. Between SB1 and HB208 during last year’s session, which I explain in an earlier post, that’s exactly what they’ve done.
Kentucky’s new governor obviously suffered these blows because the losing political party wanted revenge. They concocted a plan to make NTI, which many districts were already utilizing as a response to the crisis created by the pandemic, ILLEGAL AFTER THE FACT. But instead of responding with righteous indignation, the powers that be, including our own allies who fear being voted out of office more than they fear going to hell, apparently, participated in the spread of even more lies and manipulation by falling for the gimmicks of the GOP. They were told HB208 would solve the problem they had created so that SEEK funding could once again flow to the students of schools that had participated in the “illegal” act of NTI and all would be well again.
Unfortunately, the bill also contained “trojan horse” language that would force all school districts to reopen to in-person schooling before the end of the school year, presumably so testing companies could get their data and revenue. HB208 is the real reason JCPS and other districts were forced to reopen to in-person classes before the 2020-2021 school year ended. Thanks to much outcry from districts with vulnerable populations, especially ours, a last-minute compromise allowed districts to continue with a hybrid plan (half capacity, two days per week in person, with the remainder of instruction online) until the end of the year. This exception enabled Joint Education Committee Vice Chair Regina Huff to retain her favorable rating with the state-wide teachers union, Kentucky Educators Association, while she managed to successfully bluff her way through playing both sides long enough that the bill was passed, practically as the 2021 session gaveled out. The tea party libertarians who had concocted this plan hated the compromise so much they actually called for the revised bill to be killed, once again showing that they are willing to use children as pawns in their political charades. The compromises were only good until the end of the school year, however, and 2021-2022 was a whole new ballgame.
Summer never stopped to take a breath. The “big lie” gained momentum and a new deadly variant of COVID began to spread like wildfire, just in time to put our district and most of our state in the red as school was set to reopen. Vaccine resistance and mask-wearing became badges of honor, and the only way for these folks to continue to live in the lie, was to reject history and science and to ridicule others who don’t fall in line. They began storming our local school board meetings, work sessions and committee hearings. Along with it came the rise of anti-CRT legislation and outcry over the dogwhistle narrative that teaching history accurately “creates division” and is “hateful” and “divisive.” Truth is, the base of white supremacists is dwindling, and these desperate tactics are used to recruit new blood to help keep the “big lie” alive.
The billionaire elites, with Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul as experienced tour guides, have mastered the practice of preying upon the innocence and man-made ignorance of Kentuckians through their well-funded campaigns of disinformation, fear and hate. Despite the best efforts organizations like ours and countless others, and the will of the people we represent, they continue with their destruction unobstructed. We know that not everyone sees what is going on or believes us when we tell them. But we don’t think we have to convince everyone. We, the Leadership Team of Dear JCPS and practically everyone I’ve spoken to in the JCPS community who shares these experiences, believe we are enough.
It’s time to rise up.
I would like encourage everyone reading this post to realize the seriousness of the situations our families and educators across the state were placed in BEFORE this latest Delta variant surge, with every district being forced by that same GOP legislature to offer in-person instruction. Our current predicament does not even take into account the next wave that we fear is coming based on the reports we at Dear JCPS are receiving of cases that are not being accurately reported on the JCPS COVID Dashboard. We believe we have a moral obligation to share, not only what we’ve been hearing, since those we entrust to keep us safe can not always be counted on to do so.
To that end, I decided to compare yesterday afternoon’s JCPS COVID dashboard numbers to this morning, and I noticed an alarming increase overnight. Four new schools joined the club, and the number of infected and quarantined students and staff jumped, in some cases, by nearly 20%. On top of that, we are hearing alarming reports of cases that have still not made it to the dashboard, 48 hours after they were discovered. Sources tell us letters going home to families don’t match the numbers in the dashboard. In-school nurses are being asked to fudge numbers or data they report to the district, making healthcare professionals feel “caught in the middle.”
I was about to post this blog when something strange happened.
After an entire day of on again, off again internet issues, I was about to post my findings, when I decided to refresh my screen for the 3:00 PM update. That’s when I noticed that there was an even more dramatic jump over the 24-hour timeframe after I had already been reeling over the overnight numbers. As my brain tried to grasp what I was looking at, panic began to set in when I realized I had no way to disseminate these findings effectively. My chest felt like there was an elephant standing on it. I had to get the word out! But because I’m currently on a 7-day Facebook ban, and in a remote location with spotty internet, I have been down for the count.
I crunched the numbers and tried to dust off a fake account from my last Facebook ban to see if I could make that account an admin and post to our page. No luck. Another hour goes by, so I did the 4 PM refresh to see how much higher it went and guess what? The numbers went BACK DOWN to more in line with the trend we had been seeing at 10 am, 1 PM and 2 PM. Where did those 10 new sites go? What happened to nearly 400 new cases or quarantines? Meanwhile, I added another tab to the spreadsheet and came up with even more questions and concerns. I tried to capture the discrepancies in the following video.
Sorting by facility or group name, these 10 sites that were new on the 3 PM report had disappeared again by the 4 PM report.
Meanwhile, a parent had been messaging me since 7:49 Friday morning saying, “Some schools haven’t listed their cases from last week.” I told them I had seen and heard this from numerous sources, and for that reason I was working on a data gathering tool to try to triage and make sense of the conflicting information. Later that afternoon, I shared my discovery of the spike, including the 10 mystery sites with them. That is when they informed me that their site is on the “missing” list, confessing, “Letters were sent to families on August 18 regarding our school having a positive case.”
What is the source of this extraneous data?
Why are these sites not showing up on the dashboard (other than that one time)? We have confirmation they should be there.
What caused this blip to show up just one time and not on previous or future reports? Are they suppressing it on purpose? Keeping two sets of data?
How many more situations like these are there?
In addition to the 10 sites that are missing from the ongoing reports, several of the sites that are consistently reported also contributed to that spike at 3 PM. I tried to capture a sort order that shows some of the sites with the largest discrepancies based on student cases here:
If anyone has any additional information to share, you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lives may hang in the balance. Rest assured, correspondence will be kept confidential and identities will be protected.
How many others are not accurately reported? Help us find out by reporting missing or conflicting info on our survey.
The data spike during the 3 PM report possibly masked schools that DID experience significant increases in the 4 PM report, such as Lowe Elementary, which according to my comparisons, actually added 10 more students to the quarantine list while everyone else’s numbers were going down, taking them from 38 to 48. Please check the dashboard and ask around at your school to find out if there are discrepancies in your data, and use the survey to report them. We will compile the information to share in a confidential and orderly fashion so that others can have access to the same information we have and you can help the district troubleshoot where breakdowns are occurring.
And even without this unexplained anomaly, the increase in the number of cases and quarantines from Thursday to Friday is still alarming, with case numbers increasing between 20-36% in just one day. With more and more teachers and staff out on quarantine, and a dire substitute situation, this continues to not safe. We will see more situations like the one we saw with a student at Pleasure Ridge Park who was left to fend for themselves after more and more of them are corralled into cafeterias and gymnasiums to maintain control. Meanwhile, opportunistic lawmakers and politicians will use any violent outbreaks as an opportunity to blame the district leaders for removing police from our schools instead of admitting the 1,000 other things they did or didn’t do that got us here in the first place. It’s already happening, and I would even argue it was a calculated maneuver.
So we already know it’s bad. The questions are, “How much worse is it than we realize?” and “What are we going to do about it?”
Our community needs transparency in order to make the best decisions. In order to prevent avoidable suffering, humans have to be willing to see that our actions (or inactions) have cause and effect, and anticipate where our society is headed in order to make the best preparations. Change is inevitable. We can sit back and helplessly wait for it to happen to us, or we can recognize that each of us has the power to be the change that MUST happen and guide it in for a safer landing. The sooner we bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice, the less fallout, carnage and repercussions there will be. Parents, students, teachers and staff hold the power to make this shift happen sooner rather than later. And as they say in the medical profession,
an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Our Leadership Team will make every effort to validate, vet and share the information as it comes in, so you can continue to weigh all available information when making your own personal decisions about the health and safety of your families, but also to alert anyone in a position of authority who might be able to intervene on our behalf. To get a better sense of how widespread these disparities are, and streamline the vetting process, we have created a COVID discrepancy survey for parents/guardians and JCPS employees to report discrepancies, concerns, etc. that they are aware of. Participants will have the option to remain anonymous, and any personal data shared with us will not be shared with anyone outside of the Dear JCPS Leadership Team.
Thank you as we ALL do our part to keep our students, families and community safe! If you have updates to provide, please email email@example.com or come back and complete the form again. Please try to provide timestamps with your documentation so competing or duplicate reports can be reconciled.
During a recent press conference, hosted by the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, a heckler began talking loudly to the crowd while one of our local community leaders, Vincent Gonzalez, was speaking. The press conference, which was held at Central High School ahead of the July 27, 2021 JCPS School Board Meeting, focused on our community’s unapologetic support for the teaching of accurate history and the practicing of equity, diversity and inclusion, as well as halting recently proposed legislation that would make doing so illegal. This interruption went on for quite some time, as several individuals from the crowd went over to try to kindly ask the belligerent woman to be respectful, to no avail. My latest blog post, entitled, “Listen to the Black People!,” details the events and dynamics that took place during those tense moments. Thank you for taking a moment to check it out.
After individuals carrying symbols suggesting they were affiliated with neo-Nazi hate groups and insurrectionists stormed the June 29 JCPS Work Session, some of these same folks were spotted at the Oldham County School Board meeting the following Monday night. These bad actors are not the “stakeholders” they pretend to be.
Many of the grassroots organizations and individuals who are closest to the challenges faced in a large urban district like JCPS have been waiting for nearly a year and a half, BEFORE the pandemic and BEFORE the murder of JCPS graduate Breonna Taylor, to have their voices heard. And they’ve waited even longer and more patiently to see the structural racism that’s baked into our systems, student assignment plan and resource distribution, addressed. Yet out of nowhere, these mostly white parents and “concerned stakeholders” show up and start making demands and even threatening our leaders over things like mask mandates? How privileged must one be to think their “right” to expose others to a deadly virus trumps the safety and education of our most vulnerable students? To folks who never bothered to show up constructively to work with district and community leaders to find solutions, and to others who are coming from outside counties and states to disrupt meetings with their misinformed positions, I say, “get in line.”
Other right-wing radicals from the meeting have been spotted taking the lead in organizing around irrational and unnecessary “pro-life” legislation, dangerous constitutional amendment changes, and even demanding reinstatement of a cop who showed up in uniform, driving a patrol car, to protest against women’s legal right to access abortion. We believe these are likely the same “great people” who think Trump won the election and could be disingenuously using the CRT issue to sow discord in order to recruit for their next coup as early as next month. They were seen with the 111%ers who are linked to those in attendance at the JCPS meeting, some of whom bear a “We The People” tattoo, and wear distinctive facial hair, clothing and jewelry. They may also be associated with the Patriot Front hate group that left their signature on murals they recently defaced. They even went so far as to have left their hate group’s calling card on a local Black reporter’s windshield.
A coalition is forming! Join us as we band together to fight the latest attacks on public education and our people as lawmakers nationwide attempt to deny the right of every student to learn an accurate and comprehensive US History. Sign up for our email list to get updates on meetings, strategies and other ways you can support our students, teachers and public schools during this historical time.
Be on the look out for those claiming that “Critical Race Theory” is divisive and teaches hate. These people may be in your child’s school’s parent teacher group, on your Facebook feed, attend the same church, or even be in your own family. If they make this intellectually lazy claim, prod them for details. You will learn that their claims can be easily debunked. They have likely not done any research, but instead are simply repeating divisive and hateful messaging they’ve heard elsewhere, perhaps from people they trust. The originators of this untruth are usually those who want to keep others under their feet. People at the head of an organization, a committee, a parish or a household. Usually, white men.
It’s almost as if they WANT public schools to fail so they can bring in charter schools and profit off our tax dollars while simultaneously denying quality education to those who don’t have the means.
These claims have nothing to do with what Critical Race Theory actually is or what it does. But since CRT is a college-level course, and none of us has the spare time or funds required to master that curriculum just to figure out who to believe, let’s cut to the chase.
What you need to know:
Critical Race Theory is not taught in JCPS, or any public primary or secondary school in Kentucky, for that matter. This is a solution looking for a problem and “much ado about nothing.”
Critical Race Theory is college-level legal coursework curriculum. It’s just that. A theory. It focuses on how race has played a role in disparate outcomes between white and non-white persons in the criminal justice system. That’s it. It doesn’t teach hate. It doesn’t blame white people for slavery. None of that nonsense.
The bill that has been introduced in Kentucky does not mention Critical Race Theory, but instead lists a dozen concepts public school employees must not discuss with their students.
Failure to comply exposes the school district to thousands of dollars in fines.
Many of the concepts it prohibits teachers from teaching either don’t happen, or are already illegal, including acts of treason. Most of the 12 provisions are unnecessary, redundant and superfluous, clearly to create disinformation and spread fear.
Of the few provisions that actually change the laws on the books, they serve more to protect white feelings than they do to protect Black lives.
The bill’s language and threat of punishment will have a chilling effect on teachers’ ability to provide their students with factual historical information, regardless of context, and denies students their right to a quality public education.
The bill would take authority to supervise employees away from local district leaders and place it in the hands of the Attorney General, currently Daniel Cameron. It eliminates stakeholders’ abilities to hold board members accountable to what is taught and what is prohibited.
The bill would violate free speech, while protecting corruption and structural racism.
This is a waste of resources. This is a lawsuit they are likely to lose. We don’t have money for textbooks, but we have money to fight this in court? Where are our priorities again?
Groups that are supportive of this bill have demonstrated ties to ALEC (The American Legislative Exchange Council), the Koch Brothers, Mitch McConnell, Matt Bevin, and radical right wing organizations, to name a few.
Fearmongerers spreading these concepts have infiltrated many grassroots and social media groups, allowing this misinformation to be spread unchecked. They are running for school boards and other top seats, and in fact, this language has already become law in many other neighboring states and school districts.
Please be outspoken and vigilant when you encounter this messaging. Feel free to tag Dear JCPS on social media if you need backup.
If only lawmakers would spend half the energy looking for ways to help and support our public schools as they do they do figuring out how to tie our hands and punish us, while demanding more with no additional funding, we might actually get somewhere. It’s almost as if they WANT public schools to fail so they can bring in charter schools and profit off our tax dollars while simultaneously denying quality education to those who don’t have the means.
More information will be forthcoming about a coalition that is forming, as well as strategies to support our students, teachers and our public schools. Click here to join our email list.
Here are some additional links you may find helpful:
Now playing on Soundcloud, this week’s episode of Save Our Schools With Dear JCPS is part of our new “Pattern or Practice” Series. This series features historical records from the Audio Archives tab. These podcasts attempt to tell the true stories of what really happened behind the scenes in JCPS as we continue the work to dismantle structural racism in the district.
My name is Gay Adelmann. I am the co-founder and president of Dear JCPS. In March of 2017, JCPS leaders conspired to vote me off the 15th District PTA board after I advocated for Maupin Elementary students and families. Don’t take my word for it, listen to excerpts from two of those meetings on this week’s program. The longer versions of these conversations and more can also be found there, with more being added regularly.
WHY IT MATTERS? These types of patterns and practices continue to harm West Louisville families and schools to this day. Sign our petition here.
Dear JCPS is publishing this piece as part of a series dedicated to identifying patterns or practices of discrimination in JCPS. To sign our petition to encourage the US Department of Justice to investigate JCPS and its outside entities, please click here.
At this moment, JCTA PR’s (Professional Representatives, also known as “building representatives”) are expected to be voting to approve proposed bylaws changes that will make it possible for a handful of their officers to discriminate against members who advocate for minority populations, and even remove them from their elected roles on the organizations’ board.
Think it can’t happen here? It already has.
Recent controversy, including betrayals from endorsed elected officials, a botched political action committee (PAC) election and a challenge to JCTA’s General Election, and other things they’re not telling you, the incumbent JCTA officers have been feeling the heat more than usual. Having personally experienced a similar series of events when I was serving as a Vice President for the 15th District PTA in 2017, I recognized this latest maneuver to modify the bylaws as a means to force out anyone who the establishment leadership disagrees with as something similar that happened to me and several other JCPS moms who stood up for schools in West Louisville. In fact, in March of 2017, the 15th District PTA Board voted to remove me for speaking up for parents and students at Maupin Elementary, a high-poverty, high-minority population school in the district’s highly segregated “West End.” And in 2019, they conducted a closed-door emergency bylaws meeting in order to prevent me from serving, had I been elected when I and five other parents “ran from the floor” to serve on the 15th District PTA Board.
As you can hear from the short audiotape I made from that Emergency Board meeting that night, “duty of obedience” was cited as grounds for the motion for my removal. It will be interesting to watch as JCTA looks for ways to target anyone who is disloyal to their organization. The entire recording of the 2017 meeting, as well as follow-up meetings, can be found on our website under the Audio Archives tab. More will continue to be added.
If there was ever an ideal time for students concerned about educational justice to “opt out” of high stakes testing, this is it! Due to the pandemic, the scores won’t count, so why are they being administered at all? Because the federal government threatens to withhold badly needed funding if we don’t keep doing things the way we’ve always done them, even when we know they are harmful to our most vulnerable students and schools, and divert money and time away from what actually matters. We’ve put together some tools and resources to support families who want to learn more about their rights and responsibilities around KPREP. Visit www.dearjcps.com/refuse-KPREP.
A new section of our website has been created to archive evidence and provide real-life examples of systemic or institutionalized racism within JCPS that have been documented by our group’s organizers.
Some of these patterns include:
Denied or delayed responses to claims of discrimination.
Some of the specific events where discrimination took place that we’ve documented thus far, include:
Investigation into allegations against Manual Principal Jerry Mayes.
PTA, SBDM and JCTA elections, bylaws and practices favoring JCPS administration, not members/stakeholders.
Crums Lane Elementary (Principal favored white teachers and forced out Black parents)
Maupin Elementary (SBDM manipulated by district leaders – 2016)
Jefferson County Teachers’ Association leadership has put together some proposed changes to their bylaws. These changes appear to include language that will make it easier for the status quo to hold on to their power and silence anyone who dare speak up.
These tactics are eerily similar to those employed by the 15th District (Jefferson County) PTA two years ago when Black, Brown and BIPOC-allied JCPS parents asked their elected School Board and National PTA to intervene after dues-paying members’ efforts to try to hold their entrenched white leadership accountable were unsuccessful. The entire litany of PTA infractions can be found here. The text of the proposed JCTA Bylaws changes can be found here.
I know you’re busy, and there’s an overload of information out there, so I tried to take what I think you need to know about public education in Jefferson County, Kentucky this week and cram it into our weekly 59-minute podcast. But because 59 minutes is still a HUGE commitment, I coupled it with a 4-minute teaser and an 23-minute take-out, so you can be like Goldilocks and find the portion that’s “just right” for your appetite and schedule.
Here’s the 4-minute teaser. Even if you end up listening to the entire podcast, I think this snip is worth hearing more than once.
Here’s the video of what I thought were the most telling snips from the KET 2021 Legislative Recap, complete with video, which make up the first 23 minutes of the podcast.
Fierce and ready with the facts, House Rep. Angie Hatton keeps forked-tongued Damon Thayer in his place while everyone’s favorite Senator Morgan McGarvey says what everyone wants to hear. Unshaven Steve Rudy appeared to be a last-minute stand in.
Here’s the entire 59-minute podcast, featuring audio from our 2018 and 2019 archives, along with an actual photo from the day’s events, just to keep it real.
Also, added a little treat for those who make it all the way to the end. 😉
A behind the scenes look at Kentucky’s modern education reform history.
The day was March 28, 2019. It was the last day of a 30-day legislative session. Teachers in the state’s largest school district, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) had just successfully “sicked out” six of the last seven days legislature was in session. I say “sickout” not strike, because it’s illegal for a union to call for a strike in Kentucky.
A number of predatory education bills, including HB205, the pension reform bill that put new teachers in a defined contribution plan, on the heals of 2018’s session, when a sewer bill was stripped in an effort to force a pension bill through in the dark of the night, kept JCPS teachers, and current and retired teachers across the state, on high alert.
By mid-March, district and union leaders were working out compromises, and failing at working out compromises, in an effort to get teachers to “settle down.” They also wanted “rouge groups” like Dear JCPS and other teacher-led groups like JCPS Leads and TRELF to stop encouraging it. They were going so far as to convince high-profile “pro-public education” JCTA-endorsed legislators from both political parties to write joint statements promising no more harmful legislation would be passed this legislative session, and then tagging us in their tweets.
After the last sickout on March 14th, there were no more days of session until March 28th. One lone day sitting on the horizon to cram as much garbage into the garbage disposal and see how much harm you can inflict on the unsuspecting before they are forced to gavel out at midnight. It’s like this every year. So why should teachers trust that a supermajority GOP-led legislature won’t mislead them this year?
For this reason, we decided to plan a rally in the Capitol Rotunda for the last day of session. We wanted to be prepared because we had every reason to believe that teachers and parents would be back.
On the last day of session, the rally began at 10 AM. We had speakers and provided materials to make posters. The turnout was lower than we had anticipated. We learned that JCTA had called for a meeting with teachers in the Annex at the same time as our rally in order to compete with our event. In addition, they only had 300 teachers sign up to come to Frankfort as delegates, instead of the 500 that was part of the compromise. Although, very few were in the Capitol when it mattered.
Following the rally in the Rotunda, our group headed toward the Senate, where they were expected to gavel in at noon. At 11:55, I begin livestreaming from the Dear JCPS Facebook page, as we stand at the bottom of the Senate steps to encourage Senators to vote against the 9 resolutions that would confirm Governor Bevin’s anti-public education picks to the Kentucky Department of Education, a full year after he controversially appointed the remainder of them, (and who later sued the Governor after he removed them on his first day in office in 2019). One confirmation in particular that we had concerns about was Senate Resolution 240, which added another two years to pro-voucher EdChoice Director Gary Houchens‘ term.
I was going to call this piece, “Wife of JCTA-Endorsed Legislator Receives Gift of Coveted JCPS Teaching Position Despite Continuously Crafting, Endorsing and Voting for Legislation that Harms JCPS Students and Taxpayers” but it took up too much space as a headline.
House Bill 208 (#HB208), the “back-to-school bill,” started out with good intentions, or so they were led to believe.
It was positioned to some legislators as a “funding bill.” They were told districts needed this new language in order for SEEK dollars to follow students because after the GOP stripped the governor of his executive powers, doing so was illegal. You see, after February 1, the governor was no longer authorized to use his executive powers to allow districts to continue on NTI longer than 10 days during a pandemic. This was one of several powers recently stripped from Kentucky’s governor. Another one was the Governor’s ability to reappoint boards and committees, such as the Pension Oversight Board. (More about that later.)
The GOP disingenuously stated this move was not a power grab. Yet two years earlier, Senate President Stivers spoke out of the other side of his mouth when he admonished our objection to the appointment of Bevin’s pro-privatization Board of Education, when he pressured the Senate to confirm pro-voucher board member Gary Houchens to KBE. Back then he believed the governor had the constitutional right to appoint people to boards and committees. Funny how they no longer feel that way now that Bevin is out.
So, what was wrong with HB208 in its original form? Well, it contained language that could force districts to provide in-person learning in order to qualify for the SEEK funding. One source claimed that after a $75,000 lobbying effort from KDE (I’m not sure how they know that), an amendment was added that made the bill “better” for districts like JCPS, who don’t have the infrastructure (and haven’t for decades, which is why we are making all these changes and needing to raise property taxes), by taking a bill that was going to force all districts to reopen to qualify for their funding, and adding an amendment that would provide exceptions for our most at-risk families to remain on NTI. That’s a good thing, right?
But alas, that was not their goal! So now groups like BIPPS and “Let them Learn” (mostly privileged white parents) are upset!
During the committee meeting, the argument was even made that since the JCPS Board voted to return in person in anticipation of the passage of this bill, it was an implied endorsement of a bill, even though many members of JCPS board knew the bill was harmful. They played their defensive hand and left us exposed, once again.
This reminds me of a similar time the JCPS Board of Education voted 4-3 to accept the state takeover compromise with a wild swing vote from my own Board member. I even spoke at the following Board meeting to admonish her and others for giving away their constituents’ power by accepting the compromise deal from Bevin’s corrupt KBE and Commissioner, instead of holding out for our “day in court” against an ever-looming state takeover. (Someday you will need to ask me about the role white JCTA leadership played in all of this with #OurJCPS.)
Structural racism refers to the totality of ways in which societies foster racial discrimination through mutually reinforcing systems of housing, education, employment, earnings, benefits, credit, media, health care, and criminal justice. These patterns and practices in turn reinforce discriminatory beliefs, values, and distribution of resources.
It’s a pattern. But I digress…
Judging by the two guests who spoke in opposition to the bill in today’s elusive Senate Education Committee Meeting, it would seem that the scheming GOPers who had this brilliant idea for a bill to force schools to reopen, suddenly wanted to KILL THE BILL to fund districts operating on NTI! As if to say, “If we can’t force others to do education our way, NO ONE SHOULD be educated!” With the passage of today’s committee sub, the possibility that the option that allows some students to remain on NTI and still receive SEEK funding could be taken away from districts like JCPS becomes even more real. One JCPS teacher told us they are now being told to plan to return on March 22, and according to the bill language, students would be required to return in person no later than March 29, 2021.
Cheaters never win.
I think the GOP’s ALEC-friendly lawmakers’ original scheme has backfired. Their intentions of putting the wants of a privileged few above the lives of some of the district’s most vulnerable. But what everyone keeps forgetting is that it has not passed. There are some who want it killed. There are others who want it passed but don’t want to take away the local decision-making authority. But only those who truly understand systemic racism and the impacts on our students, educators and families of color, know that there is no deal with the devil that is good enough for our students.
Now that the intent-on-corruption legislators had successfully retroactively made the Governor’s executive orders to extend NTI beyond 10 days illegal, their next scheme was to force everyone back to in-person schooling so they can make sure they can administer their almighty tests. Certain lawmakers showed us today that this is an effort to control JCPS, because we are not complying with their scheme. The entire meeting, which you can watch below, seemed to carry the theme “What’s wrong with JCPS?,” and “If they can’t make good decisions, we will make their decisions for them.”
Kentucky legislators keep passing bad bills, instead of solving the problems they are creating. Maybe these 8 Kentucky House Reps who voted “Nay” against their fellow educator bill sponsors, knew HB208 was a Trojan Horse all along? We will find out because after it passes the Senate it will be back to the House for another vote or amendment. Perhaps die-hard GOP party line toe-ers will come out against it and when the Dems who voted against catch on to their scheme, maybe they will switch their votes and vote yes. Maybe it will die in the House because the bill sponsors realize they’ve been duped, or they get cold feet, and it never gets called back to the floor.
What I do know is we should all be paying better attention. Because voters, taxpayers, teachers and parents are getting screwed. We should all contact our House Reps and make them aware these schemers are up to something. My Rep is Tina Bojanowski, one of the bill co-sponsors, a JCPS educator and JCTA member, and you can bet I’ve been texting back and forth with her quite a bit today.
Once our Representatives know to look for side and back room deals, even if they don’t understand it all just yet, ask them to start poking around. For those that are starting to get it, ask them if they feel like they’ve been played? I know some JCPS school board members do. In fact, Joe Marshall was our guest on this past Monday’s People’s Agenda meeting where we shared our concerns about some of these possibilities. #NowAreYouStartingToGetIt?
When will white lawmakers in Frankfort take their knees off Black JCPS students’ and educators’ necks?
In closing, the real question is, will HB208 accomplish its original goal to force vulnerable high-minority population districts like JCPS to go back in person before it’s safe for us to do so? And if so, for what? Just so they can force students to take abusive tests that benefit them in now way, while also dealing with trauma, loss, and health concerns that have been amplified, along with already existing learning gaps and racial injustices by a pandemic, and as Breonna Taylor’s school district, as the epicenter for the movement for Black Female Lives? Or will the scheming radical GOP special interest groups, like BIPPS and Let Them Learn, be able to kill their own bill, leaving other ways to continue their assaults on public education by tying up the governor’s authority in endless lawsuits and threatening to strip away funding for districts like JCPS that don’t reopen in person by their rushed timeline?
HB208 continues to carry a great deal of uncertainty, forcing a district the size of JCPS to leave hundreds of thousands of lives in the lurch, swinging wildly back and forth with every tweak of the bill.
Instead, wouldn’t it be great if our local elected officials would have the fortitude to stand up and say, “We are Jefferson County’s duly elected school board officials and we will NO LONGER allow outsiders to make our decisions for us!”? We are in a pandemic after all. And a movement for Black Lives.
Ignore the outsiders. We elected YOU to make decisions for our district, not them. You say you’re about racial justice? You say you want to dismantle structural racism? Well, stand up and fight for what’s best for our most vulnerable JCPS populations. If not now, when?
This story is developing and may be updated. Send questions. corrections or clarifications to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today at 5 PM, Jefferson County Teachers’ Association (JCTA) triennial general elections will draw to a close. Following a contentious campaign cycle, a diverse group of teacher members vying for more than a dozen open seats on the Board, (including the four key leadership positions of President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer), will learn how they fared against entrenched white incumbents who appear to be willing to stop at nothing to remain in power.
established a code of conduct guaranteeing certain rights to union members within their union, and imposed reporting requirements on unions, union officers, employers, and consultants.
This is also not the first time in recent history powerful third-party organizations in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) have been accused of bullying, intimidation, abuse of power and tampering with elections and outcomes. Following numerous anomalies chronicled in this series of articles regarding numerous controversial PTA elections, in July of 2019, I spoke at a JCPS Board of Education meeting about the need for greater oversight of external organizations.
Watch the video below:
Unfortunately, being on the receiving end of mud-slinging from bourgeois elites and their enablers is nothing new. Since before our founding in July of 2015, Dear JCPS leaders and members have been demanding accountability and transparency from district leaders. Although some perceived the “drama” as unpleasant, deterring them from wanting to get involved, pushback from those loyal to corrupt administrators is reminiscent of those protecting status quo under Dr. Hargens. Yet, if you ask teachers today, most would say they approve of how that turned out.
A rally on the steps of Van Hoose, spearheaded by Dear JCPS, called for Hargens’ resignation which came shortly thereafter, a full two years before her contract was set to expire.
Similarly, the removal of venture capitalist David Jones, Jr. from the JCPS Board of Education in 2016, can also be attributed to actions of grassroots groups, not the teachers’ union, as most believe. In fact, the union’s political action committee (PAC), Better Schools Kentucky, was too chicken to go up against Jones, so instead they remained silent in that race.
The recent botched election for Better Schools Kentucky, the union’s political action committee, which directs endorsements, funds and volunteers to candidates using members’ dues money, wasn’t the first election that the union President attempted to have undue influence over.
School Board Race Interference
Another example of how the JCTA President may have manipulated elections behind the scenes took place in August of 2018. On the filing deadline for the JCPS School Board race, I received text messages from an allied stakeholder. He was thinking about throwing his hat into the ring and wanted to know if I thought Linda Duncan was a board member who needed to be replaced.
Recalling numerous culturally inappropriate and insensitive comments she’s made over the years, I responded with an unequivocal “Yes!,” and an intense series of phone calls and text messages ensued, given that the deadline was only a few hours away. After advising my friend and potential candidate what he needed in order to file, I proceeded to notify the teachers’ union president that someone had stepped up to take Duncan’s place, assuming he would share my excitement.
I remained in contact with the potential candidate the remainder of the afternoon, helping him think through the logistics about how to obtain the necessary signatures, and deliver the required forms (and possibly meeting a constituent at the clerk’s office for a last minute signature), before the early afternoon deadline.
I recounted this incident in a recent 4-hour “tell-all” Facebook livestream, but I wanted to blog about it here, as well, because I believe the public deserves to know the truth. Among other things, I believe the 20-year president (a condition that came as the result of removing term limits shortly after being elected to the top seat) of arguably the state’s most powerful union, did us all a disservice by dissuading an amazing social and racial justice advocate, union leader, parent and taxpayer from trying to serve his community.
After my friend and concerned stakeholder was convinced to pull out of filing at the 11th hour, he stopped communicating with me, and instead posted this vague status on Facebook about averting a close call.
The reasoning for the change of heart, according to sources, was that he was told by the JCTA President that Duncan was a “friendly incumbent.” He told him that fellow union folks needed to stay in their own lanes (my friend was a leader in a union that represents members in the communication industry, not education, after all) and apparently amassed his power to convince a legitimate, concerned constituent of Linda Duncan’s, to abort the filing process.
Friendly to whom???
Friendly to JCTA and JCPS executives and electeds, perhaps? Because many of the grassroots groups, including Dear JCPS, LSURJ, and The Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and Black Lives Matter Louisville did not consider Duncan to be friendly to Black, brown, and LGBTQ+ students and teachers. Many had repeatedly witnessed and expressed disdain for culturally inappropriate comments for which Duncan was notorious.
Many of these same grassroots groups, as well as the League of Women Voters Louisville, had also filed to be intervenors in the state takeover hearing, because we knew the truth and we welcomed our “day in court.” Many now realize what the JCTA President and his insiders must have meant by “friendly” was that Duncan favored a “compromising” stance on the hostile state takeover that had been fraudulently thrust upon us by an unethical state education commissioner and board. The union president and other district leaders clearly preferred a board member who they could rely on to cast the deciding vote that would prevent the state takeover negotiations from ever making it to a hearing.
Why Are You Telling Us Now?
We believe a handful of JCTA leaders have repeatedly interfered with the democratic election processes, because they have a vested interest in continuing to bury the seeds of truth. And we think it’s important that the more than 6,000 dues-paying members have an opportunity to do their own research before deciding who to vote for in the election.
The People’s Agenda Education Committee and Dear JCPS have endorsed teachers RaShauna Tyson for President, Kumar Rashad for Vice President, Tyra Walker for Secretary and Dr. Randy Wieck for Treasurer.
You may also be aware that same JCTA-endorsed candidate is now chairing an committee to impeach our public school friendly governor. He also voted for charter schools and the infamous “sewer bill.”
But terrible endorsements are nothing new for McKim’s closely controlled political action committee. For the 20 years prior to McKim taking over the role of President, there had been 7 presidents, the most recent being Laura Kirchner. Laura and others have been paying attention. Here are some opinions of BSK endorsements we came across recently:
JCTA Elections end Wednesday at 5:00 PM. If you are a member, be sure to exercise your vote before the deadline! To make an informed decision, check out all of our resources on our JCTA Members page. In particular, you can read about the 20-Year Timeline of the Teachers’ Pensions, and also sign up to organize with JCPS Teachers and Parents around your back-to-school concerns.
In 2016, according to a post made by JCTA member and candidate for JCTA Vice President, Randy Wieck,
JCTA blocked transparency of the private money (equity) contracts, so-called “proprietary”, in 2016 (see bottom of Action from 2016). The private money firms divulge what they choose, and charge what they like, and this cannot be revealed to JCTA/KEA members. (See Beau Barnes, open records request 2014)
According to the Feb. 2016 ACTION newsletter distributed by JCTA, SB2 would have required KTRS to publicly disclose information on secret, no bid private equity contracts. Claiming disclosure would prevent these types of investment opportunities in the future, JCTA supported keeping the information private, and applauded the removal of these transparency provisions in the revised legislation. (See bottom of newsletter.)
JCTA officer elections quietly come around every three years. Tomorrow will kick off the next triennial 8-day popularity contest. Their long-standing President, Brent McKim, has a Black female challenger. Incumbent Vice President, Tammy Berlin, seeking her third term, has a Black male challenger. The Treasurer slot is being sought by a vocal critic of McKim’s handling of the pension crisis. Despite promises to the contrary, Brent has remained in power for 20 years, after removing term limits shortly after becoming elected in 2001.
Their entrenched white leadership continues to abuse their power to suppress members’ votes, restrict access to information that impacts members’ financial security and representation, sow discord, and spread confusion and fear in order to prevent non-white stakeholders and their allies from sharing in the decision making that affects their union, their district and their community.
Unfortunately, their latest efforts appear to be working, based on the number of teachers who have told me to stop poking the bear, a tried-and-failed strategy that continues to leave me vulnerable and exposed, while their harmful and dangerous behaviors grow rampant and remain unchecked.
The gaslighting and manipulation in a recent message from JCTA Executive Director DeeAnn Flaherty (a McConnell Scholar) regarding a recent email I sent to candidates is complex, but let me break down a few things I noticed:
Their first implication is that I did not send the email to all candidates, or provide them with equal opportunity to participate.
This assumption is not factual and easily proven as such. I sent the email to more than two dozen candidates in contested downballot races, specifically so that everyone WOULD have the same opportunity to be aware and apply. When my email tracking software showed ZERO opens after some time had passed, I called or messaged a few candidates that I knew to make sure it had not been blocked, as has been done previously. (See image.)
Candidates “K,” “G,” “I” and “S1” located and opened their emails after I notified them to look for it. Most of them told me it was buried in some kind of spam folder. After that outreach, I could finally see some “opens” but other than the initial three or four that I contacted, the reporting became stagnate again. So I prepared another email to send to the same candidates from a different address to instruct them to check their spam folder, because I wanted to make sure they saw it before the deadline we had given them. Unfortunately, members of our planning group instructed me not to send that email because they feared it would create even more distractions. So I waited.
In the meantime, candidate “S2” found and opened her email and completed the form within, providing her home address, phone number and tshirt size. Was it a setup?
Because we had already been working with the other candidate on that ticket, Jenna Fracasso, I sent follow up questions to “S2” to try to differentiate between the two of them, so the nominating committed could make an informed decision. She did not respond before the deadline. Jenna had already been attending People’s Agenda meetings and confirmed to us that she supported the shared vision of the Coalition, so the nomination for the endorsement went to Jenna instead of candidate “S2.”
They indicated someone received an unsolicited late night unannounced visit.
Despite not receiving our nomination, I still wanted “S2” to have the tshirt she had ordered. Since time was of the essence, I didn’t want to risk mail time delaying the receipt of the tshirts. (Ironically, Tammy Berlin condemned me on her personal FB page, and specifically criticized the estimated 2-3 week delivery time I had posted regarding the tshirts. She did not realize I had a batch in the works that I was planning to deliver to those who ordered early. Seems like no matter what I do, it is a no-win situation with her.) In addition to dropping off “S2’s” tshirt, I made several other contactless deliveries to candidates that Friday evening with no “incident.”
Using the address and phone number provided by “S2” on the form, I placed a package containing the tshirt she requested on her doorstep. Due to concerns that she may mix it up with some trash and other packaging that was also on her doorstep, I called her (again using the phone number she provided to me for this purpose) to let her know it was there, after I drove away. We had a great conversation. I explained why she didn’t get the nomination and she indicated she understood. She told me her reasons for running, which sounded in alignment with our work, and I invited her to come to the next Zoom call. And that was that. Or so I thought.
Upon checking the campaign software again, I discover that Candidate “S2’s” email has been shared over 40 times, making it clear that it is her email that was forwarded to JCTA.
Since that time, only two other candidates have opened the email, one of whom has since withdrawn from the race. JCTA not only falsely claims this email was not sent to all candidates, but in fact prior emails I have sent to teachers have successfully been BLOCKED by JCPS’s Chief Information Officer at the request of JCTA. Could this have something to do with emails from me continuing to be buried in teachers’ spam folders?
The language in their email is right in line with their other historical tactics of suppression, using words like solicitation, security, security, personal information, “undo what has been done” etc. They imply that our endorsements and support are somehow shady and put their favored candidates at a disadvantage, when in fact their white incumbents are arranging drop-in visits at PR meetings, sending rah rah emails to members with their faces and names all over them, and hosting zoom calls with high profile legislators like Morgan McGarvey, indicating that he has endorsed their lily-white slate. In fact, Ivonne brought this misstep to Morgan’s attention and he indicated he was mortified. We have invited him to join our next call, but as of yet, the time has not been confirmed.
Hypocrisy and false narratives
Regardless, and this is important, there is NO REQUIREMENT, and in fact it is incredibly HYPOCRITICAL, for them to assert that all candidates deserve equal opportunity to apply for an endorsement from our committee. LOOK AT BSK, for Heaven’s sakes! Are they practicing what they preach? No! We sent the email in an attempt to be as inclusive as possible and model what democratic and fair elections should look like. It should alarm everyone reading this post that they are acknowledging that this is something they condemn.
Endorsements can and have been made based upon the endorsing entity’s knowledge of a candidate’s work, platform, and presence at our meetings. Our endorsements require candidates share our vision for third-party organizations in JCPS. We are an anti-racist organization. Therefore, individuals who have been enablers of white supremacy would be problematic to endorse, regardless of their completion of any forms or “agreement” to support our vision. Our meetings are open to the public and have been advertised as such repeatedly (including on the “controversial” email). Our coalition works as a consensus and anyone is welcome to bring their ideas and opinions, but at the end of the day, we have an elected committee and we vote on who to endorse. This is a structure that was created and has been followed since the tax increase endorsement in November, with no objections.
The real reason this is happening.
We are exposing things they don’t want people to see. We are presenting, for the first time in 20 years, a threat to Brent McKim’s dynasty that he has so carefully built, orchestrated and protected. He’s conducting elections using 15-year-old software that he commissioned and controls. There is no reason to believe he is not able to monitor votes in real time, see who is voting for and against his picks, and adjust tactics and messaging to his benefit.
We have received numerous testimonies from people who have had their President’s power and support dangled in front of them to intimidate them into voting for him and/or not speaking out against him. Members have repeatedly requested paper ballots, and in the Fall of 2019, another motion was passed by the PRs to go to paper ballots so there would be a paper trail and a way to validate results, but magically, electronic ballots keep resurfacing. When one man ultimately controls the software used to gather and tabulate ballots, would he not be able to report whatever election results he wants? Members are given no choice but to trust the winners and losers announced at the end of the election. And as we saw with the botched BSK election, without a paper trail, there is no way for “losers” to challenge the results and request a recount.
It is my belief that members’ demands for transparency and democracy ahead of tomorrow’s JCTA elections is why these entrenched leaders are trying to discredit and dismantle our Coalition’s rich history and important work. Fear that they could have their power taken away is causing them to lash out at those seeking truth and accountability. Their actions are intended to cause confusion for members, making them want to distance themselves from the controversy and discomfort.
History is chock full of racist, white supremacist acts like this. Once we recognize them for what they are, we must honor the work of those who founded an alliance that is specifically against racist and political repression, by continuing to stand against these heinous acts! NOW MORE THAN EVER! It’s time!
I’ve sent messages to the superintendent and the commissioner letting them know what is happening. We’ve also reached out to the League of Women Voters to ask for their assistance in certifying the election results. Whatever they are saying about “outside influencers” is a distraction. This election has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with entrenched, white JCTA Members staying in power.
Teachers, I’m not asking you to take my word for any of these claims. I’m attempting to provide you with information they don’t want you to have, and encouraging you to do your own research. After all, it’s your pension and profession, not mine, that hangs in the balance. But it’s all Louisvillian’s whose tax dollars will be left footing the bill when your pension fails and vouchers siphon resources away from our public schools. And it’s future generations of vulnerable students who will suffer the consequences.
Let’s begin by laying the foundation. It’s January 25, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky, home of Breonna Taylor. Breonna was a graduate of Jefferson County Public Schools. JCPS is three times larger than the second largest school district in the state of Kentucky (nearly 100,000 students), and 29th largest in the country.
I am a privileged, white PTA mom, turned public school advocate, turned radical racial justice activist and accomplice. I fight for the right to equitable access of quality public education for Black, Brown, poor and disabled students in the urban pocket of West Louisville, deep in red state territory, where many people still believe Trump won the election.
I moved to Louisville in 2012, when my youngest son was starting high school. All you really need to know is that the school we chose to send him to really opened my eyes to the injustices that our city’s most marginalized occupants experience. And the harder I tried to make even the slightest difference, the harder those in charge made it for us.
This told me I was on to something, I just didn’t know what it was yet.
In 2015, I co-founded Dear JCPS and in 2016, Save Our Schools Kentucky. Dear JCPS is a watchdog group that was created to shine light on corruption that enables predators to siphon tax dollars away from our public schools, often at the expense of West Louisville’s impoverished, downtrodden Black families. Once we started lifting rocks, we started connecting the dots.
Efforts to address disparities in our district have been met with hostility. Community activists have been successful at rooting out and exposing many of the predators who showed us their hands. There was a sea change in district leadership that started in 2016, which continues today.
In 2017, we called for the resignation of our “willfully incompetent” Superintendent and the newly elected board was instrumental in choosing a superintendent who had grown up through the district and could hit the ground running on Day One.
At the state level, “woke” voters removed a whiny ALEC-backed governor in 2019, making way for an education-friendly governor, who thankfully cared more about saving lives than turning a profit when the pandemic hit. One of his first acts as Kentucky Governor (a title once held by his father), was to dismantle the privatizer friendly disaster of a Board of Education, prompting the resignation of an even greater disaster of a Education Commissioner, Wayne Lewis. More on this later.
Noticing unaddressed disparities between schools, parent involvement, fundraising and support, we tried to make change within the district-wide and local PTAs. When this effort proved futile, we created a slate of candidates to run from the floor. We were not successful, but we did expose a myriad of attempts at election-rigging and unethical practices, designed to keep “troublesome” Black and Black-allied parents from serving. This led to a 3-minute speech about oversight of third-party organizations during a JCPS Board meeting in July of 2019.
We also realized how monumental the structural barriers for educational justice really are. And that’s why the upcoming JCTA Elections are so critical.
There’s an election going on. A very important election. For the first time in 20 years, ever since the sitting president removed term limits for himself and his loyal accomplices so they could remain in power, he and his white incumbents face a very a real threat from dissatisfied rank-and-file members
A Black, female educator, with 13 years recent and relevant classroom experience, not to mention private sector leadership experience — and who spent her lifetime in Black skin — is challenging the controversial white, male incumbent for the top leadership position.
The Jefferson County Teachers Association is one of just a handful of teachers unions in Kentucky that has a treasured collective bargaining agreement. They represent over 6,000 certified teachers, working in 150 plus schools, which range from 9% Black to 92% Black. And while the student population is around 50% white overall, some schools are 78% white, while others are just 2% white.1
Unfortunately, only about 24% of JCPS teachers are Black, leading to disconnects not only between students and their teachers, but also between Black teachers and their white peers. Many Black educators have told us they frequently experience hostility, have had grievances filed against them, and even experienced demotions after simply drawing attention to harmful behaviors or advocating for racial justice on behalf of their students or peers. They also have told us that their union has been at best, MIA and at worst, complicit, in the pursuit of justice in these matters.
One of the bills that has already passed the House and Senate and was vetoed by the Governor sits precariously waiting for the super majority GOP session to resume on Feb. 2, 2021. McConnell-like predators who remain in office have passed bills to strip the governor of his powers, including his ability to reorganize boards and committees, like he did with Education. That’s why House Bill 5 is dangerous for teachers’ pensions.
Couple that with House Bill 258, which is the new pension plan that the union has endorsed, puts new teachers in a hybrid plan, cutting off funding to the current plan. It’s sponsored by none other than Jerry Miller, of “sewer bill fame.”
Watch Kentucky Teacher Pension Swan Song to learn why financial experts believe these bills, if passed, will be the final blow to the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System.
But that’s not all. The teachers’ union holds lots of seats at lots of tables, and has run roughshod over delicate coalition-building work around racial justice for some time now. Efforts by Dear JCPS and others to elevate impacted community voices have been derailed on numerous occasions, when union leadership disagreed with the opinions of those in consensus. It’s what led to Dear JCPS’s resignation from AROS last July.
I believe today’s events regarding implications that an email we sent to candidates was somehow improper or unethical, are another example of the same. One of the members of The People’s Agenda’s 17-person decision making council, who voted on our slate of candidates, also currently serves on the JCTA Board alongside some of the candidates our nominees are challenging.
When she did not agree with some of the nominating committee’s recommendations, she made her concerns known on every call that she attended and in chat conversations. She even made numerous calls between meetings to try to express her concerns about being on the same slate with another candidate she did not like. When pressed, her only rationale had nothing to do with his platform, track record or credentials, but only that she “never liked him” and when she met him years ago her “spirit was uneasy.”
Due to her continued grandstanding, we decided to take additional steps to attempt to reach out to all downballot candidates who had challengers and give them another opportunity to seek endorsement. An email was sent to more than two dozen candidates. When none of the emails showed on the campaign reporting software to have ever been opened, I reached out to a few of them and asked them to look for it to make sure it hadn’t been blocked like it was last time. Only those who I told about it opened it. That changed Thursday and one of the candidates actually filled out our request. As requested, she willingly provided her home email address, phone number and t-shirt size. Additional questions were sent for follow up, which she did not reply to. The nominating committee sent around its first round of downballot endorsements, and due to lack of differentiating information, her challenger was nominated instead.
When it was time to call for the vote, the above-mentioned vocal objector to the slate was the only “no.” Having been unsuccessful in her lobbying efforts on behalf of status quo candidates, one of whom was her cousin, she appears to have decided to go around the council to try to have our work derailed using other channels. For example, in an attempt to sully the candidates on our slate, confidential information only 17 of us would on the Council would have had access to was shared with JCTA leadership, who then forwarded this and another email to all of the candidates, implying our Coalition was doing something wrong, although we were not.
This is not new. Many folks doing this work alongside me can tell you the same thing happened when the majority of organizations in AROS came to a consensus last May to conduct a campaign around a pledge to support the tax increase, only to have it vetoed by one member group that had not even been in attendance during that meeting.
Others will tell you about the time when an attempted state takeover of JCPS was announced, white JCTA leaders abandoned the structure and working relationships that had been cultivated in AROS, only to form “Our JCPS” and pick and choose whose voice was heard at the table. I continued to witness Black teachers, parents and students pushed out of decision making, denied and delayed justice and be attacked and discredited. For speaking up, I was similarly “uninvited” from the conversations, maligned, and attacked by white leaders and their white peers from other unions.
So, for those concerned about “outside influences” and whether it’s any of our business to interfere with teachers’ unions elections, hopefully this history provides a little bit of insight as to the ways the entrenched union leadership has interfered with attempts to bring justice to Black, Brown, poor, and marginalized JCPS students, teachers and families, and in particular those living in West Louisville. But if not, the voices of the current and former members who have asked us to intervene on their behalf, should not be dismissed.
One final note: At the request of some candidates who may have been endorsed but have been poisoned against the idea of candidates running as a slate (although that is what the white incumbents are currently doing), I want to make one thing abundantly clear. Although support and resources, including a $400 marketing budget, are available to endorsed candidates, at this time, none of them have accepted our offer. We will continue our work supporting and elevating candidates who share the vision of the People’s Agenda Education Committee, which includes:
Democratic and transparent elections and endorsements;
Fight privatization of public education, including protecting and funding pensions, and preventing vouchers;
Racial Justice for Students and Teachers, including plans for a safe return to school for EVERYONE!
Supporting documentation for all of the claims made above will be published here or at www.thepeoplesagenda.net as soon as possible.
Stay tuned to this blog for more information about the JCTA election, which runs from 6 AM Wednesday, Jan. 27 through 5 PM Wednesday, Feb. 3.
KY House Bill 5 – fast tracked through the Kentucky House and Senate with little fanfare earlier this month – is an ALEC-styled bill that will prohibit Kentucky’s governor from reorganizing boards and commissions. It was vetoed by Governor Beshear last week, while the legislature is in recess. His veto is expected to be overturned when legislators reconvene on Tuesday, February 2.
Why such urgency by the legislature to limit the Governor’s power?
With the stroke of a pen, Beshear’s powers enabled him to thwart unethical political maneuvering by strange GOP bedfellows including Hal Heiner, Wayne Lewis, Milton Seymore, Gary Houchens, Matt Bevin and others. Controversial and contentious political moves had left these politicians poised to devour public schools with the implementation of charter schools, vouchers and a state takeover of the state’s largest school district, as they’ve done in so many states before us.
TELL ALL LEGISLATORS:
“Allow VETO of House Bill 5 to stand!”
Financial experts believe Kentucky legislative majorities still plan to infiltrate the pension board, which controls who benefits from the secret, no-bid contracts that riddle the state’s public pension systems.
In this episode of Save Our Schools with Dear JCPS, entitled “The Swan Song of the Kentucky Teachers’ Pension,” Chris Tobe, financial planner, former pension board member, candidate for Kentucky State Auditor, and author of Kentucky Fried Pensions, relates how this is not out of the question.
We also discuss how the Kentucky’s Teachers’ pension could be directly tied to the January 6 insurrection at our nation’s Capitol.
Watch the entire 59 minute interview here:
It’s not too late to prevent this unwanted power grab by the state legislature. Teachers concerned about preventing further grifting that will lead to the final destruction of their pension should contact their House Representatives and Senators at 800-372-7181 and make sure they know where you stand on HB5. Tell ALL LEGISLATORS to “Allow the Governor’s VETO of House Bill 5 to stand!”
The recent election for Better Schools Kentucky, a political action committee within the teacher’s union, which endorses candidates and directs member dues money to candidates for key legislative and school board seats, uncovered numerous anomalies and programming concerns with the union’s antiquated electronic ballot system. Candidates asking too many questions created an avalanche of more and more questionable outcomes, some of which are explained in the 9-minute video below. The video is excerpts taken from the January 4, 2021 People’s Agenda meeting, which are held every Monday at 4:00 PM on Zoom.
Instead of explaining the anomalies, the initial winner was eventually overturned, legal challenges were issued, while the tightly controlled decision makers held a closed-door emergency meeting to invent policies that had never before been written, because apparently no one had ever asked this many questions before.
The BSK election committee determined, after the fact, that a run-off election was indeed necessary when there in no majority winner for the only member-elected position on this year’s PAC board. So it was scheduled for 3 days in January.
The run-off election was an even less transparent and more tightly controlled race, in which the original winner’s victory was restored by 11 votes. These run-off results have to be taken at the committee’s word, because very few people truly know what is going on behind the curtain. Although our supported candidate, Kenyata Dean-Bacon may have only lost by 11 votes, but the run-off elections generated more than double the voter turnout than the first election. This tells us we’re no longer the only ones paying attention.
More important elections to the top positions are coming up January 27 – Feb 3. Be sure to support the candidates who support democratic and transparent elections, including reinstatement of term limits; fully funding pensions including for new hires; and a commitment to racial justice for teachers, students and their families. More information about these candidates and their shared vision can be found at www.thepeoplesagenda.net.
Join the team that wants to bring transparency, democracy and member representation back to JCTA. Join the team that wants to bring better endorsements, fully funded pensions and racial justice to JCPS. JCTA Members, learn how you can get a free campaign t-shirt and/or yard sign for joining the team. (Allow 2-3 weeks for shipment.)
Last month’s election for JCTA’s political action committee (PAC), better known as Better Schools Kentucky, was not devoid of excitement and intrigue, that’s for sure.
If you missed it, you are probably not alone. Only those who are familiar with JCTA bylaws would be aware that one would have to call the JCTA office to get the results. So we wanted to make it easier for you.
At one point, candidates asked for a recount and they were told that there was “no opportunity for human error,” only to find out later that an errant letter “e” in one of the write-in candidate’s names caused everything to shift. Instead of explaining all of the anomalies that the candidates inquired about, JCTA’s response was to declare a different winner than was originally reported.
You don’t say?
In fact, of the four candidates on the ballot, none of them won by majority — either time — so the BSK election committee had to hold a special meeting to determine if a run-off election between the two top vote-getters would be necessary.
They decided it was. The run-off starts Monday, January 11 at 6 AM and ends Wednesday, January 13 at 4 PM. JCTA members should keep a eye out for the link to vote.
After all of these anomalies, how can JCTA members be assured that the election results are reliable? What’s different this time? Imagine how Americans would feel if Trump and his people were the ones conducting the Presidential election and reporting the results.
Why not give BOTH of these winners a seat at the table? Of the 12-person committee, 10 of the seats are nominated by President Brent McKim. We couldn’t help but notice that 8 or 9 of the 10 individuals put there by him are white. Instead of using his nominating power to ensure a diverse committee, he’s forcing these two exceptional Black women to duke it out in a run-off for the only member-elected seat in this year’s BSK election.
Since a run-off is likely to expose more embarrassing glitches to the union’s archaic electronic voting system, why not just add another seat to the committee and make it 13? It’s still not quite representative of the district as a whole, but it’s a start.
The 20-year tenure of current leadership is based on the undemocratic elimination of term limits by this leadership in the early 2000s.
RaShauna Tyson, a math teacher at Frost 6th Grade Academy, has filed to challenge McKim in the upcoming election. Kumar Rashad, Breckinridge Metro teacher, has filed to run for Vice President against long-time incumbent Tammy Berlin. Tyra Walker, a teacher at Roosevelt Perry, is running unopposed in her bid to retain her seat as JCTA Secretary. Manual history teacher Randy Wieck has filed to challenge incumbent Maddie Sheppard for JCTA Treasurer. You may recognize Dr. Wieck’s name, as he has been an outspoken critic of McKim for his failure to act on addressing pension mismanagement.
The BSK run-off elections start Jan. 11 and end Jan. 13. The general election begins January 27, at 6 AM, where numerous regional positions are also on the ballot.
Let’s say there’s a school district somewhere that has approximately 18,000 employees and 95,000 students.
Now, let’s imagine if everyone in that district caught COVID-19.
Since we know approximately 1 in every 50 people who catches COVID dies, that would mean somewhere around 360 employees and 1,900 students in that district would die.
Now let’s say there are 120 schools, with around 800 students each, in that district. That’s like losing 3 employees and 16 students per building.
But since we know children aren’t as likely to die from COVID as adults are, and it’s too early to know what long-term health effects are, the number of deaths and serious immediate consequences would skew more toward the adults.
So, instead of naming 16 students you would be willing to sacrifice, it might be better to think of some more adults to complete the list. Throw in a few more teachers, administrators and counselors. Top it off with the school’s resource officer, a cafeteria worker, a custodian, along with some coaches, secretaries, bus drivers and clerks. Or maybe some of the ones you’ll lose are parent volunteers. Have you reached 19 yet?
Could you make a list of the teachers and students you are willing to sacrifice from your school building?
Expand that number to their homes, spouses workplace, childcare, grandparents, etc. How many more would die? Not to mention, how many others would experience long term health effects, financial hardships and more?
Lest we ignore the fact that some schools have higher concentrations of minority populations, poverty and underlying health conditions than others. Their consequences might be triple, quadruple, or even ten times the averages.
Let’s take this real-life example of two elementary schools in Jefferson County Public Schools. Bloom Elementary, shown as School B, on the left; and Foster Traditional, shown as School F, on the right.
School B, which is in the eclectic, affluent Highlands neighborhood, is 78% white, whereas at School F, in the Chickasaw neighborhood in West Louisville, only 2% of the students are white, and 95% of them qualify for free or reduced lunch (considered low income).
Not to mention, high minority, high poverty schools earn lower test scores and face other dire hardships. For example, despite having roughly the same populations, Bloom has approximately one fourth the number of homeless students as Foster. And that was before COVID exposed and exacerbated these disparities that have been there all along. They also have a harder time garnering parental involvement and community support.
Whether it’s health threats, low test scores, or inability to fundraise, the schools with higher non-white populations face significantly greater risk of negative outcomes and serious consequences.
Is this hyperbole? Maybe. Maybe not. For some of us it may seem like it, because we’ve had the good fortune of being able to send our children to “good” schools. and we’ve had a reasoned governor, superintendent, and school board making informed decisions about COVID. Not everyone is so lucky.
On December 30, Kentucky School Boards Association reported,
To make matters worse, Kentucky’s General Assembly also starts Tuesday, where the supermajority GOP is hellbent on stripping emergency power away from our governor, in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
So, go ahead and make that list. Or better yet, keep practicing social distancing and staying home. And more importantly, keep advocating for those who can’t or won’t.
Sorry if this post upsets anyone. Those who have lost loved ones unnecessarily have an even greater reason to be upset.
This message was sent via email to Board Member James Craig on Dec. 1, 2020, ahead of the Work Session on the Student Assignment Plan proposal discussion.
Good evening, James,
I wanted to reach out as your constituent, first to congratulate you on the tremendous strides toward equity and racial justice that the district is making under the collective leadership of you, Dr. Pollio and the rest of the board. I also wanted to express my support for the proposed changes to the student assignment plan, as well as some additional requests for consideration.
From the reconfiguring of the map and the addition of a close-to-home “no-application required” school choice for West Louisville students, to putting an end to push outs from our traditional schools and to resetting diversity targets, these changes are to be heralded and will no doubt improve situations and outcomes for many of our district’s most underserved students. We must continue to pursue them as urgently as possible.
My overarching concern with the proposal is that these changes still don’t go far enough, still lack “the notches in a new belt,” if you will, and as a result, still have potential to backslide and/or cause unintended harm. I know neither of us want that, which is why I wanted to continue bringing feedback and concerns from the community.
First, the district was very responsive to the earlier demands that were brought forward by the Coalition for the People’s Agenda, which is why we were pleased to extend our support for the tax increase (congratulations, again!). These demands still resonate as we move forward with the implementation of the student assignment plan. As a reminder they were “EARN”, or:
Evaluation and presentation of inequities in current plan, in its entirety. We have seen great efforts being made here and I was moved by the public forum that was held. However, this needs to be ongoing, intentional and more community driven. We would like to talk with you in the future about what that looks like going forward.
Anti-racist budget (divest from policing, testing, harmful curriculum; invest in counselors, smaller classes, recruitment/retention).
Resolution in support of the Coalition for the People’s Agenda and the movement for Black Lives. (Board Member Shull has offered to take the lead on this and the Kentucky Alliance Education Committee will consult. I hope you will support or even consider co-sponsoring it with him.)
No wholesale return to in-person schooling until it’s safe (safe from policing, racist teachers, and COVID). Would like to update you on some examples of how the internal investigations process broke down, and suggest a form of intervention/restorative practices with teachers who exhibit harmful behaviors.
As my board member, I would like to ask you to see if you can determine if there is any feasibility to implementing the following “emergency provisions” with the proposed changes expected to be voted on at the next board meeting. You see, these are barriers that have prevented, and continue to prevent, some of the proposed changes from happening organically, and the coalition believes that removing them prior to the start of the 2021-2022 school year would allow the district to ease into some of the proposed changes, and also right some of these identified wrongs even sooner :
“Dual resides for everyone!” Not just West Louisville students, but all students could automatically have Shawnee as one of their two choices. Simply providing dual resides for West Louisville students risks further resegregation, but offering that option to families outside of West Louisville might set the stage for “flipping the script” for further voluntary integration in the future. “More carrot, less stick.”
“Ban the box!” Remove the application barrier for families that do not have a resides school that is close to home while we wait for the dual resides plan to be fully implemented across all grade levels (and even now while learning is virtual). This is a barrier that disproportionately impacts black, brown and poor families and now that it has been identified, it should be removed without any additional study necessary. It, in effect, allows the district to baby-step into the dual resides plan, accomplishing the same end result, but during this interim could still leave the decision-making ability up to the school’s principal. It would simply allow impacted students to apply, when in the past, they needed a 2.0 GPA and no behavior or discipline issues. For our West Louisville families, these are hurdles that were likely exacerbated by the discriminatory system in the first place.
“Guaranteed curriculum.” Please research Marzano’s guaranteed viable curriculum to explore if this concept can be incorporated into the above implementation of dual resides, hubs or any other emergency situations as we try to mitigate the remainder of this school year without gaps widening any more than they already are.
I do hope there will be a way for the public to submit 3 minute videos or join the zoom meeting on the evening the board intends to vote on such a historic decision. During this extraordinary time we are living in, in the midst of a pandemic and as ground zero participants in the movement for Black Lives (with Breonna Taylor and many other victims of police brutality and corruption being JCPS graduates), and on this day our mayor declared racism a public health crisis, I am proud to bear witness to one of the nation’s leading urban school districts also leading the way. Let’s continue to be a shining example of how to deconstruct and dismantle structural racism in public education.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Co-founder, Dear JCPS Co-founder, Save Our Schools KY Charter Member, Network for Public Education 2014 Governor’s Commonwealth Institute for Parental Leadership (GCIPL) Fellow Board Member, Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression Chair, Coalition for the People’s Agenda Education Committee Decision-Making Council
Over the past several months, Chris Kolb failed to return calls or meet with key Coalition for the People’s Agenda Education Committee representatives. In a Sept. 2, 2020 email addressed to 12 Black and Black-allied leaders who had expressed objections to not being able to be heard at board meetings since March in order to voice concerns about the proposed student assignment plan changes not going far enough (https://dearjcps.com/we-the-people-object/), he responded with:
“It is very difficult for me to imagine how investing over $50 million in West Louisville and giving families in West Louisville more choice will have anything but a positive impact on students and families that live in West Louisville.”
To which Tyra Walker, co-chair of the Kentucky Alliance replied,
“What is also concerning is for someone to think that putting $50 million for new schools and school choice is all the Black community wants. The Black community is woke and they see clearer than they have ever seen before. They understand that it is going to take more than money and new buildings to create equity and a quality education for their children/students. They want more and that is what [we have] been working towards.
Jody Hurt, on the other hand, has not only attended Coalition meetings, he has listened and expressed explicit support for the demands coming from these grassroots groups and would vote in favor of the Resolution in support of the People’s Agenda. For this reason, Dear JCPS endorses Jody Hurt, instead of Chris Kolb. If you live in the Highlands/Crescent Hill area and haven’t already voted, please consider a vote for Jody Hurt.
And if you’ve already voted, (or still insist on voting for Kolb), at least give him a call and ask him “WTH?” If you would like to read the email exchange in its entirety, you may request a copy by email at email@example.com.
Dear JCPS endorsed Chris Kolb in 2016, as evidenced by this opinion piece written by our co-founder, Gay Adelmann. JCTA and the Courier Journal did not. How ironic.
Have you ever questioned the JCPS school system? I’m going to share my story with you. Last year we decided to take our youngest son out of JCPS traditional school and put him into a private school. As the school began for this year I started receiving notifications that they had placed him as a student at Moore middle. I didn’t respond curious of how long it would take them to notice that he was not doing his school work. Long story short, yesterday I finally received a text saying that may son had not completed any work for this school year. I notified the school letting them know that it was very disappointing that it took them 7 weeks to notify me that my son had not did any work. Then I informed them my son was not even a student at their school and we have placed him in a private school. I thought that was the end of the story until today. Let me remind you my child does not go to Moore Middle and never has, today he received grades from Moore Middle!! They gave him a 60% for each week for four weeks. He does not even go to this school! The moral of this story is to be involved in your child’s education, no one cares about their education as much as you do. Ryan Bancroft
At another JCPS school, educators are instructed to give a 50% score, “even if a student has not attended a single class or submitted a single assignment.”
Could this be another harmful example of how in a system of “choice,” already punishing students and schools that don’t score well on high-stakes test scores, where disparities are exacerbated by a structurally racist student assignment plan, schools are forced to “compete” with each other? Could it be that administrators don’t want their low participation scores to show up on anyone’s radar? Is this a possible “work around” to prevent anyone from noticing that some of their students are falling behind?
Instead of a system that rewards players for their ability to pass the buck or sweep things under the rug, we need a system that empowers adults to stand up and advocate for our children. If not, why not?
Send your personal experiences to firstname.lastname@example.org. All responses are kept confidential unless we are instructed otherwise.
If you live in District 7 (see map), or know folks who do, we need your urgent attention! Chris Brady has decided not to seek reelection to Jefferson County’s 7-person school board and there is a dangerous candidate hoping to fill his seat. We need your help in making sure this does not happen.
Not only are Tammy Stewart’s attitudes dangerous to our non-white students and their families, her views about improving educational outcomes are misguided and proven ineffective.
As evidenced in this screenshot from a recent post where she is seen confusing privilege with hard work and life choices, stating privilege is “politically correct bullkrap,” she’s also been documented making anti-immigrant and anti-teacher comments.
“DEMOCRATS WANT TO GIVE ILLEGAL ALIENS EVERYTHING INCLUDING FLYING THEM BACK INTO THIS COUNTRY AFTER THEY HAVE BEEN DEPORTED! MURDERERS RAPISTS AGGRAVATED ASSAULT AND PEDOPHILES AND MORE. WHILE THE WHOLE TIME WE THE AMERICAN CITIZENS ARE PAYING FOR THIS! DAAAMMNNN!”
Additional red flags have been raised, from her late entry into the race, to frequent sharing of false news on social media, to the cavalier comments she made about reopening schools stating, “we’re all going to die from something.”
These types of statements are common from candidates who have often been recruited by the tea party and ALEC operatives, with close ties to Mitch McConnell and Matt Bevin, and have a history of predatory ambitions with funds intended for our public schools. We have successfully removed a number of these elected and appointed leaders over the past few years, but must remain vigilant if we hope to keep them at bay.
Wait, there’s good news!
Fortunately, there is an excellent alternative running in this race. Dear JCPS is honored to endorse Sarah Cole McIntosh for District 7. She is an educator and a JCPS parent. She cares about all of our students, knowing that solutions to our current public education crisis come from investing in and supporting our children, especially the most marginalized and vulnerable among us; not by labeling them, denying them resources and defunding our schools.
The public has been denied the opportunity to speak at JCPS board meetings since COVID forced all public meetings to be held virtually in March.
On July 16, Gay Adelmann and Tyra Walker met with Dr. Pollio over Zoom, to make him aware that a handful of powerful players were continuing to derail grassroots groups’ efforts to support the tax increase. Gay sent a follow-up text message to Dr. Pollio demonstrating these concerns. To date, there has been no reply to these text messages.
On Aug. 6, leaders from four Black-led and Black-allied organizations requested an “URGENT” meeting with Dr. Pollio to let him know we had concerns that the consulting firm’s strategy for the tax increase was out of touch with many in the Black and West End communities and could backfire. With major changes to the Student Assignment Plan anticipated to be voted on at the August 17 board meeting, it was imperative these voices be heard before that meeting.
A group of teachers and community members that has been calling petition signees to verify signatures are finding several petitioners who say they didn’t sign the petition and want their names removed.
Emilie McKiernan Blanton, a JCPS teacher and leader in the local teachers union, estimated that about one-fifth of people who have been reached by phone have asked for their signatures to be withdrawn.
The effort is not officially tied to the union, she said. Murphy said the district did not organize the coalition, either, but was aware of the effort.
On Aug. 11, the co-chairs of the Kentucky Alliance sent a request to district leadership to allow public comment.
On Aug. 17, we continued to express our concerns about not being heard, and invited allies to join us in next steps, which included reaching out to Board Members to demand Justice for Black JCPS Students. We learned that the Student Assignment Plan decisions would not be made at that time.
The findings come after a group of teachers and community members, not tied to an official union effort, found several people who said they didn’t sign the petition and wanted their names removed, The Courier Journal previously reported.
Multiple school board members said the analysis’s findings concerned them.
“It’s not clear to me that Jefferson County voters received a fair review of this petition,” board member James Craig said in a message. “This petition process seems to be completely devoid of any integrity. I am alarmed at what I’ve seen unfold during this debate.”
On Sept. 1, members of the Coalition for the People’s Agenda sent the following email to the JCPS Board, asking that it be included in the minutes: We, the People, Object!
Later that night, during the Sept. 1 board meeting, Dr. Pollio told the board and the public that a REAP had been done on the current student assignment plan, when in fact, it hadn’t. We published a summary here: Where’s the REAP?
I encourage folks to read the below article. Kolb’s response to the Coalition was insulting and paternalistic- you should be grateful for what we are giving you, be quiet and know your place-the tenor of his entire email was extremely disrespectful. I expected better of him. https://t.co/0xuLT7CIZApic.twitter.com/3ta2l4Gwdv
On Friday, Sept. 25, Dr. Pollio sent a text message explaining the misunderstanding and has agreed to conduct a REAP on the current, entire plan at the next Student Assignment task force meeting, but we still don’t know when that is. We are running out of time!
During the Board meeting, @JCPSSuper appeared to be responding to some of the Coalition’s demands for an “anti-racist budget” during the budget discussion, further defining the resolution that was passed on Sept. .
“New and innovative learning spaces in schools throughout the district, especially in West Louisville. We will be breaking ground on two schools this coming month.”
“New investments in our athletic facilities all over the district.”
“All of our AIS schools with more teachers, smaller class sizes, multiple mental health professionals in the school and social workers.”
“This is the work to provide those mental health professionals. I’d like to see three [mental health professionals] in each of our AIS schools, more time for professional development, and extended learning in our AIS schools.
Fund the racial equity initiatives, like bridging the digital divide, expansion of restorative practices across all of our schools,providing quality choice for every student in the district and expansion of our teacher residency program, so that our teacher demographics directly reflect our student demographics.“
“Finally, we’ll see 10,000 targeted students in summer learning programs to increase outcomes for students, especially in reading and math.”
On Thursday, Oct.1, we received an email from Dena Dossett letting us know they were planning to conduct the REAP at the Oct. 7 task force meeting.
On October 14, we met with the district’s communication chair and asked for introductions to the tax increase strategy team so that we could collaborate the last two weeks of the campaign. This effort has been hit or miss. Mostly miss.
On Oct. 21, this bombshell was dropped. https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/education/2020/10/21/jcps-tax-petition-leader-theresa-camoriano-says-nemes-gave-her-access-to-republican-voter-database/5998019002/
JCTA decided not to rescind Jason Nemes’ endorsement.
In January, 2021, several rank and file teachers who have been less than complicit with the continued abuses listed above decided to challenge status quo and run for JCTA Board of Directors. When the election results were reported, some of those teachers filed a legal challenge to the election results, based on a number of factors.
A true story about microaggressions, racism and feeding the pipeline to prison.
Before I start to disclose the contents of the topic of this letter, I want to state that everything in this letter is a FACT! Not some hypothetical situation. Not some situation that happened somewhere else in America (although it could have). But this is a true story that happened in the not-so-distant past right here in Louisville, KY. While all of these facts can be proven (the very definition of a fact) as they are documented in various emailed documents to the district (making them subject to open records) and I have seen them with my own eyes, the name of the minor will be protected including adult names and locations. Furthermore, so that we are clear on the facts, I will provide other evidence such as photographs and policies from inside and outside of the district to substantiate the facts in this case.
A fifth grade black male student brought a disposable razor to school. The disposable razor was not out and the only reason anyone knew he had brought it to school was because he needed to get a pencil or piece of paper out of his locker. “
My name is XXXX and my son is in 2nd grade at XXXX Elementary. I have been carefully watching our county’s positivity rate and balancing that against what I believe to be best for my child and I am writing to ask that you please give consideration to having the option of our youngest learners K-2/3 return to in-person learning.
I know that academically and socially, the best place for my child is in the classroom with more time with a teacher and access to his friends. I know that he can wear a mask during the day because he has been attending a day program at the YMCA.
I also need him back in the classroom because he has been in limbo with IEP evaluations since March. We had our last ARC meeting on March 10th. I have been trying to get him help for almost a year. This is a group of children who are even more at risk with NTI. We are all doing the best we can, but without a formal plan in place or even knowing exactly where he falls, it’s like working with duck tape and bubble gum: it might all hold together for a while, but when the heat is on, it starts to fall apart. With NTI, the heat is on.
Thank you for listening.
Sincerely, JCPS Parent
Although this letter is posted with the author’s name withheld, that does not mean they are anonymous to Dear JCPS. To submit your concerns to the board and also have them posted here, use the handy link at www.dearjcps.com/advocate.
A “live REAP” is one of the reasonable demands that is evolving as part of the Coalition for the People’s Agenda. Therefore, it is imperative that the public not be misled about the existence of this document ahead of the anticipated Board vote on the Student Assignment Plan changes on Sept. 29th. Please contact your board member and remind them that when it comes to the proposed tax increase, they need to #EARNthePeoplesVote.
When efforts to reconcile differences over support of West End and Black families continued to break down, Dear JCPS was left with no other option than to withdraw from the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, Louisville.
“Instead, Dear JCPS is honored to be working with the Kentucky Alliance Education Committee on their revival of the People’s Agenda, to include a list of demands for JCPS. Their organization meets Monday’s at 4:30 PM via Zoom,” Adelmann said. “When the dust settles, we want to be standing on the right side of history. AROS Louisville, under its current leadership, is on the wrong side of history. And we wanted to distance ourselves as quickly and vocally as possible.”
Dear JCPS Superintendent Pollio, Board Chair Porter and Board of Education Members:
During this critical moment in the movement for Black lives, not only across our nation but right here in JCPS, it is unacceptable that JCPS Board Meetings continue via Zoom, without an adequate forum for stakeholders to express our concerns publicly.
Since March, the only way for the public to participate in these meetings has been to send written remarks to the board secretary, who then forwards them to board members and records them in the minutes. At a time when our district is taking great strides to ensure technology is distributed equitably so that even our community’s most impacted families have access, why not encourage this same technology to be utilized for participation in public discourse, as well?
On August 6, leaders from four of the undersigned Black-allied, anti-racist organizations sent an “urgent” email to Dr. Pollio, reminding him that Black and West Louisville families represent a very powerful and important voting bloc in Jefferson County. We warned of grave concerns we were hearing from the community about moving forward with the student assignment plan as proposed, without obtaining buy-in from the impacted community for the tax increase necessary to fund these changes. Instead, grassroots organizations and community members continue to be ignored, shut out, manipulated and misled. Efforts to elevate solutions to these concerns have been met with resistance, barriers or flat out ignored.
On August 11, ahead of the August 18 board meeting, all three co-chairs of the Kentucky Alliance emailed a plea to the Board, noting that stakeholders “can only submit written statements” which “are not read out loud at the meeting.” They further requested the public “be allowed to participate by zoom, phone, or by submitting video or audio statements that will be presented during the meeting.”
For nearly six months, Coalition leaders have been trying to warn JCPS decision-makers of the increasing number of grassroots organizations that feel Louisville’s Black and West End voters have zero appetite for a tax increase at this time. We fear district efforts to further advance this agenda without demonstrating a good-faith effort to earn the vote of Black voters and their allies, is likely to backfire, resulting in a failure of this ballot measure.
If you could hear us, we would want you to know that the People’s Agenda is a living document that focuses on nine important social-justice issues, including Education and Youth Empowerment. If we could speak, we would let you know about the Coalition’s reasonable demands around student assignment and other structural and systemic inequities, so the Board could address them by the next board meeting on September 29, ahead of the November 3 vote.
We, the undersigned, object to yet another board meeting taking place with lack of access, especially at a time when the district must make EVERY EFFORT to ensure impacted stakeholders are part of the decision-making process and their representatives have an ONGOING seat at the table!
On behalf of the Coalition for the People’s Agenda,
Tyra Walker, Shameka Parrish-Wright, Dre Dawson, Co-chairs, The Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression Latasha Harrison, Founder, Louisville PTO De’Nita Wright, Coalition of West Louisville Neighborhood Associations Michelle Pennix, Retired JCPS Principal, PrincipledPennix Dennisha Rivers, Founder of Vision of Life Outreach Ministries Gay Adelmann, Co-founder, Dear JCPS, Co-founder Save Our Schools Kentucky Leigh Ann Yost, Leigh Ann The Advocate Gin Spaulding, JCPS parent, retired JCPS teacher Ivonne Rovira, JCPS teacher, co-founder JCPS Leads, co-founder Kentucky Educators United Greg Tichenor, JCPS teacher and countless other marginalized voices yet to be heard
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Education advocacy groups in Jefferson County are meeting behind the scenes with teachers to gather input while crafting a growing list of safety demands for Jefferson County Schools.
On Monday, Dear JCPS, Save Our Schools, and other advocates participated in a virtual meeting of the KY Alliance Education Committee. The goal is to present a list of demands against racism while also promoting safe COVID-19 measures to the Board of Education in an upcoming meeting.
Gay Adelmann of Dear JCPS, helped lead the latest meeting Monday. She presented some broad demands featured in the People’s Agenda. Adelmann says this is simply a starting point, and the grassroots Committee will build on these to further localize what they mean for JCPS. These demands include:
No reopening of schools until scientific data supports it;
An adequate number of counselors, nurses, and community/parent outreach staff in schools;
“Safe conditions” like smaller class sizes, ample PPE, testing, cleaning, and equitable access to online learning;
A moratorium on charter/voucher programs; and
Infusion of federal money in public school programs.
Teachers have recently returned to work on planning for the new school year. Some expressed support for these demands, while adding more measures such as anti-racism training. Adelmann expressed concern for ongoing proposals within JCPS, like student assignment changes and the plan for a tax hike. She wants to ensure the student assignment changes planned are equitable for students.
“Back to school when it’s safe to me means not just safe from COVID, but safe from anything and everything that puts our students at risk, including racist educators, and racist curriculum, and racist and abusive test practices, for example,” said Adelmann. “We have to dismantle and abolish systemic racist policies that have been allowed to persist. This is our moment. This is our chance to do it,” she added.
Original story here: https://spectrumnews1.com/ky/louisville/news/2020/08/12/virtual-teacher-forum
Dear JCPS is proud to launch a new private Facebook group called Dear JCPS Teachable Moments. A lengthier explanation of this new program can be found at the end of this week’s episode of Save Our Schools with Dear JCPS.
If you suspect a JCPS employee is exhibiting reckless or culturally biased behaviors that could put students at risk, you can anonymously email screenshots to email@example.com.
Whether or not you choose to share this message is up to you.
I have been a JCPS parent for the last 7 years. 2020 was officially our last year enrolled in JCPS because we moved. As a college educated, working mother of two, I chose to join [Dear JCPS Private Group] to support the teachers and JCPS public ed. I was at the Capitol supporting the teachers and the students this past year.
While in the past I have taken comfort of being part of this group, I see a divide beginning and thus chose to leave.
As COVID 19 has become a big part of our lives right now, we are all going through new territory. Though the past 4 months have flown by, many scientists and doctors have been working to study all the affects of COVID 19, not just the immediate effects of becoming ill.
And as these facts are shared, I find it very disheartening that the educators of this group choose to ignore all of the impacts so blindly.
While I understand starting the school year will be scary, I must ask you to also consider everyone else in the community. All of the parents in this group are going to work, day in and out, to support our families and the rest of the country through the various types of employment that we hold. We have not had the luxury of staying at home, where it’s safe.
And all the while, we go to work with our masks and do our jobs as expected. Otherwise, we would lose our job.
I think teachers should be thankful that school was closed at the end of the year, so the country could learn more about the virus. But now that we know how to be safe (social distance, masks, hand washing), teacher’s need to get on board with opening schools safely, bring their ideas because we know they have some and push the envelope to get what they need. I have shared my thoughts and ideas with the group, only to be shutdown.
And I’ll end with this… when did teacher’s become better than everyone else? Grocery store clerks, fast food workers, blue collar workers, everyone else is working at their workplace. Only those lucky enough to be able to do their job remotely have the pleasure of staying at home. What you hear parents saying is… we tried to do school at home, it didn’t work, our kids did not learn, primary education is not a job that can be done remotely and be done well.
We need the teachers to pull together with the parents and find the solution that works for all. We need our schools open. Yes because that is how the economy functions, but more importantly because that is where the kids learn best.
I hate to leave the group on such a sour note, but I wish JCPS the best. I hope you all figure it out, for the kids sake.
This is a DRAFT of our legislative priorities for 2020. We want your input! Please help us rank them and provide examples of each of the categories listed below. Suggested edits and additions also welcome.
ACHIEVING EDUCATIONAL JUSTICE in JCPS “with E’S”
FROM OUR JCPS BOARD MEMBERS & SUPERINTENDENT, we demand:
XXXXXX is a school in need of something. My child attends there and wants to learn but tells me everyday how disrespectful the kids are to teachers and some teachers spend half their class time trying to gain control of the class.
My daughter has a class with a teacher who can barely speak English and has repeatedly asked to be transferred to another class but it was refused..however a child of another race was transferred out who tells the same story about this teacher..2 different periods where half the class is failing.
I have contacted the counselor and requested my child be transferred still not happening..I’ve contacted the board with my concerns and was told they’d be forwarded to the principal..a week later still no response. My child has a 504 that clearly states her problems and it goes ignored… My child is falling through the cracks here and nobody seems to care…i guess she has to fight a teacher to get attention (sarcasm)..the focus seems to be on all the bad kids there..
Iroquois is not on fire. You are! Bring your buckets of water if that’s what you think because you’re a liar with your pants on fire.
Our school isn’t perfect. You won’t find one that is. Sometimes we have above average challenges and at all times we have an above average staff to meet those challenges. If you’re actually on our staff, Anonymous, you are the weakest link. Transfer season opens in three months and I’ll do your paperwork for you, will gladly help you pack, and hold the door for your tired behind to leave quickly, quietly, and reverently.
You’ve attacked my wonderful principal, our dedicated counselors, our committed staff (amongst whom are proud alumni), and worst of all, our students. You see, my own children, scores of extended family, and all of my godchildren were educated at Iroquois. My son was valedictorian and graduated magna from UofL. Professors couldn’t believe he’d graduated from Iroquois. I could. It’s a great school where, without regret, I’ve dedicated 20 years of my life. I’ve never had a bad day there. Challenges? Yes. I signed up for public school and everything that comes with it. I love my school.
What peeves me about you, Anonymous, is that you choose to hide behind your words. I would not normally give such messiness the time of day, but you attacked something dear to me—my school. You attacked someone dear to me—my colleagues and students.
Stay comfortable in your misery, sad person, because what’s said in the dark will come to the light. But before you post again, let me go low for a moment. According to my writing scoring rubric, I would like for you to work on the following—this one’s on me:
1. Organization is key. Group your rambling thoughts coherently. 2. Though we could understand your miserable letter, transition words would make it a smoother read. If you’re going to insult us, at least smooth out the wrinkles in your pig’s ear. 3. Ramp up your vocabulary to better represent the best of your thinking—unless your vocabulary as presented actually does represent your level of thinking. In that case, sign up for Iroquois where we will teach you to strengthen, well, everything you’ve written. 4. Use concrete examples and skillfully interweave them throughout your writing. Tie in example, explanation, etc. Give your audience a full picture to prove you know what you are writing about. Try not to “list”. 5. Be truthful in your writing. Authenticity is also key. 6. Own your writing with a closing that includes your signature and printed name.
If you are amongst us at the school, you have lost the respect and trust of your colleagues. Maybe you need a hug. Maybe you need Jesus. I don’t know. But what I do know is, while our school is not for every teacher, our school is for every student. We value Iroquois and, like any commitment, we take the ups and the downs with grace. And for those of us who are committed, and I’m included in that number, it has been and it remains a distinct pleasure to work for everything Iroquois.
I am a teacher at Iroquois High School. We are on fire. The recent news reports only show a very small portion of the absolute hell our school has become. Today (Friday 11/1/19) I witnessed no less than four fights. This is the norm. A kid sat in traffic on Taylor Boulevard.
We have multiple staff attacked. Let me tell you about the district response:
They sent a bunch of central office people over to stand around. Assistant superintendents Zeitz, Rogers, and a couple others. They don’t know our kids or staff. They stood around and pretended to help, but didn’t do anything.
Half of our teachers don’t even show up anymore, and I’ll be blunt that many of our teachers are terrible, but they’re all we can find.
Our principal is DONE. Our assistant principals don’t want to be here and the kids don’t respect them. Our counselors are done and don’t want to be here.
Our building is on fire and the district does NOTHING.
We need a real principal, real leadership, and real support with chronic misbehavior. JCTA does nothing to support us. We need real leadership and real support.
Louisville Judge sides with Dear JCPS co-founder. Orders JCPS to release PTAs’ financial records to the public.
“In these challenging times, as educators and decision makers explore the glaring inequities in our district and seek ways to resolve them, Dear JCPS wants to make sure every student has an advocate in their corner — especially our most vulnerable students.“
District leaders are to be commended as they grapple with tackling glaring disparities in the current student assignment plan, closing achievement gaps, and reducing behavior and discipline inequities. In addition to these visible inequities, there are often unseen disparities among parental involvement, volunteer and community participation, and fundraising between schools primarily comprised of students whose parents have the social, political and financial capital to advocate for their students to ensure they attend “the right schools,” while those whose parents lack the time, transportation, technology or literacy to navigate the complex system of “choice,” do not.
To that end, Dear JCPS co-founder, Gay Adelmann recently made a routine records request of the largest school district in Kentucky (27th largest in the nation), to obtain copies of local PTAs’ financial records for the past 5 years. These records, which, according to the “Redbook” are required by Kentucky law to be filed annually with each school’s year-end audit, consist of a preliminary budget and a one-page year-end financial review. Her hope was to identify schools that might benefit from a little extra help with programming or fundraising and raise community awareness so that these disparities could be taken into consideration while the district is actively tackling the bigger picture issues.
As often happens when records are held in multiple locations, or when district personnel are unavailable during summer break, the district notified Adelmann that additional time would be required before these records would be made available to her. They informed her she would receive the documents on August 30.
On August 12, Adelmann received an email from Kentucky PTA attorney Coy Travis informing her that his client had filed a complaint in district court to seek injunctive relief in order to prevent the district from turning these records over to her. A hearing was set for August 15 in which she was invited to appear.
With less than three days to prepare, Adelmann sought counsel from pro-bono attorneys and open records experts. They helped her prepare this brief, which was filed during the hearing, but none were able to accompany her in court.
At the hearing, Judge Cunningham was critical of the Kentucky PTA’s request but decided to defer the decision to the Attorney General’s office, in the event all parties were not be able to work out an agreement before then. Adelmann, without an attorney to represent her, trusted the Judge’s decision, and agreed to meet with Kentucky PTA attorney after the hearing to see if they could come up with a mutually beneficial solution. He assured her he would try to help her obtain the documents as long as she asked the “right way.”
Amye Bensenhaver, a former assistant attorney general for Kentucky and a widely recognized open records expert, during this week’s episode of Save Our Schools With Dear JCPS on Forward Radio 106.5 FM said, the Attorney General should never be put in the position of telling an organization NOT to release open records. His job is to get involved when entities SHOULD release documents but are refusing to do so.
Upon further consideration following last week’s court decision, it appears Judge Cunningham agrees. On August 27, as these court documents show, he sided with Adelmann and filed an order for JCPS to release the documents. Kentucky PTA has until September 16 to appeal.
At a time when privatizers are trying to get in through every nook and cranny, influential entities such as Kentucky PTA should be dedicating resources toward revealing predators and exposing their influence. This lawsuit does the opposite.
How much money and time is this lawsuit costing their dues-paying members and taxpayers? More importantly, where was this level of activism when charter schools, vouchers and loss of local parental voice on SBDMs were on the menu? In the past 10 years, only one resolution has been passed at the Kentucky PTA annual convention, and it was one that was initiated by Adelmann.
“This district is taking great steps toward addressing disparities that exist between our school communities. One of those less-often-seen inequities is the availability of parents’ time, talent and treasure,” said Adelmann. “The PTA should be helping us fight undue influences that promote and maintain inequities in our school system, not facilitating it.”
Transparency is the only tool we have to ensure that those with money and power are not using it to advance their agenda while others cannot. As a powerful, influential entity themselves, we have to ask, “What is Kentucky PTA trying to hide?”
I understand JCPS legal counsel has issued a “hands off” directive regarding oversight of external organizations.
And hand’s off is fine as long as principals and administrators are told the same thing.
But they’re not, and that’s problematic.
I understand that we are under intense scrutiny from the state. Criticism from the audit revealed that our board may have been overstepping in this regard. And we have an upcoming audit and we don’t want anything that could lead to additional state criticism that could potentially lead to state takeover.
I get that.
However, couldn’t excessive Redbook violations, election tampering, Inappropriate use/handling of funds, etc. also leave us vulnerable?
We’ve heard reports from some members who have been called “uncooperative” or “ineffective” when they refuse to do the administration’s bidding
We’ve heard reports of Nepotism, squatting in positions for decades, election tampering, cycling thru positions from school to district to state and back, sometimes in schools where they don’t have children, again, when there are authentic parents wanting to serve.
These organizations could be changing bylaws to allow them to extend term limits, hold clandestine elections and limit who can vote, while changing rules in order to shut out voices of authentic parents and volunteers.
These external organizations have access to our students and their families. They have access to district resources dedicated to them in terms of staff, office space, materials and production. are assured representatives can serve on committees, and are named in documents that govern the oversight of elections that can impact school policy and hiring.
They are not subject to open records. They could be holding vendor fairs in your schools, charging fees to the vendors and not delivering what is promised. Some could be manipulating external organizations to achieve financial means that are disallowed by school and district activity funds.
And they are holding inaccessible elections that are not democratic. For example, one organization’s state convention is this weekend, if you want to vote for officers, you have to pay a $55 registration fee, take time off work, drive to Lexington, pay another $129 in hotel fees, etc.
Who, I ask, is voting for these officers that are supposed to be representing all of us? Do they represent all of us? Or only some? What about our most vulnerable?
Some of these organizations are not racially reflective of district makeup, some of these organizations are pro charter, or at least not anti privatization.
We would to naive to not consider possibility infiltrators. We are allowing these organizations to use our kids to make money and push an anti public school agenda. These organizations should be focused on kids learning. How do we gauge their effectiveness?
Not every organization is bad. Not every volunteer is an infiltrator. Not every administrator is corrupt. In fact, 99% of them are good. But we’d be naive not to realize that some of them have found ways to exploit the system to their own advantage. To take advantage our our children, especially our most vulnerable populations.
And our board has been elected to represent us, and therefore protect us and our children.
And you have a handout from Redbook that says:
The school or district, with approval of the local board of education, may establish additional guidelines/requirements for the external support/booster organization.
I am a parent of a recent graduate from the Academy At Shawnee, and I became aware of a situation, not at my child’s school, but at another school that serves a very similar population.
I learned that a principal had recruited a teacher to run for president of PTA. How is this not a conflict of interest?
On top of that, this principal had also recruited an outsider to serve as treasurer and had another teacher file to run for a VP position. I believe she did this in order to push out these parents and have those who are loyal to her take majority control of the school’s PTA.
I also learned that the elections were held at 9:30 am during the last day of school, and that people were being allowed to join the PTA and vote on the spot. This gave teachers, who were already in the building, a distinct advantage over parents. This also put them in a precarious position of voting according to their principal’s wishes.
I learned that JCPS employees were helping with the election, and even handling money. And that officers from the State PTA were working with the principal to make decisions about that election that should have been made by the still active PTA board. I learned that lies were told about why the election was postponed, and parents’ characters were tarnished in the process.
Why would a teacher need to be president of the school’s PTA when there are parents willing to do so? Could it be so they can spend the money how the principal wants them to? Could it be so she can get the PTA to put the “agreeable” parents on the SBDM? I have learned that the teacher running for President has a husband and daughter who work in that school. And that they were picked by an SBDM over other qualified candidates. This seems like a conflict of interest since the school’s PTA is involved in the SBDM election process.
I am glad the election was postponed, but I don’t understand why it’s necessary at all. The slate of officers that was proposed by the current board should not be challenged by a bully administration that wants to maintain control. And when it is, this should raise major red flags.
This district, and this board, need to set some clear boundaries that ensure PTA elections, SBDM elections, and PTA monies are off limits to district administration manipulation.
And now I’ve learned that the district has been hit with a class action lawsuit involving racial discrimination. As a taxpayer, I think the board should play a role in at least ensuring there are best practices and protocols in place to prevent this from happening again, because I don’t want to see my tax dollars wasted on lawsuits, if it is possible to avoid another one.
Listen to speakers at the last JCPS Board Meeting here:
The current climate of Kentucky and JCPS schools has been changing, in ways that can be positive for the future of our students. More parents, guardians, and students are speaking up every day to be involved and included in the decisions that affect our families’ lives. We’re seeking to create an environment where every voice included, welcomed and encouraged. This climate is creating an amazing revival in family involvement. Now Dear JCPS is taking our focus to the 15th District PTA Elections.
For the first time ever in the 15th District, there were enough parents wanting to be serve on the Executive Board that there were challengers to several positions. In this first test of how a “delegate” plan for managing contested elections works during the 2019 15th District PTA Elections, there were several issues that we would like to have addressed and changed for future elections. Our purpose, that should be shared by all, is to create the most fair and balanced system possible to elect a board that reflects the needs and experiences of all students in JCPS.
The current system for becoming a candidate for office for 15th District PTA is: a nominating committee of 5 existing members of the current/outgoing 15th District PTA Board for that year take applications from all interested candidates for that year’s election. From those who turn in paperwork to run for office on the Board, only one person per position is presented as a “slate” candidate and is put forth as the preferred choice of the current Board. Candidate applicants that are denied the opportunity to run on the ballot, or who miss the original application deadline, have a second option to run at this point. They can request to run ‘from the floor.’
At the time of voting, “slate” candidates received favorable treatment above the candidates running from the floor and were printed in a bold font compared to the plain lettering of other candidates. In addition, “The candidates in bold indicate they are the 15th District PTA Slate chosen by the Nominating Committee.” was included in the official ballot directions.
Considering the barriers that make adding new voices to the ongoing and important discussions about how to best educate our kids, the following changes are requested for consideration to existing bylaws laid out in Article XII of the 15th District PTA :
Allow all qualified candidates who complete the application process for an elected office of the 15th District PTA to run for the office of their choice but limited to a reasonable number as to be determined by further discussion. If the scenario should occur that more than the predetermined number of eligible candidates wish to run for any particular position a committee comprised from schools under the elected office position in question may narrow down the candidate field for that position to the number limited on the ballot. This will ensure that every candidate receives equal and fair treatment in how they are presented for consideration by voting members and eliminates unfair advantages created by the current guidelines.
In creating a more fair and balanced election process, a secondary advantage is in further streamlining the election process is through elimination for the necessity of “floor positions.” We would move that one single window of 14 days be created in which applications can be submitted, with submissions closed at the end of that 14 day period.
To ensure that all members of the PTA are included in the decisions affecting their students, we move that at a period no later than 30 days prior to the application period opening all possible efforts are made to inform 15th District PTA families than elections are coming up, including and not limited to : call and text systems, social media, email, letters sent home with students. This will create optimal participation, which is the goal to guarantee all students are represented to the best of our abilities. This addresses a concern we have seen voiced by several parents that the majority of the families for the District are unaware of elections to begin with.
Initiate and create a process to ensure all efforts for diversity in 15th District PTA board to better reflect representation for all students. 54% of the 98,361 current JCPS students identify as non-Caucasian. With the candidates who were presented as preferred by the Nominating Committee, this was in no way reflected. This is a reflection the failure in our current system as whole to both recruit a wider and diverse pool of candidates and allow minority candidates the right to be chosen by fair election process of their peers to office.
The process for voting until the 2019 15th District PTA elections has always been done by vocal vote, in accordance to written bylaws. The change to a written ballot in this year’s election was due to the sole fact that for the first time there are candidates challenging those chosen by the members of a current/outgoing Board on the Nominating Committee. With this, bylaws limiting the way and number of people allowed to vote in the election were enacted to cover this scenario. Only 5 delegates per the 169 schools in the 15th District PTA were allowed at maximum to vote, along with a vote to each of the current Board members.
We heard from many PTA members that they had not been informed of the voting process at all, and were only made aware from sources outside of the PTA. This was combined with the fact that the announcement that a deadline for a finalized list of delegates allowed to vote from each school was made only 10 days prior to the deadline. Out of over 850 potential voters per current bylaws, only 168 delegates were named in time to be allowed to vote and out of that only 114 people cast ballots. This means that out of a reported (per JCPS) 27,674 15th District PTA membership, only a limited and select number of people constituting less than half of 1% of all members were able to fairly represent their wishes by voting. There were other multiple issues and concerns reported during the process for voting not limited to:
Members who wanted to be delegates and allowed to vote, to be told that their school delegate selections were already filled and that they would not be able to.
Most commonly that efforts made to let 15th District PTA members know that a vote was taking place in the first place was not effective, leaving the majority of members unaware there was an election. To ensure this does not occur again, we request that all efforts to inform all members of each Board election along with voting opportunities be made a period no later than 14 days prior to the election date, including and not limited to: call and text systems, social media, email, letters sent home with students.
Many schools submitting zero delegates with the lack of communication for all members and time constraints, therefore having absolutely no say in the future of the 15th District PTA leadership and direction.
Only allowing a maximum of 5 delegates per school selected at the sole discretion of one person in each individual (the PTA President of that school) does not allow a for a fair and accurate reflection of the wishes for all 27,674 members of the 15th District PTA.
Reports from registered delegates who were able to cast ballots feeling uncomfortable that current Board members and candidates were present in the same space where written votes were cast due to the lack of privacy while voting. We move to request that for all future elections all ballots be cast to the level of seclusion given for example as in the way a government polling station provides during election.
There were comments from delegates that voted who felt uncomfortable that members of the current Board had contact with ballots after a numbers were assigned and a list was generated to match ballots to the names of voters. We therefore request that once numbered ballots and corresponding lists of names are generated in future elections, that both are sealed until the time voting is open and only be handled by a neutral party not serving on that current board once sealed, unless a challenge resulting for the necessity for validate the votes are required or they are destroyed. This will protect the integrity of total anonymity in voting and concerns voiced that other PTA and Board members have the ability to see how an individual votes and therefore cause potential influence on how a vote is cast.
Beyond specific actions listed, we are calling for the voting process to be remade in a way that all members have a voice, not a select few. To make this a more fair and balanced process, we request that all meetings exploring ways this can resolved to the satisfaction of the majority of 15th District PTA membership be conducted as open and public, with all eligible members being granted the opportunity to attend and speak if they wish to.
In addition to the problems we have discovered that the current election guidelines create, there were several challenges specific to the candidates of this election that we would like to address. In the spirit of inclusion and fairness to all members, beyond our primary request and demand that the election process be updated in order to best reflect the true wishes of all 15th District PTA members we would like for it be taken into consideration that the election results from May 7th 2019 be set aside. We would request like any future changes we are asking for that all efforts be made to remove the biases created on the ballot itself by promoting some candidates over others to voters, along with addressing the specific candidate issues listed below and the serious failure to ensure adequate representation reflecting the diversity and totality of our District PTA membership was made in the representation of voters. Issues specific to this election and candidates included:
In the confusion and chaos created by utilizing “floor nominations” for the first time, a candidate who requested to run from the floor for the VP 5 position was instead placed on the ballot against another candidate also running from the floor and the candidate chosen and promoted over the floor candidates in VP 4. Not only did this give gross disadvantage to both floor candidates over any other as votes were likely split between them when they would not have been in the first place resulting in a far less chance of success, it gave advantage to the chosen slate candidate as this pretty much created an issue of canceling out votes that both would have gone to both women. Even more grevious of an offense, this also nearly guaranteed the elimination of half the minority candidates running for the Board before a single ballot was ever even cast.
After the final delegates were published, a set of new bylaws were passed to specifically prevent a floor candidate from being allowed to take office without completing a punitive and non-transparent appeals process, even if that candidate had won their race for President Elect. These requirements essentially guaranteed that this position would be won by one candidate, the one chosen by the current/outgoing Board members of the Nominating Committee to become the new President Elect.
Rules were enforced inconsistently. For example, a requirement for a form ID along with a PTA membership card was stated for the first time to be allowed to vote in the May 7th 2019 election, deterring some people that may have wanted the ability to vote but not in possession of both and ID and membership card. At the actual voting site, these 2 items that a member was required to produce on site before being allowed to cast a ballot was only checked for some delegates and not all voters.
In conclusion, we as members of the 15th District PTA are petitioning to address and correct a very long list of problems and concerns that have proven to be issues the way the current election process is written, now and in the future. The best way to ensure that the needs of all students in JCPS are best reflected and executed is to create a system that is inclusive of all members in choosing their leadership and direction of the future of our District organization. The more widespread and diverse parental involvement we have in our schools, the better the outcomes for ALL students. We urge you to sign this petition and share to send a message to the 15th District PTA Board that you share these concerns and believe that all member voices should be counted and heard, not those of just a small, established percentage.
And Why We Are Asking Members of the JCPS Board of Education for Their Help
Thank you for your time! My name is XXXXXX XXXXXXXX. I am a
parent of students that attend XXXXXXX and XXXXXXX Middle. I am writing this
letter to make you aware of circumstances involving the 15th District PTA.
First, let me give you background information about myself.
PTA President of XXXXXX Elementary for 2 Years
National PTA Award of Excellence Award
Raised over $25,000 that went to create different outlets that caused a shift in the minds of students as well as parents
Served for the past 8 years on different SBDM Boards at XXXXX Elementary and XXXXXXXX
Fellow of the GCIPL (Prichard Committee)
Served on Head-start and Early Childhood Committee in Development of George Unseld Early Learning Center
Zones of Hope Newburg
Advocating for Parents in JCPS when needed
After seeing several posts on how help was needed in 15th District PTA, I decided that I was going to run to be a Board Member. I wanted to run so that I could go into the schools and help the PTA’s that had low parent involvement and struggling with raising money to get tools needed to help with children. I was notified by the Nominating Committee on a Thursday and was told that an interview had to take place on that same weekend. A weekend in which I already had prior engagements. I voiced my thoughts on how I was not available. But ended up receiving a call anyway because they had a deadline to meet.
The interview went really well from my standpoint and I even gave ideas because they said that they needed ways to get volunteers and I suggested a program that we had come up with at XXXXX Elementary that worked successfully.
That following week the nominating committee had chosen their slate and I wasn’t on the list. I started to think about things and I researched Bylaws and decided to run from the floor. I decided to run from the floor because the Board that was chosen by the nominating committee didn’t reflect the students that the Board represents. I made a post about running and then it became others who wanted to be involved and wanted to see change. We joined together and had people who had made a commitment to change for all children.
We all notified 15th District PTA about what VP Positions that we wanted to run in. We then all had an appointment with the President of the PTA and she spoke about the position and its expectations. I also was told on my call that the reason I wasn’t chosen by the nominating committee was that I had a business. In which, this threw me off because what does that have to do with my commitment to the position that I was applying for and how does a committee who didn’t even ask me about my business know what I can do and who I have behind me? At the time of the call, there were three African American women who all were running from the floor for VP2, VP4, and VP 5.
We all had kids that were in the same District (Area 4) but we knew that it wasn’t just our kids that we were advocating for it would be all kids. In the interview process, the conversation ended up being that we all should run in the same District in which we would all run against each other. We worked it out among ourselves so no one would run against each other. But when the Ballot came out and in the VP 4 Slot it was two of us running against each other. People were told when they showed up to vote, if anyone wrote on the Ballot to correct it the ballot was voided. Ten ballots were voided that night. I can’t help but wonder if they were efforts to correct the VP 4 situation.
I have tried to communicate with the District PTA prior to the actual election day and had a lot of unanswered questions. But I believe the thing that really got me is that the Ballot highlighted who they wanted on their Board versus us. We had questionnaires that we had to fill out and if you read those you would be surprised at how much we have been involved in advocating for children. But I wasn’t chosen because we do not fit into a box and I fight for children at all cost.
I am asking the Board to look into this election and how it
was unfairly rigged. We are asking for an election that is not about who the
Board Members are connected to but about who can make a great impact on the
welfare of all children. Please look at how many members serve as the Head of a
Local PTA, District PTA, and State PTA. If the same people are recycling
positions how can we create change and how can change occur if they choose who
they want and not allowing those who serve as members to choose?
In conclusion, I know that suppressing schools to have 5 Delegates per school to vote for an election and then the actual Board having access to those members is not right. It is sad to see so much going on for an organization about advocating for children.
The views expressed
here are those of the author, submitted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via our open letter form. While
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 the content of this
message, they may contact us via email to request a connection with the author.
With the recent bullying and threats of retaliation against JCPS teachers who stood up for their students and their profession, and the distractions caused by leaders attacking those who are standing up for teachers, instead of pushing back on the bullies, it might be easy to overlook important upcoming opportunities to reshape the leadership within our district’s oldest and most prominent parent/teacher advocacy organization.
The 15th District PTA will hold elections for executive officers for the 2019-2021 term prior to the annual Awards Banquet, which is set for May 7 at the Louisville Central Community Center, Inc. at 1300 West Muhammad Ali Boulevard.
As a parent and a 20-year volunteer for PTAs in 7 different school systems, I envision a PTA that advocates for all students, especially those who may not have the same opportunities my children have had. That is why I’m concerned about an apparent preemptive move to prevent candidates who “rock the boat” from being eligible to serve on our PTAs district-wide board. A meeting to vote on several proposed bylaws changes will take place this coming Monday.
The proposed bylaw in question reads: “If a board member has been removed from the 15th District PTA Board of Directors for cause, theft, malfeasance, or for not fulfilling their duties, they shall not be eligible to hold a position on the 15th District PTA Board of Directors. Appeal Process – If removed from office, after a minimum of two years, an appeal may be made. An individual may be reinstated by a majority vote of the 15th District PTA Executive Board.”
I am one of those volunteers who was removed from my position on the 15th District PTA executive board (where I served faithfully for 3 years), for advocating for parents as an officer with Dear JCPS, and not remaining “obedient” to PTA. Following a rally spearheaded by Dear JCPS in February of 2017 encouraging Dr. Hargens to step down as Superintendent, the 15th District PTA Exec Board took steps to remove me out of fear they experience retribution from the district and could lose access to JCPS schools and the clothing closet. Despite this action having nothing to do with my involvement in PTA, and having received widespread support from the majority of our elected school board members and community, 15th District PTA leadership chose to side with the bully administration instead of its parent and teacher members.
Unfortunately, numerous other volunteers have also been removed from the PTA boards at the district and local level for standing up against a corrupt administration. Tonight’s bylaws change could prevent these or other outspoken advocates from serving on the 15th District PTA board in the future, by a status-quo-seeking establishment that refuses to stand up to bullies who attack its members. Sound familiar?
While our ALEC-backed, Koch-funded legislators were performing CPR on dead bills, harassing female staff members and raiding pensions, and our DeVos-endorsed governor and his handpicked Board of Education and Commissioner were spewing lies about special sessions, lobbing jabs from the ALEC Playbook, and issuing unlawful subpoenas, KEA and JCTA leadership, joined by officials from AFSCME, Teamsters and SEIU, aggressively pushed back on their own members and their allies instead of fighting attacks from bullies and privatizers.
Smacking of voter suppression and more cliquishness, anyone wishing to cast their vote on these proposed PTA bylaws changes must have been appointed as a delegate by their local PTA president, and names must have been submitted to the 15th District PTA president, by April 19.
It’s not too late, however, to sign up to vote as a delegate in the election on May 7. Delegates will determine the officers who will fill 8 of the district PTAs 9-member executive board, (The role of president will be filled by Eddie Squires, as determined by an executive board vote in February, following the death of president-elect Adam Kesler.)
In addition to an 8-member slate nominated by the existing executive PTA board, additional “rank-and-file” PTA members are expected to be “nominated to run from the floor,” challenging some of the candidates on the establishment’s slate.
They are: Vice President 2 – Jamique Washington Vice President 3 – Amanda Rhye Vice President 4 – LaTasha Harrison Vice President 5 – Sharika Anderson-Brown Secretary – April Johnson (Zimmerman)
Removing a volunteer for “cause” — a subjective term that has not been clearly defined — runs the risk of being skewed by one’s perceptions and biases, such as race or methodology. “Cause” can mean lacking loyalty and obedience to officers and bully district leaders (instead of PTA members and students), as was the case in my situation. It’s hypocritical to pretend the removal process is applied evenly, when instances of fraud, malfeasance (including election rigging, theft and criminal convictions), were not acted upon, even after being brought to leadership’s attention. And it’s naive to think an appeals process that puts the defendant back in front of the same clique that removed them in the first place would be without bias.
Fortunately, there is a grassroots movement afoot nationwide, where “rank-and-file” members are organizing and taking back their organizations. I encourage everyone to get involved in the upcoming PTA elections. Come to the bylaws vote Monday night, participate in the discussion, and ensure transparency and accountability. Also, contact your PTA President about becoming a voting delegate for the May 7 officer election.
Consider the advocacy work of each of the nominees who are running from the floor. Be intentional about voting for a PTA Executive Board that looks and thinks more like the district population it serves. In this vindictive political climate, we need to elect leaders who know how and when to rock the boat on behalf of their members, not protect a bully administration and status quo.
The Louisville Urban League will be providing transportation to these events. To RSVP please contact Carla Robinson at email@example.com.
I have also filed to run for president-elect from the floor. Not because I wanted to serve, but because I truly believe in PTA, and I want to see 15th District PTA advocate for its members and students in ALL schools they serve. (Of all of the candidates who responded to Dear JCPS’ invitations for nominations to run from the floor, I was the only one who met the minimum service requirements for president-elect.) After tonight’s bylaws vote, I may no longer be eligible to run on May 7. Repeated requests for clarification on the grounds for my removal and whether there will be time to appeal, have gone unanswered. I have a problem with that.
Think what you want about me. I don’t really care. I’m an unpaid stakeholder and advocate in this community, and yet, I’m constantly being attacked by people in positions of power who should be advocating for their members. For what? Advocating for their members! You figure that one out.
Some want to imply I’m only saying something now, out of retaliation for those who have attacked me. I suppose I could have been blasting out every wrong that I’ve witnessed all along, but I usually give the perpetrator numerous opportunities to recognize the error and change course. Until recently, I’ve avoided calling out their leaders out of respect for the institutions I believe in. Clearly, that was a mistake.
However, if you insist on believing them over me, simply because I’m not the one on the attack, at least reach out and give me an opportunity to respond to the accusations (which I’m usually not privy to), as I’ve tried to do for them. Chances are I can provide clarity, and probably even some form of evidence to dispute the misinformation, if asked.
This in’t about me. I know of at least two other officers who were removed from the PTA board over sketchy allegations that felt more like personality clashes than “cause.” This is about making sure they — and people who stand up against the administration when appropriate — may continue to be eligible to serve. This is about the democratic process. This is about the kids.
If you, too, want a PTA that advocates for ALL students in JCPS, I hope to see you and other unapologetic allies tonight at CB Young at 5:45 PM.
Gay Adelmann is a public school graduate, mother of two recent public school graduates, and co-founder of Dear JCPS and Save Our Schools Kentucky.
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?
Join us! Call for Resignation of JCPS Superintendent!
The community of JCPS stakeholders (parents, teachers, staff and community leaders) will come together tomorrow night to issue a vote of “no confidence” in our superintendent’s ability to continue to lead our district and ask for her to step down.
At least 5 of the 7 JCPS board members have expressed concern in her ability to lead, as have numerous organizations and community members. However, we understand that with more than two years left on her contract, terminating Dr. Hargens, even with cause, can be costly and time consuming. With potential negative outcomes from recent BOE executive sessions and the state audit, we believe it would be in everyone’s best interest if she would step down from her position immediately so that the board can appoint an interim superintendent who can fully cooperate with the state audit team and help get our district back on course.
There have been repeated examples of mismanagement and misreporting of data, denial of/failure to address problems, misrepresentation of facts to board members, media, state and community members, with zero accountability. Our kids can not afford to wait any longer as our district continues in this out-of-control downward spiral, which has invited legislators to propose overreaching bills such as HB151 (neighborhood schools bill), paved the way for unproven charter schools to siphon money away from public schools, and more recently resulted in an unprecedented state audit and potential takeover. We do not feel the superintendent is equipped to guide our district going forward, much less through the state audit.
The press conference will take place from 6:30 – 7:00 pm tomorrow night outside of VanHoose, prior to the 7:00 board meeting. Any groups or individuals wishing to speak to the press or during the board meeting on Tuesday evening, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (502) 565-8397.
Whether it’s scissors or a disposable razor, if a white person is holding it, it’s an art project or a shaving lesson. If it’s a Black person using it, it’s suddenly a weapon that can destroy students’ and educators’ careers.
If it’s a gun, it’s still not a weapon, as long as the person who discovered it is a white man. They apparently are allowed to decide the best course of action, even if it means breaking the law and returning it to the students’ family, as has happened on numerous occasions in JCPS.