Please include the attached email in the minutes for the 2-28-23 Board Meeting. An online version can also be found here:
In addition, a shared Google Doc with aggregated, redacted comments from within the Dear JCPS Facebook group is attached and has also been posted here. We hope they can be included as public comments for inclusion in historical documents pertaining to the bell schedule change proposal:
Dear JCPS Board and Dr. Pollio,
The continued mass exodus of teachers and bus drivers has put district leaders in the unfortunate position of having to make difficult changes to bell schedules. In just a few short years, the topic has gone from being a research-driven “right thing to do” to a crisis-driven “thing we must do.” And even then, there’s no guarantee this proposal you’ve been asked to consider will solve our district’s problems, and in fact, could make them worse. The community knows we must do something, and while some people are pleased with the proposal from MIT, we cannot ignore pleas from teachers, parents, and community leaders who don’t trust the district to devise a plan that is equitable, especially given the district’s history of broken promises, problems swept under the rug and structural racism.
I asked members of Dear JCPS to provide feedback, and as I promised them I would do, I am sending this email to provide a summary of some of the comments we have received.
While the new bell schedule will be a welcome change for many, it will no doubt disrupt some lives and upend others. Some have reported that while some schools have shifted to the times that are research-supported, others have moved in the opposite direction. Others have noted that some schools, such as popular, low minority and poor population schools, are not facing as many changes as others.
We also heard from some who have concerns that it’s always the same children coming late to school. We don’t have the manpower to research which schools and zip codes the most severely impacted children come from and if they’re being given first priority when it comes to making up the new plan, or if some of them will continue to be inconvenienced or underserved. Are we making up for lost instructional time or just “wiping the slate clean” and starting over as if everyone is “even” with this new change? Others asked, what additional transportation ideas are we looking at long-term so that we’re not just always solving problems after they become a crisis?
One teacher I spoke with had a suggestion to rethink and retool the school buses. What could be done to increase capacity, for example? She asked, “Could the district invest in double decker busses like they have in London?” Further dialogue included reparative ideas for students who have missed the most instruction time due to late buses and other transportation challenges, perhaps their buses could be equipped with educational programming, screens on seatbacks, VIP seating as an incentive for students who lead by example.
One early suggestion that came about during our Coalition’s student assignment and tax increase feedback gathering efforts was to use research-based start times as an opportunity and incentive to increase diversity in some of our high poverty, minority concentration schools. Pilot the more opportune start times at schools whose populations often face transportation and schedule flexibility challenges, would have not only made it possible to monitor the effectiveness of the changes and continue to tweak and fine tune them, but might have been a useful recruiting tool for families who might have the ability to provide their own transportation because they knew the value of these changes and were willing to travel across town for their child to access them. Especially as we move toward a less diversity-oriented student assignment plan and students in the Shawnee resides are being given an opportunity to attend a school closer to home. Give them priority everything, including bell schedules and transportation. If other families feel shorted, they are more than welcome to choose to have their child attend the struggling school, and perhaps they, like others, will realize they too can be part of the solution.
Perhaps families with greater means might be willing to forgo in-person instruction for their child a couple of days a week, or provide their own transportation on others, if it meant a child who was consistently arriving at school two or three hours after the bell could get there on time those days. Did we ask? Didn’t we say this was a crisis? Isn’t Frankfort looking for solutions? Add creative ideas like these to the legislative agenda.
Another asked, “Has anyone put the start times on a district map? Like use the same colors from the proposal, but so a person could see how it looks “logistically”?
I don’t know my first though[t] was that male, manual, and some East end schools all got 7:40 seemed sus[pect]. I don’t even need to see good/bad. I just want to see if it makes sense on the map. Because it looks like they put all the schools in a hat and drew them at random.
I’d like businesses (dance studios, rec leagues, private music lessons and tutors, etc) to speak up. Because many of those schedules are based on the uniform end times.”
I asked a teacher what she felt was a “favorable” slot, and her assessment aligned with the research:
“Ms/HS on a later starts are “good”. Elementary on an earlier start is “good”.”
Another person on a thread in our Facebook group said, “Glad to see JCPS moving on the Science data that says teens sleep patterns support later start times. I also am glad to see JCPS joining all other large districts to have many start times as a way to get all kids to and from school. Right now, many students are missing school due to the bus driver shortage.”
Someone else responded, “But, many of the older kids are still on the early time, so if that’s the case why didn’t their times change?”
A quick review of the schools and start times did not always align with best practices, either. So which schools are not getting the favorable slots? How was priority determined? Is it the same schools that had a high number of students with lost instructional time? By the way, we have heard from some parents that their children have been counted tardy and/or had truancy issues for late bus arrivals? We realize this would be contrary to district policy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Is anyone looking into this?
“Parents were charged with truancy for late buses.”
Another parent, this one at Westport, “Rumor is there are currently parents facing truancy charges due to the bus delays this year.”
Going back to 2016, I came across comments in a post regarding a Superintendent’s Report given by Dr. Hargens regarding behavior incidents and gap students. If some of these suggestions had been implemented back then, perhaps the current challenges would not be so great. We saw this crisis coming for at least a decade, facilitated in large part by a cruel and misinformed Kentucky legislature. Our group even tried to help the district recruit bus monitors at one point.
“1. Put monitors on buses. Drivers should be able to focus on driving and not behaviors. 2. Offer parenting classes. We are seeing children who have no age appropriate boundaries and/or have never heard the word no in their lives. I see second graders who act like toddlers developmentally and I am at a magnet school. 3. The thinking on behavior has gone from “keep them in your classroom no matter what” to now we are going to report everything but not actually do anything to improve the behavior. 4. Unfortunately it seems to me that I spend the majority of my time with RTI students but average and above average students continue to learn at expected rates while RTI students struggle to catch up. By the time I can move them up a level, the benchmark changes and they are still behind. We see the same students in RTI year after year.”
“The correlation between our attendance data and our gap data is undeniable–as ADA decreases, the achievement gap increases. Schools with a 93% ADA can still have over 20% of their students truant or chronically absent. At an ADA of 85% one can assume that over half of a school’s students are chronically absent or truant. Last year, my school’s ADA was 74.8% Do not be fooled. This indicates a likelihood that 100% of our students were chronically absent or truant. In my opinion, we will NEVER successfully close the achievement gap without first addressing our attendance gap. We must begin looking at our attendance data differently. ADA is not the most important metric. High absenteeism among low income students reflects the challenges associated with poverty–lack of access to appropriate housing, unreliable transportation, and lack of access to healthcare. This is not and instructional issue–get kids to school regularly and the achievement gap will close.”
Also, below are some of the comments we received in regards to how the Board is viewed:
“Half the stuff they say will happen does not. That’s why the public does not trust the board now.”
“I’m trying to predict how the votes go. My current thought is Kolb, porter, Shull against. Craig, McIntosh, Duncan for. (Mostly because Duncan is just gonna be confused) with Marshall as the swing. And it is burned in my brain the covid vote and how he felt when he cast his vote.
Like this “proposal” seems like throwing the baby out with the bath water. But to hear Polio talk, it’s like a done deal. And I just want to sing the part from Hamilton “you’re gonna need (congressional) approval and you don’t have the votes”. But maybe he does and I’m missing some huge puzzle piece.”
“Rumor has it the board has already met with Polio and they are all voting yes. But it is a rumor. ”
We know how important it is to give both parents/guardians and employees time to prepare and make schedule changes in childcare arrangements and put in for transfers if they need to, and we commend you for that. Without trying to derail your proposal altogether, we would like to ask the Board to consider the feedback from impacted community members and solve this crisis for them first. Including proposing what steps will be taken to not only stop the harm that has been caused, but to repair it.
From a post in the Dear JCPS Facebook group:
“Later start times are backed, scientifically, for younger students to start earlier and older students to start later. As the proposal stands, all the later start times are occupied by elementary school students. In light of the research backing start times, this proposal counters what is best physiologically for our students.”
District leaders claim that this change is necessary in order to address the challenges that some students have faced getting to school on time due to the bus driver shortage. While this is no doubt true, education, mental health and pediatric professionals have long known there are benefits to earlier start times for younger students and later start times for older students.
One parent sent the following email, she is supportive of the shift to move middle and high schools to a later start time:
“Someone posted this link for comments on the start time change. I just want to say thank you! My grandson starts middle school next year and there was no way we were putting him on a bus. This gives us extra time in the morning to get ready to go. We were dreading getting him to school at 7:40 and if this change takes place, he’ll not need to be at school until after 8”
One Black teacher, on messenger, told me:
“[MIT] did not even come here and learn the culture and systems. All of these white saviors are suddenly acting as if they are doing something “on behalf of the most vulnerable” when we know they NEVER do. There’s something bigger at play here. We are going to be like Mississippi and allow them to pass some JIM CROW laws.”
Another (white) teacher:
“Yes. I want to know what MIT said. I want to see the Reap and other “tool” they used for equity. I want to know exactly which districts they compared us to. Because Chicago and us is not “similar” since they have mass easily accessible public transit.”
“Yeah, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). In 1970’s, Boston Public Schools desegregation efforts including busing was so horrible that many whites families withdrew their children from public schools which further exacerbated the racial divide of the city’s education system. The scars by this poor decision making still remain today. However, JCPS started their busing doing the same time period was considered to have more successfully desegregated than other schools in the US. I’m not saying that change does not need to happen, but I’m saying that other options need to be considered since MIT was not able to successfully help a school district in their own state. There is absolutely NO research that would recommend a school district to make all of these HUGE changes at one time. Educators should know that you make changes incrementally and you study the changes to see how to tweak before you throw the whole district in.”
Another comment, regarding research on change:
“No one is asking for small incremental changes. No successful organization makes all of these huge changes at one time.”
“Also, why is no one mentioning that the Superintendent stated that a later start time was best for adolescents, but you have some of most low achieving schools (Stuart, Conway, Lassiter, Moore) with huge populations of minority and low socioeconomic still starting at 7:40. Make it make sense. Oh, no one has mentioned students will riding a different bus to and from school every day, which is total chaos especially for elementary schools and the bus stops are being increased in distance.”
A teacher who responded to me via messenger, said:
“I’m an elementary teacher. I think it’s unreasonable to ask some elementary schools to attend so late. The 9:40 start time is just too late. I would have liked to see the original plan of elementary students getting out first since that is what follows best practice for when students learn best. I am on board with staggering the times if that will help with transportation. I wish more was done to keep and attract teachers. The teacher shortage is a real disaster. The start times may cause more to leave or retire early. I recommend tougher consequences for students that have violent incidents, holding family’s accountable for student’s behavior, overtime pay (time and half) for work outside normal hours, and staff meetings held during school hours instead of after school.”
Yet, we’ve been sounding the alarm about JCPS employees who are actively being pushed out for standing up for racial justice despite the shortages. It would seem another way to address our shortages would be to look into these recurring problems. Case in point, below is a text message I recently sent to a JCPS central office employee who has the responsibility of teacher recruitment and retention.
“Are you familiar with Dr. Kimberly Mucker Johnson’s case?”
I attached a link to a press release she sent to media and other outlets, which I also posted on Dear JCPS:
I went on to say, “She did nothing wrong. In fact, she did everything right and those whose discriminatory and harmful behaviors she mandatorily reported committed fraud to cover up their initial wrongdoing. When she stood up, they enhanced the lie, and the pattern has continued to repeat, worsening each time. Now they’ve abused their power to keep the lie going all the way to EPSB, and some of the highest level district officials are not only complicit, they’re active participants!
It all started when she was a counselor at Maupin. A strong, dedicated, non-nonsense Black woman was seen as “the problem,” so her peers and supervisors targeted, harassed and retaliated against her to try to get her removed from the school. They manufactured evidence and manipulated the truth until they finally got her demoted from counselor to teacher, and since her teaching certification did not include elementary school, she was forced to move to another school. (There are lies on her demotion letter that Marty signed off on. Does he even know?)
And the perpetrator in the first fraudulent internal investigation confessed to the crime when she sent a threatening message to another teacher who had corroborated Dr Johnson’s testimony. I sent all of that to Marty and Jodi. (So yes, they do know.)
As you can see from her motion, the district and state have violated too many due process policies to count, and her pain and suffering is just one example of what hundreds of employees, students and parents have experienced. The patterns and practices that are utilized are undeniable.
If I was someone who wanted to do something about today’s teacher shortage, especially retaining teachers of color in a district with our size and makeup, I would encourage organizational leaders to take these concerns seriously and protect whistleblowers who stand up from being blacklisted and blackballed.
Also, I don’t know if it’s possible but I think someone should figure out how to repair, restore and protect Dr Johnson’s reputation and credentials, make sweeping policy changes, terminate the ringleaders, discipline the enablers and then publicly apologize to her. Just my two cents.
These are difficult times, but ripping off the bandaid and addressing who and what are causing the harm really is the best way forward. Thank you for listening, friend. Please let me know if/how I can be of assistance.”
Also in the category of broken promises, we’ve heard from professionals across the district, this one with regards to the “sound fields.” We heard from one JCPS teacher who is an itinerant among 6 schools every day, and none of them have it. Moore, TJ, Knight, Blake, Indian Trail, Fairdale, Bates and Fern Creek ES.
“…last year the board said they were gonna put a sound field in every classroom by the end of this school year. They’ve done two. So we can’t even finish that, but we’re gonna overhaul start times and put in metal detectors in every school?!
[A Sound Field] is an FM type system. It’s super helpful for kids with auditory processing disorder, adhd, and deaf hard of hearing. There’s evidence that it’s helpful to all students.”
“The deaf and hard of hearing program (my specialty) is very interested in the program because it would save us on equipment (we put them in for our kids in certain situations). Any way. Our people asked their people in January. And apparently they have deployed and implemented 2 systems. So two classrooms.
“Not two schools…two systems. Period. There’s like 12 weeks left of school? And everyone is supposed to have one.”
“Right. My point….let’s do all these initiatives to solve all these problems….and yet. So start times aren’t gonna fix jack.”
I’d have to admit, I feel their frustration. You may recall the September 29, 2020 Superintendent’s Report where Dr. Pollio outlines a number of things he would like to see happen as a result of the tax increase as schools reopen following the onset of the pandemic. Some of these promises were a direct result of grassroots’ efforts by a coalition of organizations that met before, during and after the pandemic to provide district feedback to district leaders on student assignment and the tax increase. The coalition’s “EARN the People’s Vote” campaign consisted of four components, including “A” for an “Anti-Racist Budget.”
Here is a 5-minute clip from that night’s board meeting, for your convenience.
Starting around the 2:42 minute mark, he says,
“We’ll have all of our AIS schools with more teachers, smaller class sizes, multiple mental health professionals in the school and social workers. So we know we took a great step by having one mental professional at every school. But it will be the tip of the iceberg when students come back to us. We need to be ready and be intentional. And this is the work to provide those mental health professionals. I’d like to see three in each of our AIS schools. More time for professional development and extended learning in our AIS schools. We’re going to fund 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.”
Due to the history of broken promises mentioned earlier, our Coalition sought to garner commitments, such as those outlined in the resolution that was passed in a previous board meeting (a “Resolution” supporting the People’s Agenda was our “R”) in public record. Black community leaders, residents and church members we spoke to across West Louisville were silent on, if not in opposition to, the idea of their Black, West Louisville neighbors paying higher taxes when historically they’ve seen promises made to their community continuously broken by elected and appointed leaders.
The night before this board meeting, I received a call from two prominent Black female leaders in Jefferson County. A third joined the call. We talked about the Coalition’s demands I was in favor of the tax increase, but our Coalition, which had grown to 17 community representatives, was still a “not yet.” I told them I felt that district leaders showing their support in these key areas could bring our members to vote yes. I paid particularly close attention to his words at that board meeting the following night.
One thing Dr. Pollio said he would like to see during that presentation, was “three mental health professionals in every AIS school.” I immediately recognized that as one of the items from our call. I felt it was a great step towards our coalition finally coming out in favor of the tax increase, which we did. However, since that promise, I’ve spoken to several district employees who say that promise has not been fulfilled. And the other promises mentioned? Unknown. The sad thing is, even if leaders told us they had met them all, we have no way of checking up, because we have learned that we cannot believe everything district leaders say. We wish this wasn’t true, but when it comes to racial/educational justice, we’ve learned that while leaders say they’re addressing the problems, those who are negatively impacted, if asked, will say otherwise. Concerned community members and employees stand up time and again but they are silenced, retaliated against or worse.
Some tell me they feel district leaders can’t be trusted. Others fear they are putting the cart before the horse, once again, and it will continue to come at the expense of those they deem expendable. I don’t necessarily agree with everything I’ve shared with you, but I still wanted to pass along all of the feedback we’ve received in the hopes that it helps our board and district leaders not only make a good decision now, but to continue to strive for racial justice and closing achievement opportunities going forward. When it’s time to evaluate how it worked, the ones responsible will be long gone. Who and what is in place to stop those tasked with the assignment from being lazy, sloppy or biased? Who will monitor the success or failure of these changes? What metrics will you use? Who will hold them accountable for their obligations to taxpayers and students? ALL of them?
I have done an open records request based on some of the questions above. I hope the Board reviews them as well. I am also working on a spreadsheet that compares the new bell schedule times to the PTA Fundraising Capacity spreadsheet I developed a few years ago that shows the correlations between schools with high poverty, low achievement, loss of SBDM power and more with low fundraising ability. I wonder if MIT looked at these factors, as well. Were the schools that are historically in the red and orange categories given preferable start times based on science? Were green and yellow schools given priority due to “squeaky wheel syndrome?” Was it random draw? Is it EQUAL or EQUITABLE? I look forward to providing you with additional feedback on my research findings at the mid-March meeting.
One suggestion along these lines that we would like to make is that our elected school board, with assistance of a respected outside third party entities, such as the Louisville Urban League or the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, assist the community in establishing metrics in determining if promises are being kept and share that evidence with impacted community members. This would give those who don’t have a seat at the table an opportunity to validate these claims while also being able to seek continuous improvement, not “fix it and forget it.” The board should also ask for outside third parties, such as the League of Women Voters, to oversee or audit elections of SBDM members, PTA officers, and teachers union positions. Lastly, I would like to encourage the board to ask for an audit of internal investigations and cross reference it to the testimonies of those current and former employees who have been demoted, pushed out or retaliated against for standing up for racial justice.
If any board members wish to be put in touch with the people who provided any of the attached feedback, or you would like additional information about any of the above, please let me know.
Thank you for all you do and your attention to these serious matters,
Dear JCPS, Co-founder & President (2015 – Present)
Save Our Schools KY, Co-founder & President (2016 – Present)
Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, Board Member (2020-Present)
Coalition for the People’s Agenda – Education Committee, Chair (2020-Present)
Candidate for JCPS School Board, District 3 (2022)
Candidate for KY Senate, District 36 (2018)
Governor’s Commonwealth Institute for Parental Leadership (GCIPL) Fellow (2017)
15th District PTA Vice President (2014-2017)
Shawnee PTSA President (2013-2015)
#FullyFundED #StopChartersInKY #AllEyesOnKentucky