Accountability, Behavior/Discipline, Challenger Learning Center, District Boundaries, Privatization of Public Education, Standardized Testing, Teacher Shortage, Vision: 2020

#BringBackTheColonel, Please?

This is an email that was sent by an Academy @ Shawnee Sophomore to Dr. Hargens on Sunday, Nov. 27. She asked that Dear JCPS publish it our our open letter forum.

Dear Dr. Hargens,jessica

I wanted to follow up with you in regards to my speech that I gave at the JCPS Board meeting on November, 15th. On your way out the door when my mother mentioned a possible follow up email being sent about #BringBacktheColonel your response was “think about the programs as a whole, not just one person.” So, I went home and read again the letter that was sent home by Ms. Benboe on November 9th, explaining the personnel changes that happened at my school, the Academy@Shawnee, over a 4 day break for the students. What I noticed was the statement about the magnet programs. The following was taken directly from the letter:


When Ms. Benboe and the District transfers the magnet coordinator, Col. William Vander Meer with no plans to replace him, then to say that the magnet programs will not change is a contradiction. The programs changed at 2:30 in the afternoon on Nov. 4 when the Colonel was told that he was being transferred to Central High School, effective immediately. We, the students, will not continue to receive ALL the support and resources that were available to us with the Colonel gone. I’ll share with you an example about the aviation program. On November 5th, the day after his transfer, there were about 15 Shawnee Middle and High school students that were to meet him at Hanger 7 at Bowman Field, to take plane rides. Only because he holds a seat on the Board of Directors for Hanger 7, were those students, myself included, still able to go on the plane rides. I actually got to fly a plane and logged air time for the first time that morning. Those types of outings and programs were the direct result from the Colonels passion for the kids, for learning and for the excitement of aviation.

Another example that maybe you are not aware of, is a new program with UPS, which the Colonel was able to arrange for our school. The freshman this year will be paired up with UPS pilots. The pilots will follow and mentor, one on one, the students for their entire 4 years in high school. What an opportunity. Once again it was because of the Colonel’s connections with the community and his drive for the success of the Academy@Shawnee.

I could you give example after example, if you care to listen, of how the Colonel’s 19 years of experience and his community connections promotes all of the students attending the Academy@Shawnee’s Middle and High Schools. He was one of a few administration personal that was bridging the Middle school to the High school.

However, I would like to share with you how I felt when I was attending the Board meeting that night. During the first part of the meeting when schools were getting recognized, I was sitting in the audience getting frustrated, hurt and then angry. All of these schools were talking about teacher relationships with their students and how awesome of an experience that is. Our school has teachers leaving to go to different school to teach every single day. So, to have the few remaining in our building meant the world to me and to the other 150 children that signed our petition. The swift and quiet transfer of the Colonel just feels like a punishment. A punishment in which our school does not deserve. I have already had the experience earlier this year of a teacher being fired by the District and then just 6 days later she was reinstated by the District to her teaching position. So, that is why I am asking you again: Dr. Hargens, will you please transfer Col. William VanderMeer back to the Academy@Shawnee?

Jessica Bennett

Accountability, Behavior/Discipline, Challenger Learning Center, Vision: 2020

Academy @ Shawnee Garners Support from Alumni, Community

The Academy @ Shawnee has been in the news a lot recently, but the truth is not what the district leaders would have you believe. We’ve been begging for their support for years, and instead of flotation devices, they throw us bricks. Students need supports and interventions, they respond with retribution.

A timeline of events going back 10 years is currently being developed to help shed some light on these systemic and repeated injustices that have led to a population finally saying, “Enough is enough!”

In the meantime, the comments from community reveal that there is more to the story. It reeks of adult-driven agendas and retribution, not what’s in the best interest of the students. Here are some of the posts and comments from Facebook.




Challenger Learning Center, District Boundaries, Teacher Shortage, Vision: 2020

Fool Me Thrice

“Fun” automated transcript provided by You Tube (since I didn’t have a prepared speech that night.)

good evening dear JCPS my subject tonight is for me thrice I don’t know
0:10how many times I’ve been fooled actually I know it’s been at least more than
0:15three but you know how the joke goes for me once shame on you fool me twice shame
0:20on me
0:21what happens when your full 3 times 4 times 5 times a hundred times at what
0:27point do you take things to the next level
0:31I’m gonna give you three examples of times that I’ve been fooled the first
0:37one pertains to my son school ever since I set foot in that school I recognize
0:43the goldmine that it is and I’ve been trying my background is marketing so
0:47I’ve been trying for the last three years to help recruit students to that
0:51school because that’s where priority school or failing school one way to
0:55change our scores is to recruit students to the magnet and help grow this horse
0:58and every single year I’ve had obstacle after obstacle after obstacle thrown at
1:05my feet
1:08i sent an email to all of you but last week with some of my concerns and dr.
1:13organs appreciate your response and I appreciate your response
1:16dr. Huggins wrote everyone agrees that sean is a shining star and that it
1:20provides a great opportunity for JCPS students there’s a disconnect
1:25not everyone does recognize that that’s my point that’s what we’re trying to do
1:29is change perception and so if we think that we have that everyone already
1:34recognizes that then we’re not even admitting what the problem is my second
1:40concern is Challenger Learning Center a year ago when you voted to allow
1:44Kentucky science center to operate it
1:46you promised us that the new operator their proposal said they would 550
1:51missions we flew hundred and fifty missions last year so no interruption in
1:54service was the promise they flew 42 i think it was so we went to a third of
2:02what we had been doing before and yet we’re paying them we just renewed the
2:06budget for ninety thousand dollars to pay them when the reason we cut it was
2:09because it was costing us $250,000 without any return
2:12but 8,000 students went through the program that’s a return
2:16where’s the value put on that there’s no that there’s been no value put on that
2:18and here we are renewing the contract for even more this year and it’s dark
2:23most days
2:25what do we need to do to send all of JCPS sixth and seventh-graders through
2:29this investment that we’ve already made we spent the $MONEY million dollars to
2:32install it at Shawnee and it’s it’s dark
2:35let’s put kids back into that program and the third issue is the hair policy
2:40and you’ve already heard speakers and I know it’s been talked to death but I was
2:45disappointed that the letter indicated that the person who brought it to the
2:49attention should have asked first instead of admitting that we made a
2:52mistake we made a mistake there should be a review process that says you cannot
2:56violate law and you cannot violate board policy and it should be reviewed it got
3:01changed by a couple of people who’d probably meant no harm just weren’t
3:05familiar with the terms and it became a big stink because there wasn’t a policy
3:09in place so my question to you is what do we do when I’ve been when it’s for me
3:14once fool me twice for me thrice what are those next steps
3:18Thank you Thank You muscleman

Behavior/Discipline, Budget, Challenger Learning Center, Standardized Testing, Vision: 2020

Our Last Hope

This letter was presented at the JCPS Board Meeting on May 10, 2016 by Dear JCPS Co-founder Gay Adelmann.

Dear JCPS,

gay speaksAs a newcomer to Louisville a few years ago, and upon our selection of a magnet, (which happened to be a priority school in the West End), I was immediately sucked into the dysfunction that is JCPS. I saw some blatant disconnects and easy fixes and I made an effort to be part of the solution. Along the way, I met many people who said “you’re wasting your time.” “The district is going to do what it wants to do.”

The Pollyanna in me said “They just don’t have the info they need to make good decisions.” Teachers were afraid to speak up. But the answers were clear if you knew where to look. So we spoke at board meetings. We wrote proposals. But we were shut out. Calls were not returned. We were treated as hostile. And we were lied to. Sure enough, the district continued to “do what it wanted to do.”

That’s when I said, “un uh.” These are our schools. Our kids. Our tax dollars. So we started Dear JCPS. And that’s when we found many more who were been beaten down, ignored, had issues swept under the rug. Parents who had no choice but to resort to lawsuits. We were drawn to each other like a moth to a flame. Suddenly, the district’s ability to “ignore the problem long enough so that it would go away” was in jeopardy. Repeated attempts were made to discredit and derail our group.

Because district leaders did not authentically respond to our questions and concerns early on, they appear to have a hidden agenda. And now, the district’s lies and misdeeds are becoming undeniable.

When you sign off on out-of-touch recommendations that are obtained with no genuine input from stakeholders; when we are asked to pick one of three options, of which two are not even viable, that is not brainstorming. That is manipulation.

A state senator “shadowed” my son yesterday, but some of our district leaders, entrusted with making some of the most important decisions in our city, can’t be bothered to do the same.

Public education is under attack nationwide. Your complicity that allows them to undermine the success of our district, and expedite — not thwart — its demise, is criminal.

Your negligence is not only filling the pipeline to prison, it is filling the pipeline to the morgue. Two of my son’s classmates have been murdered this year.


Imagine if you lived in a war zone, not knowing if you or someone you loved could be killed at any moment. And you are required to come to school – in many cases bused across town — and forced sit for ridiculous tests and test prep that do not teach you what you need to escape the war zone, but instead are used to label and place more hurdles and burdens in your way.

Yes! We need a more equitable code of conduct, but more importantly we need the supports in place to make sure it’s successful.

These are our children’s lives and futures you’re playing with. We did not elect you to boost your resume, to satisfy your philanthropic goals, or so you could throw your influence around on the golf course or the board room. We elected you to fix our broken school system.

If you think the media is to blame for this debacle, you’re still not getting it. But the community is – and we’re outraged. Our school board is our last hope to save public education in Louisville. You either take this bull by its horns, or we will VOTE YOU OUT!

Challenger Learning Center

Status of Challenger?

When the board voted to accept KSC’s Proposal (and related KSC Cost Schedule Form) to run the Challenger Learning Center this summer, Dr. Hargens assured us the proposal would “greatly expand the number of (JCPS) students who benefit and learn from the Center, there will be no interruption in service.” She has said on numerous occasions that she is dedicated to adding more STEM enrichment to the JCPS curriculum.

KSC’s proposal that the board approved on July 26, stated that they would fly 150 missions this school year (which was actually the same number as CLC last year – not 30 as the proposal suggested). Cordelia Hardin told the paper that the Kentucky Science Center has “big plans” for the Challenger Learning Center, which includes adding more missions, having birthday parties and it will be open on the weekends.

As we approach the halfway mark in the 2015-2016 school year. On behalf of our stakeholders, and in keeping with the Dear JCPS mission of advocacy and accountability, we would like to ask for an update on the Challenger Learning Center under the new operator.

  • How many missions have they flown so far this year? Should be around 75 by end of year?
  • How many of the wildly successful, newly developed Micronaut missions have been flown?
  • How many JCPS students have been able to experience this STEM learning opportunity?
  • No interruption in service to us implies the ancillary benefits to the host school: The Academy @ Shawnee. How have they been doing in that regard?

As stakeholders who expressed concerns about the abrupt decision to make this change, compounded by advisory board members, Challenger Center staff and franchise owners, and other valued stakeholders not having a seat at the table when these conversations were taking place, we would like to ask for a follow up to put our minds at ease that Dr. Hargens promises are being kept.

We look forward to your follow up on these questions, and hope that Challenger is indeed being afforded every opportunity for success.

Accountability, Admin, Budget, Challenger Learning Center

The Academy @ Shawnee: A History of Disparities Never Corrected

Dear JCPS,

My name is Gay Adelmann, and I am here speaking as a parent of a student at the Academy at Shawnee.

This letter is intended to help you understand a real world challenge that has been happening at one of our lowest performing schools for nearly a decade, maybe longer.

In 2008 after the McFarland v. JCPS ruling and the student assignment was revamped, Shawnee was the only school in the district not to receive any accommodations from that decision. The story that made the front page of the Courier Journal. The Board unanimously voted to make the school K-12 to compensate for this disparity, but it was never implemented. Nothing was done to correct this disparity.

Three years later – School named to Cohort 1 and labeled a priority school – the school lost its SBDM

The school was ranked in the #1 percentile. I wish that was a good thing. It was the worst performing school in the state.

We knew that when we selected the school from the Choices catalog. But my son wanted to be a pilot. We visited the school and we realized the potential that was there. It had a dynamic principal. We saw the promise. The potential. Everything was in place for a turnaround. The resides population is high poverty (90% free and reduced lunch), high transient population, high truancy, high special needs. These gap kids are not keeping up across the district. And we still have the disparity I mentioned earlier.

The Board approved adding a magnet-only middle school to help grow the high school and raise the scores organically. But that would take time, and the magnets currently only made up about 10% of the total school. “Maybe if we could grow the magnet, we could raise the high school test scores sooner,” I thought.

Summer of 2013

Principal Resigned

However We met our goals – went from 1 percentile to 9th percentile. Wow!

Then Beginning of the school year, the District Came out with “The Plan,” went thru 2 interim principals, but with no ownership, there was no one on the ground assessing what would help us meet our goals.

We came before the board. We Said “Wait, Principal before plan,” and you listened.

A New Principal was in place by Christmas

With new principal comes More Teacher Turnover, more changing the way we do things, even if it’s working

Myers Shut down – Our brand new magnet only middle school in its first year, suddenly had to absorb a population that we weren’t ready for and that wasn’t ready for us, and increased our MS population by more than 50%. Moreover, the resides middle school students who are assigned to Shawnee MS were not our resides HS students. So we’re working to grow them, but then we’re going to lose them.

Bad recruiting year with uncertainty of “plan and no principal” looming

End of 2014 School year – We heard, We’ll do better Next Year


Following year, more teacher turnover, went from 5 Nationally Board Certified teachers down to 2.

Yet we Flew an Experiment on Intl Space Station

I made “recruiting” my GCIPL project. Went to various events, recruited students interested in aerospace, which is an 8 billion dollar industry and is the #1 export in the state of KY.

Middle school scored highest in the district.

Added 6 more AP courses and a contract with NASEI for next year. More rigor. Now if we could get consistency in leadership and teaching staff, we could grow the scores

Now, if we could just get more magnet students here, we could grow the scores.

Summer of 2015

Middle school scores dropped 24 points.

Challenger was put on hold and defunded before a new plan was in place.

Principal on leave 2 weeks before end of school year, GCIPL project came to screeching halt. Leads dried up. Open house fell thru. Another lost recruiting year with uncertainty of no principal, and loss of challenger looming.

End of 2015 School Year We’ll do better next year

This summer, Went from 2 natl bd cert teachers now down to 1,

Another 50% teachers left

Asked for consistency. Promote from within.

Principal from another school named 1 day before school starts even though the position had been open all summer.

With new leadership comes more change, more staff turnover.

Lost another AP last week. How is that consistent?

10 weeks into the school year and we still need 3 critical teacher positions filled. Math and English.

Met our AMO. Went from 9th percentile to 16th percentile.

But that is the locked percentile, so we are still labeled priority, because we’re still in the bottom 5% of the state. Because this number is a moving target, based on a single metric, so no matter how well we all do, there will always be a bottom 5%. Another school has to fail for us to succeed

On my son’s 5th principal. Every time someone new comes along turn the ship around. Unfortunately kids get caught in the wake. No consistency in a school where consistency found more than anything.

Priority schools should come first. Yet it’s nothing more than a label. There’s no sense of urgency. Don’t want to keep waiting until next year. More kids are caught in the wake every year. We are being held accountable for things beyond our control. Don’t have an SBDM. Parent and teacher input is heard but ignored. Don’t have KDE $ or support. Our staff know what they are doing but every new administration comes in and tells them to do it different, just when we start to gain momentum, something cuts us off at the knees.

Our kids can’t wait until next year.

The school and staff are amazing. We don’t regret a minute of our decision. But we feel like the red headed stepchild. But we are really the best kept secret.

Aerospace is growing. The time to act is now. With loss of Challenger, we are no longer part of the conversation, no seat at the table in the aerospace industry.

With no more funding and no more KDE support, HOW WILL WE EVER GET OUR OF PRIORITY STATUS? NEXT YEAR OR EVER?


What is the district going to do differently willing to do to truly make us a priority?

Challenger Learning Center

Dear JCPS – The Challenger Center Issues

@Dear_JCPS Representatives were present at Monday night’s board meeting to speak about Challenger Learning Center prior to the board’s vote. Gay Adelmann and Erin Korbylo brought up concerns they hope KSC’s Proposal (and related KSC Cost Schedule Form) — which were not available for public viewing until after approved Monday night — take into account.

keep calm

Here are a couple of stories that were posted after Monday night’s meeting.

JCPS Board Approves KSC’s Proposal (WDRB)

JCPS, Science Center Team Up on Challenger (Courier Journal)

The proposal contained some errors, incorrect assumptions and outdated information.

One glaring error in the KSC proposal that we noticed right away (once we were finally allowed to look at it Tuesday morning) was the statement that the Center had only conducted 30 missions for the year 2014-2015. In fact, the Center conducted 150 missions in 2014-2015, their best year ever. The KSC proposal states:

“Increasing the number of missions served per year from its current (approximately 30) to 150 and maximizing reach to supplementary student, family and corporate audiences will depend upon an active and widespread advertising campaign.”

With misinformation like that, no wonder JCPS thought they needed another plan.

One board member we spoke to after the meeting Monday night said he had thoroughly reviewed the proposal, however when pressed for what the $75,000 would be used for, he indicated it would be used to cover the $16,000 annual franchise fee, among other operational costs. However, according to the RFP, the franchise fee is tacked on as an additional expense to JCPS. And the proposal itself makes no reference to what the money goes toward, so we’re not sure where he got that idea. It appears to simply be a fee JCPS is paying KSC to run the center, regardless of how many missions they conduct or revenue they bring in. In addition, none of the board members we talked to knew how much JCPS students would be charged for each mission. So another concern we have is that since under the former arrangement, JCPS students came through at no cost, (their fees were covered by grants). If JCPS now has to pay $500 per mission, and sends 150 missions through, they just added another $75,000 to their overall cost allocations, they just moved it to a different column in the budget.  So, let’s see, we’re at $75,000 fee to KSC, $75,000 for JCPS students to come through, $16,000 for franchise fee. That’s $166,000. And once they bring in the anticipated $5,000 – $8,000 that KSC expects to pay JCPS based on their 10% mission revenue, the district will be on the hook for about $158,000.

Compare and contrast the supposed $250,000 was costing them (because it included a teacher’s and the acting director’s salary) we were unable to verify this is an apples to apples number), and subtract the $54,000 in grants they brought in as revenue, and adjust for the 3000 students who came through for free (a $75,000 value), and we’re at $121,000. Sounds like we just went in the wrong direction. And that doesn’t account for the estimated $250,000 to $500,000 in donations they were anticipating they could receive from the work they had done with a fundraising firm they engaged in the spring.

This is a STEM teaching program, not just a field trip, so another slippery slope that this brings up in our opinion is that they considered the teacher “an expense that was not paying for itself,” so they decided to eliminate it. Teachers are not here to bring profit to JCPS, as far as we’re aware. They’re here to teach, and that is what this seasoned science teacher was doing. In fact, she rewrote the mission curriculum to integrate with Kentucky Next Generation standards. And developed a hugely popular and successful Micronaut mission for the younger grades, which KSC does not plan to continue, according to their proposal.