The original story was published prior to the Oct. 24, 2023 PTA Election. Fortunately, we were able to shine a light on this injustice in time to make a difference, and the PTA election was handled fairly in the end. Congratulations to all the new officers. Our offer to pay dues for the first 20 members still stands.
For the past few years, Sharika Anderson, an engaged and energetic Black mother, has been in conversations with the principal at one of the schools where three of her children attend about restarting the school’s PTA. Talks have always been friendly and cordial, but occasionally convoluted and inexplicably slow. Ms. Anderson was patient after she received an email from the principal, who is white, last year detailing the process and offering indications that it was finally moving forward. So, imagine Mrs. Anderson’s surprise when she learned that a teacher had been recruited to challenge her for the top leadership position.
If you happened to remember a post I made in May of 2021 about a pattern or practice of discrimination in JCPS, you might have heard this story and thought it sounded familiar. But this is not one I’ve told before. In fact, it’s happening RIGHT NOW, so if we hurry and make people aware, we might even be able to put a stop to the injustice.
You may remember Sharika. You may not remember her by name, but you may remember that time a slate of parents, myself included, “ran from the floor” to try to challenge the incumbents who had reappointed themselves to the open seats at the district-level PTA. The same six or seven people have been passing those seats back and forth between themselves for over a decade, including a JCPS employee who served as the Parliamentarian the entire three years I served on their Executive Board. This same ex-employee has “graciously agreed” to oversee the heist that’s been scheduled for this coming Wednesday.
The 15th District PTA is also known as “the Superintendent’s PTA.” If that isn’t enough of a red flag, wait until you see first-hand evidence that their board of mostly white leaders thinks their job is is to protect the administration, and the lengths they go to to enforce it.
I heard about the revitalization of the struggling PTA and was excited for the Jacob Elementary community. I heard they needed members to vote, and I remembered what that was like when we were trying to relaunch the PTSA at Shawnee. We needed 10 members to approve the new bylaws and vote in officers. Those members had to pay dues, usually $5, and would probably be asked to help recruit other members, pay for start-up costs such as insurance and printing, and volunteer. Finding ten people willing to make that kind of commitment, especially at a high-poverty, high-minority school in the Shively neighborhood in Southwest Louisville, on short notice, can be difficult. So I offered to help recruit more people to vote and made a post in our 8,000+ member group, because that’s what we do! We lift up our schools and families that struggle.
Upon speaking with Sharika, I learned that the person running against her for President is a teacher and parent at the school. She is also a Black woman, which, as we outline in our Patterns and Practices story, pitting strong Black women against one another is a familiar tactic often used by JCPS and their partnering organizations. Another teacher is running against a parent for secretary, as well. The person running for treasurer is not a parent or teacher, but presumably recruited by those who have an interest in keeping a tight control on things. But since she is unopposed, someone would need to “run from the floor” at the meeting if they wished to bring in an authentic member, but it could be done.
Parents appreciate when teachers want to serve on the PTA, but with how overworked and underappreciated teachers already are, parents want to take some of that burden off, not add more. When Latasha Harrison and I met with Dr. Pollio on June 3, 2019, I shared with him some of the recording from the night I was unlawfully voted off the 15th District PTA Board. Not only did he say JCPS couldn’t do what PTA leaders told me they had been threatened with, he said he felt strongly that JCPS employees should only run for PTA office when there are no parents or community members willing or able to step up. This election goes directly against the directive we understood coming from Dr. Pollio. I guess they never got the memo.
Since this is a start-up PTA, there are no existing members to vote, so the rules are different. A text message was sent to parents encouraging them to vote. It stated that only one person had done so thus far. In preparing to share the post, I wanted to make sure I had the information correct. I assumed I would have to join and pay dues in order to vote, so I called the school office to find out how. I was told that anyone could vote and we didn’t have to be members. The phone attendant even put me on hold to double check to make sure she had the correct rules. She confirmed anyone can vote. No membership required. A recording of that conversation is below.
We felt the employee candidates had an unfair advantage over the parent volunteers, but we also just couldn’t understand why teachers would NEED or WANT to serve when they are so overburdened as it is, and there are volunteers ready and willing. So in an effort to level the playing field, Dear JCPS endorsed the parent volunteers, where possible, and shared the post.
From past experience, we also know that it wouldn’t be the first time district administrators pressured their employees to run for PTA Executive Offices so they can put more agreeable people, or people they can leverage power over, in those roles in order to game the system, cut corners, make unilateral decisions and/or further or their own careers with little to no obstacles. More importantly, we’ve seen them use PTA elections to put their finger on the scale of PTA spending and SBDM elections. It is a conflict of interest for JCPS Employees who are accountable to the school’s principal to serve in leadership positions of PTA, especially when a current non-employee parent is willing and able to serve. This should have been made a JCPS Policy when we brought this to the board’s attention in 2019 — on more than one occasion.
Frankly, learning about this shady maneuver reminded me of the time I was invited to the PTA election at Crum’s Lane Elementary by a Black mom who was trying to hold on to her President role. 15th District PTA minions took control of the election, which was held during the school day on the last day of the school year. Employees were encouraged to join and vote for their White coworker, providing her with an unfair advantage. I reported Redbook and other ethical violations to Dr. Pollio, and the election ended up being called off before it was finalized, but not before the Black mother had made plans to move her children to a different school. A subsequent election was held that fall, finishing the job.
Then there was the entire PTA hurt feelings debacle at Maupin that led to me being voted off the 15th District PTA Executive Board.
Another pattern I noticed on the Jacob ballot was the preferential placement of the teacher candidate for President by giving her top position on the ballot, similar to how they treated us when we ran from the floor.
So, we endorsed the Jacob Elementary parent volunteers, and we shared the link, encouraging people to vote and volunteer. We got some pushback but we explained our rationale and lots of people voiced their support and indicated they had voted for her. There was no deadline announced, and the voting period seemed to drag on. We wondered what was taking so long when two emails were sent out, one from 15th District PTA and one from the principal. They explained that the principal had jumped the gun and the election ballot she sent out was invalid. A new election would take place this Wednesday afternoon at 5:15 PM at Jacob Elementary. So all of our votes that were cast after we were assured we were following the approved process have been thrown out. Invalidated. This is so the district and state PTA leaders can swoop in and make sure they put administration’s preferred people in place, just like they did at Crums Lane. Will everyone who voted the first time even be notified they need to join and show up? Or just some of them? They have our email addresses. Below are the two emails.
“KY PTA has deemed the election of Jacob’s Elementary PTA invalid, as we cannot allow voting outside of a general meeting, and you must be a member to vote.”
To those who tried to join and vote according to the rules, we apologize that we must ask you to show up once again, this time, in person, on Tuesday, Oct. 24 at 5:30 PM at Jacob Elementary. The address is
3701 E Wheatmore Dr, Louisville, KY 40215. Their number is +1 502 485 8271.
To help Jacob Elementary PTA get off the ground, Dear JCPS is offering to reimburse the $5 membership dues for up to 20 people who join the Jacob Elementary PTA and show up to vote in the election. Of course, we make this offer because we don’t want $5 to interfere with someone’s ability to be engaged with their school. We hope you’ll vote for our endorsed candidates, but we mostly hope you’ll show up to volunteer and support the PTA for the remainder of the school year. For reimbursement, provide your CashApp or Venmo handle to the Dear JCPS Representative at the meeting.
Click here to join the Jacob PTA: