Tax Increase Campaign (2020)

During the Superintendent’s report at the Sept 29, 2020 JCPS Board of Education Meeting, Dr.. Pollio speaks about the importance of the tax increase on the November 3 ballot.

Listen to the entire Superintendent’s report to what else is promised as a result of the passage of the tax referendum. Then let us know if these things have happened in your school, especially if you’re in an AIS school. 

The night before, around 10 PM, I received a phone call from a former JCPS principal and a very influential community leader, both Black women, who called to find out more about our coalition’s demands and see if they could help get Dr. Pollio to budge. I’m not sure what prompted the call, exactly, but there were repeated references to the call we had with Dr. Pollio on the previous Wednesday where I took exception to Dr. Pollio trying to justify why he hadn’t met with groups like those represented by the coalition. I referenced her organization as not being “grassroots” in the way that our groups were grassroots. We are mostly locally grown, unpaid, leaders of organizations that are hands on in our schools, working with impacted parents and navigating the structurally racist system.

We reviewed the EARN the People’s Vote rubrics and what they meant, and we kept coming back to the budget and wanting more mental health counselors in our schools. The former principal, who had been a participant in our coalition calls and the development of these demands, suggested three counselors in each low performing school. 

Trying to find something tangible and actionable, the leader asked, “What can we go with?”

The retired principal summarized a list of things the community leader should take back to Dr. Pollio to acknowledge our coalition’s demands.

“Go with the three mental health counselors when we come back in schools. Go with restorative practices when we come back in school, because that eliminates major issues. And this is the big one… We need to see the planned facility supports for those schools.”

As a result of this phone call, Dr. Pollio quietly responds to the demands of our coalition in his Superintendent’s report, starting at the 2:42 mark of the above video:

“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.

He went on to say,

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.

You may notice the video starts with Dr. Pollio welcoming attorney Kevin Brown back from his stint at KDE. We’ll talk more about that at another time.

In response to the facilities commitment, he recaps the resolution that was passed at a previous board meeting summarizing the board’s commitment to how the funds will be allocated. Also, more to come on that.

While on the call, we talked about Breonna Taylor and the grand jury report, so it was also refreshing to hear him mention her in his report. She is a JCPS Graduate, after all.

“If he mentions those three things at the board meeting tonight” … “I think it’s a yes for everybody on this call.” “All [AIS schools] will receive three or more mental health therapists and counselors when we return to in-person, whether hybrid or full.” “We are increasing the number of Black administrators and making sure restorative practices are in all schools.”

In discussing teachers recruitment and retention, she said,

“We don’t challenge JCTA enough. Instead of telling us no, [Dr. Pollio] should say, ‘I would do it, except for the contract.'” That would tell us who we could go after in order to make progress in these areas.

We agreed. The former principal also replied, “There has been a mass exodus of [Black] administrators at the board.” “They never move up, and if they do move up, within six months they move out.”

Case in point, during the same Sept. 29 board meeting, Black female educator, Ashley Duncan, presented an update on the minority recruiting position she had recently been promoted to. Sadly, it was also noted that she has decided to leave JCPS during that presentation. Another high-profile Black female administrator who left recently is Felicia Cumings Smith. Read her resignation letter here. I have started a list of quality educators who have been pushed out, demoted or denied due process here.

She goes on to say, “If every school was required to not go over 65% poverty, our issues would be solved.” This is one of the items we would like to see in the Resolution to support Black Lives, which was the R in our E-A-R-N acronym.

In perusing the minutes of the Sept. 29 board meeting, I found the email I forwarded to the board for inclusion in the record. It demonstrates the back and forth we had with Dr. Pollio regarding whether or not a REAP had been done on the student assignment plan and recaps the EARN requests/demands.

Some of the earlier conversations regarding the resolution referenced above can be found here:

Resolution to Support the People’s Agenda

Here is a thread we created to document how our Stand with JCPS coalition was derailed.