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JCPS Votes To Settle With Kentucky Department Of Education To Avoid Takeover

J. Tyler Franklin

The Jefferson County Board of Education has voted 4-3 in favor of an agreement with the Kentucky Department of Education. The settlement agreement avoids JCPS and the state facing off at a hearing regarding a potential state takeover.

The terms of the agreement include:

  • the Kentucky Department of Education will complete another management audit of JCPS by September 15, 2020;
  • until that audit is completed, JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio will provide monthly status reports to the state;
  • Pollio will remain superintendent at least through the 2020 audit unless the state approves the grounds for his removal;
  • the Kentucky Department of Education will be able to place one or more employees within JCPS to observe the inner workings of the central office or individual schools;
  • the district will give the state any copy of policy changes proposed “within the areas of special education, physical restraint or seclusion of students, early childhood education, career and technical education, and facility maintenance and replacement.” The state will provide comments on the policy change, and will have final right of approval over any changes that affect JCPS’ corrective action plan;
  • the Jefferson County Board of Education agrees to create by January 1 an internal auditor’s office to investigate all JCPS complaints;
  • JCPS agrees any changes to the student assignment plan will be in place by the 2020-2021 school year.

Interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis recommended Kentucky’s largest school district be taken over by the state in late April after an audit. The district appealed the recommendation in May. This summer, Lewis offered the district a settlement in lieu of recommended state management.
The deal will become final when the Kentucky Department of Education votes to dismiss the case. Lewis says he will make the recommendation to do so this week.

In a statement, Lewis praised the vote:

“Four members of the Jefferson County Board of Education took a courageous step this evening, making a decision that puts the children and families of Jefferson County first. We are working to convene a special meeting of the Kentucky Board of Education this week, where I will make a recommendation to the board to issue a final order dismissing the case.

“Dr. Pollio and I talked this evening and our teams will begin working out the details of corrective action plans beginning tomorrow. I am excited about our partnership. I look forward to working with him and his board to make JCPS one of the best urban public school districts in the nation.”

But the three JCPS board members who voted against the settlement say the deal wasn’t in the best interest of the district.

Board member Chris Brady wanted the corrective action plan clearly defined before deciding to settle with the state.

“What we’ve done tonight has left a huge opening that can be exploited by the Interim Commissioner and is not good for the long-term health and students, two of which who are my sons, for this community,” said Brady.

Brady also took issue with a typo in the settlement. He was also the lone vote opposed to adjourning the meeting.

Chris Kolb, who also voted against the settlement, says he was disappointed and called the decision one of the “most consequential” the board has made in many years.

“We have jobs and kids and things like that. And all of us are tired,” Kolb said. “I think a few of us wore down, frankly and wanted it to be over with.”

Lisa Willner was also opposed to the settlement deal.

JCPS board members Stephanie Horne, Benjamin Gies, Linda Duncan and Diane Porter voted in favor of accepting the settlement.

Lewis has been interim education commissioner following the ouster of former commissioner Stephen Pruitt in April.

In his previous role, Pruitt called for a review of JCPS’ management. A preliminary review found a lack of support for struggling schools, under-reporting of student seclusion and restraint, and that black students lagged behind other students academically and got suspended more.

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