JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio talks after the state board of education approved a deal to avoid a takeover of the district. | Photo by Olivia Krauth

This story has been updated with comment from JCPS. 

A contract approval limit has been added back to a bill giving the Jefferson County superintendent more executive authority after a bill substitute removed the limit entirely.

Senate Bill 250 initially called for giving Marty Pollio and his successors power to approve purchases under $50,000 — a hike from the current $5,000 figure.

A substitute passed by the Senate education committee last week quietly removed the approval limit, and asked the school board to empower the superintendent “carry out the district’s day-to-day operations.” Some school board members called the language vague and a red flag.

A new floor amendment, filed Monday, axed the entire section criticized by school board members and re-added the contract approval limit. If passed, Pollio would be able to approve any purchases and contracts under $20,000 without school board authorization.

The JCPS superintendent would update the board on purchases made under this clause each quarter, the amendment reads.

School board member James Craig, who called the substitute “hugely problematic,” said he is “grateful” for bill sponsor Sen. Julie Raque Adams (R-Louisville) for filing the amendment.

“Empowering the superintendent to enter contracts up to $20,000 without board authority makes sense in a district our size,” Craig said in an email Tuesday.

Last week, two school board members said that no one on the board had been asked for their opinion on the contract limit. In the future, Craig hopes they’ll be included in discussions.

“Attempting to bypass board members who were democratically elected by Jefferson County voters and their superintendent to impose new operating models is not the way to run a school district,” Craig said.

Bill supporters, including Greater Louisville Inc., argue the limit needs to be adjusted to reduce red tape and increase efficiency in Kentucky’s largest district. Many of the contracts that come to the board fall under into the consent agenda, meaning they’re quickly approved en masse with minimal discussion.

Outside of contracts, SB 250 would move final principal selection power away from school-based councils to the superintendent and remove tenure for central administrators. Both are thought to give more flexibility in hiring to the district leader, similar to a business executive.

In a radio interview Sunday, Pollio said that he supported having principal selection power and more flexibility over central office staffing. He did not mention the contract approval aspect.

A state statute requiring tenure for administrators after three years, he said, can make it “very difficult” to move people around and free up funds that can then be redirected to schools.

“I’m not sure what the bill will end up being, though,” he added.

A JCPS spokeswoman echoed Pollio in a statement Tuesday, but did not comment on the contract approval limit.

“We look forward to collaborating with school-based decision-making councils, and Dr. Pollio supports the concepts around principal hiring and administrative tenure. Dr. Pollio wants to see success at every school that will lead to success across the district,” JCPS spokeswoman Renee Murphy said.

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Olivia Krauth
Krauth reports on education in Louisville, including JCPS, the University of Louisville and state policy.Before joining Insider Louisville, she covered technology and business as a reporter at TechRepublic. She also spent time on the data team at the Austin American-Statesman in Texas as a Dow Jones intern.Krauth graduated from UofL, where she was an award-winning editor of The Louisville Cardinal and obtained a degree in investigative journalism with a minor in Russian studies.Email Olivia at [email protected]