It’s never too early to become an informed voter.
Insider Louisville asked this year’s Jefferson County Board of Education candidates questions via email to learn about their background and stances in a time of transition for the district.
Winning candidates’ terms end in 2022, positioning them to oversee the implementation of the district’s corrective action plan and another state audit in 2020.
Ten candidates are running across the four districts up for election this November. Incumbents Diane Porter and Linda Duncan are running unopposed in District 1 and District 5, respectively.
Districts 3 and 6 each have four candidates vying for open seats, guaranteeing two new faces on the board. Steph Horne and Lisa Willner, each district’s respective incumbent, are leaving the board.
Jefferson County residents can find out which school board district they live in on JCPS’s website.
Answers have been edited for length, clarity and style. The candidate’s reactions to the district’s recent agreement with the state can be found here.
Porter did not respond to repeated requests to submit answers.
Education: Eastern High School, bachelor’s degree from Transylvania University.
Family: Two kids, both in JCPS.
Education experience: I have worked in early childhood education for 10+ years.
Government or board experience: No.
Any endorsements? None
Job: Senior Director of Child Care at the Chestnut Street YMCA
Why are you running for school board? To advocate for children and families in our community. My father is a retired teacher who taught at Eastern and Ballard, and my mother is retired from multiple terms as the mayor of Lyndon. Education has always been important to me. I think that Stephanie Horne has done a great job representing our district, and when I found out she wasn’t running for re-election, I felt this was my opportunity to pursue using my skills to benefit our school system.
What are your top goals? Improve early childhood programming and kindergarten readiness in our community. I will also involve myself in diversity and inclusion initiatives with a lens on special needs and at-risk students.
What is your stance on charter schools? I am open to charter schools but want more information about how they work in other cities. I am familiar with the work of Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone and see the benefit of charter schools if they are done well.
What is your stance on the new union contract? I think it seems fair. I am pleased to see the incentives for teachers to work at Enhanced Support Schools. My hope is that it will help improve equity.
There have been complaints that JCPS is not moving fast enough to fix problems in the district. Do you agree with that idea? Yes, but that could be said of many organizations or businesses of this size.
Where do you want to see JCPS in 2022? I am hopeful that there would no longer be any oversight by the state because the school system led by Dr. (Marty) Pollio will have completed all necessary steps to rectify the challenges that led to it in the first place.
I would like to see Enhanced Support Schools thriving with highly qualified staff that are happy to go to work each day. I hope teachers will be satisfied with their contracts and pay scales. I want our school system to receive as much funding as possible and that schools are able to be renovated and improvements made.
What do you think is the best security method to protect students and schools? I think it makes sense to have added security in schools and for them to be employees of the school system. I believe the best method is to have a presence so that potential threats stay away. All kids deserve to feel safe at school, and the team would be easily available to intervene in any situation as needed.
Education: Waggener High School, bachelor’s degree from Carnegie-Mellon University, nearly completed an interdisciplinary master’s degree from the University of Louisville.
Family: Two children, one a duPont Manual High School senior at the Craft Academy and the other not in JCPS.
Education experience: As a result of not being able to find a school which could meet my son’s educational needs, I immersed myself in early childhood development and education in order to home educate him before high school.
I have significant experience in facilitation techniques, instructional design, Waldorf education and other pedagogies, including response to intervention techniques for reading and writing. I have been a guest instructor at UofL and have taught many teachers.
Government or board experience: I am entering my fifth year on the duPont Manual PTSA Board where I serve as advocacy co-chair and liaison for “gap” students. As a citizen, advocate and parent of a special-needs child, I am constantly engaging and negotiating with government agencies, seeking to balance individual needs with system capacity.
Any endorsements? None
Job: I consider myself to be a full-time “professional” volunteer as executive director of JackBeNimble, a nonprofit focused on re-imagining special education so that it works for all students, all educators, all family members and all community members.
Why are you running for school board? As the parent of a special needs student and a national advocate, I am dismayed that we are still fighting battles for inclusion, access and opportunity on behalf of too many marginalized and vulnerable students, including those with special needs.
The quality of students’ education and their future opportunities should not be a function of their family’s ability to advocate for them. We need a student-first agenda that marries authentic compassion with innovation.
What are your top goals? Improving and personalizing student outcomes for each and every student.
Ensuring that our educators have the resources, training and support needed to ignite and encourage each student to discover and create a future they are excited about.
Instilling 21st century best practices for managing money, people, facilities and resources into the system.
What is your stance on charter schools? We don’t have to wait to innovate. The newly created W.E.B. DuBois Academy demonstrates that significant opportunity for flexibility and innovation already exists. Current school definitions, creative options and community involvement can, to some degree, address the root causes of the unacceptable results for too many of our marginalized students.
I believe there is further work that can and should be done to clarify the role of charter schools before opening any new school type in Jefferson County.
What is your stance on the new union contract? We cannot put students first without ensuring that our educators have the tools and resources they need to serve our students. Teachers absolutely deserve and need to be treated as the professionals they are. The new contract is a step toward being able to attract, retain and deploy educators.
There have been complaints that JCPS is not moving fast enough to fix problems in the district. Do you agree with that idea? JCPS has responded swiftly to the initial audit concerns laid out by KDE last year. In selecting Dr. Pollio as superintendent, the JCPS board has chosen a strong and decisive leader with a bold vision who has already demonstrated his capacity to move a complex system forward.
I am deeply disappointed, however, that, so far, I have seen no specific plans to ensure that the children who have been directly impacted by mistakes of the past are now getting what they need. What is being done to compensate for their lost education?
Financial management of the district concerns me. Greater transparency is absolutely needed; all decisions must be grounded in the question of how they benefit or do not benefit students.
Finally, the new organizational design does not yet go far enough.
Where do you want to see JCPS in 2022? Being featured on 60 Minutes with the headline, “Nation’s First Ever 100K+ School District, JCPS, KY Achieves 100% Student Success as Measured by ALL Students Graduating with Plans for College or Career and NO Remedial Coursework Required After High School. The KY District is the First Ever to Personalize Every Student’s Education Plan, Engaging the Louisville Community in Making Sure EVERY Student Has a Dream and Is Well Equipped to Pursue Their Dream. JCPS is the Nation’s Most Aligned and Equitable Public School District, Celebrating Each Student as a Capable Individual. It has Revolutionized Education In the United States!”
What do you think is the best security method to protect students and schools? I do not believe there is a one-size-fits-all solution. Every student can benefit from proactively addressing how best to support their individual emotional, social learning and behavioral needs — all important ingredients for school security. If SROs are in schools, they absolutely must be in tune with the climate of that particular school, its unique student and educator population, and the community which surrounds it.
Education: DeSales High School, bachelor’s degree from the Catholic University of America, juris doctor from Vanderbilt University Law School.
Family: Two kids, both in JCPS.
Education experience: None
Government or board experience: Two terms on the Middletown Elementary School-Based Decision Making Council, former chairman of the Metropolitan Sewer District Board and helped implement many changes following an audit of the District by State Auditor Crit Luallen and former member of Citizens Commission on Police Accountability.
Any endorsements? Better Schools Kentucky, the Jefferson County Teachers Association’s PAC, former state auditor Adam Edelen, current board member Lisa Willner and former board member John Heyburn.
Why are you running for school board? Jacquelyn (Craig’s wife) and I have tremendous respect for the teachers, administrators and school employees who have already worked with our children. We are awed by the many challenges that we have witnessed firsthand that teachers face daily, and we are encouraged by the positive direction and results shown by our new superintendent.
Being a father is the greatest joy of my life. I believe strongly in public education and in an independently elected school board. My philosophy will be to listen to everyone who has the best interests of our children at heart. I will encourage transparency at the board and in JCPS’s administration, and I will seek community involvement at all levels. We must put politics aside so that we can live up to the awesome responsibility of preparing and educating our children.
What are your top goals? I want to make sure that every child in JCPS, no matter their race, ability or socio-economic background, has a similarly positive experience and receives a top-notch education. We can begin that process by first ensuring that our students’ teachers feel appreciated, empowered and fully supported.
What is your stance on charter schools? I opposed passage of the charter school bill and shared that view with my legislators. Now that the bill has passed, I am anxious to ensure funds that could be used to improve JCPS are not earmarked for any other purpose, including charter schools.
What is your stance on the new union contract? I believe the new contract is good for both sides. Both sides appear happy with it, and I’m happy that JCTA and the board are working together as collaborative partners.
I’m hopeful these changes will work and that priority schoolteachers feel supported and empowered to focus on the classroom.
There have been complaints that JCPS is not moving fast enough to fix problems in the district. Do you agree with that idea? After Dr. Pollio’s appointment and before the attempted state takeover, I believe the new administration started to show signs of improvement.
Where do you want to see JCPS in 2022? I want to change the tone of the conversation surrounding public education in Louisville. Given the size of its budget and the impact that it has on all young people’s lives, JCPS should be the crown jewel of all things Louisville Metro.
We must substantially close the gap between our highest and lowest performing schools at every level. I also hope that we will have an early childhood education program that is a national model.
What do you think is the best security method to protect students and schools? Our students, teachers and staff’s security is and will always be a constant concern. I strongly support moving school security in-house.
Data show that when a police officer is in the building, the frequency of student suspension, expulsion and arrest goes up, especially for students of color. By moving security in-house, we can respond to student discipline issues in a restorative and age-appropriate manner.
Education: East Paulding High School, bachelor’s degree from the University of Evansville.
Family: One kid, a JCPS student.
Education experience: None
Government or board experience: Kentucky Health Justice Network board member, former Louisville Youth Group and LGBTQ+ Community Coalition board member.
Any endorsements? None
Job: I am a social services worker. I specialize in working with youth who have been removed from their guardian’s home for an undetermined amount of time.
Why are you running for school board? I understand the value and necessity of having a diverse, inclusive, representative government body that values the voices and ideas of the parents and the youth of Jefferson County as well as the educators and staff that directly mold and influence the future of our community through our children.
What are your top goals? The most important goals as a school board elected official would be to maintain a connection with my district, listen to their opinions and their feedback, make sure every voice in my district feels heard and valued, uphold my commitment to the students and staff of Jefferson County Public Schools. I would also like to use my unique perspective to educate and impact discussions with our current board of education in hopes that we can work together to better impact positive outcomes for Jefferson County.
What is your stance on charter schools? I highly disagree with the implementation of charter schools here in Jefferson County. It would directly take public funds that are already scarce and funnel it to schools that benefit private entities and do not have to live up to the same state-regulated standards.
Instead of funneling money into schools that aren’t invested as a part of JCPS, we should look at ways to invest in schools that are the most at-risk. In District 3, half of our schools get free meals and the other half does not; half of our district has actively engaged teachers with longevity behind them, and the other does not. My goal is for JCPS to have equitable funding for diversity, engagement, experienced teachers/staff, mental health initiatives, community involvement and good overall scores. Investing public funds into private charter schools is not the way to do that.
What is your stance on the new union contract? I think that the contract was fair and allowed for our teachers and parents to feel safe going forward. I would be interested to see how the incentives address some of the concerns of diversity and mental health support in many of those priority schools.
There have been complaints that JCPS is not moving fast enough to fix problems in the district. Do you agree with that idea? It’s always quicker to build a brand-new house than to salvage one that’s been burned to the ground. Building a new house just requires money and material, but to salvage something, you have to dig through the rubble and find the bits and pieces that you can still use and still maintain the beautiful history behind those pieces while matching them with modern design.
Jefferson County School District is being salvaged and that takes time, but the beauty behind this salvage will be remarkable. It will be a community-driven, diverse, impactful, school system that others will model their systems after.
Where do you want to see JCPS in 2022? I hope that we are working to our best ability to continue to be the best school district in the state of Kentucky. I hope at this time we have made a name for ourselves, and other states model our ability to come back from an incredible hit.
I believe that we will be doing well to revamp our goals and raise our standards as a district, and we will be in a place to address some of the more intimate concerns of our district, such as vetting teachers of diversity and funding ready-to-work programs instead of college academia-geared programs, and integrating policies to make LGBTQ+ youth feel better protected in our school district.
What do you think is the best security method to protect students and schools? I do not believe that the current form of security in schools is the best, nor are they properly utilized. I believe the in-house team needs to be trained in safe crisis management techniques that we use in residential programs, that are restraints designed to protect a youth from hurting themselves or others.
They should be well-versed in trauma-informed care techniques and abilities to de-escalate youth from getting escalated. They should be trained in dealing with youth that have learning disabilities and physical disabilities.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in the University of Kentucky, master’s degree from UK, Rank I from the University of Louisville
Family: Two adult children, four grandchildren — all in JCPS.
Education experience: 21 years as a teacher, 10 as a high school assistant principal.
Government or board experience: JCPS board since 2006, Commissioner’s Local School Board Member Advisory Council, JCPS board policy committee chair, former Kentucky School Boards Association board member, former JCPS board vice chair, former State Curriculum Assessment and Accountability Council member
Any endorsements? None
Job: Retired teacher and school administrator, grandmother
Why are you running for school board? I decided to serve on the school board because I felt my 31 years of experience as a teacher, coach, sponsor of the Key Club, sponsor of the school newspaper and 10 years as a high school assistant principal grounded me in the realities of what our kids face each day in their quest for an education. I wanted to use that experience to help us make our school district the best it can be.
What are your top goals? Ensure the safety of students and staff in our buildings, on our grounds and on our buses; improve achievement and narrow the gaps among our diverse groups; enroll and serve as many kids as possible in our preschool programs; and promote the growth and importance of our Career Tech programs that will prepare our students to be productive, employable, caring citizens.
What is your stance on charter schools? I have never been a proponent of charter schools because they do not demonstrate consistently that they can do a better job of educating students than public schools. What they do demonstrate is that any school can have higher scores if it can select the students it wants to serve and exit those it doesn’t want or can’t afford to serve.
What is your stance on the new union contract? I wish we had more money to grant teachers. Their jobs are getting harder each year, with more of their money being deducted for retirement issues, less certainty about their pensions, more demands on their time and fewer parents each year willing or able to provide school supplies and basic needs for their kids.
Teachers serving high numbers of English language learners, high numbers of special needs kids and high numbers of kids living in poverty should be paid extra because of the challenge level of their work. Will extra pay attract teachers away from schools where they are doing well with students not as at-risk? Maybe, but few teachers work for the money.
I also like in this contract the provision for identifying teachers who may not be suited or well-prepared to work with high-needs populations and giving them a chance to teach somewhere else rather than declaring them bad teachers and dismissing them. Just because a teacher is not effective with one school population does not mean that teacher will not be effective with another.
There have been complaints that JCPS is not moving fast enough to fix problems in the district. Do you agree with that idea? We aren’t moving fast enough to fix problems? How can we really tell when every year we enroll more students who can’t speak English, more with untreated mental health issues, more traumatized by their home and neighborhood lives, more without homes and more without parents? If our students remained the same from one year to the next, maybe a steady rise in a school’s achievement score could be expected. I much prefer to judge the rise in each child’s score rather than the average scores of all students together.
Where do you want to see JCPS in 2022? I want to see us under a new version of the student assignment plan, with new schools having been built to better serve our downtown families and with measurable progress made in the areas of the corrective action plans: Improved services leading to much higher scores by our special needs students, more students being served effectively by our Early Childhood program led by certified teachers, accurate records tracking the coursework and certifications earned by our CTE students, and accurate records of less needed seclusions and restraints.
By 2022, I want to see higher achievement from our African-American students who have benefited from more deliberate efforts by the district to allow them to choose traditional and magnet schools, having ended our exclusionary practice of allowing schools to set selection and exit criteria. Without a lottery to allow all interested students equitable access to our magnet schools, we will continue to separate our kids by those having savvy parents who fill out applications and support their kids and those who don’t.
What do you think is the best security method to protect students and schools? Having our own police force is a necessity in today’s world. What I care most about is that we provide each school with a trained, armed officer who can stop a shooter. Maybe if a shooter realizes he is going to be met with equal force at school, he may not be so quick to plan an attack.
Having a trained officer in the building offers another adult for kids to consult and build a trusting relationship with. It is essential that police only be included when crimes occur, however.
Education: I went to Fern Creek High School and dropped out at the age of 15 to take care of my newborn sister. I went back to school a year later to finish my diploma at Jefferson County High School and ended up graduating six months ahead of my class in November 1999.
Family: Two kids, both in JCPS.
Education experience: University of Louisville’s Multicultural Academic Enrichment Program, developed a program to help Porter Scholars regain their scholarships after being placed on academic probation.
Government or board experience: New Leaders Council Kentucky board and founded Building Hope, a nonprofit that serves women who have been abused or widowed.
Any endorsements? State Representative Attica Scott
Why are you running for school board? I am running to ensure every student has access to the resources they need, to advocate for families on the fringes, to hold all stakeholders accountable and to affirm all students, especially those who live in the margin. As someone who is a product of JCPS and took both the traditional and alternative route, and is now a JCPS parent, I bring a different perspective, experience and voice to the table.
What are your top goals? My top goals will be to address the educational disparities among students of color — even in top performing schools — ensure that the recent Racial Equity Policy passed by the Board is put into practice rather than remains in theory, fairness for all students, restorative justice practices in schools, and adequate resources for teachers and students.
What is your stance on charter schools? It is unconscionable to discuss the idea of charter schools while our public schools remain underfunded and ill-equipped with the necessary resources to properly educate our students.
What is your stance on the new union contract? The reduction in class size and incentives for teachers in priority schools is a step in the right direction. I believe teachers deserve more than a 1 percent raise, but the fact that raise negotiations can take place again before 2023 is encouraging, and I hope JCTA takes advantage of that.
There have been complaints that JCPS is not moving fast enough to fix problems in the district. Do you agree with that idea? I understand the concern, and it is a valid one. However, JCPS is the largest district in the Commonwealth with new leadership and substantive change around larger issues takes time. Dr. Pollio appears to be working to make positive changes and address concerns.
Aghaaliandastjerdi did not respond to additional questions.
Education: Jefferson County High School, but attended duPont Manual High School for four years
Family: One kid currently in JCPS, others who have graduated from JCPS.
Education experience: None
Government or board experience: I served the Louisville Mayor’s Office on a pivotal 2012 violence prevention task-force and I serve the Commonwealth as Vice Chair of the Economic Opportunity Commission, appointed by the Governor. I am on a nonprofit board and have served several.
Any endorsements? None
Job: I’m an entrepreneur and founder of a charity, Complexion Community Development.
Why are you running for the school board? I want a leadership perspective that is loyal to parents and the community. This includes taxpayers and employers of our graduates. This is a missing link I want to offer Jefferson County.
What are your top goals? I want to empower Site Based Decision Making Councils in the county and empower PTAs. This is the fuel I want to use to drive our performance through the roof. Money is important but engagement is just as important to this goal.
What is your stance on charter schools? My desire is the our district and Metro Hall to convene the best new charters in the country and allow this innovative niche institutions to add not subtract from our schools.
What is your stance on the new union contract? Thank you to the union for joining the effort to empower stronger teacher in struggling schools. This approach tempered raises and shows that teachers are in the business of helping to improve education.
There have been complaints that JCPS is not moving fast enough to fix problems in the district. Do you agree with that idea? The district is moving expeditiously but the issues are deeply rooted.
Where do you want to see JCPS in 2022? I see a trajectory shift towards excellence and away from deficiency emphasis. This will require bipartisanship yet unseen.
What do you think is the best security method to protect students and schools? Community engagement must accompany and indeed lead the conversation. Armed staff will but make our education more safe but it assuredly will make them more oppressive environments to learn in or visit. The discussion at the Board about perception around this issue is true.
Education: bachelor’s degree from Fisk University, master’s degree from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, doctoral candidate at Colgate Rochester Divinity School
Family: Two kids, one in JCPS.
Education experience: Our church campus was the home to four summer camps for JCPS students. Yearly, our congregation underwrites a college tour to expose high school students to colleges around the nation. Additionally, I have taught at the undergraduate level at area colleges including Simmons College of Kentucky and Campbellsville University.
Government or board experience: Numerous boards, including JCPS facilities committee and the Behavior Support Alternative School Task Force.
Any endorsements? Current board members Lisa Willner and Chris Kolb, as well as Better School Kentucky.
Why are you running for school board? I want to ensure that the meaningful work that has been accomplished over the past several years, such as the creation of the Dubois School and the sculpting of the Racial Equity Policy, are supported and expanded. I hope to create healthy cooperation between educators, administrators and parents to ensure the successful outcomes for all of our students.
As the father of a 3-year-old, I would also like to be part of the creation of a robust pre-K program. JCPS is strong and creative enough to develop a first-class early childhood program and place it in a school in every neighborhood of Louisville.
What are your top goals? My top priorities would be crafting policies that guarantee the best education for students and to move JCPS toward being one of the best large school districts in the nation. I will be a strong and progressive voice for minority students facing historic and systemic challenges to success.
I plan to fight efforts which weaken JCPS’ independence, including any moves to privatize educational support staff, undermine the authority of the elected board or to privatize our public schools.
What is your stance on charter schools? I believe public dollars should be spent to strengthen schools across the district, enable innovation within classrooms and provide incentives to seasoned teachers serving High Priority Schools instead of gambling on charter schools.
What is your stance on the new union contract? The new union contract is definitely a step in the right direction! I am also excited to see measures to reduce class size and the earmarking of funds to support initiatives encouraging teachers with more seniority and expertise to consider High Priority Schools.
There have been complaints that JCPS is not moving fast enough to fix problems in the district. Do you agree with that idea? The problems that face JCPS are incredibly complex and are not within the domain of easy fixes. Therefore, patience must be exercised with intense focus and innovation. The amount and speed of work undertaken by Dr. Marty Pollio and his staff during his brief tenure are a sign of the sense of urgency to undertake long-needed changes.
Where do you want to see JCPS in 2022? I envision JCPS as having successfully implemented a more favorable, time sensitive student assignment plan and having expanded our Pre-K programs across the district. I imagine a more diverse set of special programs and schools where students can experience a wide range of deep and rich experiences with education.
It is my hope that by 2022, the advocates for the privatization of public education will clearly see the many benefits of keeping resources within JCPS and how a robust public school system undergirds a thriving, world-class city. The wonderful professionals who dedicate their lives to serving our students will again feel respected and have access to the resources that they need to make their classrooms come alive.
What do you think is the best security method to protect students and schools? School resource officers or the proposed district based security department are critical to providing a safe environment for all students, teachers, and support staff.
It is critical that whether JCPS continues to contract its security services through LMPD or creates its own in-house team that the personnel who provide security for our schools receive the necessary training to combat implicit bias, incorporate restorative justice practices and improve school culture.
Smith could not be reached for this survey.
This survey has been updated to include additonal information from Judith Bradley.