In its last meeting before students head back to school next Wednesday, the Jefferson County Board of Education finalized new contracts with the teachers union and for school resource officers Tuesday night.
But the board was quiet on any potential response to state Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis’ settlement offer. JCBE discussed the settlement offer, which would consist of “enhanced oversight” from the state, in two separate closed sessions — one before the regular meeting and one after. The board took no action in either session.
Multiple Jefferson County Public Schools stakeholders urged the board to reject a settlement with Lewis during the public comment section of the meeting. Many in the full crowd held small signs that said “no deal,” raising them as each anti-settlement speaker walked back to their seats.
Teachers, board approve union contract
After months of negotiations, JCBE and the Jefferson County Teachers Association reached a tentative agreement for a new five-year contract last Thursday. After 84 percent of union members voted for the contract Monday, JCBE formally approved it Tuesday with a unanimous vote.
Good until June 2023, the contract provides incentives and additional support for teachers in “enhanced support” schools — priority schools and those close to becoming priority schools.
Principals at “enhanced support” schools have more wiggle room in transfer and hiring practices in the new contract, giving them more opportunities to attract experienced teachers. The superintendent can also transfer teachers out of priority schools if they aren’t “successful,” an agreement summary said.
“We believe that, through the contract, we will be able to attract and retain teachers to the priority schools,” JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said Tuesday night.
JCTA President Brent McKim said the contract “makes our priority schools truly a priority” Tuesday night, adding that it is a victory for students and teachers.
Union critics frequently complained about past contracts’ lack of priority incentives and support, along with hiring procedures, saying it left students of color to deal with inexperienced teachers and high teacher turnover.
All teachers will see a 1 percent raise over the next two years. Additional raises can be negotiated midway through the contract, according to the agreement summary.
SROs approved, in-house security vote delayed
For what may be the last time, JCBE approved contracts with local law enforcement agencies for SROs.
Jefferson County Public Schools will pay around $769,965 for officers for 27 schools from Jeffersontown Police Department, Louisville Metro Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and St. Matthew’s Police Department for the 2018-19 school year.
Separately, the board pushed a vote on a proposal to create an in-house security team, which would replace SROs in the 2019-20 school year, to the next board meeting. Instead, JCBE heard the proposal as an information item.
Should the plan pass, school security would fall under a to-be-created Division of School Security beginning fall 2019.
Officers would report to a Chief of School Security instead of an outside agency, according to the proposal. Each middle and high school would have a designated school security officer, with each officer would also supporting a few elementary schools.
The plan is in the “initial stages,” Pollio said. He said officers in model districts have arrest powers and are armed, but he doesn’t know if JCPS will follow the same model.
Eight of JCPS’ 10 model school districts have similar in-house security teams that are fully under the control of the district, Pollio said, adding that JCPS has “fallen behind.”
The in-house option will cost JCPS a lot more, according to the current proposal. Current SRO, security and investigations expenses are around $3.5 million a year, the proposal said. The new plan would cost $8.8 million a year — an increase of around $5.3 million each year. JCPS expects to spend $2.4 million in one-time startup costs, as well.
Public comment changes pass
Two changes to the public comment section of board meetings passed unanimously.
As Insider reported before the changes’ first reading, speakers can no longer discuss personnel issues in front of the board, and the initial comment section is now limited to 45 minutes.
Speakers cannot specifically name JCPS employees in complaints or bring charges against them to the board, according to the new policy change. Prohibiting personnel discussion can help “ensure confidentiality and fairness,” the policy said.
The public comment section, which comes fairly early in JCBE meetings, is now limited to 45 minutes of comments before moving onto board business. Some meetings have had public comment sections lasting over an hour, delaying board business and stretching meetings to three or four hours.
Charter school policies get a first reading
JCPS continued to prepare for potential charter schools as the board received multiple policies for a first reading Tuesday night.
Since charter schools became legal in Kentucky, districts have been tasked with preparing policies to contract with and evaluate them. However, the Kentucky General Assembly hasn’t passed a long-term funding mechanism for the schools, so drafting the policies is procedural at this point.
Tuesday’s policies focused on nearly every stage of charters, including contracting, evaluation, finances, transparency, renewal and closure, according to the meeting agenda.
No charter schools applied to work in JCPS this spring, most likely due to the lack of state funding.