Local school board candidates are split over the current board’s decision to settle with the state, with some saying they’re “frustrated” with the decision and the process that led to it. Others say they’re “relieved” and would have voted for it.
In a 4-3 vote Monday, the board voted to accept an agreement with the state in lieu of a lengthy administrative hearing. Instead of the recommended takeover, the local board will retain most of its power in areas that interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis does not have final veto power over — early childhood education, special education and restraint and seclusion of students.
Of the four districts up for election this November, three voted in favor of the settlement — Diane Porter, Steph Horne and Linda Duncan. The fourth, Lisa Willner, voted against the agreement.
Horne and Willner are not running for re-election, leaving two open seats with four candidates vying for each. Porter and Duncan are running unopposed.
With four-year terms lasting until 2022, winning candidates will join the board at a crucial time, as JCPS will be under enhanced state oversight until a new audit takes place in 2020. Following are the first-person reactions from the contenders:
District 3 — Horne’s seat
Candidates: James Craig, Judith Bradley, Derek Guy, Jenny Benner
I continue to have complete confidence in Dr. (Marty) Pollio and his ability to move JCPS forward. JCPS and the Kentucky Department of Education need to be strong partners if we are going to overcome the district’s past challenges and grow our schools into what our students deserve.
Perhaps with last night’s agreement, we have temporarily removed political maneuvering from public education and are truly working together. I hope that is the case.
But I remain concerned and frustrated by the way this process began. I have spent two weeks knocking on doors in District 3 during this campaign. Voters in this district are overwhelmingly against a state takeover, and they are angry about the way this process was orchestrated.
I will be closely watching for news about the upcoming corrective action plan, including news about the plan’s content and about whether it is being negotiated by both sides in good faith. —James Craig
* * *
I am pleased that the agreement concurrently preserves, as it must, the autonomy of a democratically elected school board and avoids a protracted legal battle. I look forward to specific plans to address how students whose futures have been impacted by mistakes of the past will get what they need.
The district and state have a continuing obligation to work together to ensure that our students reach and surpass benchmarks for success after high school. Both the JCPS board and the KDE need to take a hard look at policies and practices that create roadblocks to student and educator success.
It is time to work together, despite our differences, for the common good of young people who deserve to be involved in the process of identifying solutions to the complex issues which impact their lives. I appreciate the hard work of all parties that has gone into this agreement. I support the board’s decision. —Judith Bradley
* * *
After reading through the final agreement, I am concerned by several components in this particular agreement in which the Kentucky Department of Education has more control or insight than ever before.
I do not think there was enough transparency in the final agreement before the board voted on it, therefore parents, teachers and staff were not permitted to voice their concerns and their feedback.
When there is a rush to come to a resolution, officials can forget that they are making decision that will impact thousands of students, staff and teachers, and those individuals should have enough time to acknowledge the new settlement and voice their opinions.
As a parent, I have great concern on issues that cause a split vote, such as last night. As a candidate, I have concerns for the pressure this decision puts on the new incoming board members. I truly hope this agreement does not end up being something that negatively affects our children, teachers or staff in the long run, and that we are able to move forward and work cooperatively with the commissioner and his employees. —Derek Guy
* * *
I am glad to hear that an agreement has been reached. I feel it is fair but understand why there was some opposition to it. I support the decision and would have voted in favor of it.
To me, the most important thing is that the board still has power and not just an advisory role. —Jenny Benner
District 6 — Willner’s seat
Candidates: Waymen Eddings, Corrie Shull, Nicole Aghaaliandastjerdi, Angela Smith*
I am relieved that Dr. Lewis and Dr. Pollio have found a pathway forward to fix the district’s deficits. It seemed the politics and public sentiment were headed down a dark and divisive road. Now the real work begins.
Finally, adults have found a truce, and now we can focus on what is best for the kids, our future. I hope to be a partner as a board member to make this agreement work and make the 2020 audit a positive milestone instead of a revisit to old issues.
I have kinship with both sides and see a future where there is only one side, all pushing toward a better Jefferson County Public Schools. —Waymen Eddings
* * *
It is difficult to comment without knowing the specifics of the agreement or the changes that would be required to appease the Kentucky Department of Education.
However, the fact that the vote was so split raises numerous questions and concerns for me.
My hope is that KDE will demonstrate the same commitment to sensible collaboration with JCPS that Dr. Pollio and the board have displayed toward KDE. —Corrie Shull
* * *
When parties reach an agreement, it is generally a good thing for everyone, even though compromises have been made on both sides.
In this instance, however, I am concerned that the board, which is comprised of members who have been elected to represent the needs and interests of the people they serve, did not engage the community and give them an opportunity to digest the details of the settlement and provide feedback, as this decision will ultimately affect every student, parent, teacher and faculty in JCPS. —Nicole Aghaaliandastjerdi