JCPS leadership has asked Interim Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis for more time to consider a deal that could avoid a potentially contentious hearing regarding a state takeover of the school district.
“The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) has expressed an interest in settling this case,” a JCPS spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “District leadership spoke with KDE and Interim Commissioner Lewis, and Dr. Lewis asked that we have a response to them by next week.”
Lewis said he had a “good” conversation with JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio Wednesday morning, adding he is “hopeful” after the discussion. The Jefferson County Board of Education is expected to meet next week to discuss and respond to the proposal, Lewis said Wednesday afternoon.
“We expect to have ongoing conversations with KDE about moving forward with the best plan for educating our students,” JCBE chairwoman Diane Porter said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
Wednesday morning prior to JCPS commenting on the proposal, Lewis said he was “disappointed” in a lack of engagement from JCPS leaders regarding his proposed settlement, adding that the state would continue to prepare for a state hearing over the takeover recommendation, slated to begin in September.
Lewis said he is willing to work with the district and consider “anything” they send him. He declined to say if there are parts of the proposal he considers nonnegotiable items.
Lewis originally set a deadline of Aug. 1 for JCBE to accept his proposal or decline and move forward with a 12-day hearing. JCBE would have had to call a public meeting to vote on the proposal, an action that requires a 24-hour notice, but no meeting was scheduled.
Lewis said he had hoped to present a proposal to the state board of education for approval during their Thursday meeting. However, that won’t happen.
If a deal is struck next week, a special meeting of the state board of education would need to be called. The state board’s next scheduled meeting is in October.
The settlement proposed by Lewis would put the district under “enhanced oversight,” giving the school board more influence but Lewis would still have final say over key areas. Sources familiar with the document, who asked to remain anonymous, said those key areas include student assignment, early childhood education, busing and facility decisions.
Additionally, JCPS’s status would be re-evaluated in late 2019 before a new governor took office, according to sources familiar with the document. JCPS would waive its appeal rights to the education commissioner’s 2019 recommendations, which some consider a way to simply delay a takeover.
However, Lewis disagreed with those readings of the document Wednesday afternoon. Lewis said the proposal would allow the district to appeal the decision, but JCPS would not be allowed to ask for a stay to prevent the state from beginning work should state management be recommended.
A Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman declined to release a full copy of the deal Wednesday.
The Courier Journal reported that, in addition to enhanced oversight, the deal would create an investigative office within JCPS to handle complaints, place a state official within JCPS to monitor what is happening at the central office and in schools, and create a new cabinet-level position within the district to oversee special education.