This story has been updated.
Interim Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis offered JCPS a deal to decide the district’s fate without a 12-day hearing, the Kentucky Department of Education said.
Neither party released details regarding the potential deal, but the Courier Journal reported Monday night that JCPS would fall under enhanced state assistance — not state management. Lewis gave JCPS until Wednesday to decide to accept the deal or not, the CJ reported.
“We feel it is in the best interest of the district’s students for the Department of Education to try to work with JCPS before a long legal battle ensues,” Lewis said in a statement posted online. “We need to get to work immediately — together and before the school year begins — to address the deficiencies of the audit and begin district improvement efforts. If an agreement is reached, we will immediately begin to work together to build a district that is committed to meeting the needs of all learners in a safe environment.”
JCPS spokeswoman Allison Martin said the district’s legal counsel is reviewing the settlement and will respond to KDE.
JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio did not share any new details regarding the plan at a prescheduled media briefing Tuesday morning. The local school board will decide whether to pursue the deal or move forward with the hearing, Pollio said.
“I think everyone is really interested in how we can move forward,” Pollio said. “I don’t think anyone is interested in a long, protracted argument.”
If a deal is agreed to, JCPS and KDE would begin implementing changes this fall, KDE spokeswoman Jessica Fletcher told Insider.
Lewis initially recommended the district fall under state management, but said he would leave Pollio in charge instead of using a state-appointed manager. The local school board would be reduced to an advisory capacity under the initial recommendation.
Under the proposed deal, the local board would retain some power, Lewis told the CJ. The state would still have veto power over some key areas, he said.
A seemingly unprecedented move, KDE’s interim general counsel Todd Allen said the Jefferson County Board of Education is legally allowed to enter into settlement agreements to avoid litigation.
“Parties frequently exercise their contractual rights to craft outcomes to which they are agreeable in order to avoid the time and expense of further litigation, as well as a potential adverse outcome,” Allen said in an email.
Lewis and Kentucky Board of Education members haven’t discussed the deal before July 5, according to an Insider analysis of their emails obtained via open records requests. However, the deal could be considered preliminary, and therefore emails about it would be withheld from records requests.
The KBE meets Thursday for a regular meeting, and its agenda does not specifically include an update on JCPS or the hearing outside of a report from the hearing officer. Any settlement would have to be approved by the KBE.