Jefferson County Teachers Association President Brent McKim criticized the recommendation for a state takeover of JCPS Monday evening at the district’s VanHoose Education Center, as teachers and other stakeholders look on. | Photo by Boris Ladwig

Reactions to the state education commissioner’s recommendation that JCPS be placed under state management:

Mary Gwen Wheeler

Mary Gwen Wheeler, executive director of 55,000 Degrees and immediate past chair of the Kentucky Board of Education:

“For the sake of our children, the state’s intervention plan cannot be used as a punitive, blunt instrument. The plan must have a thoughtful vision, a clear and collaborative entry and exit strategy, and an honest willingness to partner with local individuals, organizations, and institutions already working on behalf of our students.”

David Tachau, Louisville lawyer and former Kentucky Board of Education member:

David Tachau

“I have not had an opportunity to review the attachments to the Commissioner’s letter, only the letter itself, and I don’t know if the findings and conclusions are fully justified. And we don’t know what will happen in the future and there is room for considerable skepticism given how Commissioner Pruitt was treated. But with those qualifications, this seems on its face to be a thoughtful and sensible way to proceed. On one hand, the Department itself simply doesn’t have the capacity to manage the District. On the other hand, the Commissioner’s recommended decision to continue to rely on Superintendent Pollio’s leadership, with the guidance and decision-making of the Jefferson County School Board, gives our community a chance to fix our issues. I support letting us fix our problems, and I am glad we are all taking the responsibilities of public education so seriously.”

Kentucky Democratic Party:

“Gov. Bevin’s stacked board of education has usurped elected officials and local control for Jefferson County schools, but more importantly they have circumvented democracy for us all. The Republican majority’s agenda to starve public education and drive down wages for working-class Kentuckians is more apparent now than ever. They continue to put private industry’s interests over the people of this state.”

Congressman John Yarmuth

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-KY:

“Governor Bevin’s announced takeover of the largest public school district in the Commonwealth is the latest and most disconcerting assault in his ongoing war on public education. Rather than working with Dr. Pollio and experienced educators on the progress being made and providing the resources necessary to improve our schools, Bevin has instead decided to pursue a personal agenda that demands our schools do more with less.”

Diane Porter

Diane Porter, Jefferson County Board of Education chair:

“I cannot comment specifically about the report because I have only seen the cover page at this time.

“We support Dr. Pollio. Dr. Pollio supports this board of education. Working together we have made progress.”

Lisa Willner, JCBE vice president:

Dr. Lisa Willner

“In some ways it’s shocking and in other ways entirely predictable. I think the speed at which this has happened, it’s shocking because it’s happening at a time when … we’re making more, faster, better progress than any time I can remember in the district’s history.”

Chris Brady, JCBE member:

Chris Brady

“This is exactly what I thought it was going to be. This is politics. This is … not what the original recommendation was. … Considering the speed at which … the newly constituted board of education met and … pushed out … Dr. Pruitt I think was done specifically with the intent of altering the report that he was going to deliver.”

Brent McKim; Jefferson County Teachers Association president:

Brent Mckim

“I think it’s just window-dressing on a state takeover. They’re going to require the superintendent to report every week to the department so it’s going to be driven from Frankfort. It’s not going to be local control. And they’ve taken away all the voice of local stakeholders by taking away their elected school board that represents them.”

Ruth Fister, retired 40-year educator, was with JCPS 27 years:

“I just can’t believe this. … It’s an attack on democracy. … Where is the outrage that we vote for school board members and we’re not being represented now? We can just have everybody’s power just usurped and replaced by appointees of Bevin.

Rob Mattheu

Rob Matheu, JCPS parent:

“I am appalled but not surprised. I think Gov. Bevin and Hal Heiner and Wayne Lewis have been all been tied at the hip for at least eight years now. And this is the outcome they wanted. They want to take over JCPS. They want to take away our choices, ironically, to provide a charter school choice to people.

Mike O’Connell, Jefferson County attorney:

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell

“County Attorneys are known as the lawyer for the people. As a Constitutional public officer, I will explore every legal option available to oppose the Bevin Administration’s overreach and attempted takeover of Jefferson County Public Schools.  I will work to protect the interests of Jefferson County citizens, to the extent that I am able to participate, in what, undoubtedly, will be future court proceedings.”

Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions:

“JCPS has been mismanaged for decades and the achievement gap continues to widen. Since the inception of national tests in 2009, low-income and minority students have been falling further and further behind. Jefferson County has 17 of Kentucky’s 25 priority schools, but as the audit points out, the district has no structure to provide needed support to these schools. … it’s more than time for big changes.”

This post has been updated.

Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.


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