JCPS superintendent Marty Pollio | Screen shot WLKY

Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio has turned down an invitation to join the Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Agenda (SCALA), stating that he “cannot join a group that is actively advocating for state takeover of our district and removal of our board.”

Pollio was originally not invited to the group of 69 leaders of businesses, nonprofits and religious groups — first revealed to the public by an Insider Louisville report in January — with SCALA founder David Jones Sr. reasoning that he was not eligible to join due to only being the acting superintendent. Shortly after he was appointed to the permanent role by the school board last month — though he technically remains acting superintendent until his contract is signed — Jones Sr. invited him to join SCALA in a Feb. 12 email.

Pollio’s statement rejecting on the SCALA invitation was released by JCPS on Monday, just a day before the group holds its next meeting on the campus of Bellarmine University, which may be open to the media for the first time. In the statement, Pollio repeated the assertions of SCALA critics who claim it is pushing for the state to take over the functions of the democratically elected school board, which may be one of the potential recommendations of a state audit of the district that is expected to be released soon.

“With the result of our audit still uncertain, I do not think it’s an appropriate time to consider the invitation,” stated Pollio, who added that he may reconsider when the audit is complete or “if the group considers stepping away from” its position advocating a state takeover.”

“We are poised to do great things in JCPS and need all voices at the table working together to support students,” concluded Pollio.

While some members of SCALA have stated that they will wait for the results of the state audit to be released before announcing what reforms should be enacted, Jones Sr. directly advocated for a state takeover of JCPS in a March 1 address to the Louisville Rotary Club.

Asked about Pollio’s decision, SCALA co-founder Sandra Frazier said in a statement to Insider that “as superintendent of JCPS, Dr. Pollio would have added valuable insight and perspective to the group.”

In his email inviting Pollio to SCALA last month, Jones Sr. wrote that “you have earned the CEO job at a truly major enterprise! Your interaction with many local peers, whose only purpose in this group is to make our city a better place, will be helpful and productive! Our next meeting will be in a few weeks. Please attend, and if you feel it’s a good fit, join us. Sincere thanks for working to help all our kids receive a good education, and for considering joining us!”

Tuesday’s SCALA meeting is expected to address public safety, which is one of the three policy priorities of the group along with public education and infrastructure. While a spokesman for SCALA said in February that the media would be welcome to observe the group’s next meeting, Jones Sr. suggested after his speech to the Rotary that the meeting may remain private, noting that he is not invited to the meetings of media publications.

This story has been updated.

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]