The Jefferson County Board of Education likely will wait until its May 29 meeting to make a decision on whether to challenge the state’s planned takeover of Jefferson County Public Schools.
While three board members have indicated to Insider that they plan to vote for a challenge, others have remained silent, or, like Board Chair Diane Porter, have remained neutral until the board reaches a decision.
Porter told Insider Thursday after a community forum at King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church that she expected the board to make a decision at its next regularly scheduled meeting, 7 p.m. May, 29, though she acknowledged the situation’s fluidity.
The board has until May 30 to determine whether to challenge Kentucky Interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis’ recommendation that the state should take over JCPS, strip the board of its powers, but leave in place Superintendent Marty Pollio. Lewis made the recommendation 14 months after a comprehensive management audit that found, among other problems, “a pattern of a significant lack of efficiency and effectiveness in the governance or administration of JCPS.”
In remarks at the church Thursday evening, both Porter and Pollio carefully avoided spelling out how they believe the board should react to Lewis’ recommendation.
Porter said the board was on a “legal journey” and that she was disinclined to jeopardize the process through any premature public statements.
She told Insider after the meeting that she expected the board to take action on May 29 — though the board could call for a special meeting before then. The board can challenge Lewis’ recommendation until May 30. A challenge would mean Lewis and the board would present their cases for and against a takeover before the Kentucky Board of Education, which would then issue a ruling.
Both Porter and Pollio on Thursday also emphasized cooperation between the superintendent and the board, and that the improvements the district has made in the last year have been a result of the superintendent and board working together as a team.
Pollio, who got a standing ovation from the roughly 100 attendees, said, “For some reason I seem to be getting a lot of the acclaim.”
But, he said, without the board members, teachers, teachers union and community “we would not have made the strides that we made.”
“We have done this as a team,” he said. “I have not done this myself.”
Pollio acknowledged that despite improvements, the district still has “a long way to go.”
And he warned that persistent disparities, including an academic achievement gap between white and nonwhite students, would not be eliminated quickly.
“This is not something that happens overnight,” he said.
Nonetheless, Pollio said, the district has acknowledged that problems exist, it has a created a plan to fix those problems, and it has begun to put that plan into action.
“We are a much better organization than we were 10 months ago,” he said.
And, he said, during his more than 20 years with JCPS, he has never felt the community as united about the district as today.
The superintendent also said that JCPS soon would unveil improvement initiatives including:
- A plan that will target reading, math and success skill that will transform learning for every student in the district.
- A way to identify struggling students as early as kindergarten to intervene sooner in their educational careers.
- Expanding such interventions to 5,000 kids, from 200 today.
- Facility upgrades, including the construction of new elementary schools in west Louisville.
“In five years,” Pollio said, “we can be and will be one of the best districts in this nation.”
The meeting at the church was hosted by the Rev. Charles Elliott and Bishop Dennis Lyons, of Gospel Missionary Church, who said they wanted to get school district leaders to talk to community members to help them understand the potential impact of a state takeover.