A proposed deal offered to JCPS doesn’t fully avoid the potential of a takeover but simply postpones the option, a source with knowledge of the deal told Insider.
A source, who asked to remain anonymous since the deal isn’t finalized, said the current proposal presented by Interim Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis would allow the commissioner to reevaluate the district’s standing in 2019. The proposal also requires JCPS to waive any appeal options, meaning the commissioner could then decide to take over the district without legal pushback.
The commissioner would also have full control and veto authority over student assignment, the source said. The veto power extends to other key areas of JCPS, including early childhood education.
The proposal differs slightly from Lewis’ initial recommendation for state management.
In April, Lewis said he would leave JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio in charge of day-to-day activity in the district instead of appointing a state manager. Pollio would report weekly to Lewis and associate commissioner Kelly Foster. The local school board, however, would be reduced to an advisory role.
Under the new proposal, Pollio would still be in charge, and the school board would have limited power. However, the state would still be able to veto some policies or decisions.
A full version of the plan has not been publicly released by JCPS or the Kentucky Department of Education.
The district’s legal counsel and the school board are examining the proposal, with the final decision resting with the board, JCPS officials said.
The district has until Wednesday to decide whether to accept or decline the proposed deal. A KDE spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment asking if JCPS would be able to negotiate a new deal past the deadline.
After Lewis recommended a state takeover, the JCPS board unanimously voted in May to challenge the decision in a hearing. Accepting the settlement would avoid that potentially contentious hearing, which is set to take 12 days from September to November.
The district has to vote on the plan in a public meeting before deciding anything with KDE. As of Tuesday night, a meeting had not been called. A meeting can only be called by either Chairwoman Diane Porter or a group of at least three board members.
If the JCPS board accepted the deal, it would move to the Kentucky Board of Education for a final vote. The KBE’s next regular meeting is Thursday, which Lewis said was the reason behind the quick deadline for JCPS.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the JCPS deal was not mentioned on the KBE meeting agenda.
On social media, JCPS stakeholders appear to be mostly against the deal, questioning its legality and demanding the proposal be made public.
KDE’s interim general counsel Todd Allen told Insider Tuesday afternoon that 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.