The vice chair of the Kentucky Board of Education expects JCPS to challenge the state takeover and to “present a strong case” for keeping its independence.

Rich Gimmel

“I can’t say whether state management of the district is the right solution,” said Rich Gimmel. “I’m keeping an open mind on this until I hear all the facts from both sides.”

Gimmel is one of the 11 members of the KBE, which will determine whether to accept the state takeover recommendation issued by Wayne Lewis, interim commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education.

Following a 14-month audit of the Jefferson County Public Schools, Lewis on April 30 had recommended that the state take over the school district’s management because of “a pattern of significant lack of efficiency and effectiveness.”

Lewis said he would keep in place JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio, but strip the elected local of its powers.

The Jefferson County Board of Education has until May 30 to decide whether to challenge the recommendation. At least three of the board’s seven members have told Insider that they planned to or were leaning toward a challenge. The board will have its next regular meeting May 29.

Gimmel, who is chairman of Louisville-based Atlas Machine & Supply, said that despite years of poor test results and criticisms from state officials, the district and the city’s civic leadership had failed to respond — until the state initiated its management audit.

And while Gimmel said he was “encouraged that we’re seeing the beginning of transformational change” at JCPS, change would not happen over night, and it remains to be seen whether new policies would result in improved results — not just “good feelings.”

The KBE vice chair also said if the local board decides to challenge the state takeover, he would await the presentations from Lewis and the district before he can come to a decision.

“One thing is clear,” he said. “The status quo of the last several years is indefensible.”

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Boris Ladwig
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.