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On the KDE-JCPS district turnaround agreement

Today I was pleased to join other members of the Kentucky Board of Education in unanimously dismissing the scheduled appeals hearing requested by the Jefferson County Public Schools to contest the recommendation of state management by Interim Commissioner Wayne Lewis. Dr. Lewis, Superintendent Marty Pollio, and JCPS Chair Diane Porter requested the dismissal because they have reached an agreement for a collaboration between the district and the Kentucky Department of Education setting JCPS on an improvement path that preserves local governance but gives KDE heightened oversight and authority over the district's progress. 

Dr. Lewis and Dr. Pollio will now collaborate on a district corrective action plan that is expected to incorporate several improvement strategies already underway. The JCPS board will retain its authority, but Commissioner Lewis will have the right to provide comment and feedback on any board actions involving early child education, special education seclusion and restraint, career and technical education, and facilities, areas identified as serious district deficiencies in a recent management audit. Meanwhile, the Commissioner will also have the right to approve or disapprove of any changes in board policy regarding special education, seclusion and restraint, and early child education.

The agreement establishes that a follow up management audit will be conducted in 2020, and based on those results, the Commissioner may then release the district from its corrective action plan, or recommend state assistance or state management of the district as provided under Kentucky law (which the district may appeal). Of great significance, the JCPS board will not be able to dismiss Superintendent Pollio without the Commissioner's approval until after the 2020 audit, ensuring that his leadership may continue secure and uninterrupted during this turnaround process. It appears that the district is, in fact, making serious progress to address its growth areas under Dr. Pollio's leadership, and I am pleased to see him empowered to continue that work.

I am tremendously proud of Dr. Lewis, Dr. Pollio, and the JCPS board members who rose above the sensationalized rhetoric surrounding this process and made a bold, collaborative decision on behalf of the district's students. I hope this agreement will finally bring a stop to the barrage of misinformation that has been spread by those who sought to politicize this effort to correct the many problems the district has struggled to fix. The agreement recognizes that important local efforts are underway and that local actors are ultimately in the best place to articulate a path forward. But given the serious, longstanding, and still unresolved issues around student safety and achievement, it also makes sense to create a structure of monitoring and accountability to ensure there is effective follow through on these efforts.

If this works - and I have every reason to believe it will under this current combination of leaders - a new national model for state-district turnaround collaboration may have emerged. I'm so pleased for Kentucky and for the students of JCPS.

Usual disclaimer: All opinions expressed on this website are mine alone and do not reflect the views of anyone else affiliated with Western Kentucky University (where I am professor of educational administration, leadership, and research) or the Kentucky Board of Education.

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Richard G. Innes

This is an encouraging outcome that will save a huge amount of time and legal expenses for both parties. Now, let's hope people bury their swords and get to work to make things much better for the students in JCPS.

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