The Jefferson County Board of Education has approved changes to the district's student assignment plan that will reduce school options but give many students shorter bus rides.
After lengthy discussion Monday night, the board ultimately approved revisions to the elementary school plan that create 13 clusters in which parents can choose schools for their children. The board retained the current six cluster system for middle and high schools, but approved new diversity criteria for all schools.
The board heard opposition to the elementary plan changes from several members of the public and State Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville. Some cited concerns with segregation and the pending lawsuit before the State Supreme Court that could force JCPS to change its student assignment again to allow students to attend their neighborhood school.
The new diversity guidelines continue using race, income and education as determining factors for diversity in schools, but now consider English as a Second Language (ESL) students and kindergartners in the diversity count.
The new 13 cluster plan for elementary schools will be implemented in the 2013-2014 school year. It will cut, on average, the number of schools available to parents from 14 to 6, but it should require shorter bus rides for some JCPS students.
According to JCPS officials, all schools will fall within the necessary diversity range.
JCPS staff said that 25 buses will eventually be eliminated and there will be 25 to 45 fewer elementary school bus routes. It’s also expected that JCPS will eliminate all nine elementary school bus depots.
Approximately 375 students travel the maximum distance under the current plan and 507 students are home after 5 pm, according to JCPS data. JCPS staff reports very few complaints.
The board also unanimously agreed Superintendent Donna Hargens’s first year on the job has been a success, approving her first evaluation since she joined the district last year.
Hargens replaced former Superintendent Sheldon Berman during changing state assessments and updates to the district’s student assignment plan.
“You’ve taken on some pretty tough tasks, but I think things are calming down a bit,” said board member Carol Haddad.
During Monday’s board meeting JCPS officials publicly released Hargens’s evaluation, which showed she has met all three performance goals approved by the board:
- Improve student achievement
- Develop a sound organizational management plan
- Manage the student assignment plan.
Board members praised Hargens’s accessibility and ability to reach out to the community. Other commendations include her ability to assess data, strong management skills, and listening skills.
“It’s been a very challenging year, in terms of the things you’ve had to tackle. It’s an amazing mountain you’ve had to climb,” said board member Linda Duncan.
Going forward, the board recommends focusing on the following areas of need:
- Consider effective ways to Reach all parents and families
- Develop strategies to increase enrollment in schools below capacity
- Give attention to student conduct and discipline
Prior to releasing the document, the board met twice in private to discuss the evaluation.
The decision to meet in executive session is the school board’s choice. State law was changed in 2010 to allow this, after the Courier-Journal sued the district to gain access to then-superintendent Sheldon Berman’s evaluation.