Jefferson County Public Schools is among the four school districts that were recommended and approved to become Kentucky’s first “Districts of Innovation.”
Under state law, school districts can apply for exemption from certain Kentucky Department of Education regulations. These districts are called Districts of Innovation.
Sixteen school districts applied this year, but only four were recommended by the Kentucky Department of Education and then approved by the Kentucky Board of Education Wednesday.
KDE Associate Commissioner David Cook helped lead the application review process. He told the board the education department is committed to further helping those districts that were denied and said in some cases they are already able to implement certain parts of their innovation proposals.
“We’re going to spend probably just as much time with them as we are with the districts that we’ve recommended to help them move forward,” Cook said.
Over the summer, KDE officials will work with the four Districts of Innovation to create an agreement before implementation begins and to figure out how to measure the districts’ success going forward.
“We’ll be sitting down with the districts to design some metric kinds of things. That kind of process will lead us [to discover], this is the research that we have to do and these are the data elements we want to monitor,” he said.
Not all of the waivers requested were approved. But school districts like JCPS are expected to begin implementing their plans this fall.
“I think KDE approved the waivers that they were able to approve and certainly they have [legal] parameters that they can’t control,” said JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens, who attended Wednesday’s board meeting.
Hargens said the district’s plan is about creating systems within JCPS that connect various partners and programs, like the Louisville Linked initiative. In the district’s application, Schools of Innovation can be created, which allows parents and residents to voice their opinion on what the next magnet school should look like, she said.
“We actually plan to run a design contest. So we take the best thinking in the community and people actually come up with proposals of designs and we use a process to narrow it,” Hargens said. Ideally, she said, community members and educators would work together to come up with ideas.
The best design would become the next magnet school, she said.
Further, JCPS was granted a waiver to create a fifth model of school turnaround that might better suit the district’s needs. JCPS would have to work closely with KDE to develop this new model, Hargens said.
The other approved districts are Danville Independent, Eminence Independent, and Taylor County Schools.