Jefferson County Public Schools is facing several issues that school board members will have to tackle in coming years, from the student assignment plan to improving student achievement. With some incumbents choosing not to seek re-election, the JCPS board will have new faces. Here’s a look at where those potential new board members stand on key issues
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DISTRICT 2 CANDIDATES
Elizabeth Berfield is a former librarian turned stay-at-home mother of two. Berfield says she wants to share her experience and knowledge with the community. She wants diversity for her children.
How to improve student achievement: Berfield says the focus shouldn’t be limited to common-core standards, and that critical thinking and other subjects like history and creative thinking needs to be front and center too.
Student assignment plan: Berfield believes in compromise with regards to the neighborhood schools issue. She believes that keeping younger children closer to home is a good idea, to have a local option. But she believes that there could be challenges like school capacity, but she doesn’t think middle and high school should be subject to attend a neighborhood school.
School budget/taxing: Berfield likes the cuts Superintendent Donna Hargens has made to her central administration. She says she still thinks “there are some very inflated salaries within our school system.” Berfield believes that there are still administrative cuts that could be considered, as well as cuts in transportation and encouraging carpools.
Phil Haming, lifelong Louisville resident and father of five. Haming says his primary platform is neighborhood schools which he hopes will save money to reduced class size and hire more teachers.
How to improve student achievement: Haming says it begins at the elementary level and says if nothing else, the busing plan should not apply to elementary schools.
Student assignment plan: Haming says parents could be involved more in their child’s education if JCPS would resort back to neighborhood schools. He further says it would be a gradual change and he would want cooperation among schools so they could collaborate in some ways, like theater, etc.
School budget/taxing: Haming believes that cuts to transportation could be significant if JCPS resorts back to neighborhood schools. He believes there could be further cuts to administrative staff salaries and that the school board needs to do a better job negotiating with the teacher’s union on some salaries for school staff.
David Jones Jr. is a businessman with an interest in education. He’s a parent of two former JCPS students and says his background and involvement with various entities will serve him well as a board member.
How to improve student achievement: Jones says he supports the common core standards implementation this last year and it will be able to “measure to the proper level.” He says you must have leadership at the district level and in each school to ensure successful students.
Student assignment plan: Jones understands why people like neighborhood schools, but there are challenges. He says his concerns include overcrowding at popular schools, and there would be a cost to having to rebuild new schools due to population shifts westward. Jones says many families value the current school choice they have.
School budget/taxing: Jones says the central office would be the first place to look for cuts and says JCPS has an “old fashioned enterprise that needs to be reformed.” He believes his business experience gives him the best shot at creating those reforms.
George Tolhurst says he’s a victim of the public school system and says he’s running a campaign on neighborhood schools. He says the district has been going downhill for the past 70 years.
How to improve student achievement: Tolhurst says teaching basic requirements that can be related to real life including reading and writing. Further he says school need a testing program and teacher evaluations, possibly twice a year, that are free from the union. He says “we need to overhaul the entire system.”
Student assignment plan: Tolhust sees no negative impacts to neighborhood schools and says new school wouldn’t have to be built. He says transportation costs could be cut and parents would be responsible for making sure their child go to school.
School budget/taxing: Tolhurst says we need to cut the waste and the cut needs to be transparent.
DISTRICT 4 CANDIDATES
Eric Bullock grew up in Jefferson County his whole life and has a recent graduate from JCPS. He volunteered at Butler High School and is a photographer for the football team. He says he can offer fresh ideas
How to improve student achievement: Bullock supports the partnerships with various businesses, like the one with UPS. He’s also interested in supporting more trade education, like automotive repair, in schools. Bullock says student athletes should be challenged more and the bar is set too low for them academically. Further, he thinks the higher performing students should tutor or work with some lower performing students/student athletes to balance the pace of the classroom.
Student assignment plan: Bullock wants to bring the option of neighborhood schools back, partly to increase parent involvement. He says for certain students, parent involvement through local school choice could bring test scores up. Further he thinks JCPS can still achieve diversity in schools by allowing parents to choose if they want their child to attend the school closest to them.
School budget/taxing: Bullock says he would have looked to administrative and transportation cuts before approving any tax increase. He would not make any cuts directly affecting classroom spending. Bullock thinks that everything should be on the table with regards to transportation cuts and there could be small efficiencies in routes and maintenance costs.
Chuck Haddaway was a Metro Council candidate in District 12. He’s a parent and is on the SBDM at Carter Traditional elementary and family resource center at Okolona Elementary. Haddaway also serves on state boards and Kentucky League of Cities.
How to improve student achievement: Haddaway supports preparing students for career. He says any student should be able to excel in any school across the district. He wants to focus on graduation rates and part of that is supporting the new state assessment, including the common core standards.
Student assignment plan: Haddaway supports the recent changes to the JCPS student assignment plan but wants to continue to monitor it. He says it needs more time to see if it will be successful. Further he feels like parents have options around the district, but all the schools need to offer a good program.
School budget/taxing: Haddaway says he doesn’t like new taxes, but he trusts that the board were efficient and conflicted with the decision to continue to raise taxes. He further feels like more cuts in administration could happen.
Lloyd “Chip” White is a product of JCPS and has five children. He has been a foster parent to nearly a dozen children and all have been through the JCPS system. White says he’s wanted to run for school board for a while but he’s respected the job Hardesty has done, which is why he hasn’t run.
How to improve student achievement: White calls his District 4 a working class area. He says he’s heard a variety of opinions in his area, but says not everyone has to go to college to have a good career and students need to be prepared for this. White supports preparing students for careers as well as college and he wants to work with the business community in partnerships. White commends the work by Superintendent Donna Hargens preparing parents for the changing statewide assessments.
Student assignment plan: White supports the recent changes to the JCPS student assignment plan but wants to continue to monitor it. He says he is concerned with diversity and wants to see it in schools and says diversity in schools can improve student achievement. White says the neighborhood schools choice makes more sense in elementary, but not in high schools.
School budget/taxing: White says he would not want to second guess the board’s decision to raise taxes this year without having access to the same information they had. However, when asked hypothetically if there were cuts needed where would they come from, White says there are a lot of areas where JCPS could look, but he would still need more information before making any decision.
Melissa “Missy” Smith is a mother of two and has volunteered in JCPS schools for the past six years, every Friday. She says she sees frustration from both students and staff within the schools.
How to improve student achievement: Smith’s priorities include closing the achievement gap. She further says the district needs to do a better job at keeping the interest level high for all students, including those who are gifted and talented. Smith says she would like to see more opportunities for those students.
Student assignment plan: Smith supports the current student assignment plan and says a neighborhood schools approach wouldn’t work.
School budget/taxing: Smith supports the recent tax increase by the JCPS board. She says the board could have approved a greater tax hike but chose not to. Smith acknowledges there has been less revenue coming into the district through various streams and the district needs to fill that financial void somehow, although she says she doesn’t like paying taxes.
Chester Flake is a father of three and retired Ford employee and former union representative.
How to improve student achievement: Flake says the turnaround decisions made by the board for the district’s lowest performing schools is an appropriate response. Flake does not support incentives for teachers who perform at higher rates based on student test results.
Student assignment plan: Flake’s number one issue is ending the JCPS student assignment plan. He calls busing reverse discrimination.
School budget/taxing: Flake does not support raising taxes and says that the district should do a better job at managing its current funds.
DISTRICT 7 CANDIDATES
Marty Bell has spent several years in different capacities at Jefferson County Public Schools. He most recently retired as Chief Operations Officer with Greater Clark County Schools. Bell says he believes he can be a large contributor to the policy making side.
How to improve student achievement: Bell says more parents need to be involved and it could help to increase their involvement in the School Based Decision Making Councils most JCPS schools have. Bell says the right teachers need to get into the right schools. He says JCPS has a high number of good teachers and the key to turning around schools is collaboratively teaching. Bell says JCPS has the data available to view results by classroom to eliminate the excuses in specific classrooms.
Student assignment plan: Bell does not support reverting back to neighborhood schools and says he supports the plan recently adopted by JCPS, which he says is more neighborhood friendly. Bell says he believes diversity increases student achievement. Further, he says neighborhood schools would overcrowd certain schools and could eliminate parental choice.
School budget/taxing: Bell supports the recent tax increase approved by JCPS, but he thinks that the state’s funding formula should be looked at because dollars in JCPS are leaving the county for other areas in the state. But he further says every single dollar should relate back to student achievement and it should be proved. He believes JCPS has the data to do this.
Chris Brady is a current parent to two young JCPS students. He wants to make sure all students have the tools to succeed in life. He’s currently a technology consultant for Norton Healthcare. Brady has also been a substitute teacher for JCPS. He says that he brings a fresh perspective that hasn’t been compromised by working in the school system.
How to improve student achievement: Brady says that strong leadership in schools, including administration, is likely to improve student achievement. He says that JCPS must provide the environment to teach. Brady says the teacher’s union has compromised some with regards to supporting poor performing schools and how teachers are transferred through schools. Brady believes in teacher incentives that aren’t always monetary.
Student assignment plan: Brady says the issue of student achievement goes beyond reverting back to neighborhood schools. There are other issues, he says, such as the homeless population in JCPS. He supports the family resource centers in schools and says several issues that affect student achievement likely don’t fall in the purview of the school district. He supports recent changes to the JCPS student assignment plan.
School budget/taxing: Brady supports the recent tax increase supported by the school board. He says cuts from the state have forced Jefferson County residents to step up. Brady says things like text books and other resources are crucial to student achievement. Brady says that the state’s funding formula needs to be reconsidered.
Chris Fell is a father of two and is running a neighborhood’s school campaign. Fell was part of the lawsuit challenging the JCPS student assignment plan. He home-schooled his daughter after being a “victim” of the JCPS student assignment plan. Fell’s says JCPS should never be trailing the state in student achievement.
How to improve student achievement: Fell supports neighborhood schools as the main way to better student achievement. He further says JCPS should be tracking data from every teacher and class for evaluation to figure where resources should be directed. He also supports giving incentives to teachers for good teachers and supports sending the best teachers to the poorest performing schools.
Student assignment plan: Fell supports neighborhood schools and is a strong anti-bullying proponent. He has formed a parent support group for bullying, which isn’t limited to students. Fell says bullying is a national issue and it continues to increase.
School budget/taxing: Fell does not support the tax increase that the JCPS recently approved. Fell argues that a majority of the budget goes towards the student assignment plan. He says by eliminating the current student assignment plan, the money saved on having to bus students could be used for a variety of other areas in the district.
Jonathan Robertson is a lifelong resident of Jefferson County and has two children and is a graduate of Jeffersontown High School. Robertson says the goals of giving equal opportunity in schools isn’t being met.
How to improve student achievement: Robertson also says that charter schools are a good option, but he acknowledges that studies on the subject do go both ways. He says studies show paying teachers more results in keeping better teachers. Robertson says the teacher’s union is preventing negotiations that would support better performing teachers.
Student assignment plan: Robertson says that neighborhood schools is essential for parent involvement.
School budget/taxing: Robertson does not support the recent tax increase approved by the board. He says the everyone needs to tighten their belts and the residents shouldn’t have the burden put on them. Robertson says the board needs to make cuts, and he cites the new assistant principals hired at most elementary school. He would like to see technology help cut down on costs.
James Sexton has spent nearly 40 years in JCPS and has worked as a principal, teacher and counselor among other jobs within the school system. He is currently the teacher of Greater Clark Middle/High School in southern Indiana.
How to improve student achievement: Sexton believes that neighborhood schools are very important to the district’s success. He further believes that JCPS must eliminate the talent drain, with both students and teachers. Sexton says the state isn’t aware of what’s going on in the district, and believes that transferring teachers out of poor performing schools, as mandated, isn’t helping.
Student assignment plan: Sexton argues that JCPS has a talent drain and that students are leaving the district for neighboring counties and private schools. He says that to achieve the growth, JCPS needs to keep students and neighborhood schools are essential to this.
School budget/taxing: Sexton does not believes in new taxes. He thinks that there could be further administration cuts and says he would vote to not increase taxes in the future.