Education

During a packed meeting Tuesday night, the Jefferson County Public School Board approved a school for girls of color, and moved forward with plans to start its own security force.

Board members voted unanimously to approve the Females of Color STEAM Academy, after which they received a round of applause from attendees. The academy will teach middle school girls of color science, technology, engineering, art and math. Officials estimate it will cost $5.2 million for the first three years.

Before the vote, Louisville Urban League CEO Sadiqa Reynolds said girls of color need a successful school like the W.E.B. Dubois Academy for boys.

“We are failing these girls,” Reynolds said. “It is time for us to have an opportunity to do for ourselves what it seems that the system has not been able to successfully do.”

Attendees packed the JCPS meeting, standing and applauding when the STEAM Academy was approvedKyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Attendees packed the JCPS meeting, standing and applauding when the STEAM Academy was approved

Girls of all races can apply, but like Louisville’s W.E.B. DuBois Academy for boys, the all-girls school will likely offer a multicultural and Afrocentric curriculum.

Officials want to hire a school president by September and to start classes next August. The school will open to sixth-grade students, with plans to add seventh and eighth grade classes in subsequent years.

Tuesday’s meeting was also a historic occasion as Joseph Marshall was sworn in to represent District 4 on the JCPS board. With Marshall’s swearing in, Board Chair Diane Porter said this marked the first time that three African Americans (Porter, Marshall and Corrie Shull) sat on the board.

New JCPS District 4 Board Member Joseph Marshall swearing in to the boardKyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

New JCPS District 4 Board Member Joseph Marshall swearing in to the board

After swearing in Marshall and approving the STEAM academy, board members discussed updates on its proposed security force.

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said they plan to hire a project manager to lead security in September. That person would be in charge of hiring and training SROs for all of JCPS.

But Porter said the board needs more information about the plan and how it might affect people.

“I’m not sure what the plan is,” Porter said. “What are we doing for our elementary, middle and high school[s]? How are we taking care of safety issues without either of the ones that I’ve just described, because it is happening in this district.”

Pollio said the district has $1.1 million to use toward school resource officers this year. He said he hopes to have 12 officers working in JCPS schools by February.

A law passed by the state legislature this year requires that every school have a safety officer by July 2022, though lawmakers did not approve any funding. 

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.