In Conversation

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Education in Kentucky is changing, and Jefferson County Public Schools’ superintendent says the school system is prepared to change with it.

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio joined WFPL’s In Conversation to talk with host Rick Howlett about the attempted state takeover of the district, teacher sickouts, charter schools and more.

On the state nearly taking over management of JCPS, Pollio said the school system is working to fix issues the state raised. He said work with the Kentucky Department of Education has been positive, and he expects JCPS will receive positive reports when the next state audit is conducted.

“We have made significant progress in every single area, and I’m very confident that we are doing things the right way in JCPS as we move forward,” Pollio said. “When the next audit comes in the fall of 2020, we’re going to see a lot of positive successes here.”

When it comes to teacher sickouts, which closed JCPS schools for six days and led to a disagreement between the JCPS board and Kentucky Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis, Pollio said he supports teachers but did not agree with the sickouts. Ultimately, he said Lewis has authority to require districts to provide the names of teachers who called in sick during those protests.

Teachers mobilized to protest during the session largely due to three specific education-related bills.  They would have affected the board of trustees managing teacher pensions, the JCPS superintendent’s power to select school principals and scholarship tax-credits for private schools. Of those, only Senate Bill 250 passed, empowering Pollio and future JCPS superintendents to have the ultimate say over who’s hired as a school principal in the district. Previously, the superintendent was just one member of a site-based council; this bill keeps the councils in the process but diminishes their role.

Pollio said principals are important for school progress, adding that he would affirm the site-based councils’ decisions 95 percent of the time.

“But there might be a few times where I do not do that,” Pollio. “Nothing could be more important for me than making sure that out of about the dozen [principals] we hire every year that it is the right selection for a school.”

Join us next week for In Conversation as guest host Ryland Barton recaps the 2019 Kentucky General Assembly.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.