Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio says the district is “on track” to meet the requirements of its Corrective Action Plan by 2020, when the Kentucky Department of Education will conduct another audit of the district.
As part of the settlement between JCPS and the Kentucky Department of Education to avoid a state takeover of the district, Pollio is required to give the Department monthly status updates on the district’s improvements.
In the Kentucky Board of Education’s April meeting, Pollio said the district has completed about a quarter of its corrective action plan, and has established progress in all areas. JCPS is approximately six months into a two-year process to implement its plan.
Pollio said some of the progress has been made on “smaller items that can quickly be addressed,” while the work of improving other areas will be a longer road.
“This is tough, long hard work,” he said. “And long overdue.”
In his presentation to the board Wednesday, Pollio described the district’s progress on school facilities and compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law governing special education services.
Pollio updated the Board on the district’s new facility plan, approved at the Jefferson County Board of Education’s March business meeting.
“It is well-noted that we have about $1.2 billion in facility needs,” Pollio said, saying that in the past the district has been “putting band-aids on school buildings that are end-of-life.”
Pollio called the process of approving a plan to build new schools and consolidate school populations a “tough, political battle.” The district’s $120 million plan will build four new schools and conduct a major renovation of the Academy at Shawnee, a west-end high school whose third floor has been condemned. Pollio said he hopes to open those new schools in the fall of 2021.
“I’m excited that soon we will have shovels in the ground building our new schools,” Pollio said. “But I do believe this is a process that will have to be replicated multiple times in the next decade for us to catch up to where we need to be.”
The Jefferson County Board of Education has yet to approve a previously discussed proposal to merge two alternative high schools. That proposal has been met with criticism from community members who say the merger would further concentrate poverty and exacerbate behavior issues. The JCPS board is expected to revisit its plan for the alternative schools later this month.
Special Education Compliance With Federal Law
The Kentucky Department of Education’s 2017 audit of JCPS found the district was not in compliance with federal law that protects students with disabilities, and had been under-reporting its use of seclusion and restraint of students.
Pollio said the district will “have to go much deeper than just being about compliance” to give all exceptional students “appropriate, grade-level, standards-based instruction.”
Pollio said the district is streamlining the process by which an ARC committee, made up of the parents and teachers of a student with a disability, determine the least-restrictive environment for that student. Pollio said the new process will allow any changes to be made automatically without further steps at the district’s central office.
Pollio said it has been “well-documented” that some JCPS students did not receive ARC meetings when they needed changes in their environment or education plan.
JCPS is also working to ensure that students with disabilities are not disciplined at a disproportionately higher rate than other students. Pollio said the district has had an 8 percent reduction in suspensions of disabled students, and has also reduced the disproportionality of suspensions of students with disabilities.
“It’s not as great as we want it to be, but it is a start,” Pollio said.
Earlier this week, JCPS announced the district had hired Kim Chevalier to serve in a new cabinet-level position as Chief of Exceptional Children Education. Pollio said the district has also funded implementation coaches at every school who will be responsible for monitoring compliance with federal regulations under IDEA.