Education

The Jefferson County School board will appeal the state education department’s recommendation for a takeover of the district.

The decision came during an executive session Tuesday afternoon, a day before the deadline to appeal. The motion passed unanimously by all seven board members.

After the vote to appeal, JCPS Board Chairwoman Diane Porter announced that the board would not be commenting publicly on the matter.

“From this point on, the board is no longer allowed to give opinions to the media, or any place else, because this is a process,” she said. “It’s a legal process and we will not devalue the process by speaking when we don’t need to speak.”

Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association said JCPS and the state education commissioner will each have a chance to make a case during an upcoming hearing.

“The state will have no less than 20 days before it holds a hearing. And then the school district and the commissioner will present their sides of the case,” McKim said. “And ultimately the Kentucky board of education will have to approve or reject the recommendation for the takeover”

McKim said the hearing itself could take at least a few days.

Outside of JCPS headquarters on Newburg Road, supporters of JCPS rallied and cheered the board’s decision to appeal Tuesday.

Blair Leano-Helvey is a parent of students in JCPS and is married to a public school teacher.

“I think there are issues within JCPS but I think it’s up to stakeholders to fix these problems,” said Leano-Helvey. “We have a board that we have picked. And we also have a new superintendent. And I think we need to give them time … give them a chance to fix the issues within JCPS.”

The recommendation for a takeover was included in a state-sponsored audit that said JCPS inadequately manages instruction, under-reports restraint and seclusion of students, and improperly uses non-certified teachers, among other findings.

The results of audit were released April 30 of this year by Interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis. In a summary of the audit’s findings, Lewis said that the district has “deep-seated organization and cultural challenges.”

“The current state of JCPS is not the fault of any one leader or group. Instead, under the leadership of many and over a long period of time, serious challenges emerged and in many cases were permitted to fester,” Lewis wrote.

Lewis did not recommend that the state appoint a manager to oversee Jefferson County Public Schools. Instead, JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio, who was hired last year, would be left in charge of daily operations of the district. Pollio would be required to meet weekly with Deputy Education Commissioner Kelly Foster for “monitoring purposes.”

During a news conference following Lewis’ recommendation, Pollio said he disagreed with the decision.

“Our board, I think took bold steps and actions to make sure that we improved this district. And I think part of that was bringing me on board. And we have made significant progress in 10 months,” Pollio said at the time. “We have assertively moved to improve this district in the past 10 months. I don’t think we’ve hidden from any of the problems that we’ve had.”

Lewis said that if his recommendation for a takeover is approved that the elected Jefferson County school board would only serve in an “advisory capacity.”

His recommendation came following a leadership shakeup at the state board of education in mid-April when Gov. Matt Bevin filled seven vacancies on the board, giving his appointees full control.

One of the new board’s first actions was to announce that former Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt would resign from his position two years before his contract was up.

A hearing on the appeal could be set as early as mid-June. The Kentucky Board of Education will decide to approve or reject the recommendation for state management.

Capitol Reporter Ryland Barton contributed to this story. 

This story has been updated.