Occasionally this column has criticized JCPS. It will undoubtedly do so again, but now is a time for gratitude and thanks.
My wife and I sent our daughters and son to several different kinds of JCPS schools located all over the county. They not only received an excellent education, but learned valuable life lessons, too.
One of the main reasons we chose public schools was a belief that it would be good for our children to gain personal experience with peers as diverse as our entire community. They did and are better for it.
As I watched my "baby girl" get her diploma at Freedom Hall on Saturday, I thought back to my first day as a JCPS parent in 1995. With a mixture of anticipation and trepidation I had walked my older daughter into Martin Luther King Elementary School at 43rd and Vermont Streets in Louisville's West End.
The Kentucky Education Reform Act was still relatively new then. Under the leadership of its then-principal, the late Mae Kennerly, King showcased the positive potential of that landmark law.
We could not have had a better introduction to JCPS than we received at King. It was wonderful in every way except perhaps for the long roundtrip bus ride, but even with that we were blessed by the first of many careful and caring JCPS bus drivers we were to encounter over the years.
There were many dedicated and talented administrators, teachers, and staff at King, as at every JCPS school our children attended, and by naming some I do not mean to slight others. But I absolutely must recognize some of the superstars of the last two decades.
Anita Winstead at King may be the best elementary school teacher in the world. She sets an excellent example for her students and produces memorable musicals about American government and history.
Buddy Lee, who headed up the family resource center, was beloved by the students and did great work.
Our son started at King, too, but when we moved eastward in the county and had another child we transferred him to our neighborhood school, Bowen Elementary. The principal at Bowen, Stephen Tyra, is retiring after this school year.
Mr. Tyra was amazing in how much he cared about each and every one of his students. The kids loved him in return. Watching them interact was incredibly uplifting and filled "the best school on earth" with positive energy.
Our oldest two children moved on to Meyzeek Middle School, a math, science, and technology magnet that also serves as a neighborhood school just across the street from the Sheppard Square housing project in Louisville's Smoketown area. While the two student populations were in some respects separate within the school, it was nonetheless a very stimulating environment, academically and otherwise, especially under Keith Look as principal.
Teacher Tim Chapman instilled a love of history in my daughter. Now she teaches it in high school. Mr. Bertrand, Mr. Dearborn, Mrs. Harrison, Ms. Hermann and Mrs. Leitner each inspired in their own way.
We thought our youngest would benefit from more structure so we sent her to Barret Traditional Middle School in Crescent Hill. Barret is strict and emphasizes discipline, fundamentals, personal responsibility, positive reinforcement, and school spirit. Mr. Veigl, a tough math teacher, was one of many great teachers there.
Middle school may be the most challenging period for parents and students alike. Our experiences at two drastically different kinds of JCPS schools were both great.
All three of our children were fortunate to be admitted to duPont Manual High School on Second Street near the University of Louisville. Debate is now raging about making fundamental changes to Manual's admission policy and magnet programs.
I will save that hot button discussion for another day. For now I just want to celebrate this outstanding school and what it has meant not only to my children, but to our entire family.
The best of many good things about Manual are the incredible educators and the extraordinary peer group its students enjoy. At Manual everyone (parents included) learns from everyone else.
There are too many gifted administrators, coaches, staff, and teachers at Manual to name. Among those who have been especially meaningful to our family are Michael Crain, Tim Foster, Matthew Kingsley, Greg Kuhn, Tim Holman, Carole Sanders, Tim Smith, Laura Speigelhalter, Lisa Stevenson, the late Clint Vaught, Randy Wieck, and both Mr. Williamses.
Is JCPS perfect? No, but it is good and getting better under superintendent Donna Hargens and some of the new Jefferson County Board of Education members.
I hope all parents and students, in JCPS and every other Kentucky system, are as happy with their K-12 experience as we are. To the extent some are not, we must all work for improvement.
Thank you JCPS, from the Dyche family.