LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - The Jefferson County Board of Education will hold a special-called meeting Tuesday to discuss its student assignment plan and possibly reach a consensus on purpose of the district's magnet schools so it can move forward on recommendations from the Magnet Schools of America.

A copy of the presentation, which will be presented during a 4 p.m. work session at the Van Hoose Education Center, has not yet been made available. The board is not expected to take any action.

In May, Superintendent Donna Hargens was ready to move forward on three recommendations from the Magnet Schools of America that would have centralized the district's application and acceptance process for its magnet schools in order to make those seats more accessible to more people.

However, Hargens changed her mind after hearing concerns from several school board members during a packed hour-long work session on May 11, in which school board chairman David Jones Jr. told Hargens the plan was "not acceptable as a work product" and told her to not bother to come back to the board in June to ask for approval until more feedback was received from community stakeholders.

At the time, Hargens said the district would reconstitute the magnet school steering committee to include external stakeholders and revise the timeline before any proposal is brought to the board for approval.

It was not clear Monday if the magnet school steering committee had been reconvened. 

Bonnie Hackbarth, a spokeswoman for the district, said there will not be any recommendations given to the board on Tuesday.

"The meeting is for discussion only," she said, adding that a copy of the presentation won't be made available until before the work session takes place.

The recommendations came from a review conducted by the Magnet Schools of America, which stated that a "lack of transparency of selection criteria and local selection of students makes it difficult for the district to achieve diversity in its magnet schools."

The review, which cost the district $75,790, came three years after national school-integration expert Gary Orfield recommended JCPS reassess many of its magnet programs, which he said "aren't very magnetic" in drawing students to other parts of the city as intended. He suggested the district's magnet programs could help integrate schools if they were better operated.

JCPS – the 28th largest district in the country with an enrollment of 101,000 students – has a variety of schools and programs and it prides itself as being a “choice” district. That means it that lets parents apply to the school or program that best meets their child's needs or learning style.

Yet submitting an application doesn't guarantee placement in a school or program and every school must follow the diversity guidelines outlined in the district's controversial student assignment plan, which uses socio-economic factors such as educational attainment, household income and race averages of a student's geographic region when assigning students to schools other than their home school.

The district currently uses three different processes when assigning kids to its magnet schools and traditional and magnet programs – “criteria based,” “random draw” and “random draw and criteria.” The process used depends on the school.

The problem the district has run into is that the magnet process is not standardized – some schools require different things such as essays and letters of recommendations in order to be considered for admission, while other schools require interviews and a visit.

Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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