Should JCPS look to an outside firm to overhaul its priority sch - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Should JCPS look to an outside firm to overhaul its priority schools?

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School board chairman David Jones Jr. (WDRB photo) School board chairman David Jones Jr. (WDRB photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Should Jefferson County Public Schools look to the management of an outside firm to overhaul its lowest performing schools?

David Jones Jr., the chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Education, told fellow board members during a Monday work session he thinks the district should explore the "external management organization" option when it comes to helping its priority schools.

"The number of priority schools has gone up, rather than down," Jones said. "I think that suggests that the board should at least look at this question and whether others have achieved better results than what we are achieving."

Schools are placed in priority status as a result of a 2010 law that called for the Kentucky Department of Education to identify the state's lowest-performing schools and outline a range of interventions aimed at turning them around.

The interventions include: replacing the principal and site-based decision-making council, replacing more than half the faculty, closing the school and transferring its students to higher-performing schools or restarting the schools under the external management of a private or nonprofit operator.

Over the past five years, 21 schools in Jefferson County have been identified as priority schools for having chronically low test scores. During that time, the district has received more than $38 million in federal grant money to help turn them around. Only two schools -- Waggener High and Fern Creek High -- have exited priority school status.

Monday's work session on priority schools lasted only 30 minutes, which Jones said wasn't enough time to "understand what the diagnosis is of these schools."

He added that with three more schools (Roosevelt-Perry Elementary, Byck Elementary and Moore Traditional Middle) entering priority school status this year, now is the time to explore something different.

"If we have already figured this out, why are there three new ones?" he asked. 

If JCPS were to choose the external management option, the district would have to choose from a list of EMO providers that have been approved by the Kentucky Board of Education.

None of Kentucky's priority schools have chosen the external management option as the way to overhaul their schools, said Nancy Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education.

In 2011, previous JCPS Superintendent Sheldon Berman brought up the idea of examining the option of turning Knight Middle School over to an outside agency, but no school board members were interested at the time. Berman estimated it would cost $1 million a year.

Marco Munoz, the district's director of priority schools, told board members that he will bring a more detailed report about the district's priority schools for discussion in February.

During the work session, Munoz indicated that three of the district's priority schools -- Knight Middle, Valley High and the Academy @ Shawnee -- could potentially exit priority school status in 2016.

In order to exit that status, the schools must meet their annual goals for a third consecutive year, as well as have test scores that no longer place them in lowest five percent in the state.

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

Copyright 2015 by WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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