KONZ | Examining the fallout from the JCPS Every 1 Reads story - WDRB 41 Louisville News

KONZ | Examining the fallout from the JCPS Every 1 Reads story

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Our story Sunday about Every 1 Reads funding in Jefferson County Public Schools provoked a lot of reaction, with a top state official weighing in on Monday and three school board members bringing up the subject at Tuesday's meeting

To recap, we reported that while the once-popular Every 1 Reads program has dwindled to a few hundred volunteers, JCPS has been using about $500,000 a year in state funding meant for the program on school nurses -- and that state officials said they could find no evidence that the district notified them of the change, which happened in the 2008-09 year. 

The concerns from the school board members prompted two additional news outlets to report on the story Wednesday.

Some took WLKY's story -- JCPS email shows dept. of education awareness of nursing program -- as revealing new information that undermines our original story.

Let me examine the two main items that WLKY referenced:

-- The Aug. 27, 2012 and Aug. 29, 2012 emails between JCPS and the Kentucky Department of Education were not provided to WDRB until after JCPS chief financial officer Cordelia Hardin mentioned them during Tuesday night's meeting. JCPS did not discover the emails until Monday, Feb. 22 -- a day after our initial story ran.

I did not receive a copy of the email change from JCPS until Wednesday afternoon. Do the emails show that KDE officials "knew" that the Every 1 Reads funding was being used for nurses? After taking a close look, I am not convinced.

In the Aug. 27 email, Kristin Burton (then a KDE employee) asked Denise Dewitt, a JCPS employee, for someone to email her the "scope of work" for the Every 1 Reads budget line item and a breakdown for how the $475,500 would be spent.

That same day, Dewitt emails Burton back, using the MUNIS computer code for the project, and asking if that is what Burton was asking. Burton replies, referencing a different MUNIS code that states Every 1 Reads/Nurses Initiative.

On Aug. 29, Dewitt emailed Burton the written "rationale" for the "Every 1 Reads State Allocation," which talked about a literacy initiative and made no reference or mention to school nurses or any health component to the program.

Dewitt's email also mentions an attached "Budget report." JCPS spokeswoman Allison Martin provided a copy of the attachment, which looks to be a computer-generated list of budgeted expenses for nurses -- salaries, withholding taxes, pension contributions, supplies -- under a title "Every 1 Reads Nurses Initiative."

Burton apparently never followed up with Dewitt to ask why the written rationale for the funding -- a literacy program -- did not match the budgeted expenses for nurses.

That's it. No other emails between JCPS and KDE have been provided.

-- The second issue pertains to WLKY's reference that they found 'JCBE documents used to educate board members for a vote on the matter -- approved by (school board member Linda) Duncan -- to accept funding" for the Every 1 Reads Nurses Initiative. 

This appears to be a reference to the same documents we referenced in our original story on Feb. 21. 

From our story:

It was not until November 2014 that Jefferson County Board of Education documents show Every 1 Reads money funding school nurses, according to a review by WDRB News.

At that time, the board voted to accept the state funding for what board documents describe as the “Every 1 Reads Nurses Initiative” – to be used for salaries, benefits, materials and supplies for current school nurses.

“This funding supports students’ overall care and treatment and will support a connection to the child’s medical provider to ensure the health and medical needs are addressed,” the board document says.

The school board voted to accept the most recent annual state funding -- $451,400 -- for Every 1 Reads on Jan. 26 under the same description.

But the item caught the attention of school board member Linda Duncan.

“I never understood (Every 1 Reads) to be a state-funded issue or initiative,” said Duncan, who was an Every 1 Reads volunteer for eight years and is the longest-serving member of the school board. “To me, it was locally funded by community groups. It’s kind of surprise that our state people were providing any funding.”

As we reported on Sunday, the board did approve something called "Every 1 Reads Nurses Initiative" in November 2014 -- six years after the state funding had been diverted to pay for nurses. As we also reported, there was a 2009 board document that mentions nurses as one facet of an Every 1 Reads expansion, but the document says nothing about state funding. It mentions that Greater Louisville Inc. and the Jefferson County Education Foundation "will raise $6 million to support nurses in schools, after-school programs, and literacy programs."

I have a standing request with JCPS to provide me with any additional documentation they may find on this Every 1 Reads funding issue and I will continue to follow up on this story. 

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

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