LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A new administrator has been hired by Jefferson County Public Schools and will oversee the consolidation of two of the district’s struggling middle schools.

Debbie Powers, who has been an educational recovery director with the Kentucky Department of Education for the past four years, will be the project coordinator in charge of the district’s plan to combine Frost and Stuart middle schools and move them to the Stuart Middle campus this fall.

Powers will start Monday and will make $130,000. She will report directly to Superintendent Donna Hargens, who has said she believes this plan will "create an optimal learning environment for middle school students and staff."

In addition, Hargens has tapped Laura Dalton to be the new principal of Stuart.

Dalton, who was most recently the assistant principal at Dixie Elementary School, started the job May 14. She’s been with the District since 2008 and her salary is $116,000.

Stuart had been without a principal since January, when the Kentucky Department of Education found its last principal, Renee Bledsoe, did not have the capacity to lead the school in its turnaround efforts.

The plan to redesign the two schools, narrowly approved by the Jefferson County Board of Education on March 22, closes Frost Middle School at the end of this school year and will begin to phase out the Valley Prep program at Valley High.

School board members Lisa Willner and Linda Duncan voted against the plan, saying they were concerned about "missing pieces" like student voice and a lack of support from their constituents on this plan.

At the meeting, David Jones Jr. asked Superintendent Donna Hargens how the school board will be able to track and ensure this plan will help turnaround two of the district’s most struggling schools.

"What kind of assurance can you give us that this will work. Who's in charge?" Jones asked.

Hargens said a "project coordinator (who has not yet been hired or named) will be in charge of this plan, make sure it works."

Now that Powers has been named project coordinator, she told WDRB on Thursday that she is ready to begin the work. As an education recovery specialist, Powers worked directly with all of Jefferson County’s priority schools.

“I think it is a chance to bring all the lessons we have learned so far and bring them to life,” she said. “I am excited for this opportunity.”

Under the plan:

  • All rising sixth-grade students will be assigned to the Stuart Middle campus, 4601 Valley Station Road,
  • All rising seventh-grade students currently assigned to Stuart and Valley Prep and rising eighth-graders currently assigned to Stuart will attend a separate, small seventh- and eighth-grade academy on the Stuart campus.
  • Current seventh-graders at Valley Prep, who will be eighth-graders next school year, will stay at Valley Prep with their teachers to finish the 2016-17 school year. 

The sixth-grade academy and seventh- and eighth-grade center would be separate and distinct schools located on the Stuart campus.

Last school year, only 19 percent of Frost Sixth Grade Academy students were proficient in reading, 13 percent were proficient in math, 18 percent were proficient in writing. At Stuart, 24 percent were proficient in reading, 14 percent were proficient in math, 19 percent were proficient in social studies, 8 percent were proficient in writing.

District officials have said the school is expected to have 643 students this fall, while it is expected to have 848 students in 2017-18.


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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