LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Less than two years after reforming its alternative schools, Jefferson County Public Schools wants to change course again by restructuring the referral process and adding full time staff to better support students and families.

During a 4 p.m. work session with the Jefferson County Board of Education on Tuesday, officials said they want to recreate the student due process and alternative school choice process to create a "new level of customer service and case management" within the district.

The plan no longer talks about building success pathways at its alternative schools, which called for tighter controls, a higher staff-to-student ratio and extra supports. Instead it talks about creating a division of behavior support and non-behavior support alternative school offices and staffing, along with new vision for case management that oversees referrals/entrance/exit to the district's alternative schools, starting with the 2017-18 year.

"We did not find the success pathways programming productive," says Katy Zeitz, who took over as the assistant superintendent over the district's alternative schools in July.

The plan was discussed following a discussion about the district's latest suspension and discipline numbers, which show a significant increase in student behavior incidents and comes after a long year of complaints from parents, teachers, staff members and community members over discipline issues at the district's 155 schools.

Data released by the state in October as part of the district’s School Report Card show that the number of student behavior incidents – which include everything from drugs, tobacco and alcohol offenses to fighting, assaults, harassment and weapons cases – spiked from 49,155 total incidents in 2014-15 to 62,125 last year -- a 26 percent increase.

Through Oct. 21, there had been 44,310 student behavior incidents reported, compared to 28,902 at the same time last year.

JCPS has turned to intervention strategies such as restorative practices to proactively manage student behavior. The premise behind restorative practices is that people are happier, more cooperative and productive when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them.

As part of her new role, Zeitz was tasking with creating a new behavior management system for the district that would be responsive to students and teachers. Shortly after she took over, she says she found that a lot of the people who were working in student due process and the district's alternative school offices were either retired educators or part time employees.

"We want to make a move to a consistent staff base, we need full time people in place to help support our students and families," she said. "We want to make sure we are taking the time and review each child's entire case and making sure that wherever they are placed is the best place for them."

Zeitz also mentioned creating enrollment zones "so principals won't just have a student show up without much notice" and returning to "family initiated referrals." 

"We are working to beef up the transition plan for the kids so that when they do return to their home school, it is much more clear and concise and that everyone is on the same page," she said.

Zeitz also presented enrollment updates and a briefing update on each of the district's seven alternative schools: Breckinridge Metropolitan High, Jefferson County High, Liberty High, Minor Daniels Academy, South Park TAPP, The Phoenix School of Discover and Westport TAPP.

No action was taken by the school board on Tuesday, it is expected that the district will bring a formal recommendation to the board for approval in early 2017.


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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