LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The principals of three Jefferson County Public Schools will be allowed to stay and continue turnaround efforts at the low-performing schools, according to state diagnostic reviews released Wednesday.

The reviews conducted by the Kentucky Department of Education say that Marty Pollio at Doss High, Clay Holbrook at Iroquois High and Kim Morales at Seneca High each have the capacity to lead their schools.

The assessment teams praised each of the schools for their hard work, but also noted that all three schools have a host of challenges they must overcome in order to continue their efforts to raise student achievement.

The intense three-day leadership assessments are required every two years for schools in priority status, which are schools identified by the state as being in the bottom when it comes to meeting objectives for students.

State officials delivered the reports to JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens and her staff on Wednesday morning.

“I’m proud but not surprised that these thorough, independent assessments by the Kentucky Department of Education recognize the strong leadership and student-centered focus of Doss, Iroquois and Seneca,” Hargens said in a statement. “We appreciate the diligent work of the assessment teams, and we welcome the fresh perspective on our strengths and challenges as we continue to create an optimal learning environment for all JCPS students.”

Since 2010, 23 schools in Jefferson County have been placed in “priority” status. During that time, the district has received more than $40 million in federal grant money to help turn them around. Only two schools -- Waggener High and Fern Creek High -- have exited priority school status.

Byck and Roosevelt Perry were the first two elementary schools in the state to enter priority school status in 2015. In addition, "dire academic issues" at Maupin and Wellington elementary schools would have caused them to be identified as “priority schools” in 2016, but were not because of the state's transition to a new accountability system in 2017.

However, Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt directed his staff in October 2016 to employ intervention efforts at both schools including "undertaking comprehensive leadership assessments/diagnostic reviews aimed at identifying areas for improvement at each school."

The diagnostic reviews for Wellington and Maupin have not yet been released.

At Doss, the assessment team says Pollio has made "major strides to cultivate a positive school culture, improve student behavior, enhance student engagement and improve instructional priorities."

The team said Morales, who has been principal at Seneca since 2014, has created "a new vision for the school" and has "renewed the focus on collaboration, collegiality and a positive school culture."

"In the past two and one-half years, the principal has facilitated the creation of new mission, vision and belief statements to signify unity, a change in
direction and a commitment to student achievement," the Seneca report reads. 

In terms of improvement, the report says Seneca students could "benefit from specific and timely feedback to inform them of learning expectations, rigorous formative assessments and student-centered instruction."

"The team was concerned by the lack of rigorous instruction, its alignment to the standards and the limited use of instructional strategies that required student collaboration, self-reflection and critical thinking," the Seneca report states.

Holbrook was given credit for wanting to improve the school and change the culture within, but the team "concluded that a need existed for the school to establish a pervasive culture that promotes high academic and behavioral expectations."

"Team Members seldom observed challenging or rigorous instruction," the Iroquois report reads. "The team frequently witnessed students openly being defiant or unruly during class and transitions. Parents, staff and students expressed concern about the safety and cleanliness of the school."

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