LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The principals of two Jefferson County Public Schools will be allowed to stay and oversee turnaround efforts at the low-performing schools, according to state audits released Friday.

The diagnostic reviews, conducted by the Kentucky Department of Education, say that Maria Clemons at Maupin Elementary and Brandi Carney at Wellington Elementary each have the capacity to lead their schools.

However, auditors found that the site-based council at Maupin "does not have the ability to continue its roles and responsibilities," while the site -based council at Wellington does have that ability. That means the council at Maupin will be dissolved and Superintendent Donna Hargens will be making more decisions for the west Louisville school.

State officials delivered the reports to Hargens and her staff on Friday morning.

“The completion of the KDE reviews recognize the strong leadership of our principals in each of these schools,” Hargens said in a statement. “I’m proud of the work that our principals put in every day to boost achievement and create the very best optimal learning environments for their students."

Hargens added that "JCPS appreciates the guidance from KDE and looks forward to implementing the recommended improvement strategies at the schools."

"I am proud that the review team recognized the hard work of the staff and students here at Wellington and the efforts we already have underway to increase achievement and create optimal learning environments for all of our students," Carney wrote in a letter sent home to parents. "They noted that we have put supports in place to improve student behavior; we have created a culture of learning that is modeled by administrators, staff and students; and we have a school community that actively engages families in their students’ education."

Maupin's 47-page report outlines five improvement priorities, including the following: determining a clear instructional vision for the school, focusing on teaching Kentucky standards and continuing to utilize data to provide challenging instruction to improve student achievement

Wellington's 43-page report outlines three improvement priorities that were focused on providing a challenging instruction to improve student achievement.

Last fall, Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt said the two schools are facing "dire academic issues" and are in need of drastic overhauls.

Test scores released by the state on Sept. 30 showed dismal results at Maupin and Wellington elementary schools and placed them among the lowest performing in the state and prompting the Kentucky Department of Education to step in.

In its report, the audit team said Maupin had experienced "leadership changes, student behavioral issues, declining student achievement scores, teacher retention, low teacher morale, student attendance and mobility issues and a lack of parental involvement."

"Maupin Elementary is the lowest performing school in Kentucky," the report states. "However, the principal embraced a new vision for what good instruction should look like at Maupin Elementary."

The team noted that Clemons"exuded an honest, committed and relentless demeanor and genuinely appeared to care about all students."

Over at Wellington, the audit team found that the school's leadership and staff members had developed a very inviting and positive climate for the students over the past four years.

"Despite the improvement in climate, student academic performance had lagged well below state and local averages," the report reads. "By self-report, the administration shifted its primary focus about 18 months ago to a concentrated effort to improve the school's instructional program."

The team added that at this point, Wellington, "needs to continue its present activities."

Maupin and Wellington would have been the only two schools in Kentucky identified as “priority schools” when test scores were released last year, but were not because of the state's transition to a new accountability system this year.

"At that time, I said while we would not be providing a list of new priority schools, we would send in the troops if we need to and we have two schools in Jefferson County where the achievement is such that we need to send people in," Pruitt said in October.

Last school year’s standardized tests – given to all third, fourth and fifth graders – show the vast majority of students at the two schools are behind.

At Maupin, the number of students scoring proficient or higher in reading dropped from 17.9 percent in 2015 to 12.8 percent in 2016, while math proficiency fell from 17 percent to 8.9 percent. Its overall accountability score dropped from 45.2 to 35. 7 -- making Maupin the lowest performing school in Kentucky.

The number of Wellington students scoring proficient or higher in reading dropped from 37.7 percent last year to 35.4 percent this year, while math proficiency fell from 42.5 percent to 30.4 percent.

For the past five years, schools have been 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.

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.

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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