LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – With state management a possible outcome of a soon-to-be released audit of Jefferson County Public Schools, a number of speakers at Tuesday's school board meeting spoke in support of Superintendent Marty Pollio and members of the Jefferson County Board of Education.

Tuesday marks the last school board meeting before interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis is expected to make his recommendation based on findings of a more than yearlong Kentucky Department of Education audit of JCPS by the end of the month.

State management is one option that Lewis could recommend, which would give an appointed manager authorities previously held by Pollio and the school board over JCPS operations.

But those who spoke during Tuesday's meeting at Youth Performing Arts School made clear that's not a decision they would support.

"Dr. Pollio is the leader that we want to follow," said Eisenhower Elementary Principal Julie Cummings, who spoke on behalf of 150 JCPS principals. Those administrators in the audience stood as she addressed the board, and at times the audience applauded her remarks.

"Our future in this community of learners and leaders are moving in the right direction to ensure that all students, all children can make a difference by learning and succeeding in school, work and life," she said.

Jefferson County Teachers Association President Brent McKim also expressed support for Pollio and the school board on behalf of the union's 6,100 teachers.

McKim said school district takeovers in other states have yielded subpar results. In districts under state management in Michigan, for example, McKim said 79 percent of students either scored worse on assessments or showed no academic improvement, and at least half of those districts' teachers left within the first two years.

"Our students deserve better than this track record of making things worse," he said. "… They deserve all of us to work together -- the parents, the teachers, the school superintendent, the building principals, the support staff in the schools, our elected school board, and support and assistance and resources from Frankfort. We all need to work together on behalf of our schools."

JCPS parent Rob Mattheu said he has appreciated the responsiveness of the school board over the years as he raised issues within the district. Board members have returned every email he's sent them, he said.

That would change if KDE puts JCPS under state management, he said.

"If we no longer have a democratically elected school board under a state takeover, who is then going to be the ally and voice for my daughter and the 100,000 diverse students of JCPS after that state takeover?" Matteu said. "Who will listen and respond to concerned parents, teachers and staff?"

The board also approved a central office reorganization plan that, when combined with changes authorized by the school board in March, is expected to save the district $475,297. It also gave first reading to a racial equity plan that Pollio said will close achievement gaps between African-American and white students in the district during Tuesday's meeting.

Those were among points highlighted by Pollio in his superintendent's report to the board, in which he defended the district's direction and accomplishments in the past 10 months under his leadership.

"We are a much better school district than we were 10 months ago," he said. "... There is no doubt we have immense challenges up ahead of us and we are not where we need to be. We have continued work we have to accomplish improving culture and climate in central office and all of our schools, but I am confident that with our great JCPS staff in collaboration with our board and my team, we will make JCPS a model urban district in this country."

He called the reorganization and equity proposals "some of the most transformative changes to our district that have been brought to a board meeting, I believe, in years."

Speaking of the race equity policy, Pollio said he believes JCPS will have “one of the most innovative in the country around reducing disproportionality in student outcomes.”

"I believe this policy will be a major step forward for us in becoming a model district for reducing achievement gaps," he said.

Lewis is scheduled to visit JCPS Wednesday and Thursday as he finalizes his recommendation based on the KDE audit's findings, a decision he has said he expects will come by the end of the month.

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and kwheatley@wdrb.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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