Interim Kentucky education commissioner starts JCPS visit with a - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Interim Kentucky education commissioner starts JCPS visit with audit recommendation coming soon

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Interim Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis is visiting Jefferson County Public Schools before he’s expected to make his recommendation for the future of the state’s largest school district.

Lewis started Wednesday at an undisclosed JCPS school, which the Kentucky Department of Education declined to identify, before meeting with district staff at VanHoose Education Center.

“Had the opportunity to start my day talking with kids, and so that’s always a really good start to the day for me,” Lewis told reporters during brief comments outside JCPS headquarters.

“I’m here as part of the ongoing audit. I really can’t say anything in terms of details and what we’re looking for. The process is ongoing, as I’ve said before. I do have every expectation that I will make a decision and make that recommendation to the Kentucky Board of Education by the end of the month.”

That means Lewis will make his decision on the KDE's management audit of JCPS by Monday, the last day of April. He took over as interim last week after the sudden resignation of former Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt during a specially called state education board meeting, which came a day after Gov. Matt Bevin appointed several new members of the panel.

Lewis can make three recommendations based on the audit, which began Feb. 14, 2017: no action, state assistance or state management.

Pruitt’s exit has prompted concern from many that the audit will recommended that the state’s largest district be placed under KDE management. That would mean a state-appointed manager would have the same authority currently held by JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio and the Jefferson County Board of Education over the district’s operations. Others say that's what the district needs to improve student achievement.

Pollio said Tuesday that he’s excited about Lewis’ two-day visit at JCPS, which includes interviews with staff and members of the school board as well as stops at district schools.

“I’m just excited to be able to talk about the things we’ve done in the past 10 months with him like I did tonight, share that, share some of the challenges we still have and things we’ve got to overcome, so I’m actually looking forward to it,” Pollio said after Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Some parents are planning to make their voices heard as Lewis determines the district's future.

Autumn Neagle, president of the 15th District Parent Teacher Association, has scheduled a rally at VanHoose starting at 6 p.m. Thursday so parents can show their support for those currently in charge at JCPS.

Neagle said she would disagree with state management for JCPS and prefer no action as a result of the audit.

The report, she reasoned, could not give an accurate picture of the district as it exists now under Pollio, who took over as interim and then full-time head of JCPS after former Superintendent Donna Hargens resigned July 1.

"If you started the audit today, it would be completely different from the audit you started 14 or 16 months ago," Neagle said. "To say you’re going to base what you’re going to do today something 14 or 16 months ago is not a good idea. You don’t teach a child something you could have taught him 14 or 16 months ago, you teach him what he needs to be taught now. So the audit, in my opinion, won’t give us as clear a view of JCPS."

Lewis told reporters Wednesday that he's listening to concerns raised by parents.

"I can tell you that I'm always concerned about what parents have to say," he said.

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

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