LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Kentucky Department of Education hopes to have its review of Jefferson County Public Schools’ collective bargaining agreement with the teachers’ union complete “within the next couple of weeks,” interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis told reporters Wednesday.

Examining the agreement between JCPS and the Jefferson County Teachers Association, which expires June 30, had delayed the release of KDE’s audit of the state’s largest school district.

The agency hired a contractor to analyze collective bargaining agreements between JCPS and unions that represent its employees as part of the examination, but Lewis released the audit, and his recommendation for state management of JCPS, without waiting for the contractor’s analysis on April 30.

The Jefferson County Board of Education, which is challenging the recommended takeover before the state education board, and JCTA are hammering out the details of a new deal behind closed doors ahead of the June 30 expiration deadline. They met behind closed doors Tuesday for negotiations.

The board’s negotiations come as members stand to potentially lose control of JCPS. Under the recommended takeover of the district, the school board would continue to meet but only hold an advisory role.

Lewis, who spoke to press after remarks at the Louisville Forum, said he has no issue with the Jefferson County school board cobbling together a new collective bargaining agreement with JCTA.

“They are not under state management,” Lewis said. “All they have is a recommendation from me. They are well within their rights to do whatever they see fit with the contract.”

During Wednesday’s Louisville Forum, Lewis said he wants to see a collective bargaining agreement that “puts children first.” For him, that would include measures that boost student achievement, provide adequate training and professional development for staff, and attract and incentivize experienced teachers to classrooms in low-performing schools.

“Those are just some of the things that I hope they’re considering, and those are aligned with some of the things that we know the district has had significant challenges with, with attracting and retaining high-quality staff in really hard to staff schools,” Lewis told reporters afterward.

“It’s important to make sure that there are no barriers in the contract for principals, for administrators being able to get the right people in the right spots to serve those kids,” he added.

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

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