Ky. education chief offers enhanced oversight in lieu of JCPS takeover
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis has proposed giving the state a greater say in some areas of Jefferson County Public Schools in lieu of his recommendation to take over management of Kentucky’s largest school district, WDRB News has learned.
The areas in which the Kentucky Department of Education would have enhanced oversight include special education, early childhood education, student assignment, human resources, facilities and transportation, according to sources with knowledge of the offer.
That would give the state veto authority over decisions made in those areas.
The proposed settlement also includes a provision in which the Jefferson County Board of Education would waive its right to appeal any recommendation that comes from a proposed follow-up review of JCPS in 2019.
The deal may be dead, however. Lewis gave the school board until Wednesday to respond to the offer, and the board has not scheduled a special meeting, which requires a 24-hour notice, to discuss or approve the proposal.
The offer, sent July 16, would negate an upcoming 12-day appeal hearing on Lewis’s recommendation for state management of JCPS. The hearing, unanimously requested by the local school board, is scheduled to begin Sept. 10 with dates scattered through Nov. 2.
Some school board members have previously indicated that a takeover of JCPS, if approved by the Kentucky Board of Education, could be ripe for a court challenge.
In a statement late Monday, Lewis indicated his belief that it would be in the best interest of JCPS students to settle the matter "before a long legal battles ensues." He had previously told WDRB News that he was open to settlement discussions with the district.
"If an agreement is reached, we will immediately begin to work together to build a district that is committed to meeting the needs of all learners in a safe environment," Lewis said in the statement.
JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio told WDRB News that he would like to see the issue resolved as well, though he stressed that the decision is the school board's to make.
"There’s no doubt that I’d like to put something behind us as quickly as we can,” Pollio said Tuesday. “I’d like to move forward. I’d like us to be able to really focus on the work as a district, but it would be difficult for me to answer that not knowing what the specifics of any settlement would be.”
Lewis recommended state management for JCPS on April 30 after KDE’s 14-month audit of the district and based his decision on multiple deficiencies laid out in the report, such as student abuse and neglect in the district’s Head Start program and fiscal management.
Under his recommendation, Pollio would continue to run day-to-day operations at JCPS but need to report regularly to KDE and the school board would continue to serve in an advisory role without decision-making powers. If JCPS is placed in state management, Lewis would have authority over key areas of the district, such as administration, finances and instruction.
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