JCPS deadline for KDE settlement decision moved to next week
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A decision on whether Jefferson County Public Schools will settle with the Kentucky Department of Education over a proposed takeover has been delayed.
The decision had been expected by August 2, but JCPS released a statement from its spokeswoman Tuesday afternoon indicating the deadline has been moved to next week.
“The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) has expressed an interest in settling this case. District leadership spoke with KDE and Interim Commissioner Lewis, and Dr. Lewis asked that we have a response to them by next week,” JCPS Communications Director Allison Martin said in the statement.
Interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis says he hoped to have a settlement agreement with Jefferson County Public Schools to present to the state education board at its Thursday meeting, but that won’t be the case.
The Jefferson County Board of Education won’t meet Wednesday to take up the offered settlement to avoid a state takeover of JCPS since some board members are out of town, Diane Porter, chair of the local school board, told WDRB News.
“In my mind it’s fair to have everyone at the table to have this conversation,” Porter said about the decision against calling a special meeting, which requires a 24-hour notice, to consider the proposed settlement. She declined to comment on specifics of the offer.
The settlement offer, in which Lewis asked for a response by Wednesday, would give the state enhanced oversight of some areas highlighted in a 14-month audit performed by the Kentucky Department of Education, including veto authority of any decisions in those categories. Some areas in which Lewis sought enhanced oversight include student assignment, early childhood education and special education.
“The board, even in these areas, would go through its normal course of business,” Lewis said during an interview on News Radio 840 WHAS Wednesday.
“For any policy, procedure or hiring in these areas of deficiency, we would have final sign-off. If it got to me and I believed that a decision that they were making was not in line with correcting that deficiency, I would not dictate the course of action. I would either say, ‘Yes,’ I’d say, ‘No, these are some things that you need to think about. Go back, do some redevelopment and send it back to us.’”
The proposal, sent by Lewis July 16, would also require the school board to waive its appeal rights on any recommendations that come from a 2019 follow-up review of JCPS.
Lewis recommended that the state place JCPS in state management after the audit, proposing that JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio remain in place to handle day-to-day operations while the school board would serve in an advisory role without decision-making authority.
His settlement offer would give the state greater oversight in district operations than in state assistance while falling “far short” of the state’s authority in a takeover, he said.
Lewis said he set a Wednesday deadline so that an agreement could be put before the Kentucky Board of Education for approval at its meeting Thursday. That would avoid the 12-day appeal hearing, unanimously requested by the Jefferson County school board, that’s set to begin Sept. 10 and wrap up Nov. 2 and what could be a lengthy court fight if the state board ultimately votes to place the district under state management.
Lewis said the matter “could drag on for a long time” if it’s not settled.
“While this is happening, we are not working together to deal with the significant deficiencies in that audit and the district is not improving nearly at the rate that it could be,” Lewis said. “That’s the biggest travesty, the biggest thing that we stand to lose by embarking on this tremendous legal battle rather than getting together immediately to start to fix problems.”
“I said to (the Jefferson County Board of Education) very clearly this is our first stab at trying to come to terms with an agreement, and so I have been disappointed that I haven’t received a counter offer or some ideas,” he added, noting that he’s still open to negotiations with the district.
But Porter says the board’s legal counsel has been in contact with Kentucky Department of Education attorneys about the proposed settlement.
“The board is still working through our general counsel and their general counsel to come up with a proposal that is acceptable to both of us, KDE and JCPS, so it’s still a work in progress,” she said.
When asked whether the prospect of settling the JCPS takeover issue appealed to her, Porter said she believes the Jefferson County community wants to see the matter resolved based on conversations she’s had.
“A lot of folks that I have talked to would like for this not to drag on or to go on for two years, perhaps,” Porter said. “We have to think about our teachers, our families, our staff, and their mission is to educate our children, and this is something that is just hanging there.”
Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.
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