JCPS Meeting 1/14/20

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Jefferson County Board of Education will soon decide whether magnet programs will be able to kick out students and whether some 6,500 students in west Louisville will have an extra choice in where they attend middle and high school.

The school board discussed proposed changes to the student assignment plan at Jefferson County Public Schools during a work session Tuesday.

The proposal, as it stands, has five main components:

  • Allowing families in west Louisville “satellite” middle and high school resides areas to choose schools closer to their homes
  • Preventing magnet programs and traditional schools from involuntarily removing students
  • Creating new interest-based magnet programs and replicating popular offerings already available in Jefferson County Public Schools
  • Establishing diversity targets for magnet programs and traditional schools
  • Having a centralized lottery system for programs that use that admissions method

Barbara Dempsey, the district’s director of student assignment, said that the dual resides proposal for west Louisville families was the most popular idea when JCPS sought feedback on possible changes to the student assignment plan while barring programs from involuntarily exiting students was the least popular.

That was on display at last month’s school board meeting, where a number of speakers who addressed the board criticized the proposed exit changes for magnet programs, and in public comments gathered by the district.

One respondent to a district survey called the idea “a grave mistake.”

“The program works because there is an enforced code of conduct for students to follow and ‘be their best,’” the respondent wrote, according to board materials included in Tuesday’s agenda. “Students cannot be their best if they do not show up for school on a regular basis, if they have attitude problems, if they do not do their homework or participate in the learning process at school or if they have parents that do not care.”

Some school board members, however, dismissed such concerns.

Board member James Craig, who represents District 3, called some of the public feedback on the magnet and traditional exiting proposal “unfortunate.”

“I’m sorry that it has unfolded the way that it has, but regardless, I’m excited to change the way that we’re exiting the students from these programs,” Craig said.

Board member Linda Duncan, who represents District 5, praised the proposed changes to the district’s student assignment plan as a whole, but she urged her fellow board members to pay attention to the concerns of critics of the exiting component.

“We do have kids that tend to be disruptive if they’re not engaged, and we need to make sure that we’re planning for that,” Duncan said. “… I don’t think we need to take our eye off that ball.”

Board members also supported efforts to provide more choice for families in west Louisville who live in “satellite” resides areas, meaning their default options for school are often far outside their communities. A consultant, Cooperative Strategies, is helping JCPS develop its dual resides proposal.

That proposal, if approved, would require at least one new middle school in that area of Jefferson County.

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said he would ask the board to approve building a new middle school at the same meeting they’re asked to authorize the dual resides proposal, with another middle school and high school on the horizon.

He estimated that about 6,500 students would be affected by the dual resides proposal, if passed.

“Depending upon the amount of students who choose to stay at a school close to their home, I would definitely see us needing to build a new high school,” Pollio said.

Chris Kolb, the board’s vice chair who represents District 2, said he wanted to see the district dedicate more resources to west Louisville at a faster pace and buck the trend of looking for further development in the more affluent eastern Jefferson County.

“I would really encourage us to as speedily as possible give resources to west Louisville in the form of new middle schools, a new high school, also magnets,” Kolb said. “...On the one hand, it’s the right thing to do from a fairness and equity perspective, but on the other hand, students there provide us our greatest opportunity for growth.”

The board is expected to receive the Student Assignment Review Advisory Committee’s final recommendations in the spring for its consideration, according to a presentation during Tuesday’s work session.

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