LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Nearly 300 Jefferson County Public Schools teachers have signed up as Capitol delegates for Thursday so far, leaving Superintendent Marty Pollio more optimistic that Kentucky’s largest school district won’t be closed for a seventh “sick out” when lawmakers reconvene for the final day of this year’s legislative session.
Enough JCPS teachers requested sick leave to trigger six closures in a two-week period as educators protested bills they say are detrimental to public education.
Kentucky’s General Assembly gavels back in Thursday, and it’s unclear whether JCPS teachers will stage another sick out to be in Frankfort on the session’s last day despite assurances that the bills they are protesting will not pass this year.
“We'll see on Thursday,” Pollio told reporters Tuesday before the Jefferson County Board of Education’s community forum at Central High School. “We’re hoping we have school. Like I said, I believe we will. We want to have school.”
“I think we’ve put together a good plan with (Jefferson County Teachers Association) to be well represented by the teachers in Frankfort, and so we believe the teachers will do that,” he added.
That plan, negotiated between JCPS and JCTA, would allow schools to send three delegates each to Frankfort on Thursday. However, the deal did not keep local teachers from staging sick outs after it was unveiled March 8.
Some JCPS teachers who requested sick leave and essentially forced the district’s closure might also face disciplinary action after Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis received their names Monday, although he has said no punishment would come if there are no further work stoppages.
Kumar Rashad, a math teacher at Breckinridge Metropolitan High, said his colleagues seem split on whether to follow the delegate plan or stage another sick out on Thursday.
A supporter of the earlier sick outs, Rashad says he hopes his fellow JCPS teachers adhere to the delegate plan on the session’s final day and continue their advocacy into the fall elections and next year’s budget session. He says he’s signed up to be one of Breckinridge Metro’s delegates on Thursday.
“I feel that our first purpose is taken care of, and that’s getting our voices heard,” Rashad told WDRB News. “Now it’s time to continue what our original purpose is, taking care of our kids, and continuing that process of staying involved.”
But Laquisha George, whose daughter is a sophomore at Fern Creek High School, says she supports teachers have called out sick and will continue if their protests in Frankfort continue.
In fact, George said she would be “a little disappointed” if school isn’t called off on Thursday.
“When do teachers have a chance to fight for their rights?” she asked. “It’s during business hours when they’re teaching our kids. … They have to have a time to go and fight for themselves. Sorry it’s Monday through Friday. They didn’t make the rules. They’re simply playing by them.”
George also expressed frustration that JCPS gave KDE the names of teachers who requested sick leave during the six closures this year, but school board member Chris Brady said the district’s hands on the matter were tied.
The school board unanimously passed a resolution last week asking Lewis to withdraw his request for names, which he ultimately declined.
“We’ve got to comply with (the law),” said Brady, who represents District 7. “Folks are upset about it. Trust me, I get it. I’m not happy about it either, but if folks are really upset about it, show up in November and make a choice.”
Brady said he hoped schools remain open on Thursday despite teachers’ frustration over Lewis’s request – and receipt – of the names of their colleagues who trigged sick outs at JCPS.
“As a parent and as a school board member, I would prefer to have our kids in school,” he said. “If (another sick out) does happen, I can understand the concern and I can understand the pushback on that.”
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