Pollio State of the District.jpg

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio gives his first State of the District address at The Olmsted on Feb. 27, 2019. Pollio said the district was "in crisis" when he took over, but transformation at JCPS is "just beginning."

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio highlighted a number of initiatives undertaken by Kentucky’s largest school district during his first ever State of the District address Wednesday and said it’s only a matter of time until results are evident.

Pollio, speaking to a crowded room at The Olmsted, touched on several topics during his nearly 40-minute speech, such as the district’s Backpack of Success Skills program, racial equity plan and Academies of Louisville program.

He stressed that things have improved at JCPS since he took over as interim superintendent in July 2017. At the time, Pollio said, JCPS was “a district in crisis.”

“I knew we were facing state takeover,” he said. “We had morale issues throughout the district, and most importantly, it didn’t feel like we had a north star.”

Much has changed since then, Pollio said.

The district now has a racial equity plan to try and close the achievement gap between minority students and their white peers, mid-year testing that identifies students who need academic interventions, the Backpack of Success Skills program that allows students to defend their learning at key transition points and the Academies of Louisville program that aims to make students feel more connected with their schools and studies, among other initiatives launched by the district, he said.

But more work is on the horizon for JCPS. Pollio noted that the Jefferson County Board of Education recently approved a plan to greatly expand the number of mental health professionals in district schools and will soon vote on a facilities proposal that will lead to four new JCPS schools.

He said JCPS has built one new school since 2008, nine less than Fayette County Public Schools, the state’s second-largest district.

The district’s transformation, he said, “is just beginning.”

“All this work that we are doing is almost like planting a little tree,” Pollio said. “We’ve got the tree in the ground, and it is going to be a big one with deep roots.”

Pollio’s message resonated with many in the audience.

“For the first time literally in a quarter of a century we as a community cannot just take pride, we can gather hope for the local public schools,” said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.

“I’ve been very upfront in criticizing JCPS when it needs to be criticized,” he added. “Today is a day to celebrate progress, and it’s a day to really celebrate the hope that Marty, his team and we as a community can offer to those 100,000 kids.”

Lantech CEO Jim Lancaster, chairman of Jefferson Community and Technical College’s board of directors and of the Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Agenda’s education committee, also praised Pollio’s speech. The superintendent, he said, “absolutely nailed it.”

Holding public events like Wednesday’s State of the District speech will only help build support within Jefferson County for JCPS initiatives, Lancaster said.

“I don’t think our community in total understands the dynamics at JCPS well enough,” Lancaster said. “It’s known primarily through soundbites, and that’s not effective.”

F. Bruce Williams, senior pastor of Bates Memorial Baptist Church, said he and others are “optimistic and hopeful” that the initiatives pushed by Pollio will yield dividends for local schoolchildren.

“I think what’s really important too is that he made it really clear that this is not going to be done by some superstar or superstar team, but it’s going to be done by the collaborative efforts of the entire community, and it is doable,” Williams said. “It is a very ambitious vision, but it is doable if the community gets behind this vision.”

Copyright 2019 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.