Jefferson County school board work session 4-23-19.jpg

The Jefferson County Board of Education discusses the district's student assignment plan revisions during a work session April 23, 2019.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Some members of the Jefferson County Board of Education expected to be further along with proposed changes to the district’s student assignment plan Tuesday as the board got its first look at proposed guiding principles for revisions.

Jefferson County Public Schools is undergoing a regular review of its student assignment plan, and the district is required to amend it in time for the 2020-21 school year under terms of a corrective action plan between JCPS and the Kentucky Department of Education.

But so far, the board only has proposed guiding principles — choice, equity, diversity, access and ease of understanding — to consider after they were approved by the Student Assignment Review Committee April 9. Once those are approved, JCPS staff can begin developing scenarios for the Student Assignment Review Committee’s consideration and community feedback. After that, any amendments to the current plan will be drafted.

Board member Ben Gies questioned the plan’s progress. He said he had hoped discussions of conversations had moved beyond “philosophical” considerations of the student assignment plan.

“I remember that we had hoped to see a proposal before us by the end of the summer, and so do we still think that’s the timeline or are we still trying to mete out the philosophy before we can get to the pragmatism?” he said.

Board member Chris Brady said he shared similar concerns about “where we are in the process.”

Dena Dossett, chief executive of the district’s Data Management, Planning and Program Evaluation Services, couldn’t say whether the proposed student assignment changes would be ready by late summer.

Dossett said the district needed to gather plenty of community feedback on potential revisions to the plan, a point reiterated by JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio.

“We want to get it as quickly as possible, but we also want to get it right,” he said. “That’s very important for us.”

Other board members voiced their concerns as the student assignment revision process continues.

Chris Kolb, the board’s vice chair, noted that white respondents to the district’s student assignment survey were more satisfied with the plan than black respondents, something he hopes will be addressed in the final product.

For Brady, continuity was another chief issue. Assigning a middle-school student to the Academy @ Shawnee but somewhere else when they reach high school didn’t make sense to him, and he said he had heard from constituents whose children with individualized education programs were ultimately told they weren’t “a right fit” in JCPS magnet or traditional schools even after they’re enrolled.

Linda Duncan suggested that those charged with amending the student assignment plan should first begin with trying to resolve issues within the existing program. Among her misgivings were inequitable access to magnet schools and afterschool programs.

“I just feel like we need to do a lot of thinking in terms of our problems that we’re trying to solve in keeping this student assignment plan or doing something different,” she said.

Pollio, however, said he believed most members of the review committee are “identifying problems” with the current student assignment plan.

“I don’t think anybody’s coming to the work thinking that it’s where we want it to be, so I know we’ve got more work to do,” Pollio said, adding that the student assignment plan has been a source of controversy for decades in Louisville.

JCPS Communications Director Renee Murphy said any revisions to the student assignment plan for the 2020-21 school year will be approved by this fall ahead of the next school application cycle that begins in October.

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