LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB )-- Election day is less than a week away and it is a crowded race for four seats on the Jefferson County Public Schools board that are up for reelection.
All four incumbents seeking another term face challengers, including District Five. Linda Duncan is the incumbent. She faces challengers Gregory Puccetti and Matthew Singleton.
Duncan is a retired JCPS educator. She served as assistant principal at Fairdale High School and middle and high school English. She has served as the District Five representative since 2006. When asked why she's seeking reelection, Duncan said she wants to continue making improvements for the district.
A top concern for the incumbent is addressing the student achievement gap. The state's latest report card for JCPS shows the achievement gap has grown between white and Black students. Duncan said potential solutions to the problem include expanding district tutoring services and creating intervention methods earlier for students.
"We need universal Pre-K to be able to start out all of our students out with early, proper childhood experiences so those gaps don't develop as they have right now," Duncan said.
Duncan was part of the board that unanimously approved the district's new student assignment plan. The plan creates the "choice zone" and allows students in and around the city's west end and downtown to attend school closer to home and receive significant financial help.
"I think it's huge for us to be able to provide the resources where they're needed the most," she said. "And I think that we will see good results from that."
As for school safety, Duncan said the district is taking the right steps to improve safety with its new plan she helped approve earlier this year. However, Duncan said the district needs more officers who patrol schools by car.
Puccetti is a retired JCPS teacher and said he has seen situations worsen for students and families over the years.
As a board member, Puccetti said his top two priorities would be to address student behavior and academic achievement.
To see improvements for both behavior and academic achievement, Puccetti said the district needs to better focus on individual student needs, therefore learning the root cause of why students are not performing at the "proficient" level. Recent state data showed that more than six in every 10 JCPS students failed to reach the level deemed "proficient" by the state in reading and math.
"It could be bullying, maybe that's what's causing them to fail. Maybe it's the home environment, maybe it's lack of good nutrition. There is plenty of reasons why, but we need to drill down to the student level," Puccetti said.
As for the district's new student assignment plan, Puccetti said it is a "baby step in the right direction." He would like to see benefits of the choice zone expand beyond its current boundaries, like automatic enrollment to neighborhood schools.
"People often feel great pride in the neighborhood, and whether you're bused across the district to some other zone, you don't feel at home there, even though it was Jefferson County, it's still not your home neighborhood," he said.
When it comes to school safety, Puccetti said he prefers to see armed resource officers inside of schools, as opposed to patrolling multiple schools by car.
Singleton is a Louisville pastor and tutor. He is also part of the American Family Association's Education Committee, an organization that, according to its core values, believes "a culture based on biblical truth best serves the well-being of our nation and our families."
Singleton said his top priority is fiscal-related, and would like to see a major tax cut to eliminate wasteful spending.
When asked how to best address the student achievement gap, Singleton said curriculums need to be re-structured, but the best solution is one that cannot be solved in the classroom.
"I think one thing is obvious is that families have to, you know, return to structure," he said. "And some of those things are outside of the purview of the public school system.
As for the district's student assignment plan, Singleton said he would like to expand the plan and localize bussing. Singleton also said JCPS needs to have a different outlook when discussing student assignment.
"I really don't see why we need to put some sort of equity issues or color issues into it," he said. "I think we should apply it to everybody because dirt is just a brown color, it's not a division of people."
Singleton said he would also like to increase school resource officers' presence in JCPS, and suggested officers follow JCPS school busses into "dangerous areas."
WDRB will preview each of the JCPS school board candidate district races over the next week-and-a-half. WDRB spoke with the 13 candidates about staff shortages, test scores, the new school choice plan, and other important issues.
Previous candidate stories:
- JCPS school board district 3 candidates discuss school safety, teacher shortages
- District One JCPS school board candidates discuss school safety, student assignment plan
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