Kentucky education board meeting for first time since JCPS board's takeover appeal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Jefferson County Board of Education will make its case against the recommended takeover of the state’s largest school district during a multi-day hearing that starts Sept. 10.

The order, issued by hearing officer Elizabeth Heilman on Thursday, set a 12-day hearing schedule as the school board appeals interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis’s recommendation that the state assume control of Jefferson County Public Schools for at least one school year.

Hearing dates are scheduled for Sept. 10, 12, 20, 21 and 24; Oct. 1, 25, 26, 29 and 30; and Nov. 1 and 2. Hearings will begin at 9 a.m. each day in the Kentucky Board of Education’s meeting room.

All pre-hearing discovery must be filed by Aug. 31, and a final pre-hearing conference is scheduled Sept. 7 at 10:30 a.m. in Frankfort, according to Heilman’s order. Both sides must file preliminary witness and exhibit lists by Aug. 10, with Heilman able to issue subpoenas on her own or through requests from either side.

The Jefferson County school board unanimously requested the hearing May 29 after Lewis recommended state management for JCPS, a district with some 100,000 students.

Lewis, who would have the ultimate say in JCPS decisions under state management, laid out his case for a takeover in his April 30 letter to JCPS and the local board following a 14-month audit, highlighting problems with the district’s Head Start program, fiscal management, data reporting and other areas in his recommendation.

In Lewis’s proposal, JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio would handle day-to-day operations while reporting regularly to KDE, but the Jefferson County school board would be relegated to an advisory role.

The Kentucky Board of Education will ultimately decide the district’s fate at the conclusion of the administrative hearing. Heilman, in her order, cautioned board members against talking about the hearing with either of the parties.

“KBE members should not discuss this matter with anyone pending the deliberation and rendering of the decision,” Heilman wrote.

“Likewise, no JCPS Board members nor KDE employees should contact any KBE members regarding the substance of this matter. This does not prohibit the docket clerk, or an associate on her behalf, from contacting members or parties for the purposes of scheduling or ministerial matters.”

Both sides must file pre-hearing memoranda by Sept. 5 that detail the facts of the case and questions of law, all exhibits and witnesses it expects to be filed and called during the hearing, credentials for any expert witnesses, the number of reserved seats needed to accommodate representatives and legal team, listings of all pending and expected motions, and statements on the status of any settlement negotiations, according to the order.

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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