JCPS proposes dramatic changes to fix struggling schools

LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- Under a "concept" unveiled to the school board Monday, JCPS administrators are prepared to make dramatic changes to some of the district's failing schools in an effort to improve student and teacher performance.

The plan would affect four schools and - in some cases - could require students and teachers to attend class up until 5 p.m. Those changes could take place as early as next school year.

"We are really trying to think in a different way about certain places that have not had the achievement levels that we want," said Dewey Hensley, the district's chief academic officer.

Among the changes: Myers Middle School would add a magnet program for a Cadet Academy, where students would focus on ROTC. The district claims students in the program have fewer suspensions, better attendance and better test scores.

"In order to manage the district well, we have to look at new concepts," said board member David Jones Jr.

Under the proposal, Frost Middle School, another low performer, would partner with Valley High School and create academies to help students transition from middle to high school. That would require 7th and 8th grade students and teachers to attend school up to 5 p.m. as many as three days a week.

The Academy at Shawnee, which is one of the lowest performing schools in the state, would focus on community based learning -- partnering with the University of Louisville to improve teacher and student performance.

"So we are rethinking the length of school days in these schools... rethinking community partnerships," Hensley said.

All told, the costs of the new programs and teacher hires could be more than a $1.2 million. School board member David Jones Jr. says change is needed, but admits reaction will be mixed.

"Nothing will be easy and the people who are the leadership in this district have got to figure out what's going to work and 'lead' - not just wait for everyone to 100 percent agree with them."

Brent McKim, the President of the Jefferson County Teacher's Association, appeared upset after learning of the news, saying: "The superintendent has not shared any of these plans with the association. These are top-down proposals that have no teacher association input. We learned about these proposals from the news media, which is very troubling."

The district plans to take the concept to the public, and then make a formal proposal before the school board.