JCPS will make bold changes to our public school system

In no time, Jefferson County Public Schools is already on its way to becoming a model urban school district that others will follow. From our 135 Louisville Academies business partners recreating the high school experience for students, to building new schools, to having more than 20,000 students showcasing their desire to take it to the next level – JCPS is on the right path.

Despite our progress, I’ve learned that to become a national model of urban education, we need a major structural change that hasn’t happened in many decades. Often the public discourse is that our educators need to work ‘harder’ or ‘better’. This is not the case. We have amazing teachers, leaders, and support staff in every JCPS school.

I am sharing this with you now because I am preparing for my second State of the District address coming up on February 26, and the District is about to embark on a bold journey of change. These changes are essential to achieve the results desired by the entire community. Having an innovative and successful public school system that is at the forefront of creative initiatives is paramount to the success of our city.

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Our future plans are to establish new structures and innovative work that will lead to continued transformation. These bold moves include changing student assignments, building new schools, updating current facilities, increasing student instruction time, adding student supports, and developing and supporting our current and future teachers and school leaders.

We must be prepared to provide more support services to our thousands of students in need. These include wrap-around services as well as extended instruction time. We must be prepared to better support our very poor schools through funding models that include additional staff in these schools, while increasing compensation for educators called upon to work with our most vulnerable children.

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We need to explore options with our school calendar that will maximize student instruction time and staff professional development. Finally, we must support our 17,000 employees within JCPS by further differentiating their compensation between neighboring districts to attract and retain the best and brightest educators in the region.

Our student assignment plan is one of the most contentious issues that has been debated in our community for decades and is currently not working to best support all students.

I believe family and student choice should be at the center of any student assignment plan. Unfortunately, in one geographic area of ​​our city, west of Louisville, most students do not have this option.

At JCPS, approximately 6,500 middle and high school students reside in West Louisville. Nearly 70% of these students have to get on a bus and leave their neighborhood to get to school every day. And the decision to leave their community is not their choice. We need to make major changes to the student assignment plan so that students in West Louisville can attend a school in their community like all other students in this city. To achieve this, we must be willing to build innovative new middle and high schools in West Louisville.

JCPS finalist superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio answered questions from the public during an open forum at Central High School on Thursday evening.  01/25/18

We have over a billion dollars in facility needs, 35 schools are at end of life, and we have a high school that hasn’t used its third floor since 1981. The newest high school facility in our community turned 50 in 2018. Fortunately, our school board has approved a $40 million third floor renovation at The Academy @ Shawnee and plans to build four new schools. When you compare JCPS to other districts, our facility needs are staggering.

Fayette County Public Schools built 10 new schools in the past decade, while JCPS built only one in the same period. Other districts have taken bold steps and passed revenue-raising measures to make building new schools possible. Their communities made the investment. Most major districts in the country have invested in their children by building innovative and modern schools. Jefferson County should be prepared to do the same.

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These changes are long overdue in JCPS. To achieve the results we want, the community must be willing to support this major change in our school system. At JCPS, we need to review every expense to make sure it impacts student outcomes. We also need to consider new sources of revenue to improve student supports and facilities. Now is the time to take a hard look at what is possible, and we need your support. With these major structural changes and ongoing work, JCPS will become a national leader in urban education.

Marty Pollio is the Superintendent of Public Schools for Jefferson County.

Jeremy S. McLain