To the Editor,
In a recent editorial, JCPS Board Chairwoman Diane Porter indicated she was speaking HER truth about voting to support the settlement agreement with the Kentucky Board of Education Interim Commissioner Wayne Lewis.
Like Chairwoman Porter, I too believe the whole world opened to me when I learned to read 44 years ago. And it’s because of that ability that I find Ms. Porter’s truth doesn’t seem to jibe with reality.
Chairwoman Porter says “the district didn’t have to give up anything as a part of this settlement” and “the Jefferson County Board of Education retains local control”.
These statements are false.
As has been made clear in numerous articles in this newspaper and many other sources, it is Wayne Lewis who is the final decision maker over every aspect of the Final Corrective Action plan on several items within the Management Audit Findings. If JCPS and Lewis cannot agree, Lewis is the person who decides what happens, not Superintendent Pollio, and not our Board of Education. These items are NOT within local control.
Even more disturbing is that the JCPS Board of Education gave up local control over the single most important power they have as a board, the power to replace a superintendent. Under “Additional Terms” of the agreement, item 8 indicates that “Dr Martin A Pollio will not be removed from office by JCBE unless the KDE Commissioner has first approve the grounds for removal.”
In other words, Dr. Pollio serves at the pleasure of Wayne Lewis, not our board of education. While I like Dr. Pollio and believe he’s capable and currently doing great things, this arrangement alone should have been enough to give the board pause. How does a superintendent serve two bosses who have been shown to have completely different belief systems, goals, and thoughts on the future of public education AND JCPS?
Most troubling of all is Chairwoman Porter’s assertion that “there are already statutes and regulations in place giving the authority for (the Kentucky Board of Education) to do certain things. That was unavoidable.”
Nothing that I read about the powers of JCPS, KDE, or the Commissioner gives them the power to take over certain aspects of a school system and leave others under local control. State management is an all or nothing deal. The statutes and guidance for state management and state assistance give NO authority for the commissioner to propose a hybrid takeover, nor authority for the JCPS board to relinquish partial control.
Those statutes DO give JCPS the right to an appeal hearing where JCPS could have made its case against state takeover. The board and Lewis also would have retained the right to a settlement as part of the rights granted within that hearing. While Ms. Porter may assume she knows the outcome of that hearing, to say the state taking over the district or the powers outlined in this settlement was “unavoidable” is simply untrue. Since Ms. Porter and three of her fellow members agreed to give away their powers and forego that hearing, we will never know what could have happened.
It appears that the four board members who voted for the agreement do not want to admit to what they agreed to. Rather than acknowledge that they did indeed give up power and control in the district, they’d rather spin it that they and Dr. Pollio are still in command.
For the sake of our schools and their students, I hope that Diane Porter is right about the deal being the best for the kids in our community. But given that she agreed to give up the powers of her own office and the superintendent she oversees to a group of people who have openly attacked public education and JCPS, it is MY truth to say that I have strong doubts that her vote, and the majority of the board’s vote, was the right one.