My name is Rob Mattheu. I am a parent of Madeline, a Junior in the visual arts magnet who has been a student at JCPS for the past 11 years. She is the most important person in my and my wife’s life. That is why I am here, and why I’ve been visible and vocal in JCPS for those 11 years, including attending almost every board meeting of the last two years of Dr. Hargens' failed leadership that led to a state audit. And that’s why I'm here today to ask you to vote no to state takeover.
Interim Commissioner Lewis, in commenting on the recent news of JCPS giving up its Head Start grant, said “Where is the sense of outrage in our community?” I know it’s not fair to expect a man who has been in his job for less than two months to have a sense of the community, so I’ll share what I’ve observed from my 11 years in JCPS and a bit of outrage of my own.
In the last two years of her tenure, I never talked to a parent, teacher, staff member, or student who was happy with the leadership of Dr. Hargens. In fact, if you start watching the district from the time her contract renewal, you will see a downward spiral that led to lots of outrage. I and others spoke in meetings about concerns with academics, bullying, discipline, achievement gaps, inequalities in punishment for children, and issues that included many of the same findings in your audit. We were indeed outraged, Mr. Lewis. We care about these audit findings and want to see change. It’s not my fault that you and the several members of the board here from Louisville weren’t present and didn’t ask for our opinion.
But you know what, that’s not my only reason for outrage.
- I’m outraged that my Governor, who refuses to pay his fair share of property taxes, and puts his kids in private schools, has manipulated state law to stack this board with education profiteers and friends, and a commissioner sympathetic to his education agenda.
- I’m outraged that if state takeover is successful, I lose my voice into my daughter’s education and see it replaced by a man with little K-12 educational experience and a Board of Education with no accountability to the people of Louisville.
- I’m outraged that we are here talking about serving disadvantaged kids, but we have board members who have publicly attacked diversity initiatives, believe businesses should have the right to discriminate and have questioned if children in the West End of Louisville “have parents”. With thinking like that, what guarantee do I have that they’re looking out for our kids?
- I’m outraged that in their rush to appoint a new chairman and commissioner of education, this board held a special meeting where they violated open meetings law and their own board policies.
- I’m outraged that we have a board and governor who continually attacks our teachers, including one member who hates teachers unions and says teachers “murdered” underserved children because they didn’t support charters. Wonder why he hasn’t addressed our governor’s plan for dealing with actual murder in Louisville’s West End via prayer walks.
- I’m outraged by a board member who has spent years creating numerous agencies and social media presences devoted to charters and privatization of education with at least two of his fellow board members and Commissioner Lewis. He blocks and ignores dissenting discussion and questions about charters.
- I’m outraged that our board chair stood beside an openly homophobic pastor from Indiana who asks for charters because he sees dollar signs in his future.
- I’m outraged that we have board members who feel there should not be drunk driving laws, reject the sound science of climate change, and who have said on social media, “basically, liberals and progressives hate the human race.”
But most of all I’m outraged by these things.
- I’m outraged that I have to be here at all, taking a day off from work, something most of disadvantaged parents can’t afford to do, and driving two hours round trip for perhaps my only opportunity to address this board and know my concerns are heard. Perhaps you could take a lesson from JCPS’ board, allow advance sign up, not place artificial limits on speakers, hold meetings in locations around the state, and most importantly at times that are convenient to the citizens of Kentucky.
- I’m outraged that in a meeting filled with people talking about “choice”, the choice of Jefferson County voters in their elected school board is not discussed.
- I’m outraged that my choice for my daughter could be undermined by a state takeover, and that the fate of my daughter’s future and 100,000 other students in JCPS lies in the hands of you, a group of people with minimal to no stake in Jefferson County Public Schools.
- But most of all I’m outraged that a single man with minimal primary K-12 experience and a few days on the job feels ready to tell us that JCPS should be taken over. And I'm outraged he has sought minimal input from JCPS parents, spent minimal time in the district, and can provide no coherent plan for what he would do differently to ensure success where others have failed.
You want to talk about choice? My family and 100,000 others made our choice, ladies and gentleman. We should be allowed to have our say in that choice. Board members would expect the same at Christian Academy, KCD, and wherever you might send your kids.
Soon you will make your choice for JCPS. We will be watching, and we will hold you accountable for it.