JCPS Board Expects to Hear Student Assignment Proposal

by Devin Katayama on December 11, 2011

The Jefferson County Board of Education is likely to vote on changes to its student assignment plan Monday night.

This has been a critical year for the student assignment plan. The district lost a key case against its plan in the state’s Court of Appeals earlier this year. The board also heard recommendations in September from UCLA professor Gary Orfield. Since then, JCPS staff has been working on changes to its student assignment plan.

The district has offered several proposals to the board already. On Monday, a new plan will be introduced to the public, likely steering away from several large changes Orfield introduced, including his 13 smaller clusters in which to determine diversity.

“Probably what we need to look at is what’s least disruptive right now and the six cluster plan would be the least disruptive, a step that we could take,” said board member Linda Duncan.

Board members have expressed the need for change, but they’ve done so with caution.
Keeping the district in its current six clusters would create minimal changes and not lead to completely overhauling the plan. This may be supported by board members who say the district has not had sufficient time to research large changes.

If a six cluster plan is proposed, it’ll likely include some way to cut transportation times, said board member Debbie Wesslund.

“It may be the option that can get board support to move forward and I think that we would go ahead with the diversity guidelines that Orfield brought, which allow us to recognize diversity, more diversity out in the county, so we don’t have to move as many kids far distances,” she said.

But board members have yet to see what the district will propose. JCPS staff and the board have made clear throughout the process that adopting all of Orfield’s recommendations is unlikely.

What the district has previously proposed to the board has been a combination of Orfield’s recommendations, mainly his new diversity standards which encourages using diversity in the district that already exists in several areas, and what fits best with JCPS.

The new plan should also reflect several concerns collected from parents during public forums, said Duncan.

A board decision must be made soon to implement changes to its student assignment plan next school year. The Kentucky Supreme Court has also decided to hear the case affecting student assignment next April, which may be another reason for making minimal changes.

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