Local News

Historical Marker Commemorating Fight Against Racial Segregation Dedicated

The two-year effort to end racial segregation in Louisville businesses has been commemorated with a historical plaque downtown.

The marker stands at 4th and Chestnut streets. The thoroughfare was a crowded business district in 1961, when local students began nonviolent protests against Jim Crow laws. The NAACP and the Congress of Racial Equality joined the efforts.

A campaign of boycotts, demonstrations, arrests and voter-registration drives led to the passage of an ordinance in 1963 banning discrimination based on race, color, religion and nationality in public places.

The historical marker outlines the struggle. It was sponsored by the local chapter of the NAACP and dedicated this weekend.

Local News

NAACP Meets With Superintendent Hargens

Louisville’s NAACP branch met with Superintendent Donna Hargens on Tuesday as part of Hargens’s 90-Day Plan she introduced after being hired as the new JCPS Superintendent.

The meeting was a success and Hargens listened, said Raoul Cunningham, president of Louisville’s NAACP branch.

The NAACP was against the hiring of either superintendent candidate during the interview process this past summer. It has since said it will give Hargens a chance but it still has concerns regarding key issues regarding the district, like student assignment and busing.

JCPS was in the Kentucky Court of Appeals earlier this month regarding its student assignment plan, which was questioned by the panel of three judges. Judge Kelly Thompson said JCPS should consider reverting back to neighborhood schools.

The JCPS Board of Education will be hearing recommendations about its student assignment plan from expert Dr. Gary Orfield on Sept. 12.

Cunningham said Tuesday’s meeting brought nothing controversial and he expects Hargens to be available for future discussions if necessary.

Hargens’s 90-Day Plan focuses on five strategic priorities: student achievement, teamwork, engage the community, high quality employees, and fiscal and organizational accountability. As of Tuesday, around 16 percent of its initiatives within the five goals have been complete.

Click here to see a copy of the results.

Click here to see supplemental documents supporting the initiatives.

Local News

JCPS Begins Year With New Expectations, Standards

In a short years-time the Jefferson County school district has seen numerous changes that will affect this school year. Some are simple, like changes to the lunch menu. Others are major and will be new to students, teachers and administrators, and will affect the county, state and nation.

One of the most notable changes is the new Superintendent, Donna Hargens. Hargens was hired in July amid changing standards and high expectations. Last week, she released a 90-Day Plan that she said will help keep her and the school board on track.

Hargens’s plan focuses on themes and goals that respond to how she expects to handle a school district that still faces unanswered questions and controversial issues.

“What we did is we took the board’s transition plan and then combined it with the things that I was going to be working on and the cabinet would be working on,” said Hargens. “I think it’s really important that we all work together off of a common plan.”

Anyone can follow the goals online, which are both broad and specific, and documents will be uploaded to the web as initiatives are met. This answers some questions regarding how Hargens plans to be more transparent and the 90-Day Plan will help hold her and the board accountable for meeting their marks.

As part of the plan, Hargens will spend time throughout the county with schools, principals and community groups. She has reached out to the NAACP, which was against the hiring of both superintendent finalists in July.

President of the Louisville NAACP Raoul Cunningham said Hargens seems more compatible with the school board than former Superintendent Sheldon Berman. The district will have to wait to see if that’s a good thing, said Cunningham. But there are still key issues, like the new JCPS student assignment plan, that await a response, he said. JCPS elementary schools implemented the new plan last year, middle schools will do so this year and high schools will follow next year. But Cunningham said it’s taking too long.

“I don’t think we’ve been able, the school board’s been able to focus the necessary attention to achievement gaps and other educational issues,” he said.

The NAACP plans on meeting with Hargens in late August, said Cunningham.

Hargens dealt with student assignment in her previous job with the Wake County Public School system. According to her new plan, discussions with the board regarding assessment of student assignment are expected to begin within the next 30 days, pending recommendations for Dr. Gary Orfield.

Hargens said the plan also includes educating the board on the Common Core State Standards, which begin this year. This is also scheduled within the 30 days.

“And what’s referenced in there is how prepared are we to deliver the common core and do we have the support systems in place to make sure that our schools and our students are successful,” said Hargens. “And in that was referenced that the board would get training from the school board association regarding their role in the common core. And that’s in the plan and it’s already scheduled.”

Other goals in the 90-Day Plan will be ongoing, like establishing relationships with stakeholders, schools and state policy makers. Once the 90 days are up, Hargens said the board should be able to create a strategic goal for student achievement.

Brent McKim is president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association. He’s concerned that enough important decisions about education aren’t being made in the right areas.

“More and more decisions are begin made further and further from classrooms, further and further from the students and their parents and their classrooms where the learning takes place,” said McKim.

If Hargens and the school board want to create a strong plan, it will be important to communicate with teachers, students and parents, said McKim.

Hargens’s 90-Day Plan includes this.

Local News

Postal Service Mulls Closing Three Louisville Locations

The U.S. Postal Service released a list Tuesday of 3,653 post offices that could be closed, including three in Louisville. But local civil rights leaders are concerned about one of the sites being reviewed because it serves as the only retail store in the city’s West End.

Thousand of offices are being studied for possible closure because of “lower foot traffic and revenue,” as the financially troubled agency continues to find ways to cut costs.  In fiscal year 2010, the Postal Service suffered a $8.5 billion net loss and posted a loss of $2.2 billion in the last quarter, according to CNN.

Most of the offices up for review are in rural areas, but the Louisville branches slated for possible removal are in densely populated urban areas and include the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. branch, an office in the Audubon neighborhood and the facility near the airport.

Louisville NAACP President Raoul Cunningham says he’s worried about the future of the branch in the Shawnee neighborhood, which is among the 120 offices listed for review in the state.

“That is the only postal facility in that immediate area. It also has a high concentration of senior citizens. So it would be a major inconvenience and a concern if the facility were closed,” he says.

Local News

Metro Human Rights Commission Announces Support of Hargens

The Metro Human Rights Commission, today, announced their support of Dr. Donna Hargens, the new JCPS Superintendent.

The Commission had echoed the calls of the local NAACP for the JCPS School Board to re-open the search. But a week ago, the School Board went into closed session for almost four hours and came back only to announce that Dr. Hargens would be the new Superintendent.

The local NAACP chapter quickly announced their support of Dr. Hargens, and now the Metro Human Rights Commission has joined the efforts to welcome Dr. Hargens.

“It is our hope that with our new school superintendent in place,” says Comissioner Dawn Wilson “we as a community will be able to move forward together for a brighter future for our students.”
The two finalists‘ public appearances were marked by general unrest, but the community has begun to rally around Hargens.
Local News

JCTA Mum on Finalists

Although opinions are swirling about the finalists for Jefferson County Superintendent, the Jefferson County Teachers’ Association isn’t commenting on the candidates.

JCTA President Brent McKim says the organization had representatives involved in the selection process but is now just waiting on the outcome. McKim declined to comment on either of the candidates and their qualifications.

Yesterday, the Louisville branch of the NAACP called on JCPS to reopen the search claiming neither candidate was qualified to handle the issues facing Jefferson County Schools.

Local NAACP president Raoul Cunningham criticized Dr Donna Hargens for her lack of knowledge of student assignment plans even though she serves as Chief Academic Officer for a district that recently dealt with that issue.

Cunningham also noted that the other finalist, Dr Christine Johns-Haines, has no experience with student-assignment plans and shied away from questions regarding the issue.

The School Board is set to meet on Tuesday to discuss the candidates.

Local News

Press Interviews with Superintendent Finalists

Earlier this week finalists Dr Christine Johns-Haines and Dr Donna Hargens appeared at public forums to answer questions from the public.  Many attendees have voiced complaints about the finalists’ lack of experience with and knowledge of issues surrounding Jefferson County Public Schools.  The local branch of the NAACP has even called for the school board to reopen the search.

Here are the press interviews with the candidates after they appeared at the public forums.

Dr Donna Hargens Video

video by Chris McDaniel

Dr Christine Johns-Haines Audio

Audio MP3
Local News Noise & Notes Politics

UPDATE: Beshear Snubbed Obama, Says NAACP President

Calling the decision a foolish game of cat and mouse, the president of the Louisville NAACP says Gov. Steve Beshear is snubbing President Barack Obama, and it could cost him votes in the general election.

Mr. Obama is making his first visit as president to the commonwealth Friday to meet with troops at Fort Campbell. He will also have a private meeting with members of the Navy SEAL team that killed al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. But Beshear will miss the president’s visit in order to fulfill his Oak’s Day obligations instead.

NAACP President Raoul Cuningham says Beshear’s excuse is sketchy, and Mr. Obama’s biggest supporters are paying attention to the decision.

“And I think the governor needs to hope that African-Americans will not play hide and seek on him this election as he has played on the president. I think the governor is assuming that African-Americans have no place to go. However, it will not assist him in his election in voter turnout,” he says.

In-Depth News Local News Politics WFPL News Department Podcast

In Depth: The Local History and Modern Legacy of the Confederate Flag

146 years after it ended, the Civil War’s effects on race, politics, culture and economics in the south are clear. But there’s one tangible remnant of the old south that’s readily and proudly displayed on cars, clothing and, in some areas, over government buildings.

The Confederate Battle Flag has been at the center of board education debates and murder trials in Kentucky in the last 20 years. But the commonwealth’s history with the flag goes back much further.

Local News Next Louisville

NAACP: Give JCPS Plan A Chance To Work

By Rick Howlett

The Louisville branch of the NAACP has released a report outlining its position on the Jefferson County Public Schools’ new student assignment plan.

The school board approved the plan following a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared the district’s 30-year old desegregation policy unconstitutional because it used race as the sole deciding factor in assigning students.

NAACP Education Committee Chairwoman Kathryn Wallace (pictured) says the group and its ally organizations generally support the new plan, which uses a combination of race, income and household education level in determining assignments.

“We implore every parent, every child, every teacher, every administrator and every Jefferson County board member to give this plan a chance. Give every child in the public school system in Jefferson County, Kentucky an opportunity for equal and high quality education,” she said at a Monday press conference at Louisville NAACP headquarters.

Wallace says the group is concerned that, among other things, parents who complain loudly enough can have their children placed where they want them, a claim JCPS officials deny.

The new plan for elementary students was implemented last fall; the middle and high school plans will begin with the 2011-2012 academic year.