Local News

Auditors Begin Observing JCPS Classrooms and Data

A team of auditors is spending the week observing Jefferson County Public Schools. The 25 member team will produce a comprehensive report to help district leaders improve education policies and programs.

Phi Delta Kappa International will observe all parts of the district and will visit almost every classroom and interview teachers, parents and the community, said lead auditor Dr. John Murdoch. The district has been open and transparent so far, he said.

“There hasn’t been anything that hasn’t been shared or disclosed when we’ve asked for things people are forthcoming so this is a very open process The audit I believe will be very helpful to the county and to the school district and as it becomes public my sense is that it will be put on the web and there will be goals set,” said Murdoch.

Auditors are also reviewing classroom behavior and assessing whether the hundreds of interventions and programs are working, he said.

“Then we look at program evaluation and other evaluations the district is conducting and say so what? What is the answer to how well we are doing where can we improve. And when you put all of that together it becomes a very comprehensive but cohesive report,” said Murdoch.

The team will end its work on Friday. Murdoch said he expects the audit to produce up to a dozen recommendations. He’ll return in January to present those recommendations to the district. Murdoch said he expects the report and information to be made available online.

The audit was written into Superintendent Donna Hargens’ 90-Day Plan.

Local News

Students at Low-Achieving Schools Miss More Class

Students at Persistently Low-Achieving (PLA) schools are missing more days of class than other JCPS middle and high schools.

A report released by the Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA) finds 24.3 percent students at PLA schools miss at least 20 days of class. For all other schools that number is 15 percent. Now the JCTA is asking the community to get involved and it has requested Mayor Greg Fischer and Superintendent Donna Hargens form a task force to investigate the issue, said Brent McKim, president of the JCTA and a high school science teacher.

“These schools are doing everything that they know what to do. They’re funded based on attendance; they have family resource centers that are working to try to get the students there. But clearly they need support and help from the community,” he said.

JCPS is aware of the numbers and several PLA schools have actually decreased the amount of students with 20 or more absences (see numbers below) over the past few years, said officials.

“Most all schools have seen moderate increase in attendance,” said Barbara Ayers, director of pupil personnel.

Local News

Local PTA Group Begins Training on Common Core Standards

A local PTA group is training to educate parents in Jefferson County about the Common Core State Standards.

President of the 15th District PTA Cheri Dimar said she didn’t have time to relax on the beach in Florida this past weekend because her group of six were busy training with the National PTA on how to educate parents in Jefferson County on the newly adopted common core standards. The National PTA will help monitor progress but it’ll be up to the individual recipients to see that their goals are met.

“They just help us set goals and be sure we have the materials and things we need to actually get the information out to the parents in the community,” said Dimar.

The Common Core State Standards unify what students learn in math and English and have been adopted by 46 U.S. states and territories. The 15th District PTA is one of six National PTA grant recipients. The training helps identify the role parents should play, as many states begin to implement the new standards this year.

“The parents and then the teachers too can do activities that will involve things like measuring when you’re baking or if you’re at the store using fractions when you’re buying something–just real life experiences that help the students actually be able to apply them and hopefully carry over and pass the test next week,” said Dimar.

The 15th District PTA is part of the third wave of nation-wide recipients to be involved in the program with National PTA and Dimar said past recipients were on hand in Florida to talk about what’s worked and what hasn’t.

The 15th District PTA will be training several parents and community members beginning this week, she said. A regional specialist will continue to visit Jefferson County each month through October 2012 and the group will also meet monthly to discuss how to meet its goals.

Local News

Heat Moves JCPS Football Game Times

Jefferson County Public Schools is moving all evening football games back to at least 8 pm tonight.

The heat index is expected to exceed levels suitable to play, said JCPS athletics director Jerry Wyman.

“There is no guarantee that it wouldn’t have been ok at 7:30 but we feel a lot more confident that 8:00 and beyond we’ll be in a little better time frame. So we just didn’t want to run the risk of having the fans there early and the kids out on the field and the cheerleaders and the band people all there and that extra half hour may prevent that,” he said.

Around a dozen game times have been pushed back and JCPS may decide to move games back further, said Wyman. This will happen on a case by case basis, he said.

Each school will use a hydrometer to measure the temperature and humidity on the field, then check that with guidelines provided by the Kentucky High School Athletics Association, said Wyman.

Local News

JCPS Buses Students Home Safely

All JCPS students have been safely delivered home.

The last student was cleared at 7:13 pm on Wednesday night, according to the Courier-Journal. WDRB reports that fewer than 20 children had not yet been dropped off as of 7:20.

Despite school being postponed for two consecutive days due to power and communication outages from Saturday’s storm, transportation on the first day ended more successfully than last year, when some students in extreme circumstances weren’t home until after 9 pm.

On Wednesday morning there were no reported severe transportation delays despite the ongoing cleanup of county streets from storm damage. Superintendent Donna Hargens said JCPS was prepared to reroute buses and keep in communication with parents should something occur. This year, parents could also access a bus hotline and refer to an online bus finder through JCPS.

On Wednesday afternoon, JCPS spokesman Ben Jackey said he wasn’t aware of any complications with the morning commute and he couldn’t confirm any delays. There were no reports any extraordinary circumstances regarding transportation.

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.

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JCPS Expected to Announce Decision by 6 PM Today

The first day of school for JCPS students has been postponed due to Saturday’s storm. A decision about whether students will be in school tomorrow is expected later today.

“We had our crews out this morning. We’re accessing the roads, assessing the intersections to see where lights are not working,” said Rick Caple, director of transportation for JCPS. Three of the 13 bus compounds and some schools are still without internet and phone service, he said. There are still a number of roads that are blocked and a number of lights at major intersections that aren’t working, he said.

“We do not have phone service or internet service at three compounds. We have about approximately 30 schools that don’t have internet or phone service it would be very difficult to open up a school without either one. So hopefully we can make some progress this afternoon,” said Caple

JCPS spokesman Ben Jackey said an announcement of whether students should be in school Tuesday is likely to be made later today. But he said school is scheduled and parents and students should assume classes will resume.

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New JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens Begins Work

Donna Hargens began work on Monday as Jefferson County Public School’s new superintendent. Now she’ll have two weeks to prepare for the first day of school on Aug. 15. But, preparation didn’t start today, she said.

“The work has been ongoing and the staff has worked really, really hard to prepare for the first day. What I’m doing is catching up to where they already are,” she said.

Hargens participated in JCPS’s yearly induction of 327 new teachers at Ballard High School. This year there was a total of 2,334 applicants, said Dr. Diana Decker with JCPS Human Resources.

Hargens offered advice to the new JCPS teachers and told them not to be afraid to ask questions, which she is sure to do herself as she settles into her new position.

“What I’m doing is listening,” said Hargens. “When I was here to interview what I did was talk and didn’t really get a chance to listen to people. So what I’ve been doing is taking the time to actually listen to people.”

When asked about her opinion on Jefferson County’s re-staffing method for its 13 persistently low achieving schools, Hargens did not say whether she agreed with the method. In her previous Wake County Public School system, it used a combination of methods for low performing schools, she said.

During her visit to Jefferson County last month she was briefed on a few key issues like student assignment and busing, but she still needs more information before making any formal assessments, she said.

Hargens will visit Doss High School this afternoon and spend the rest of the day with cabinet staff. Doss is one of the 13 schools listed as persistently low achieving.

Local News

USDA Awards JCPS with Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program Grants

As students prepare to go back to school, some may see changes to their diets. The USDA has awarded Jefferson County Public Schools 33 grants for its Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. But those grants may be in jeopardy.

The program gives students fresh produce in the afternoon, three days a week. JCPS has received this grant for the past few years. This year, the 33 grants more than doubled last year’s 14.

Schools are chosen to participate based on the amount of students that are on the Free and Reduced Meal program. But this money may not be available next school year, said Julia Bauscher, director of nutrition services for JCPS.

“Given the current condition in Washington, these grants may not make it into the farm bill,’ she said.

The 2012 Farm Bill is still being discussed. Nutrition services relies on the USDA for a majority of its costs, said Bauscher. This year JCPS will receive an extra five cents for each Free and Reduced Meal and one cent for full-priced meals.

“It goes up a little bit every year because the reimbursements go up. But so do our costs due to salary increase and the cost of food, especially in the last few years due to the economy,” said Bauscher.

Other new initiatives this year include school gardens, changes to recipes and flavored skim milk with lower sugar and no high-fructose corn syrup.

Local News

Jefferson County School Board Approves New Superintendent Contract

The Jefferson County School Board has approved the contract of newly-appointed superintendent Donna Hargens. Hargens finished a five day tour of Louisville last night and was in attendance for her first Jefferson County School Board meeting.

The contract gives Hargens a $276,000 salary over the next four years. She will be making slightly more than her predecessor Sheldon Berman, but school board chair Steve Imhoff says she’s worth every penny.

Hargens will be back to work in Jefferson County on Aug. 1st; the first day of school is scheduled for Aug. 15. Her previous position was Chief Academic Officer of Wake County Public Schools in North Carolina.

See a copy of the contract here.