Arts and Humanities In-Depth News Local News

New Arts Magnet Program Strives to Transform School

Last summer, the Jefferson County Board of Education voted to have more than 20 elementary schools include magnet programs. It came just a year the U.S. Supreme Court stuck down Jefferson County’s desegregation plan saying it unconstitutionally assigned students to schools by race. This week, these magnet programs — focusing on an array of areas from languages to technology — open in existing elementary schools. Among them is one that will focus on the performing arts and it’s in a school that was in danger of closing several years ago. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

This summer, Lincoln Elementary has been undergoing a transformation— and so has its faculty. More than 20 of its teachers underwent a two-week training put on by the Kentucky Center to teach them how to integrate music, drama and dance into the curriculum.

In just one of their many sessions — led by artists — they are learning how to dance.

Lincoln Arts Magnet 005“Which way are we going first?” Harlina Churn-Diallo asks the teachers. Then she and the class detail their moves. “Arms. Head. Shoulders. Hips,” they chant.

Today, Churn-Diallo is teaching the teachers about using dance to create social studies and history lessons. They are learning about Africa and its dances now. And she says  cover even more geography.

“And we’ll cross the Atlantic and go to the islands. And we’ll learn dances and movements from there,” Churn-Diallo says. “Then we will come to the Americas and learn music and movement.”

And it’s not just the teachers and their lessons getting revamped. Downtown on East Main Street, classrooms at Lincoln Elementary are being renovated.

“This is the room that will have all of the pianos. This is going to be the piano lab,” says Sonya Unseld, the school’s principal. “So, the teacher will be about to allow the kids to construct their own music.”

On a tour, Unseld shows me this room, where there will soon be 15 pianos; and another room that is being made into a dance studio. This year, classes will focus on the basics of reading and math, but also incorporate the performing arts into learning and reserve two-hours of every school day to teaching the performing arts. School staff have been working with local arts groups to realize this goal.

Unseld says parents living as far as the Westport Road and Dixie Highway areas have registered their children to be one of more than 300 starting classes here this week. She says that number could change.

“We think as our program develops, there will be more,” Unseld says.

It’s a far cry from six years ago when the school had falling enrollment. Then many students were from the nearby Clarksdale Housing Complex — which the city demolished in 2004. Back then, school officials had talked of closing the school. But many parents, including many from Clarksdale, were deeply involved with the school. Angela Williams, who was one of them, remembers that time.

“At the end of the year, you held your breath,” Williams says, “and hoped that we got the word that we were going to stay open.”

Williams is breathing more easily these days. Today, she works at the school.

Williams even attended Lincoln for two years before she transferred when busing started in 1975. Busing was the school district’s first move to diversity its schools. Now, it’s trying this by transforming Lincoln and more than 20 other magnets throughout the county.

Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Sheldon Berman says magnets give parents choices that lead to diversity, rather than forcing them to send their children to specific schools. Berman also sees magnets as agents of change in the larger community.

“Our thinking has been that we’d like to see a real renaissance and revitalization in certain areas of our community and the West End is one,” Berman says. “Newberg is another. The area around Lincoln is another. And we think that by investing in these schools, by creating exciting programs, we can also help in the whole neighborhood redevelopment.”

But this isn’t always the case. In some circumstances, magnets have attracted largely middle-class students and displaced poorer and at-risk students. Gary Orfield — an education professor at the University of Southern California  — has studied student selection for magnet schools and education in Kentucky and Jefferson County.

“The dilemma is to figure out how to do them in a fair way and a way that captures that energy but doesn’t become elitist or doesn’t become exclusionary,” Orfeild says.

Superintendent Berman says he thinks that Jefferson County Schools has designed a plan that won’t become exclusionary — and the parents long-associated with Lincoln are hoping that’s true.

Local News

Stinson To Be Replaced As PRP Football Coach

Louisville Pleasure Ridge Park High School is expected to have a new head football coach on the sideline next season.

Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Sheldon Berman tells the Courier-Journal that the school is in the process of replacing Jason Stinson as coach.

Stinson is under indictment in connection with the heat related death of sophomore player Max Gilpin last year.

Under district policy, Stinson was reassigned to a non-instructional job after he was charged in January with reckless homicide. He has pleaded not guilty. A trial date has not been set

The 15 year old player collapsed at an August practice and died several days later of heat stroke.

State of Affairs

Greater Louisville Education Project Report

Monday, February 23, 2009
Greater Louisville Education Project Report
The Jefferson County Public Education Foundation and Jefferson County Public Schools recently commissioned a study called the Greater Louisville Education Project. According to the report, the JCPS team identified 5 areas for study, Advancing JCPS’ competitiveness; enhancing the JCPS–Metro Area safety net for children; successful reform for achieving curricular consistency and high expectations; preparing JCPS students for 21st century careers, college success, and civic responsibility; and determining JCPS’ funding adequacy. So what did they study, what did they find, and what is JCPS going to go with the information? Join us on Monday when we talk with JCPS Superintendent Sheldon Berman about the next steps for our schools.

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Local News

Storm Aftermath: Updates on Schools, Power, Gas, Guard

National Guard Troops Called Up to Help with Storm Aftermath
With hundreds of thousands of residents still without power, roads blocked by debris, and intersections still touch and go, Governor Steve Beshear has offered up Kentucky National Guard troops to help the city recover.  Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson says that more than a hundred troops will help metro employees with a broad range of tasks:

“….from residential debris, from supporting LG&E crews, as well as making sure that where a downed line exists that we have a person there,” Abramson says.

Abramson says some Guard members will help direct traffic at intersections without power.  Their presence should help double the number of intersections covered.

Gas at a Premium; Long Lines at Open Stations
Reports of long lines at gas stations that are open have accompanied reports of price spikes.  To help ease the flow of gas into the area, Governor Steve Beshear says that he’s asking the Environmental Protection Agency to allow us to use other kinds of gas.  Also, Beshear says he’s asked for permit fees and hours of operation restrictions to be lifted for commercial vehicles.

“This will allow for faster delivery of much needed gas and will help facilitate ongoing utility repairs,” Beshear said.

Beshear has also declared a state of emergency in Kentucky, which means additional funding for clean up efforts.  In addition, more than a hundred national guard troops will be arriving in Louisville to help clear debris and assist metro employees with directing traffic, among other jobs.

Public Schools Could Stay Closed Much of Week
Jefferson County Public Schools remain closed Tuesday because of power outages from Sunday’s windstorm.  It could be some time before kids can return.  As of Monday evening, 50 schools out of 154 had power.  But it may take much of the week to restore power to all of them.  Schools superintendent Sheldon Berman says parents should make plans for the entire week – just in case – although he couldn’t confirm exactly how long schools will remain closed. Berman also says that there’s more to reopening than simply restoring power.

“Once we get power we have to reset everything, reset the computers, make sure that everything is operational in the school, so it takes us a little time to bring it back,” Berman says.

School administration staff will be working, but teachers will not return until students are back.  Meanwhile, LG&E has doubled the number of staff working to repair power lines and put up new poles.

Winds Cause Largest Power Outage in Kentucky History
Governor Steve Beshear announced that Kentucky is still recovering from the largest power outage in its history.  At the peak of Sunday’s windstorm, more than half a million people were without power.  Hundreds of thousands are still in the dark.  LG&E spokesman Chris Herman says the company has doubled the number of staff working to restore power.  The process could take up to two weeks because of the number of downed lines.

“We’re over 5300 wire downs, and we have to go and check on those individually,” Herman said.

Herman says restringing downed power lines takes less time than actually replacing power poles.  Nearly 300 of those came down in the storm.  He says the outages are widespread.  The focus will be on restoring critical services first, such as those to police and fire stations.  Power is still out at many of those stations.

Local News

Berman Favors Changes To NCLB

Jefferson County Public Schools superintendent Sheldon Berman says he would like to see changes made to the No Child Left Behind act.

This month, more than half of Jefferson County Public Schools were cited for not making adequate yearly progress. The label is applied to schools that fail to meet all of their yearly goals. Most schools, however met at least 80% of their goals.

Berman says the current No Child Left Behind standards are distracting for educators and need to be refocused.

“I know that John Yarmuth is a strong proponent of changes in No Child Left Behind and I hope the next president and the next congress make the changes that are necessary so we can get back on track and come back to that civic mission of schools,” he says.

Berman made his comments on WFPL’s State of Affairs program Wednesday.

Local News

JCPS Classes Resume

Jefferson County Public Schools officials say Tuesday’s start of the school year has been relatively smooth for the system’s students, faculty and staff.

Nearly 100,000 youngsters are enrolled for the new academic year.

A new student assignment plan for elementary school students approved by the
school board in May won’t go into effect until the 2009-2010 academic
year, but JCPS Superintendent Sheldon Berman says it shouldn’t cause a
major disruption.

“We will actually have probably two sets of bus routes next year, because we’ll
be grandfathering a number of students in. But i think the changes will be subtle,
and they will not be as evident, or stark as people may gather. I think we’ll see
an evolution over time,” Berman said.

Officials are now working on new plans for middle and high schools.

A change in the JCPS student assignment plan for all students was mandated
in a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year.