SAP Email to JCPS Board

On May 10, 2022, ahead of the historic vote to finally pass the revisions to the district’s decades-old racist student assignment plan on June 1, our Coalition sent the following email to the JCPS School Board and Superintendent:

It was ignored, until I sent a follow-up email, that is.

Dear Superintendent Pollio, Chair Porter and JCPS Board Members,

I hope this message finds you well. Please consider the following information our coalition has gathered and prepared for your consideration. We respectfully request the following information be submitted as part of tonight’s JCPS school board meeting minutes.

Starting in the Summer of 2020, until January 2021, the Coalition for the People’s Agenda Education Committee held public zoom meetings every Monday leading up to the anticipated Board vote on the proposed changes to the Student Assignment Plan. An extensive archive of several months’ worth of these weekly community conversations designed to gather impacted stakeholder and community input on this topic can be found here:

Because we understand you probably don’t have time to watch hours and hours of videos, I tried to find a couple of good examples that summarize the types of discussions, concerns and proposed solutions we had. On each of those calls, the proposed plan was summarized, feedback and recommendations were rolled up under key topics, and improvements were added with each iteration. 

One example I recently came across was our meeting from August 6, 2020. To get a comprehensive overview of the Coalition’s concerns and proposals, please watch about 30 minutes – from 1:05:00 where Cherie Dawson-Edwards is speaking about her experiences as an East End parent (video should be queued up to this moment), through proposed changes to the plan, to the end of the discussion of our coalition’s future demands at 1:35:45.


8-6-2020 – https://youtu.be/Y_MUXa7dr0Q?t=3944

The list of what we referred to as “reasonable demands” have been pretty consistent since this timeframe, which were also aligned with the tax increase and our campaign to EARN the People’s Vote in November of 2020. Below is another one of our meetings, this time where we presented some of our student assignment plan ideas to “EARN the People’s Vote” to Dr. Pollio, and expressed concerns about grassroots groups being pushed out. This one was in September of 2020. Please watch from the 1:05:55 (where it’s queued up) to the 1:31:00 mark.

9-20-2020 – https://youtu.be/CHfeYmJLozg?t=3953

The REAP that was done on the current plan (thank you!) was a good start but there are still a lot of unexamined areas where disparities exist. The spreadsheet I created using school by school metrics including PTA data show what I believe to be one of the outcomes of decades of an inequitable student assignment plan, and we feel additional unaddressed concerns into these correlations warrants a deeper dive and to explore root cause solutions. (Slide below is taken from one of the videos above)

In the videos, you will see our recommendations consistently mention the following ideas. I apologize for the long list but I would rather be comprehensive than leave any of these good ideas out:

  1. Dual Resides for ALL – Everyone should have a West Louisville school and a non-West Louisville school to choose from. It might plant a seed for more diversity from those living outside the West Louisville area. Transportation does not necessarily need to be provided, although it fits with the “perks” to increase diversity discussed later.
  2. “Ban the Box” – removing the application barrier for students without a close to home option

In the video, we brought up the recommendation to Dr. Pollio that we eliminate the application barrier for students who don’t have a resides close to home. He responded with the question, “isn’t that what I’m doing [with Dual Resides]?” 

Yes, but I said, banning the box can be done now, while we continue to gain support and eventual passage of the Dual Resides for Everyone plan. Once we discover a racial disparity, which this barrier is, it should be removed immediately. Removing the application barrier for West Lou students could be done NOW even before the plan is passed. I’m curious how it was ever applied to this population in the first place.

This was 2020 when we raised this recommendation. The plan changes were subsequently put on hold. Two years later we still have not acted on removing this simple barrier.

One objection Dr. Pollio shared to this recommendation is that we are resegregating schools by allowing West Louisville students to stay close to home. 

Our Response:

Yes, but how is that concern alleviated with Dual Resides? It’s not. Asked a different way, what is the district doing to prevent resegregation with the new plan?

Secondly, our schools are already resegregated. If we’re going to allow our schools to become resegregated, why don’t we allow it to work for our most marginalized communities. We seem to only object to resegregation when it helps Black families, but we allow it when it helps white families. 

  1. Diversity Targets and resides areas for ALL schools, including magnets. Suggestion: schools striving toward +/- 15% of district averages in race, socioeconomic and zip code.
  • More magnetic “perks” and programs to attract diverse families to schools that don’t meet above targets.
  • 8% Raises for ALL JCPS Teachers to match state workers, PLUS, additional “perks” and incentives for teachers at schools that don’t meet diversity targets, again creating greater opportunities for school leaders to recruit and retain the best teachers
  1. Push back on state and local lawmakers who push these costs down to taxpayers. Speak against the back room deals and players involved (SCALA, GLI, Lawmakers, etc.)
  1. Update Legislative Agenda to include parental involvement, and reverse anti-JCPS, anti-public education legislation, restore/strengthen parent, teacher and student voice, power and participation on SBDMs
  1. Anti-Racist Budget – A budget is a priority document. Defund high stakes tests and other privatizer tools.
  1. Resolution of commitment and support:
  • equity for Black and Brown students with intention, 
  • further training and programs to reduce bias, 
  • plan to meet diversity targets, 
  • Community Oversight Committee, 
  • Commitment to include grassroots at the table, stop shutting us out! 
  • First do no (more) harm. Then, repair the harm already caused.
  • Use REAP to identify disparities and set goals to narrow them.
  • Flip the Script so that JUST AS MANY IF NOT MORE students are bused (or providing their own transportation) INTO west end schools. 
  • Perks and incentives to attract diverse populations.
  1. Stop the harm. Repair the harm

Decades of one-way busing into schools that were no better than ones close to home, and not making the investment into the community schools has taken its toll on our community. The “alternative school” assignments are another visual of the failed experiment of busing and the irreparable harm done to our mostly Black West Louisville families. Once we stop the harm, we must discuss how we continue to move toward equality and then equity. Improvements to the third floor of Shawnee are a great example of bringing a school up to where it should have been all along. Now we must look at how we repair the harm decades of neglect may have caused.

A heat map showing where the students who attend the district’s two alternative schools reside.
  1. An authentic seat at the table for representatives of grassroots stakeholder groups who have continuously been shut out. The work is not one and done. There are a lot of moving parts. When decisions are made without people impacted sitting at the table, compromises often fail to take into account root causes and long term solutions.

Thank you for considering this feedback as you continue to evaluate the best course of action moving toward a more equitable student assignment plan. We have concerns that, while it is a step in the right direction, the new plan gives away more leverage for the marginalized communities than it provides in benefits. Dr. Pollio has admitted the current plan is “structurally racist.” In order to move toward equity, we first have to reach equality. This plan, in our opinion, does not move in that direction. We know these changes are long overdue, so we do not object to them. We just hope that they are the first of many steps and many conversations that will continue to address the recommendations and concerns raised in by those who participated in our forums and discussions. More information will continue to be shared on our website and on social media as your proposals come forward for a vote.

Respectfully submitted by The Coalition for the People’s Agenda Education Committee on May 10, 2022.

Gay Adelmann, Chair

Gay


Our email was ignored, until I sent a follow-up email, that is:

We heard back from the Board Secretary with a copy of the minutes from the meeting. Yeah, I watched the meeting and know how to access public documents. I specifically asked the humans we elected to let us know which, if any, of our suggestions were incorporated. Because I couldn’t find any evidence of any of it.

Linda Duncan also replied.