JCPS School Board candidates answer community questions

By Marisela Burgos - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Four of seven Jefferson County Board of Education seats are up for grabs. People will decide who they want in those positions when they vote in November during the General Election.

Former School Administrator Linda Duncan, who has served District 5 since 2006, is running unopposed.

Carol Haddad, who represents District 6 has served on the board for 25 years and is running unopposed.

The seat for District 3 is up for re-election. Incumbent Debbie Wesslund has held that seat since 2006. She faces three opponents, including Health Care Consultant David Toborowsky, who was endorsed by the Jefferson County Teachers Association in August.

For District 1, JCTA endorsed Incumbent Diane Porter, who has held her seat since June when she replaced Ann Elmore, who retired. We're told the candidates running for District 1 are: Diane Porter, Attica Scott, Bonnie Lash Freeman, and Phyllis Morton.

On Sunday Rep. Reginald Meeks (D-KY) held a JCPS Candidate Forum for District 1 at the NIA Center on West Broadway. Candidates Porter, Scott, and Freeman attended the 2-1/2 hour event to answer questions from the community. Meeks says Morton was invited to the event, but was not there.

Porter - who has worked as a teacher, counselor and principal - says she wants the school board to continue making informed decisions with parents' suggestions in mind. She says children do not learn the same way, but added all children can be successful.

Attica Scott, who now teaches at Bellarmine University, wants more resources available in schools, families to be more involved, and believes schools need to bring back arts and culture. Scott says she has wanted to serve on the school board since 2009, when she filed for it. She says she also applied for Elmore's position when she retired, but Porter was chosen to serve instead.

Bonnie Freeman says she has more than 20 years of experience with the National Center for Family Literacy. She is a Commissioner who represents Kentucky on the Education Commission of the States. Freeman believes the superintendent's evaluation should be more transparent. She says there needs to be a focus on elementary students.


Diane Porter:
Porter says she believes the plan is necessary, but thinks the school board did not deliver this year. Porter points out the school board's plan for instruction is working.

When asked if she supports continuing or delaying the assignment plan for middle and high schools, Porter had this to say:

"We need to look at each section - middle and high school," Porter said. "I think that on the elementary piece, we did not necessarily deliver what we promised as promised as it pertained to transportation," Porter said.

Attica Scott:
Scott says she supports the student assignment plan and believes it is the best way, right now, to achieve diversity.

When asked if she supports continuing or delaying the assignment plan for middle and high schools, Scott replied:

"I feel like the plan is to implement it for middle school in 2011 and for high school in 2012. And by then, we should have worked out the kinks. If we roll up our sleeves and take care of it now," Scott responded.

Bonnie Freeman:
Freeman says it is critical to make sure children learn together, but says it was unfortunate there have been transportation issues. She called it a "poor plan" and "poor communication."

Freeman says she believes there's work to do on the current assignment plan.

"I think the student assignment plan has to be worked out with elementary first and then we have to figure out what we are to do with middle school and high school. We had real problems, this time, and we got to do it. I'm committed to it," Freeman said.


Diane Porter:
Porter says she supports quality education and effective schools. "I'm not in favor of taking dollars away from public education," Porter said.

Attica Scott:
Scott says she is a passionate advocate for public schools, but wants to compare numbers before supporting Charter schools.

Bonnie Freeman:
Freeman says research on charter schools is limited.

"The money that would be diverted away from public to charters in money we need to keep," Freeman said.

Candidates were also asked about evaluating teachers and merit pay.

Would you support a testing evaluation program for teachers to grade them and determine their pay?

Diane Porter:
"I'm not sure that a testing evaluation program is fair to determine their pay because teachers do so much with children," she said.

Attica Scott:
"I support a comprehensive evaluation of teachers," Scott said. "As a parent I want to be involved in the evaluation process."

But Scott also says testing is always questionable.

"There are many ways you can evaluate someone's performance," Scott said.

Bonnie Freeman:
"No. They are working very hard and are committed to the jobs that they are doing right now and I think if we added that kind of scrutiny to them, I think we'd lose the bulk of our teachers."


Diane Porter:
Porter says the school system needs to teach instruction to each individual. She says, unfortunately, all students are taught using the same methods. Porter says there should be financial obligations, and believes education is a community initiative and wants to encourage people to become engaged.

Attica Scott:
Scott says children are stressed, and wants to address the issue by involving families. Scott says it will take time to address this issue, so action should be taken immediately.

"We have to do it together," Scott said. "And now."

Bonnie Freeman:
Freeman believes the school system is not addressing achievement gaps, but she has noticed a collaborative effort to make it happen. She said additional services are needed. "It isn't just an academic gap. [We] need to build a group of support around the children," she said.

The school board was set to meet Monday to discuss the student assignment plan, and are expected to consider expanding the plan to middle and high schools.

Copyright 2010 WAVE News. All rights reserved.