Marty Bell - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Marty Bell

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What is your background?

Married 45 years, two children live in the community, graduates of JCPS, 5 grandchildren in the schools. I've been a teacher many years ago. I've worked for the teacher association. I've worked in the private sector. I've worked for Humana when they had hospitals. My most recent experiences for the last 25 years I've been in school district administration. I helped organized and develop the Louisville Education Employment partnership which is a dropout prevention program that's helped 20 thousand students over the last 20 some years.  Then I went in to central office and I was deputy to the superintendent under three superintendents, Donald Ingwerson, Dr. Stephen Daeschner and for a year under Dr. Sheldon Berman. I then retired from the JCPS three years ago and went to work with Steve Daeschner over in the greater Clark County Schools and I was COO over there for 3 years. And then fully retired now and so I decided to run for the school board.

What made you want to run for the board this year?

To begin with, I was no longer involved with district administration but for about the last four or five years, I think there has been a lot of distractions from the major focus of the school system. Being somebody that was basically not directly involved anymore and watching it from the sidelines, it was causing me a lot of concern. I spent a better part of my life dedicated to student achievement trying to raise student achievement, running a very data driven accountability focused system. Over the last four or five years I think there's been distractions that have taken the school district off of that charge. I have a lot of friends that are associated with education and so forth and based upon breakfast meetings and lunches they encouraged me to run and so I said I'll throw my hat in the ring and offer myself up. I originally was planning on being fully retired enjoying my kids and grandkids, etc., but based upon what's happening in the school system right now I just decided to offer myself up as an alternative. Someone for the community consider.

What are some of the distraction you think are getting in the way of student achievement?

The school system was very, very focused on student achievement. Basically literacy, math and science. We had the literacy program everyone reads. We had the math science program and partnership with GE and their foundation to implement full accounting based systems that were done in partnerships with the business community. The business community was standing in there with us and we worked together to raise money. Eight Million dollars so that the schools had the instructional materials they needed, etc. I'd say the last four or five years they've been distracted by other issues student assignment plan other curriculums that we're trying to be put in place. I just think they've lost their focus on what the primary purpose is I hope to work with the superintendent and the other board members to try and refocus us fully on student achievement.

What specifically is the first thing you would do to get back to focusing on student achievement?

I'd work with my board colleagues and the superintendent to establish some very clear goals and objectives on what we hope to accomplish in terms of what goes on in the classroom and student achievement. We'd do that in partnership with the teachers in the classroom and parents in the schools but we'd set some very specific goals. Then we would establish, work with the administration. I have no intent to go in micro-managing, that's not what a board members responsibility, but a board members responsibility is to set some clear direction for the superintendent and staff and then support them to make sure those things happen. We would get the clearly identified curriculum in the schools. Then we would provide the professional development that is necessary for the teachers. I know that's not always a popular thing to say but there's not any career today that you can't exist in long term without retooling retraining refocusing, etc. I think that's what needs to happen in our classrooms our teachers need to be given support and the training. We need to focus our classrooms on collaborative instruction so that all the staff in the school are responsible for all the kids.

What you're saying sounds similar to the plans Dr. Hargens has set at JCPS. Do you think the school system is already on the track you speak of?

Yes. I mean I'm certainly not being critical of Dr. Hargens. I think she's come in and had some tough issues. She's had to deal with initially. They were some of the distractions that were out there that were created by the community and they've done several audits and she had responded to those and implement those. I'd be very supportive of Dr. Hargens and I think there probably needs to be a little better communication in terms of what are the goals and objectives we're trying to accomplish. What is our major focus going to be and how are we going to provide that support. I haven't seen it as clearly as I would like to see it at this point but could be I'm not as closely associated with the school system as I have been four or five years ago.

Where do you stand in terms of the student assignment plan?

Three, four years ago when Dr. Berman came in and put the six cluster plan that was not right for this community. It absolutely ignored our neighborhoods. It sliced up our neighborhoods. To quote him it developed a lot of pretty maps for this community, It absolutely did not recognize the importance of neighborhoods to this community. It did not recognize the importance of the culture that we have developed over the years in this community. The new student assignment plan. The 13 cluster plan that Dr. Hargens helped implement is much more in liking with what I would like to see done. It does respect neighborhoods as I've seen it. One of the things that needs to be done more emphasis needs to be put on recognizing the diversity within those various neighborhoods, which was one of the difficulties with the former plan. It also needs to provide some flexibility for the administration to be able to implement it effectively so that we can serve the majority of our customers in the best way possible. I am not a proponent of neighborhood schools. That's kind of a flash word to a lot of people in the community. This community hadn't had neighborhood schools since 1975. Neighborhood schools all that would create is overcrowded schools, vacant schools, community battles over attendance boundaries. Take my neighborhood, my neighborhood's close to three different schools. I can quickly see a all out war about which school is going to be our neighborhood school. Our community would not be in agreement with that I would say the community that I live in very much likes the idea that of the choice program and the idea of being able to select from a variety of schools.5 The community I live in is very supportive of the magnet program, which is something that we need to build upon and also strengthen.

Would you keep the 13 cluster plan?

I don't think there's any plan that doesn't merit review and tweaking. I'd go in with the agenda to tweak it. I would go in with the agenda of let's see the data that shows that it's enhancing student achievement. That should be the number one focus of any student assignment plan. The Jefferson County Schools has one of the outstanding research departments in the nation, not just in Kentucky. I'd be fully supportive of requesting as a board member if the other board members are in agreement that we do some data dies and some data research to see if the student assignment plan is in fact enhancing student achievement which should be its primary focus based upon the research I've looked at over the years a good diversified student assignment plan enhances student achievement for all kids all kids and I think that's important.

What's your opinion on the recent tax increase approved by the board?

It's a very complex question. Anytime you talk  tax increase that obviously brings out some detractors that don't want any kind of tax increase and so forth. What you really need to do is dig down in to that system and look at why it's occurring and so forth. In 1990 the state of Kentucky passed something called Kentucky education reform which put into place something referred to as the SEEK formula as early as 1990 folks in Jefferson County were saying that's basically a plan that is going to take revenue out of Jefferson County and spread it across the rest of the state. That's exactly what it's done. The next thing you have to do from a chamber of commerce perspective and a business and community perspective is say isn't it our responsibility to educate all kids in the state. If we just focus on educated the kids in Jefferson County we, you know. So there becomes some give and take in that whole thing. Paul Coomes Dr. Paul Comes with the University of the university of Louisville did a research study that was a few years ago but it still is in place that basically says the SEEK formula is the greatest tax diversion for Jefferson County. We collect a great percentage of the tax and a greater percentage of that tax is passed out to school across the state. There's got to be a balance there. And what is occurring right now is the state is in the process of because of the economic times had reduced their funding and so when they in fact reduced their funding it's creating a greater burden on Jefferson County and that's what the tax increase was all about. I'm going to get to the bottom line that's what the tax increase is all about is replacing funds that were lost through the statewide formula so we've got to work to balance out that formula so that Jefferson County tax payers don't have to pay a disproportionate share so the whole state is working together to enhance the educational achievement through the funding formula. There's other portions of the formula, transportation that the formula currently pays some school districts a dollar and half for every dollar that they spend in it in transportation. In Jefferson County we get about 50 dollars of every cents we spend from the state. There's got to be some equalization done in that and it's another problem with this funding formula.

So for you, you want to look at all funding options?

Absolutely. Absolutely. I think that's absolutely essential and one of the things if I'm fortunate enough to have the support of the community and be elected to the board, I'm going to be very focused when we develop the budget on a return on investment. The return is how does this impact student achievement. Any new program that's brought in or any new idea that's put forth in front of the board that's going to require funding I would say what's the educational objectives to what we're going to obtain with this funding. How is it going to support educational achievement and then I want those to be measurable and then I want to strictly evaluate it so we can see if in fact we said it was going to produce 5 percent better test results or 5 percent better learning results for every dollar or whatever amount of money we put into it after 6 months or after a year if it doesn't do that  then it's going to cause, maybe we'll stop funding those programs.

What is the one thing you think the board is doing right?

I agree with a lot of what the board is doing. I would like to see more focus on student achievement. Adjusting the student assignment plan I think was the right thing, getting rid of the six cluster plan. I would have to say when the board adopted the six cluster plan they knew there was some potential issue there and I think  my hat is off to them for addressing  that. I think the board did the right thing in supporting the superintendents with doing corrective action under the audit. I think as they review that they need to look at everything the audit said and so forth, but I would say those are the right things.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I guess I would say I've looked at the candidates out there. Some people this will make nervous, people say this to me. One of the liabilities I have is I have a lot of knowledge about the school system. I know how it operates. I think that's one of the advantages I have. I know clearly inside and out how the school system operates. I guess one of the things I'm hoping the community will recognize is virtually every program I was associated with, I'll say every program I was associated with when I worked for the JCPS were based upon performance outcomes, focused on student achievement and we were successful in meeting our performance outcomes. I think that's what needs to be returned to the base. I think you have to have a good knowledge of how the system operates to accomplish that.