Lisa Willner: Candidate for JCPS Board - District 6

Lisa Willner: Candidate for JCPS Board - District 6

1. What is the biggest issue facing JCPS? Is it a district trending in the right direction, wrong direction, or stagnant?

Disparities within our public schools. Every child must have a fair and equal opportunity to get a great education. The recently reported JCPS "Unbridled Learning" test scores shed light on this problem. While district scores overall are trending in the right direction, the data for District 6 is bleak. 25% of District 6 schools' scores actually dropped since last year. We have a rising tide that is not lifting all boats, with 75% of District 6 schools still in the "needs improvement" category, and with nearly half of those showing no progress. This is not only problematic for District 6, but for the school system overall. District 6 reflects the diversity of the Greater Louisville community, including minority and international students. Our public schools must be prepared to meet the unique learning needs of every child. That is why I am running for School Board.

2. How are you best qualified to make decisions for district with more than 100,000 students?

My experience as an educator, nonprofit executive, psychologist, and JCPS parent gives me a broad and unique perspective to bring to the school board.

Under my leadership, the Kentucky Psychological Association has been nationally recognized for Outstanding Achievement in Diversity, and won the Center for Nonprofit Excellence's Pyramid Award of Excellence in the Art of Governance. As the KPA executive, I have been responsible for every aspect of organizational operations, including programming and finances.

As a faculty member at Bellarmine University, my courses have focused on child and adolescent development. Additionally, I have been an active parent volunteer in the JCPS schools in a variety of roles for the past 18 years. This background allows me to understand student achievement, bridging the gap between the boardroom and the classroom, students' diverse learning needs, and the importance of supporting parent and community engagement.

3. What is your position on state Auditor Adam Edelen's recent assertion that JCPS is a top-heavy district with too many highly-paid administrators? What, if anything, would you do to address this?

The state auditor's report was a major factor in my decision to run for School Board. When compared to five peer districts nationally, JCPS ranked at or near the bottom in teacher staffing and investment in the classroom, and ranked highest in administrators and other non-teaching staff. The State Auditor's report also found lax oversight of the (then) $1.2 billion taxpayer-

funded budget, and that current board members "lack a depth of understanding" to appropriately question the budget and spending priorities for which they are responsible. Rather than dismiss the auditor's report as my opponent has done, my response would be to consider carefully the findings and recommendations, and to work toward greater board member understanding and public transparency. The JCPS budget must reflect that student success is the school district's number one priority.

4. What is your position on Edelen's assertion that the school board didn't properly understand the district's budget before voting on it? What, if anything, would you do to address this?

It is irresponsible and unacceptable for elected officials to approve a taxpayer-funded budget that they do not understand. The School Board must uphold its statutory responsibility to be a good steward of the public trust. As a result of questions raised by some of the relatively new members of the School Board, we are beginning to see increased transparency and clarity in JCPS's budget process and financial reporting. This is a positive trend that should continue, and demonstrates the importance of voters' electing new members to the School Board who will offer fresh perspective and openness to outside recommendations for positive change.

5. The school board recently voted to approve a budget that held property taxes flat. Do you support that decision, or would you have voted to decrease or increase property taxes? Depending on your decision, what would you propose to cut, or what would you propose to spend the addition money on?

I support Dr. Hargens' decision to take a property tax increase off the table. Given the State Audit findings of too much funding going to administrative costs, and too little going into the classroom to support student achievement, I recommend a full accounting of how these high administrative costs support student success. Spending must be examined to determine whether it is tied to student success, and if it is not it should be scaled back or eliminated.