JCPS board approves Schools of Innovation, cuts magnet schools
August 12, 2014 at 3:54 AM EDT - Updated July 21 at 1:47 AM
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – Jefferson County Public School board members on Monday approved two concept schools they said carried promise, while scrapping plans district leaders said once offered hope.
The Board of Education on Monday voted unanimously to move forward with the Catalpa School and Louisville Reach Academy, two so-called “Schools of Innovation” that won a public contest.
Board members later voted to cut the magnet status of four schools, while offering administrators at several other schools one more year to sort out their problems.
“When you're trying to improve a school district, you don't go in small steps,” Superintendent Dr. Donna Hargens said. “Sometimes you take bigger steps and do things simultaneously.”
Hargens stunned some board members at a work session Monday by recommending they approve all four Schools of Innovation finalists. Members said they would support the Catalpa and Louisville Reach programs for the 2015-2016 school year but needed more time to consider the other two proposals.
The board approved the Catalpa and Louisville Reach concepts, which Hargens said would both go in existing district school buildings. Administrators will likely choose a site within a month, she said.
Supporters of the Catalpa concept, which aims to teach students through visual arts, hugged and cheered after the vote.
“I think it says great things about the future of education in Jefferson County,” said Greg Givan, whose daughter is a JCPS teacher and proposed the concept.
Louisville Reach backers said their concept would be a hub for students, family and the community. It would provide job shadowing, adult education and government services in one location, according to the proposal.
The board didn't commit to the other two plans, known as the Next Generation School and Metro Museum School, but left the door open by asking Hargens to provide more details on site selection and funding.
“We are institutions that partner daily and for decades with our school systems, and we are going to continue doing that in great and innovative ways, whether we open a school building or not,” said Jo Haas, executive director of the Kentucky Science Center, which is among a coalition of organizations supporting the Museum School.
Shortly after taking the vote, board members decided to strip the magnet status from four underperforming schools, including McFerran Preparatory Academy and Rutherford, Rangeland and Jacob elementary schools.
District administrators have asked leaders of 10 other low-achieving magnet schools to submit a plan of action for the following school year.
Cell phones in classrooms
The board also voted to allow cell phone use in classrooms at several JCPS schools in the upcoming school year, continuing a program first implemented last year.
The decision expands the pilot program to Brown High School. Eleven other schools that already participate will continue.
The board's vote comes despite a survey that showed teacher support for cell phones in classrooms has eroded. This spring, 43 percent of teachers surveyed from the pilot schools supported it, down from 56 percent last fall.