Education Commissioner ready to defend JCPS takeover

Education Commissioner ready to defend JCPS takeover
Dr. Wayne Lewis said his main goal is closing the achievement gap in JCPS schools.
Teachers, parents and staff spoke at the Kentucky Board of Education meeting on Wednesday. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Teachers, parents and staff spoke at the Kentucky Board of Education meeting on Wednesday. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - The acting Kentucky Education Commissioner said he's ready to defend his position that a state takeover of Jefferson County Public Schools is necessary when a hearing is held on the issue this summer.

He wasn't alone in stating his case to the Kentucky Board of Education Wednesday, as parents and teachers were also there to speak.

Interim Education Commissioner Dr. Wayne Lewis told the state board his top priority is closing the achievement gap, particularly in JCPS Schools.

"I want you to know that personally, it is at the very top of my list of education policy priorities," Lewis said.

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Lewis also told the board the state has to ensure the most vulnerable children in JCPS are protected and served, while adults are held accountable. He said that includes the state board and if they are not moving student outcomes forward, they're not doing their jobs.

"I made the recommendation for state management because I believe it is the only option on the table," Lewis said.

Some parents and teachers who signed up to speak at the meeting told the board the former JCPS administration of Dr. Donna Hargens was to blame. They said state assistance is welcome to help JCPS right the ship, but maintained state management of the district that would take away the power of the elected school board is not necessary, as the past few months have seen major improvements, including more parent and teacher involvement in the district.

"We don't dispute the findings of your audit," JCPS parent Rob Matthews said. "We welcome the state to come in and help us, we care about these audit findings, we want to see change."

"We changed our board, we changed our Superintendent and that was our voice that did that," District 15 PTA President Autumn Neagle agreed. "Now you're saying our voice doesn't matter?"

Dear JCPS founder Gay Adelmann told the board she has also been a critic of JCPS but maintained the district's credibility.

"It is different, so before you make a rash and irrevocable decision to take control away, taxation without representation, I invite you to come out and visit our so called failing schools," Adelmann said.

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