At last week's Kentucky Board of Education meeting, KBE member David Karem asked Commissioner Terry Holliday to explain the disconnect that allowed the state team to see such weakness where the district had seen strength. Here's the discussion that followed:
TERRY HOLLIDAY: Well let’s cut to the chase.Jefferson County has long operated as its own jurisdiction, but this discussion definitely sounded as though Kentucky expectations will indeed be applied to its future work. On behalf of the Kentucky children living in Jefferson County, I certainly hope that proves to be the case.
DAVID KAREM: Okay, help me.
TERRY HOLLIDAY: You guys hired me to be honest with you, I’m going to be honest with you.
As I understand it (Sally you correct me if I’m misstating here), ever since we’ve had site-based councils, Jefferson County has owned their training and support and coaching for site-based councils. They have not utilized state services for that purpose, and they’ve had their own standards for site-based councils.
Our standards focus much more on these proven standards of school improvement that are very much aligned with accreditation for Southern Association and Advanced Ed. A huge difference is our focus on student achievement.
If we look at the thirty-two lowest achieving schools in Kentucky, twenty-two of them are in Jefferson County. We also have to look at the demographics of Jefferson County. I applaud the superintendent for their work on trying to balance schools there. because if you have a tremendous population of poverty and at-risk kids, it’s difficult.
So we looked at two different things, David, that’s the bottom line.
DAVID KAREM: It seems then that from the point of view of the state board of education and the commissioner that we should communicate to Jefferson County that it would be helpful in the future if we had an integrated dialogue that would suggest that we’re looking at the same kinds of standards.
The numbers are the numbers, which suggest that we should be supporting your finding, which I do, but I would also suggest that we ought to be communicating to Jefferson county that we ought to have this integration, that’s a polite way to say it.
And I am (maybe I won’t be safe in going back to Jefferson County today in saying this) but I’m exhausted with people saying that the demographics of the student population are so horrific (I mean I guess that’s the only word I can come up with) that we get a forgiveness for not doing what’s right for the students. I mean, it just drives me up a wall.
As I understand it (and Terry you can correct me)...we have examples in the state of Kentucky where there’s one school district that has hideous demographics if that’s what you want to call it, and we have another with the same hideous demographics, and the one school district has decided to gird its loins and do the right thing and they’re successful. That just drives me up a wall.