Kentucky’s Jefferson County Improves, But Spending on Admins High

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Six months ago, a state audit in Kentucky uncovered an abundance of bureaucrats in Jefferson County Public Schools being overpaid with money that could have been better spent on classroom resources.

There are thirteen candidates on the ballot for the four open seats on the JCPS Board of Education this week, five of whom are vying for the District 3 seat after Debbie Weslund stepped down.  Each of the candidates spoke of the audit, all agreeing that administration is being paid too much and that money should be going to the classroom.

“It’s too top heavy,” Lee Bailey said. “We’re not spending enough of the dollars that we’re receiving on education. We’re spending way too much on administration.”

“Get rid of some of those people,” contends Jan Scholtz. “We do not need 369 administrators making over $100,000 with our academic levels stagnant.”

Schultz went on to say that more audits were needed and would like to see the hiring of a chief financial officer to allow the district to view its spending habits more closely.

Meanwhile, 14 district teachers are up in arms over a political advertisement stating their support of union-endorsed candidates.  The teachers claim they had no knowledge that this was going to happen.

“I am very angry about this,” said Glenn Zwanzig, a science teacher at duPont Manual High School. “I was never contacted – no email, no phone call – and I was never asked for permission to use my name.”

Executive Director of Jefferson County Teacher’s Association DeeAnn Flaherty has said it was an error of “due diligence” on the part on an unnamed employee, and it will be set right as soon as possible.

In addition, the district is continuing to have trouble hiring teachers of the same ethnicity as its student population, despite efforts to recruit minority teachers.

Over half of the students at JCPS are minorities, and yet 84% of the teachers are white.  Those statistics have not changed much in the last five years.

Chief Operations Officer Mike Raisor said the district is making a concerted effort to change this through an updated applicant tracking system, a new electronic filing system, and a partnership with colleges with a focus on historically black institutions.

“If we’re sitting here back next year and we’re giving the same presentation, that’s unacceptable,” Raisor told the board.

Despite this, recent results from the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress test suggest that the district is moving in the right direction, as achievement continues to rise at all levels.

JCPS has risen from the 9th percentile to the 51st percentile in just three years.  In addition, a total of 95 district schools met or exceeded their Annual Measurable Objective set by the Kentucky Department of Education, with 12 of the 18 struggling schools managing to meet their AMO.  That number is 20 higher than last year.  Every student group, including minority students, special needs students, and students who receive free or reduced price lunches, improved on achievement.

“I am very impressed with the results,” says Diane Porter, chairwoman of the Jefferson County Board of Education (JCBE). “The Jefferson County Board of Education has been committed to putting more resources into the classroom, and it is clear our investment has paid off.”