LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Officials with Jefferson County Public Schools are defending their actions to turn things around at 18 low-achieving schools.
The response comes days after state criticism that the district hasn't followed detailed plans to improve achievement. New data given to state officials last week showed only two of the 18 schools were improving. Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday described the situation as "academic genocide" and said state officials may be forced to step in.
The Courier-Journal (http://cjky.it/12sD0rL) reports Jefferson County school board members asked Superintendent Donna Hargens during a meeting Monday night for a response to Holliday's comments.
Hargens said administrators have made "significant changes within the district and at these schools. We've reorganized, we moved resources and central office staff back into the schools, we've reallocated funding and have implemented very specific kinds of strategies we believe will work."
School board member Carol Haddad said she was unsure why Holliday used the term genocide.
"We all know we have issues and challenges," she said. "We've made changes and are going in right direction. His words surprised me."
The term also seemed to trouble school board member David Jones Jr.
"The education commissioner was quoted using the term 'academic genocide' to talk about what's going on in Jefferson County Public Schools," Jones said. "Genocide to me is one of the most powerful, vicious words in the world."
Holliday made the comments on Friday, and acknowledged that the state shares in the blame for failing to make sure JCPS followed its improvement plan, but he said the district should shoulder its responsibility.
Hargens said the district is trying to make improvements at all the schools.
"We have a great sense of urgency in JCPS, there isn't a principal out there that isn't urgent, because they know the stakes are high; they know we are the key to students' academic future and success," Hargens said. "There is no greater challenge on this planet than to impact students' lives."
Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com