Ky. school chief warns of state takeover


Associated Press

Posted on February 14, 2013 at 8:01 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's education commissioner said Tuesday the state will step in and take over management of struggling Jefferson County schools as soon as August if progress isn't made soon.

The warning from Terry Holliday came in a meeting with The Courier Journal ( ) editorial board. A state analysis last week showed that 16 of the 18 low-performing schools in Jefferson County have made little or no progress since they were ordered to undergo overhauls.

"I have great hope that we won't have to do this, but I don't want anyone to be surprised come August if that's what I have to do," Holliday said.

Holliday last week called the situation "academic genocide." He told the newspaper he chose those words specifically as a way to get the community to realize and act on the seriousness of the situation.

In the past three years, 41 public schools in Kentucky have been selected for overhauls because of chronically poor academics — including the 18 in Jefferson County, the state's largest school district.

The state analyzed academic measures at all 41 schools, including test scores, graduation rates and ACT scores. It found that 23 were failing to make sufficient progress, including the 16 in Jefferson County.

Holliday said the state is already leading the turnaround effort at seven of the 41 overhauled schools because leadership assessments determined that the districts couldn't do the job themselves.

In response to Holliday's comments Tuesday, Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Donna Hargens said the district and the community "share the urgency to improve student achievement expressed by the commissioner. ... Based on the test results from the 2011-12 school year, we agree that there is much work to be done to make certain our students are college- and career-ready."

She added she believes the district will "see a positive impact on student outcomes."

Holliday said Friday that Louisville should be "outraged" by wide learning gaps between schools.

Asked Tuesday if Jefferson County had created a system with two different levels of expectations, Holliday agreed.

"Some have suggested that I should have used the word 'apartheid,' because I think that is exactly what has happened," he said. "You have two very different systems in Jefferson County, and the data would support what you're saying."


Information from: The Courier-Journal,