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'It's got to be all encompassing': Black community leaders urge transparency, clarity on JCPS school assignment changes

The local NAACP and Coalition of Black Retired Principals and administrators created a new group to encourage community involvement in school choice.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Local Black leaders and educators are calling for more transparency into JCPS's plans for a new school assignment plan. 

Friday, the local chapter of the NAACP and the Coalition of Black Retired Principals and Administrators announced a new group, encouraging parents and students to get involved in discussions about the district's plan. 

JCPS began outlining changes to how school assignment is handled in 2020. Louisville NAACP President Raoul Cunningham said the organization isn't opposed to the plan, they just want clarity.

"Their future will depend on how JCPS provides an equitable education," Cunningham said of students. "We can't take a positions until we see a final plan." 

Cunningham said local leaders and educators also want families to get more involved in the process now.

"We thought it would be to the community's advantage if we were to be proactive rather than reactive," he said. 

The school assignment model was introduced decades ago. Cunningham said, while well meaning, it put outsized strain on Black and Brown families.

RELATED: School Choice: JCPS looking at changes to student assignment

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said a new plan, already in the works, will focus on reversing those effects.

"Students that live across from J-Town High School, they could attend J-Town High School," Pollio said of existing policies. "If a student lives across the street from Shawnee they are not allowed to attend Shawnee." 

Pollio said few west end students are allowed to attend schools near home.

He said the dual resides idea, proposed in 2020, would give those students more options.

"We have to give great choice to our students and make sure if we have schools that we resource them," Pollio said.

Cunningham is worried about those resources, and the NAACP said any proposal needs to address academics, funding and mental health, in addition to location.

"The student assignment plan can't be student assignment alone, its got to be all encompassing," he said.

Pollio said the district is committed to a plan to make schools equitable, not just easily accessible. 

RELATED: How JCPS plans to implement its new school safety plan

Pollio said JCPS plans to bring a proposal to community members for input this spring, and hopes to have a finalized plan before the school board by the end of the school year. 

In a news release, the NAACP and Coalition of Black Retired Principals and Administrators said they are calling for specific "non-negotiables" in that plan including:

  • A fully written plan
  • An annual review by external and internal evaluators, followed by corrective actions
  • Addresses academics and the student achievement gap
  • Clear accountability processes and measurements monitored by an independent body
  • Hiring and distribution of mental health counselors

The groups said they will also be writing a series of informational "white papers" about school assignment to educate parents and students. 

Contact reporter Grace McKenna at GMcKenna@whas11.com or on Facebook or Twitter.  

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