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Pollio highlights mental health, closing achievement gap in first JCPS 'State of the District'

Superintendent Marty Pollio said the district is in 'transition,' and hopes to work to close the achievement gap for students through initiatives like the Digital Backpack Program and the Racial Equity Policy.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — "A district in transition." That's what superintendent Marty Pollio said during Jefferson County Public Schools' first ever State of the District Wednesday afternoon.

During his address, Pollio said that when he officially took over as JCPS Superintendent a year ago, the district was in crisis. A year later, the district is now transitioning into the district is should be.

"We can change lives together through this work,” Pollio said. "All this work that we are doing is almost like planting a little tree. We've got the tree in the ground, and it's going to be a big one with deep roots."

The district's roots are anchored in initiatives like the Digital Backpack Program and the Racial Equity Policy. 

"We know we must do better. We must close the achievement gap and opportunity gap for the success of our students, this district, and this city. We will be national leaders in this work. We will reduce the achievement gap, and we will reduce dis-proportionality,” Pollio said. "It's not easy. It's tough. It's a grind every single day."

JCPS also started a new test to measure growth and proficiency in math and reading. The test is given three times a year, and teachers use the data to get students on grade-level.

"NWEA, the company that provides MAP to over 800,000 districts nationwide, told us that we saw more growth than any other large district that they had seen nationally in only its second year of implementation between the fall and the winter,” Pollio said.

Culture and climate were also big talkers as JCPS plans its first statewide anti-bullying and suicide summit. The district already has mental health professionals in every school, and is partnering with Simmons College to increase diversity in the district's teacher workforce.

"We’ve seen improved outcomes for students around behavior incidents, suspension data, and attendance in many of our schools,” Pollio said.

Career academies are now in 14 high schools and serve 17,600 students. It's grown from 13 community partners to more than 100.

"It gets kids on pathways. It gets them ready for both college and career,” Pollio said.

Pollio also said he is committed to putting money into crumbling schools and out-of-date learning environments.

"As superintendent, I'm fully committed to putting our money where it's most needed,” Pollio said. "Our students deserve new 21st century learning environments in every community across this city."

The speech marks a historic moment for the school system that promises to make history.

"It's a long tough road to change the outcomes for every student in this community. We will be successful,” Pollio said. "We can be a model district that invests what's needed to ensure that no matter where a student goes to school, it's a great school. This is what courageous transformation looks like. This is JCPS.”

JCPS has also launched a new scholarship fund for students who would not be able to go to college otherwise. Since it started at the beginning of the year, it's raised $60,000. It added more than $7,500 to that total today. JCPS said people can donate by texting the code 243725 to JCPS.

►Contact reporter Sara Wagner at swagner@WHAS11.com. Follow her on Twitter (@WHAS11Sara) and Facebook.