Accelify Blog

$21 Million Will Help 26 JCPS Schools (KY)

June 21, 2010

Jefferson County Public Schools will spend $21.4million over the next three years to make improvements administrators hope will help turn around 26 of the district’s lowest-performing schools, according to a detailed plan r eleased during a school board meeting Monday night.

Some schools will hire master teachers and instructional coaches to mentor and provide support to classroom teachers, while others will provide extensive professional development to teachers on how they can improve their instruction to reach more students.

"We are going to invest in quality people, quality professional development and targeted interventions at each of these schools," Superintendent Sheldon Berman said. "We are going to turn them around."

The funds, obtained through the Obama administration’s School Improvement Grant program, will begin filtering into the schools as soon as the district’s grant application is approved by the Kentucky Department of Education.

Dena Dossett, a director of planning with the school district, said the application will be submitted to the state on Tuesday, and the hope is to receive approval by the end of June.

Seeking firm plan

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday could not be reached for comment Monday, but he said last week he wants to get the money to the schools quickly, as long as they have a firm plan in place to make improvements.

"We need to make sure that these dollars are going to bring changes," Holliday told members of the Kentucky Board of Education Wednesday. "We are going to hold them all accountable."

The 26 schools in Jefferson County were identified by the state based on test scores from the 2008-09 school year.

According to estimates put together by the school district, funds will range fr om as little as $131,184 over the next three years at Coral Ridge Elementary to as much as $1.3million over the next three years at Frost and Western middle schools and Shawnee, Valley, Fern Creek and Western high schools.

The six schools receiving the most money are among the 10 lowest-performing schools in Kentucky and are in the middle of a major overhaul by the district that includes replacing as much as 60 percent of their faculty, and in some cases, their principals.

That overhaul is a result of a new state law that called for leadership audits to be conducted at the state’s 10 lowest-performing schools.

Dossett said the district’s grant proposal aims to "build capacity within each of our schools to implement comprehensive reform efforts, which will improve student proficiency in reading and math."

Debbie Wesslund, chairwoman of the county Board of Education, said the district’s grant application "boils down to supporting improved instruction in every classroom."

"It’s all about helping teachers become better at engaging students in a way that will increase their achievement," she said. "I am really impressed with the way district officials and our principals are proposing to use the money so that the impact will last much longer than the life of the grant."

Ready for changes

Several principals who attended the meeting Monday told board members they are ready to make the changes at their schools.

Shawnee principal Keith Look said he is taking a different approach to teacher collaboration at his school.

He s aid he will invest "early on" in hiring several special education teachers because they are trained in collaboration, and he believes that will benefit his school for years to come.

"Those teachers are trained by degree to be able to plug into any classroom at any time in any discipline with students who need them whether or not they have been identified as special education," Look said.

Kimberly Gregory, principal at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, said she believes hiring a resource teacher will have a great impact at her school.

"I have a very young staff and they need a lot of help and support," said Gregory, whose school is slated to receive $687,636 over the next three years. "I know from working with resource teachers in the past that they can go in and model classes and give a great lesson on the spot."

According to the proposal, Thomas Jefferson Middle also will hire additional teachers to "enable selected students to learn in smaller class size groups" and purchase SMART boards, interactive electronic white boards, to promote student engagement and learning.

Plan at Rangeland

Mashelle Kiggins, principal at Rangeland Elementary, said she will hire a reading and math interventionist to work with small focus groups at her school.

"This person will help build capacity within the school by looking at student work and analyzing what we are missing or what we could use more work on," said Kiggins, whose school is slated to receive $196,776 over the next three years. "That way when the money is gone, the systems will already be in place and we can continue on ."