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Ahead of surprise transportation vote, JCPS chief equity officer speaks out

The sign for Jefferson County Public School's VanHoose Education Center
Liz Schlemmer
The Jefferson County Board of Education called a special meeting to vote on a controversial transportation plan Wednesday.

Jefferson County Public Schools’ chief equity officer is concerned that the board is voting on possible cuts to magnet transportation before putting the plan through another racial fairness test, which was scheduled for Thursday.

Jefferson County Public Schools Chief Equity Officer John Marshall is raising concerns that a surprise board vote Wednesday will preempt his office’s plans to put the new transportation proposals through a racial fairness test.

With little more than 24 hours notice, the Jefferson County Board of Education moved up a vote on proposed transportation cuts for magnet and traditional schools to 6 p.m. Wednesday. The vote was originally scheduled for April 16.

Marshall told LPM News it means a committee formed to put the proposals through the Racial Equity Analysis Protocol, or REAP, will no longer have a chance to meet before the vote.

The REAP committee was scheduled to meet Thursday, according to documents obtained by LPM.

Members of that committee include JCPS staff, Michelle Patrick of the NAACP and representatives of other community organizations.

“To have me do all that work, to have my team do all that work, to reach out to community who is supportive of JCPS and racial equity, and now tell them that, ‘No, we're not doing it because they're going to go ahead and vote’ — I think it's kind of a bad look,” Marshall told LPM.

“And as we're trying to regain trust, how does this do that?” he said.

Marshall said JCBE Chair Corrie Shull asked him to put together a REAP for the new transportation options to be considered.

However, Marshall said he got an email from JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio Tuesday informing him that three members of the board would be calling a special meeting Wednesday.

One of those three members that called the meeting, Linda Duncan of District 5, told LPM that when she asked Pollio if he would be ready to present Tuesday, he said yes.

“If he’s ready, and we’ve had the information that we need, and had a chance to process a little bit, I think the sooner that we can make this decision the better off everybody is,” Duncan said.

Shull was not among the members who called the meeting.

The proposals were not available publicly until the day of the vote. According to nine PowerPoint slides on the board’s website the options are:

  • Discontinue transportation services for all magnet and traditional schools.
  • Only continue magnet and traditional transportation to high schools where 75% or more of the students are low income (Central High School and Western High School).
  • Only continue magnet and traditional transportation to K-12 schools where 75% or more of the students are low income (Central High School, Coleridge-Taylor Montessori, Foster Traditional Academy, Academy @ Shawnee Middle School, Western High School and Whitney Young Elementary).

According to the meeting materials, the “only” option resulting in on-time service is to cut all magnet and traditional school transportation.

Marshall is not the first to express concerns about how JCPS has used the REAP when it comes to the transportation plans.

Before the board’s March meeting, JCPS staff claimed the plan to cut magnet transportation was the only proposal to pass the REAP. But two members of the community REAP committee told LPM they did not give it their approval. That committee included Patrick of the NAACP and other community members.

LPM later found that JCPS put together another REAP committee of district higher-ups that analyzed and passed the plan.

Marshall, who was a member of the district REAP committee, said the plan passed that gathering on March 11, but that he did not agree with the decision.

This story may be updated.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.

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