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Teachers: I Have Your Backs

When my board member literally turned his back on me at a recent public meeting, I was reminded about a time a brave JCPS teacher spoke truth to power at a Board of Education meeting on behalf of her students. I was also reminded how she experienced retribution. And how I stood up for her.

Not only will I not turn my back on you, but I have your backs! And I have an extensive track record to prove it.

I’m publishing her story, with her permission.

In December of 2018, Nationally Board Certified JCPS Teacher Tiffany Dunn, spoke at a JCPS Board Meeting. I spoke immediately after her. I blogged about it shortly afterwards, including transcripts from both speeches:

In her speech, she says,

JCPS parents, teachers, and stakeholders fought hard and made it clear we had no interest in being controlled by a privatization-minded, predatory state board of education and commissioner. We succeeded, but only to have our district wave the white flag anyway?

What does “operating as if we are already under state control” look like, you ask?

Our professional learning communities have been hijacked. We have district personnel sit in our meeting every single week. Instead of having collegial conversations about student learning, we are being forced to give common assessments. On the same day. No matter where we are in our teaching. And then analyze the contrived data as if it’s legitimate.

This type of control is not only attack on teacher autonomy, it’s an attack on student learning. Along with the classroom control, we have become obsessed with MAP testing and student data. We are losing precious class time to assess students. Most appalling is that ESL and ECE students are being denied their reader accommodation on the reading portion of the MAP test.

Tiffany Dunn, JCPS Teacher

Recognizing how this brave teacher had put her position and reputation at risk, I started my prepared speech with the following statement:

I sure hope that teacher does not experience any retribution for speaking up for her students tonight.

No teacher should ever experience negative consequences for doing what’s best for their students.

And that includes our teachers who speak out against these threats of privatization and excessive testing and everything that goes along with it.

Gay Perry Adelmann, Dear JCPS Co-founder

My speech went on to express the concerns that we have been warning our leaders about for years that if they didn’t take action, we’d be where we are now. And, guess what, here we are.

I am glad to have been reminded of this story recently, because there’s more to it than what we’ve shared publicly, until now.

“We’re putting you on a cart.”

The next day, when Ms. Dunn returned to her classroom, she was summoned to the principal’s office. At this time, she was informed by the principal (who has since retired) that she would no longer have a classroom for her ESL students to call home, but that she would be “on a cart” and have to move from open classroom to open classroom finding a space to teach her students.

She called me, understandably upset, to inform me of this latest development. It was obvious to both of us that this was retaliation for speaking up for her students the night before. No doubt, her speech brought a great deal of unwanted attention on those who had been responsible for and complicit with continuing the harm, despite everyone knowing it was wrong.

Dr. Pollio had assured me in prior conversations that teachers would never be punished for doing the right thing. So I immediately reached out to Dr. Pollio to inform him that Ms. Dunn had been retaliated against. By the end of the day, she had her classroom back.

I told the story recently on this livestream, around the 44-minute mark. She has given me permission to share this story.

If you are a JCPS teacher who has experienced retaliation or retribution for standing up for students or colleagues, please let me know by completing my survey.

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What Does Roe Vs. Wade Reversal Have to Do with Public Education?

We all knew it was about to happen, especially once a draft of the decision was leaked, but watching “settled law” be overturned in our lifetimes still sent a palpable chill and collective nausea across every thinking person’s psyche, and served as a warning to every person who has ever been pregnant, could ever get pregnant, or who loves someone who fits that description.

“But you’re running for JCPS school board, Gay. What does this decision have to do with public education?”

I’m glad you asked.

First, let’s start with the fact that approximately half of JCPS students are female. The district does not keep tabs on how many more of its students identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ population, but chances are it’s enough to make it a safe bet that more than half of the JCPS student body faces discrimination, and that was even prior to the latest assault on non-male bodies. The Supreme Court’s latest ruling overturning Roe Vs. Wade decision respecting a woman’s right to safe reproductive healthcare will have far-reaching impacts, not only on more than half our student population, but also our teachers and staff, who are mostly women.

The reality is that the majority of our district’s students and staff currently face or will face, at some point in their lives, restricted access to reproductive healthcare, bigoted views regarding their lifestyles, and blatant (and not-so-blatant) roadblocks to opportunities that their white, straight, able-bodied, Christian friends have no trouble accessing.

While I don’t believe we should accept this dystopian future as inevitable, nor am I suggesting we not fight back with every ounce of our being, but in the mean time, we have to deal with the here and now and the fact that our children are already suffering. We have to strengthen and build community to keep them safe. We have to educate them, not only about the authentic history of the struggles of women, LBGTQIA+, disabled and people of color, so we don’t continue to make the same mistakes, but we must also teach comprehensive, factual, age-appropriate sex education, and provide Louisville families with the tools to make safe, healthy and informed decisions. We must do better as a society making sure that our schools’, students’ and families’ basic needs are met, and we must reinvest in programs such as TAPP to prepare for an influx of teen births that is certain to follow such a draconian decision. The TAPP program in JCPS has experienced significant cuts recently, despite there being little to no reduction in need.

I also attempted to explain my initial thoughts in this livestream. (Sorry it’s sideways.) I would love to hear your thoughts.

https://fb.watch/dX9dqOBPs7/

I doubt we’ve begun to fully grasp all the ways this decision will impact Kentucky families. Please complete my survey and let me know your thoughts.

Thank you!

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I Like Analogies

This one compares and contrasts the privilege of #BoatLife compared to the tragedy of poverty.

Please help us build our grassroots team from the ground up. Please complete my survey and let me know what concerns you have as well as to offer your support.

Please also share this video if you like what you hear.

My donation link is still pending. Please check back soon!

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Where I Stand On The Key Issues

It’s no secret that before a child can learn, their basic needs must be met. The most obvious are physiological needs, such as food, water and sleep, as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs demonstrates.

School has become one of those places where children turn when they may not have all of their needs met at home. Like it or not, these needs must be addressed before the “business of education” can take place. Teachers, community members and taxpayers’ responsibilities in this regard continue to carve out more resources for this need, at the expense of everything else.

Student and School Safety

Safety is another one of those basic needs, also considered a “deficit” need. Deficit needs are brought about by deprivation. When a child is uncertain where their next meal will come from, their community is plagued with police and gun violence, or they have undiagnosed trauma or disabilities, they do not feel safe. With the increased threat of domestic terrorism impacting our schools, additional steps must be taken. But we MUST stop relying on public schools to be the solution to every problem. MORE must be done outside the classroom. More must be done to address mental health, trauma and unmet needs both inside and outside the classroom. From children accessing weapons in their homes and bringing them to school to More must be done to prevent deadly weapons from getting into the hands of our youth. I believe the role of public schools should be education first. What can do to teach better life and coping skills that can be practiced at home, for example? How can we empower teachers to teach honestly and be authentic mentors to their students?

I am committed to finding meaningful solutions based on actual science and data, to make sure ALL students and adults not only FEEL safe in JCPS schools, but actually ARE. I am committed to working with community leaders inside and outside of our district, county, state and country to move from “thoughts and prayers” to solutions and repairs. I am committed to doing my part to aggressively and decisively stopping the disinformation campaigns and political agendas that are creeping into every aspect of our daily lives, regardless of political party, which present a threat to not only our community and schools, but our national security. I am committed to being a strong voice for legislative agendas and strategies that will reverse the harmful legislation that will siphon resources away from our most disenfranchised student populations and will pursue accountability of those who have played a role, including legal challenges, and working with ethical lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to introduce legislation to curtail the kinds of anti-JCPS corruption and cronyism we witnessed these past legislative sessions.

Patterns and Practices of Discrimination and Retaliation

I wish what I’m about to say wasn’t true. But it’s one of the primary reasons I decided to go ahead and file to run for school board. My very own board member, James Craig, blocked me on Twitter. I don’t remember why, but we’ve had several “fallings out.” One was after I did an open records request to find out if the allegations coming from Black maintenance workers that their entire department had been experiencing racist hiring and promotion practices for years, perhaps decades, and efforts to address it under new leadership of Dr. Pollio were falling short. That should be easy enough to find out if I could pull historical pay and title and sort by department and race, right? Well, I made an open records request trying to get at those data points and was accused of being anti-union. James started yelling in my ear, “You are trying to destroy unions, and I will not play any part in it!” I’m not even sure how unions played a role in this, other than I asked for union affiliation as one of my data points in the hopes it might help me narrow the job titles once I got the data back. But “a hit dog will holler,” if you know what I mean. Well, it turns out the district doesn’t keep track of employees’ race. Isn’t that convenient? That’s not the only problem I found. The more questions I asked, the more scrutiny and attacks I received from my board member and white union leaders. James even went so far one time as to speak against transparency of records in general because of people like me. I was accused of abusing the system when I was trying to expose the cover-ups I witnessed time and again by the district’s own internal investigations department. Whose side are you on, James? I’m on the side of truth. I believe that as a board member, I will be able to obtain more documents and work with other board members who share my passion to begin the painful process of rooting out toxic and corrupt behaviors and leaders.

I realize that by filing to run for JCPS School Board, I am putting myself and my family’s safety and privacy in jeopardy. My decision to run is not one I have taken on lightly. If elected, I am committed to using this platform to protect our community, our tax dollars, our schools and most importantly, our children and their families from attacks from outsiders, infiltrators, predators and privatizers. Many of whom are right here in our midst. They send their kids to school with ours, they worship with us, they work with us. To repurpose an old phrase “Loose lips sink ships.” Trust no one but your gut. We are being gaslit and the truth will get out. When it does, it is going to blow our minds. In the mean time, don’t believe what they say. Watch what they do. Trust your own eyes and not what comes out of their mouths. Document everything. I have been, and I’m slowly publishing it on my blog at All Eyes on Kentucky.

Close the Achievement Gap

While we now have a historic new student assignment plan, it will take visionary leadership to make sure that we have a detailed follow-through to close achievement gaps and provide authentic educational opportunities to all.

A Budget is a Moral Document

The primary purpose of public schools is to educate the community’s children. In particular, children whose primary caregivers either can’t justify the expense of private education, or who don’t want their children to be indoctrinated by religious bigoted history, political disinformation and pseudoscience. Regardless of the reasons families choose public school, they must accept everyone who applies and serve everyone who attends. Students have a wide range of needs and abilities.

Historically, JCPS has faced criticism for budgeting priorities, often justifiably. From having a top-heavy administration with too many corporate executives making six figure salaries, to cutting programs that provide huge benefits to students, struggling schools and our community, such as TAPP and the Challenger Learning Center.

This year’s Kentucky General Assembly passed an immoral budget. According to a report from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, in 2024, the per-student funding will be 27% lower than it was before the 2008 recession. If that wasn’t bad enough, that paid every state employee an 8% raise EXCEPT public school employees. These same lawmakers had no problem voting THEMSELVES a raise. Yet, they didn’t have to carve out public school employees. There was plenty of surplus in the budget, which they chose to use to cut state revenue received mostly from wealthy Kentuckians and outsiders.

“The budget agreement leaves $1.01 billion unappropriated, but HB 8 spends $888 million in income tax cuts disproportionately benefiting the wealthy. As a result, the budget makes only muted investments in critical services even with the considerable needs facing the state.”

Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, April 20, 2022

I am committed to being a responsible steward of Jefferson County taxpayer dollars, and I will advocate for an 8% pay raise for every JCPS teacher and staff member who has direct contact with students. I support the Louisville Urban League’s $10,000 threshold and vow to work with them and others to identify how to pay for this increase without having to go back to taxpayers and ask for another tax increase above the allowable 4%. I vow to work to trim excessive overhead from the district budget, to defund high stakes testing and other tools of privatization and to expose bad actors working to siphon funds away from our public schools. And I vow to hold state lawmakers who continue to promote unfunded mandates and disinformation campaigns targeting JCPS accountable.

It Takes a Village

Students deserve equitable access to advanced curriculum, experienced and respected teachers, and resources, regardless of their zip code; that comes from fully funding education, compensating teachers and staff fairly, and providing “dual resides” for all families.

With the war on JCPS, district leaders will need to stand firm in the face of attacks on public schools from outsiders and grifters and their allies in Frankfort.

Leaders Eat Last

I’ve often heard people use the “airplane losing oxygen” analogy to “Put your mask on yourself before tending to others.”

From a self-care perspective, this makes complete sense. Said another way, “You can’t pour from an empty vessel.”

But I’m a believer that when our community is in crisis mode, which we are, we have to make sure those whose situations are most dire receive critical care first. There will be time for the rest of us to eat.

This YouTube video does a much better job explaining the rationale behind this campaign platform. Please watch and let me know your thoughts.

If you have a question or concern that is not addressed in the key issues above, please email me at gay@adelmannforky.com. Thank you for taking the time to learn about me and where I stand on the key issues.

I Won’t Turn My Back on You

My JCPS Board Member is James Craig. I voted for him four years ago, and I encouraged others to, as well. I started Louisville’s first and most notorious pro public education, anti-fascist, anti-racist, anti-privatizer advocacy group, Dear JCPS in 2015, so, as you can imagine, a lot of people follow my guidance when it comes to who to vote for.

He seemed like an okay enough bloke. He’s a local defense attorney, who seems to understand cause and effect and speaks progressively enough that I figured, “surely he’ll vote right.” Plus, he had teachers’ union backing (back when their endorsement still meant something). There was no reason to think that he wasn’t going to win, and I saw no reason to go against him.

Fast forward to last January, when I tagged him in a post under an alternative Facebook account I was forced to use, due to my primary account always being on lockdown. Using the alias Nikki Bidness, I made an observation that he had voted against all three Black board members when it came to following CDC guidance. But it was even funnier, because he blocked my primary account, which I wasn’t even using at the time.

But this wasn’t the first, and it wouldn’t be the last time James blocked or ignored me.

Here’s a text message I sent to him in December of 2020, along with an email I sent to the entire board. He assured me then, that he not only agreed with one of my recommendations, but he would look into the others.

When the painfully delayed student assignment plan finally made it onto the board’s agenda, there was outcry from the Highlands families (an eccentric pocket of wealthy liberals living in close proximity to Downtown Louisville) who were upset their littles would have to travel outside of their neighborhoods to attend their favorite schools, so guess what. Changes were made. The proposal was tweaked. Just like that.

Black and brown community members, and those who support them, marched in the streets. It wasn’t the only message, but addressing root cause issues certainly can’t be done if we’re not talking about equity in our public schools. There was an entire tax increase that needed our community’s attention and support. But instead of considering the multi-layered and ongoing protests and objections from grassroots groups and impacted community members, we were ignored. When we objected to being ignored, we were thrown under the bus.

When I did an open records request to try to learn more about the allegations of racial discrimination in the district’s maintenance department, I was once again dragged through social media by my own board member.

A lawyer, of all people, should know that accessing public records is crucial to transparency that goes along with holding board members and district leaders accountable. When elected leaders object to due process, it really begs the question, “What are they trying to hide?”

Then there was the time I had to dip into my own pockets to purchase “VOTE YES” yard signs to counter the “No Tax Hike” petitioners “VOTE NO” yard signs. Too much was at stake to assume “Support Public Schools” yard signs would convey the message that people needed to vote for the tax increase. We had, in fact, put together a scalable proposal and met with Dr. Pollio about our vision and strategies on more than one occasion. Our proposal was not accepted, but many of our strategies were in play, such as the formation of a 501(c)_ to organize the efforts. Since we supported the tax increase, we just wanted them to run an authentic campaign that would garner the support of the voting public, in case the petition was successful in garnering enough signatures. But we also felt that a counter campaign was important, and yard signs with a clear call to action were necessary. When I asked people to pay for their yard signs (I sold them for $20 so that I could donate one for every one that was purchased), he made a post discrediting my efforts and saying people didn’t need to pay for what they could get for free.

I countered with a question, will they say “VOTE YES” knowing the answer was no. I eventually was able to badger the district’s 501(c) to create yard signs that said “VOTE YES for JCPS,” and our team of volunteers ended up being the ones who distributed and put most of them in the ground.

A coalition I was in had been trying to run a “pro public education” pledge drive, to try to counter the No Tax Hike group as “anti public education.” We were already building momentum when not once, but twice, district leaders choked the wind out of our sails and told us to stop. We even took our complaints to Dr. Pollio.

(Insert video)

I will have to check my notes to see if I can remember why James blocked me on Twitter, but it just adds to the list of growing concerns that I tried to bring to his attention, which were met with hostility, disrespect and who knows what else?

I’m a mother, a taxpayer, and a voter in his district. And I not only have valid concerns, but I also bring valuable feedback, suggestions and good ideas from others in the district who face retribution or retaliation when they speak up, as my teacher friend, Tiffany Dunn, will attest. Did James ever bother to consider that THAT’s the reason I do so many open records requests? I didn’t think so.

SAP Email Reply from Linda Duncan

On May 10, 2022, ahead of the historic vote to finally pass the revisions to the district’s decades-old racist student assignment plan, our Coalition sent an email to the JCPS School Board and Superintendent, reminding them about the 11 recommendations that had come from over a year’s worth of meetings and data-gathering from impacted community members and representatives from grassroots organizations that serve West Louisville communities. Research and feedback, which we had attempted to present to them individually on more than one occasion, and even did several times, but our ideas were ignored.

We invited Board Members to attend weekly Coalition calls, at their convenience, so we could share with them our findings, and also learn their position on some of the items that were part of our growing list of demands. Some did, some didn’t. James Craig was one who did attend last summer, but I was so traumatized by my previous encounters with him, I refused to join the call. I asked how it went afterwards, and those who were on the call said he did all the talking and it sounded like a stump speech. Very little, if any, of the six items we had on our agenda got covered.

I remembered having seen a previous JCPS Board meeting where they made changes to the latest proposal based on some backlash they had received from some parents in historically privileged white neighborhoods who didn’t want their children to have to go to school so far away from home (picture someone from Gone With The Wind having a fainting spell right about now), so I hoped it was just buried under the seemingly insurmountable barrage of tragic news simultaneously saturating every news channel, including but not limited to, the massacre of 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, a local school board filing deadline, and the events leading up to the January 6 Commission hearing.

I watched the final passage on the district’s YouTube channel, but didn’t catch any mention of any changes or improvements we requested, such as “Dual Resides for All” or “Ban the Box” so that students who don’t have a resides close to home can at least APPLY to transfer home to their neighborhood school without having to meet the same application barriers that a student who wants to transfer OUT of their neighborhood.

A couple of days later, I sent a follow up email (at the bottom of the page), since my first email had been completely ignored. Other than a link from the Board Secretary sharing something I already know how to get, Linda Duncan was the only Board Member to reply. While I do appreciate the effort, I found her responses to be tone deaf and flat out inaccurate. I have not yet had an opportunity to respond, but here are some of my kneejerk thoughts.

“No objections from the Coalition?” Please. First of all, the Coalition was not active when the Schools of Color were voted on. Two, there were two members of the Coalition on the speaker’s roster the evening the “males of color” school passed on June 27, 2017: Myself and Barbara Boyd. Guess what. We both spoke against it. Not for the same reasons the racists opposed it, but because it didn’t go far enough. Videos below are queued up to the speeches.

Barbara Boyd, chair of the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, retired JCPS educator, encourages Board to set aside non-negotiables and wait before passing proposal.
Gay Adelmann, co-founder of Dear JCPS and Save Our Schools KY,
parent of Academy @ Shawnee graduate.

So don’t blindly accuse us of not being consistent with our concerns as an excuse for not doing the right thing for West Louisville kids.

Linda also commented on one of my Facebook posts a couple of months ago, claiming that allowing West Louisville students to apply to attend school closer to home would go against diversity targets, which only seem to be enforced when Black people want equity, but not when white people want to segregate. Hmmm.

I have so much more to say, but I will probably save that for a livestream or podcast.

Please see her complete response:

From: Linda Duncan
Sent: Thursday, June 2, 2022 10:29 PM
To: moderator@dearjcps.com
Subject: Re: Student Assignment Plan Community Feedback

Gay, it is confusing when concerns are expressed about the likely lack of diversity schools in the west end will have (now have,  too) once parents choose for their kids to attend schools closer to home.  No one refers to west Louisville Black churches as segregated when they clearly lack diversity.  They are reflections of their neighborhoods.  They don’t feel less effective because they are not serving white members.  

With no objections from the Coalition, we created two Schools of Color.  They both lack diversity.

 I don’t believe for a minute that west end parents feel their kids have to go to school with white kids.  That’s not the main concern for these parents who are seeking better outcomes for their kids.  They just want their kids to have the resources they need to be successful, wherever they go to school.

The claim that suburban schools will no longer be diverse if west end kids choose west end schools is just not true.  Suburban neighborhoods are extremely diverse as we speak.  We are up to 14,000 immigrant students attending our schools all over the county.  With the new plan, suburban schools may have fewer west end kids in them, but they will have plenty of other minorities continuing to fill the seats in suburban schools.  Fern Creek is now 40% international students.  My elementary schools are approaching 50% internationals.

I am not sure what you mean about doing away with applications for dual resides schools.  We will be contacting every household to make sure every parent makes a choice.  There will be no default assignments to any school.

One-way busing evolved because no one could force white parents to send their kids downtown if they did not want them there.  White Flight was real in the 70’s.  It doesn’t work.  We can attract them to magnets that offer what they want for their kids – safety, strong academics, attendance with kids who have similar values – and we will develop more magnets downtown, but force is history.  It is now all about Choice.  Our new magnets will be diverse by intention, and theme-based, open to kids who want to be there.

I wish we could make demands on parents to promise to be accessible for communications to and from staff, make sure their kids attend school more than 90% of the time, make sure they follow school and class rules, make sure they do their assignments, and make sure they take part in extended learning, after school and in the summer, if their kids need more time to learn.  We can provide the structures, as we are doing in this new plan, but parents/guardians must do their part, or under-achievement will continue to plague west end families.

I need to digest these suggestions a bit more.  Thank you for standing up for those who don’t always have voices.  You are welcome to serve on any of our committees to provide stakeholder voice.

Linda


From: moderator@dearjcps.com <moderator@dearjcps.com>
Sent: Thursday, June 2, 2022 1:40:23 PM
To: marty.pollio@jefferson.kyschools.us <marty.pollio@jefferson.kyschools.us>; sarah@sarah4jcps.com <sarah@sarah4jcps.com>; porterschoolboard@gmail.com <porterschoolboard@gmail.com>; chris@kolbforschoolboard.com <chris@kolbforschoolboard.com>; joseph.marshall2@jefferson.kyschools.us <joseph.marshall2@jefferson.kyschools.us>; lindadduncan@live.com <lindadduncan@live.com>; jamesrobertcraig@hotmail.com <jamesrobertcraig@hotmail.com>; corrie.shull@jefferson.kyschools.us <corrie.shull@jefferson.kyschools.us>
Cc: angela.gilpin@jefferson.kyschools.us <angela.gilpin@jefferson.kyschools.us>
Subject: RE: Student Assignment Plan Community Feedback

Good afternoon,

Congratulations on the passage of the historic student assignment plan.

I apologize if I missed it. There has been a lot going on and it’s been incredibly difficult to process everything, much less keep up.

Regarding the list of items below, can you let me know which of them you were able to incorporate into the plan that passed last night? I would like to be able to report some good news back to Coalition members.

Thank you,

Gay

Gay Adelmann, Chair, Coalition for the People’s Agenda – Education Committee

Gay Adelmann, Chair