Better Schools Kentucky (JCTA’s PAC)

Jefferson County School Board Candidate Questionnaire   

Submitted June 13, 2022
by Gay Perry Adelmann, JCPS School Board, District 3

  1. Tell us a little about yourself and why you are interested in serving on the Jefferson County Board of Education. 

    I am passionate about quality public education and its lasting impacts on our community. My family has lived in four different states; my children attended schools in eight different school systems. It wasn’t until I moved to Louisville and attempted to navigate the complex “choice” system of JCPS that I became
    acutely aware that not everyone has the same access to the same opportunities. I began speaking at JCPS Board meetings in 2013, and over the years, I have probably spoken at close to half of them (the ones that were open to the public anyway). When efforts to bring meaningful feedback and suggestions were met
    with attacks and denial, parents, teachers, staff, community members, students and others started organizing and demanding transparency and accountability. This worked for a while, and we were quite successful, but the defenders of status quo are well funded and determined. Over the past two years, distracted by the pandemic and insurrections, our community’s increasing pleas have only been ignored, swept under the table or worse. When the massacre in Uvalde, Texas, happened, the right wing ramped up
    its rhetoric, and I don’t think my board member has what it takes to stand up against them. We had already seen him cave to COVID deniers who were pushing to strip the governor’s executive powers that kept our students safe when he made the motion to prematurely reopen schools. He had already blocked me and ignored my suggestions and requests for assistance, so I decided the best way to get answers to these concerns was to run for a seat on the JCPS School Board myself. We also must protect every seat
    from those who push the extremist agendas of white supremacists, nationalists and privatizers, and I am the most experienced and qualified person on the ballot to do so.
  2. Where are you employed?

    I am self-employed. My primary “business” is running two non-profits, Dear JCPS and Save Our Schools Kentucky. I do not collect a salary and many expenses go unreimbursed, so if you ask my husband, he would say that’s not employment. But I love my “job,” and everything tends to work out in the end.
    Where did you go to school (elementary, middle, high, college)? I am a product of public education, through and through. I attended Arlington Public Schools in Arlington, Texas for all 12 years. I will be attending my high school’s 40th reunion in October. I attended the University of Texas at Arlington, where I received a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising (Business) and Psychology (Liberal Arts). 
  3. Do you have students in your family who attend school in Jefferson County? If so, can you tell us about their schools? 

    My son, Peyton, attended the Academy @ Shawnee from 2012 through 2016. During that time, I became aware of the systemic ways our families in the West End were being harmed, in particular our families of color. This was the impetus behind my efforts to reinstate the PTSA at the school in May 2013, and to organize a resistance to a “district takeover” of Shawnee in the Fall of 2013. Our campaign to stop their “4-pronged plan” succeeded, but the attacks on our school community did not stop. We went on to form Dear JCPS in 2015 to call out repeated patterns of gaslighting, retaliation, and outright fraud. Contrary to “warnings” from “concerned” friends and neighbors about what school would be most “appropriate” for my son to attend, he had an amazing experience at the Academy @ Shawnee. He was drawn there because of the aviation magnet. As a result of the school leadership’s willingness to provide him with challenging curriculum, including several new AP classes not previously offered, as well as amazing leadership opportunities through the school’s ROTC and Challenger Learning Programs, he graduated valedictorian of his class and was accepted into the US Naval Academy. It did not hurt that our family does not face some of the same economic and social hurdles some of his classmates did. If nothing else, his experience challenges the notion of “failing schools” and demonstrates that poverty is the greatest indicator of test scores, and why well-resourced schools are critical to closing the achievement gap.
  4. Would you be willing to consistently vote for the maximum allowable tax rate (not subject to recall) in order to provide as much funding as possible for our public schools?  Would you be willing to vote for more than that when necessary? 

    Yes, and I have a track record to prove it. I have worked with AROS and other coalitions to advocate for a tax increase to make up for the years we left money on the table during Dr. Donna Hargens’ tenure. Long before the tax increase was a gleam in Dr. Marty Pollio’s eye, I was one of several regular speakers
    at JCPS Board Meetings encouraging them to take on this difficult task. Not only do I support always taking the maximum 4%, I was publicly in favor of a 10% tax increase (two nickel taxes) before the board finally settled on the proposal that passed. As a Board Member, I also have a responsibility to be a good
    steward of tax dollars, not write “blank checks.” As I have done in the past, I will continue to lift up demands of impacted community members to be tied to increases in funding. Any “negative” press I have received in this regard has been tied to these types of difficult and nuanced negotiations, and not
    opposition to the tax increase itself. For example, our coalition had a campaign entitled EARN the People’s Vote, because we witnessed first-hand the lack of support that was coming from West End residents in particular. We wanted to provide them with an incentive to turn out to vote in favor of the
    increase, especially since it was being positioned as “for” them. The district missed this critical step and our coalition attempted to fill that void, which led to a misunderstanding from one of our Board members.

    When the Tea Party launched their petition proposal, AROS members also attempted to launch a campaign called #StandWithJCPS, but it was sabotaged by infiltrators. We finally ended up having our own Yes for JCPS campaign complete with yard signs and door-to-door canvassers and poll workers, but
    the judge’s ruling right before election day took a lot of the wind out of our sails of our otherwise successful pro-tax increase campaign. So, yes, I am consistent in my support for fully funding our schools from ALL revenue sources.
  5. What are your thoughts on the appropriate types and number of assessments required in school?

    I am opposed to high-stakes standardized tests that create winners and losers and pit schools and communities against one another. I trust teachers to determine the best ways to assess their students and have led opt out campaigns to encourage parents to know their rights, responsibilities and risks of opting out. Privatizers profit from not only the sale and administration of high-stakes tests but from the remedial materials and professional development that go along with it. The data is also used to push the “failing schools” narrative and undermine efforts to support and fully fund public education. If some testing is required, I defer to the teachers’ union on which tests and how many. I trust the professionals who study and train
    extensively to determine what is best for their students. This is not only something I “would” do, I have proven that I will do it. Below are some examples:

    3 R’s of High Stakes Testing
    Opt Out Tool Kit on Dear JCPS
    Regular Speaker at JCPS Board Meetings
  6. Do you support tying teacher evaluations and/or employment decisions and/or compensation to student assessments? Please explain why or why not. 
    Definitely not! For starters, I recognize this as part of the privatizer playbook, and, second, I do not support any measures that would disincentivize or punish teachers who have the calling to work with high-needs, high-risk student populations. Instead, I would like to see more wrap-around support
    mandated to schools and students that are identified through evaluations. Let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Who is evaluating wrap-around services? Trauma-informed care? Evaluations should be used to identify areas where more support is needed.
  7. Please discuss your positions regarding charter schools, vouchers, and tuition tax credit programs. 

    I have testified in Frankfort at least a half a dozen times against these predatory practices. I co-founded Dear JCPS and Save Our Schools Kentucky because I saw the threat that these measures presented to Kentuckians. I have spent countless hours organizing rallies and protests and speaking as often as possible
    against them. If elected to the JCPS School Board, I will use my platform to continue to elevate the concerns of teachers and the community who realize the harms they will cause to public education and will do everything within my power to reverse the harmful bills just passed in the General Assembly. I
    believe I have demonstrated this extensively in my 10-year history as a JCPS parent, taxpayer and community member.
  8. Please discuss whether you support collective bargaining in JCPS. Would you ever make a motion or vote for a motion that would diminish or end collective bargaining between the JCBE and the current Unions that represent JCPS employees?
    I am as pro-union as anyone can be. I can demonstrate example after example of my standing strong with union leaders and members. I promise as a JCPS School Board member,  I would NEVER make a motion or vote for a motion that would diminish or end employees’ collective bargaining power in JCPS. If anything, I believe members’ voices and input has been stymied by conservative union leadership that placates district leaders and elected lawmakers and has resulted in less favorable outcomes when it comes
    to unfunded mandates, pensions and teacher pay. If elected, I will advocate for adding the 8% pay increase that the state paid all other state workers to the district’s legislative agenda.
  9. What is your position on laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, marital status, gender, religion, disability, age, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identification, and gender expression? Do you agree that all of these should be explicitly stated in school board policy? 
    I do agree that all forms of discrimination should not be tolerated, and the district should clearly communicate school board policy. However, much of the discrimination that takes place in JCPS is not explicit, but instead takes place in the form of disinformation, false pretenses, coded language, structural
    barriers, implicit biases, and so on. Simply stating that it is illegal and against policy to discriminate does nothing other than create opportunities for those intent on doing so to find ways around it. If elected to the JCPS School Board, I would like to see some intermediate interventions added to the district’s coaching and training efforts to bridge the gap between when the discriminatory act takes place and before it becomes a grievance, lawsuit or settlement. We communicated these ideas at “Teachable Moments” to
    Dr. Pollio and others, and even established a Facebook group with a set of escalation protocols that we followed as part of our commitment to the task, but so far nothing has come from it. I would welcome union involvement in drafting such a policy proposal that would be beneficial for all involved.
  10. What measures do you think are appropriate/necessary to make sure that we recruit and retain teachers in JCPS?  What role do teacher salaries play in this equation?  What would you like to see happen with teacher compensation in the next five years?

    Competitive salaries, benefits packages and working conditions are ALL necessary factors in recruiting and retaining teachers. As mentioned above, I was appalled by the state legislature’s budget that gave every other state worker raises  — including themselves, of course — from the general fund, except
    public-school employees. I believe educators and staff should have received the same 8% raise. As a taxpayer, this means that our tax dollars meant for our students will go elsewhere. I believe these are just more veiled attempts to push costs down to Jefferson County to force our district into bankruptcy,
    allowing state intervention, thereby opening the door to Wall Street privatizers. I wish more union leaders would recognize this and stand up against the predators. I have and will continue to do so, and as a member of the JCPS School Board, will work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to build a caucus
    committed to doing just that. I will also advocate to restore and fund teachers’ pensions as part of the legislative agenda. 

    We should LISTEN to the professionals. We should provide them with the supports and interventions that come from fully funding education. I will fight to make sure teachers feel heard and supported and set up for success, because I believe this is the greatest reason why they leave, and turnover is so high in our AIS schools. 

    I have also heard from teachers that the step needs to change so that administrators do not benefit automatically every time teachers get raises. I would love to work with union representatives to figure out
    what that looks like.

    In summary, over the next five years, I would like to see the state budget include the 8% they missed this year, plus a cost of living increase that keeps pace with inflation and healthcare costs, at a minimum. I would like to see pensions restored, and I would like to see education spending levels catch up to where they should be since the 2008 recession.
  11. What are your thoughts on the recently approved JCPS student assignment plan?  What changes to the plan, if any, would you push for as a school board member?

    I believe the changes to the feeder patterns are long overdue, and I support them fully. I am sorry it took so long for the plan to pass, but I’m glad that it finally did. I have been advocating for a more equitable student assignment plan since 2013 when I first became aware of the disparities that impacted students
    who live in West Louisville. I met resistance from the then-superintendent, assistant superintendents and board members. As a result, we pushed to remove those board members who gave cover to the former superintendent. JCTA was also part of this effort.  In many cases, we were successful. The “dual resides” component is great, but I honestly believe it was necessary and should have been done as soon as new leadership discovered it was discriminatory, not as part of the feeder school realignment. I have also been advocating to “ban the box” and allow students who don’t have a “resides” close to home to simply apply to transfer to a different school without having to meet the same requirements as those who do. These suggestions have been largely ignored, which is one of the reasons I decided to step up and run.
  12. What would your commitment be to working with and supporting the unions that represent JCPS employees?  Do you see these unions as being beneficial to the students of JCPS?

I not only see unions as beneficial to students, I see them as invaluable. A student’s learning environment is a teacher’s working environment, and their ability to organize and make demands benefit students and community members and taxpayers, as well. My commitment as JCPS School Board Member would be to continue to have an open line of communication with members and leaders and keep moving the work forward. We have a lot of catching up to do!

  1. What endorsements have you received? 

    Having only filed to run last Tuesday, I really haven’t had an opportunity to fully participate in making the traditional “rounds” to seek endorsements. Yours is the first union interview I have been invited to. Perhaps everyone is waiting to see what JCTA (BSK) does before jumping in with their own opinions. 

    I am in the process of reaching out to all labor and advocacy groups in the district, and in the past have earned endorsements from C*FAIR (Fairness Campaign) and Network for Public Education (NPE Action) and hope to do the same for this campaign. I also received the JCTA Apple award in 2018.

    As a people-powered campaign, I am honored to have received endorsements from a diverse range of progressive individuals, including State Representative Attica Scott, Louisville Mayoral Candidate Shameka Parrish-Wright, and State Representative-elect Sarah Stalker, and independents such as Ike Thacker for Mayor and Metro Council Candidate Chris Thieneman. Community organizers such as Amber Brown and Vince Gonzales, as well as several outspoken JCTA members and officers, such as Kenyata Dean-Bacon, Ivonne Rovira, and Pam Sheehan have offered their support. I will bring an updated list of names to the interview on Wednesday.
    Please return your answered questionnaire & resume to BSK by an email to no later than 5:00 p.m. on Monday, June 13th.

    Tyra Walker, Board Secretary
    Kenyata Dean-Bacon, Board Member
    Nicole Finley, Board Member
    Ivonne Rovira, Board Member
    Stephen Neal (former JCTA Executive Director)
    Sandy Mayes (former AFSCME President)