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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
Gay Adelmann, Chair, Coalition for the People’s Agenda – Education Committee