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.
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: email@example.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.
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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for taking the time to learn about me and where I stand on the key issues.