JCPS Schools: An Open Letter to Governor Bevin

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
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(This open letter from December 2015 was cross-posted with permission of the author.)

Dear Governor Bevin,

Today you met with church pastors in the West End of Louisville to discuss public schools. Per media reports, you discussed “dead weight” at JCPS, and that it’s time to “speak truth to power” to JCPS and the teacher’s union.

So let’s talk about the truth that I know. I  know that you do not have your children in public schools. I know that your newly-appointed Secretary of Education and Workplace Development, Hal Heiner, has played an active role in Christian Academy of Louisville, creating a potential conflict of interest. I also know that Heiner has created several groups devoted to creating charter schools who don’t like questions. And I know Heiner has played loose with JCPS statistics and doubled down when called on it. And I know that Reverend Jerry Stephenson, who you met today, is part of a group who would like to see public funds diverted to private schools.

Can we discuss your demonization of teachers unions? The way you talk, it sounds like they’re a bunch of 1970’s Teamsters looking to break the legs of anyone who dares criticize the school system. …

So here is MY truth, Governor Bevin. In the 9 years my daughter has been in JCPS, she has had many teachers. These teachers have been kind, creative, moral, challenging, well-rounded, and have helped develop skills in my daughter that she needed. I’ve watched these teachers take and keep control of their classrooms, engage students that are tough to reach, stay after school to tutor, mentor, and get special projects off the ground. I’ve never had an issue getting a conference with a JCPS teacher. I’ve never had an issue getting a response from a JCPS teacher about concerns I’ve had. I’ve had JCPS teachers work extra hard to help my daughter achieve and reach her goals for the future.

Know what I haven’t seen? I haven’t seen teachers who don’t care. I haven’t seen teachers who only care about collecting a paycheck. I haven’t seen teachers who don’t put their children first. And most importantly, I’ve never met a teacher who thinks JCPS is perfect, or who wouldn’t like to see it be better.

How do I know this? I participate in the system. I put my child in the system. I talk to people in JCPS.

Is JCPS perfect? No.

Are some JCPS students being underserved? Yes.

Are there failing schools in JCPS? Depending on your measurements, yes.

Are there discipline issues in JCPS? Yes.

Do the vast majority of JCPS stakeholders want to keep the status quo and not address these issues? No.

So I urge you to stop badmouthing JCPS and its teachers. And I implore you to stop presenting a solution (charters) without demonstrating any knowledge of the system. Instead, I’d like to see you visit JCPS schools and talk to the teachers, students, and families about the issues they face, not just within the classroom, but outside of the classroom.

Sincerely,

Rob Mattheu

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