December 6, 2017 11:08am
The need for bold leadership at JCPS
One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, and that applies to JCPS. While some promising incremental progress has occurred, transformative change has yet to happen. The result is a K-12 system that continues to under-deliver for Louisville’s students, parents and employers, especially in our underserved populations. It is time for a different approach.
There are many reasons for the current state of the District, but we have exhausted all of the excuses for chronic low student preparation for the workforce and/or secondary education, burdensome remediation requirements, and underdeveloped professional skills. While some in positions of influence attempt to rationalize our failure to innovate and continually dodge needed change, we continually hear stories about results from around the country where entire districts are doing things differently and improving the success trajectory for all students. Much of the ‘performance gap’ we suffer today is due to misplaced priorities and outdated policies that are not meeting the needs of the teachers and students. Thus our most promising youth often face a hard reality of playing academic catch-up when they enter a competitive world in secondary institutions or the workplace. The time for change is now.
With a search underway for a new superintendent at JCPS, it is time for us to enable bold education-focused leadership for the district, and our city and state. We require a strong and transformational leadership vision for JCPS with support from all stakeholders. Leadership needs to embrace the role of rapidly evolving technologies and the competition that will come with charter schools. We must hire a leader who is willing make difficult resource decisions. We need a person with the ability to communicate clearly to students, parents, teachers, administrators, and the general public. The successful candidate must navigate the outcomes and requirements that will arise from the soon to be released comprehensive audit, while commanding the full confidence and support of the faculty and the JCPS School Board, who represent critical constituent groups in the city. This requires someone with a proven track record of leading a large, complex organization that demands alignment on a vision and roadmap for success. It also requires embracing disagreement and diverse perspectives along the way.
All stakeholders must engage in a comprehensive process that aligns interests and focuses on selecting the most qualified individual who is dedicated to rapidly engaging the faculty and administrators, and improving student achievement throughout the district. Misplaced priorities, politics, hidden agendas, and old disputes must be put aside. The full attention of the JCPS Board, staff, parents, employers, administrators, and teachers needs to be directed toward supporting an individual who is capable of delivering truly transformative change quickly. Without progress over the next 2-3 years, we will find ourselves even further behind in the ability to develop, retain and attract the best talent in our region.
We do not intend to criticize the many positive achievements of JCPS — quite the opposite. There are thousands of highly qualified and motivated people that work for JCPS, as well as engaged parents and dedicated students, and they deserve our unwavering support. We applaud their efforts and impact. We do however, want to use this point in time to expedite and energize the debate about how to transform JCPS into the school system that competes with pride on a national and global stage. And that begins with the selection of the next leader of JCPS.
GLI and the BLE represent business and employer interests. We are highly dependent upon the JCPS system to cultivate a deep and sustainable workforce that competes with the best in the world and enhances our region’s quality of life. Metaphorically, employers in our region, along with the students, parents, and taxpayers are the “customers” of the school system. Students who graduate from JCPS and choose to work in Greater Louisville will very much affect the success of our regional economy and vibrancy of our community. Whoever the next Superintendent may be, he or she must be willing, capable and empowered to deliver different and better outcomes for JCPS’ customers, rather than maintaining the current approach and policies, catering to the same small group of voices, and using the same rationale to explain incremental progress, while at the same time expecting different results.