This is the final post of six about the audit of JCPS by the Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts Adam Edelen and his staff that was conducted during 2013-14, and released in May of 2014.
I am an advocate for public schools. No public school advocate who knows how important it is to maintain public support would write such a press release as was used for Auditor Edelen’s May 21, 2014 news conference:
The auditor’s press release stated, “The report paints a picture of a bureaucracy that benefits itself and keeps the Board in the dark rather than supports excellence in the classroom and a public mission of transparency and accountability.” Nothing could be further from the truth and is not backed up by the report’s findings.
I don’t know how one could get to that conclusion without having the conclusion in mind.
He also buried this backhanded compliment on page 4 of the press release: “Fortunately for taxpayers, no serious abuses or waste were found at the central level, but it doesn’t mean it didn’t occur in the past or that it couldn’t occur in the future.” You could write that about anyone or anything anytime, even the state auditor’s office.
The real story lead is this:
“After implementing a significant restructuring in 2012, adopting a focused strategic plan, sending more resources to schools, finding efficiencies in central operations, and being the first large, urban district to adopt the Common Core State Standards, JCPS students have posted major gains in achievement across the board.”
The AdvancED press release focused on the positive in announcing JCPS accreditation in July 2013:
“AdvancED School System Accreditation is a rigorous process that focuses the entire school system on the primary goal of creating lifelong learners. JCPS is to be commended for engaging in this process and demonstrating a commitment to continuous improvement.”
But, the negative sells these days.
There has been significant coverage about the state audit and Auditor Edelen’s tours through Louisville talking about it. There has been little critical analysis.
The state audit provided unfortunate fodder for dramatic campaign claims in the fall of 2014 about “inept” Board members and “bloated bureaucracies.” All was tied back to this state audit, which was released conveniently timed for the campaign cycle. I was even told that some Board candidates met with the state auditor during the election.
No wonder the public has become more skeptical about public entities. We do this to ourselves. And, it is no wonder they distrust when much of what they read is critical. Tearing down public institutions is de rigueur these days and, unfortunately, we have devolved – like many others – into criminalizing our school system and its governing body.
This is not new. I remember back to an early conversation right after my election in 2006 with a community leader who said that I was joining a “dysfunctional school board.”
It wasn’t then and wasn’t when I left. It is a tired old tale that is used by some powerful people and JCPS critics.
Community leaders who spend time, energy and money supporting JCPS can do better and must demand better. Irresponsible criticism makes the job of running a school district extremely hard.
The work that should be discussed at public meetings is how the district is ensuring there is excellent teaching in every classroom, rigorous coursework for all students, professional development tailored to teachers’ needs, and more support for new teachers. Uniformly excellent instruction and school environments should be the goal. And, students’ needs must be met so they are ready to learn. That’s what other reviews have emphasized.
Further, the PDK audit and AdvancED accreditation report called for significant work in improving communication from the top down, across achievement regions and between departments. Everyone needs to share the same goals and be provided the same information on how to help all kids succeed. This is hard work and the district needs to be given room to make improvements and keep achievement going in the right direction.
There are many people inside and outside the district pulling on the same end of the rope. That’s gratifying. It’s just maddening when a gratuitous report comes along and gets them off track.
Links to the reports described in these posts are included in Part 1.