JCPS board to host some meetings at schools

David Jones Jr. wasted no time Monday after being installed as the next chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Education, proposing that the board begin roving meetings at different schools.

“All of us are determined to do more than just sit in headquarters and listen to reports,” Jones said in proposing that the board travel to a school once a month for three months, and then re-evaluate. He added that “the students and the schools are the center of the JCPS universe.”

The board voted 6-1, with Linda Duncan dissenting, to hold its next school board meeting on Jan. 26 at Valley High School, 10200 Dixie Highway, rather than at the district headquarters at 3332 Newburg Road.

Jones’ fellow male board members spoke in support of the idea of traveling board meetings; board member Chris Brady said this idea has been discussed for “a little while now,” and said this could make the board accessible to parts of the community that can’t come to district headquarters.

But Duncan said she had concerns that moving away from a central location could be an inconvenience for speakers and district staff. She said she was not included in discussions about this proposal, saying she wished more time had been given for the board to discuss the idea.

The board has had traveling meetings a few times in the past, although not in at least the last decade. Superintendent Donna Hargens said the district has a list of schools that have the infrastructure to handle the board meetings, including the live broadcasts. She said there would be “minimal to no expense” for the moving board meetings, saying JCPS spent $2,300 for a device to help with broadcasting, but said it will be useful to the district beyond these traveling board meetings.

Jones was unanimously voted in as board chair during the regular board meeting Monday night, while Diane Porter moved from chair to the vice chair position. Jones thanked Porter for her leadership at the helm of the board.

Also Monday, new board members Stephanie Horne — who is taking over the District 3 seat vacated by Debbie Wesslund — and Lisa Willner, who bested Carol Ann Haddad for the District 6 seat in the last election, were sworn in, as were board members Duncan and Porter, who are keeping their seats for another term.

Before the regular school board meeting, the board had a number of work sessions, including one on the 2015-2016 budget, where the issue of small class size caps at certain schools was again addressed. Hargens said the 11 JCPS schools that have class size caps that are smaller even than the district’s caps cost $4.4 million annually and benefit just over 6,000 students, or about 6 percent of the district’s population.

Responding to a question from Willner about how added school staff appears to be largely those staffers not in the classroom, Hargens said the district is doing a school-by-school review to look at the ratio of “boots on the ground” teachers in classroom versus administrative and support staff.