U of L Awarded $1 Million To Support Women Faculty In STEM Friday, Sep 20 2019 

UofL Computer Science Professor Olfa Nasraoui helps a student in her lab.The University of Louisville has received a $1 million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation to improve gender and racial equity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

Professor Olfa Nasraoui led the grant writing team. For her, helping to secure the grant was personal — something she’ll remember as her legacy. She is the only woman professor in U of L’s computer science department in the J.B. Speed School of Engineering.

“And before there was no woman, so that’s an improvement of one, right?” Nasraoui said. “This is an issue that’s national, nation-wide; it’s not just UofL.”

Nasraoui said the problem is systemic. Women, and minority women especially, face different barriers and biases as they work to succeed in academia. They are underrepresented in STEM faculty, and particularly at the highest level of full professorship.

“Those full professors are the ones who typically move to leadership positions where women can have a big influence on addressing these systemic issues,” Nasraoui said.

A team of U of L faculty and staff affiliated with the Speed School of Engineering, the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research and Innovation, the College of Arts and Sciences and others spearheaded the grant proposal. U of L collected data about gender and ethnic representation among university faculty, and proposed a plan to help change the numbers.

With the grant, U of L will work to:

  • change recruitment and hiring practices;
  • educate faculty about gender and ethnic bias through theater-based workshops, especially engaging faculty who serve on hiring committees;
  • create mentorships for young women faculty to help them navigate the practical duties of being a professor and running a research lab;
  • offer programs that assist faculty in their duties while they are experiencing life changes, including pregnancy and motherhood.

The ultimate goal of the initiative is to recruit, retain and promote more women faculty — and minority women especially — in STEM departments across the university.

“One of the big reasons is, in the end of the day, to also improve the situation for students,” Nasraoui said.

She said it is U of L’s goal is for the faculty to better reflect the student population, as well as to increase diversity in STEM fields.

JCPS Students Celebrate Constitution Day, And For Some, Their Newfound Right To Vote Tuesday, Sep 17 2019 

Central High senior Trey Hayden wore a shirt bearing the preamble of the U.S. Constitution to celebrate the day delegates first signed the document.Students across Jefferson County Public Schools are celebrating Constitution Day Tuesday, to honor when the U.S. Constitution was signed by delegates. 

At Central High School, teacher Joe Gutmann quizzed the students in his senior law class on Constitutional trivia.

“What day is Constitution Day?” he asks.

“Today…” students answer in unison, giggling.

“OK, that was too easy of a question,” Gutmann responds, ramping up the oncoming trivia.

He asks students much harder questions about Constitutional requirements to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, about First Amendment rights for students, and one very important question:

“Who’s gonna be 18 by this November?” Gutmann polls the class. It’s a question teachers across JCPS are asking students this week, to remind them to register to vote in time for the fall election.

Students in Central High's senior law class answer question about the U.S. Constitution.Liz Schlemmer | wfpl.org

Students in Central High’s senior law class answer question about the U.S. Constitution.

JCPS has collaborated with the Frazier History Museum to launch the website Whatisavoteworth.org. The site offers teachers curriculum on the history of suffrage, to show the struggle women and African Americans have faced in order to gain the right and access to vote.

Central High Principal Raymond Green says his staff has been pushing an initiative all year to get more eligible students registered to vote at school.

Down in the principal’s office, 18 year-old Jerome Harrison registers online at the Kentucky Secretary of State’s website.

“I didn’t know it was just that easy,” Harrison said. “I thought you had to go through a whole packet of paperwork. It was faster than getting a physical done for sports.”

Harrison recognized that this process was especially easy, compared to the struggle women and African Americans have faced in the past. But Harrison said he wouldn’t have known the deadline to register was approaching, if he hadn’t heard at school. He also said he’s taken more interest in politics since turning 18.

“Eighteen is when everything is opened up for you, a lot of doors,” Harrison said.

18 year-old Central High student Jalen Price registers to vote online.Liz Schlemmer | wfpl.org

18 year-old Central High student Jalen Price registers to vote online.

Other students have not yet reached those doors, but they’re already looking ahead. Seventeen year-old senior Trey Hayden celebrated Constitution Day by wearing a shirt with the preamble of the Constitution across his shoulders. He’s too young to vote this fall, but he says he’s excited about next year.

“Of course, I’m gonna be waiting at the door waiting to register to vote. I can’t wait,” Hayden said.

His classmate Briana Barker is not quite old enough to vote either, but she wishes she could because the governor and many local offices are on the ballot this fall.

“The state and local elections are kind of more important than the presidential elections, because when you vote your state officials, those are the people that are gonna be representing your state, you at home, and they know the problems that you go through at home,” Barker said.

The deadline to register to vote in the fall election for races from the governor’s seat to the local school board is October 7th.

 

Students Renew Push For Child Abuse Curriculum In Kentucky Public Schools Wednesday, Sep 11 2019 

Boyle County student Brooklyn Rockhold and her mother and brother endured abuse from her biological father for years. This week, she testified in front of Kentucky legislators, urging them to pass legislation to require child abuse education in schools so that children like her will be able to identify when they are being abused and report it.

“As I’ve gotten older and become more aware of what child abuse is, I’ve realized that things he did to my brother and I were abusive,” Rockhold testified. “If the schools had this legislation back then, I would not have grown up thinking this thing was normal.”

Rockhold and several of her classmates and a teacher urged the Kentucky General Assembly’s Interim Joint Education committee to support a new version of the 2019 Senate Bill 68, which was unsuccessful last legislative session. The bill would require public schools to “provide developmentally appropriate instruction on child abuse and child sexual abuse to students of all grades.”

Kentucky has the highest rate of child abuse of any state, according to a 2019 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. About 22 in every 1,000 Kentucky children suffer abuse or neglect, more than twice the national average rate.

Boyle County student Addisyn Woodard repeated that statistic to lawmakers, adding that she was one of those sexually abused children. Boyle County teacher Amanda Underwood told legislators she had taught one of those children, without knowing it.

“170 days she came to my classroom, and 170 days I sent her home,” Underwood said. “Four years later the abuse finally came to light when her sister decided to report it. I didn’t save her from her abuser. I had more than 170 chances to see the abuse, and I failed her.”

Two female lawmakers on the committee, Rep. Melinda Gibbons Prunty (R-Belton) and Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr (R-Lexington) spoke up to say that they had been sexually abused as children, and urged their fellow legislators to support a bill to raise awareness in schools.

“Why have we waited so long?” Forgy Kerr asked her colleagues. “Why have we waited so long?”

Kerr said she was abused on multiple occasions as a child, and has introduced similar legislation twice in the past without success. She noted that was in previous years, under different party leadership.

“I went before my leadership in closed meeting and explained what I wanted to do, and basically they said ‘gross.'”

Every legislator who commented during the committee Wednesday expressed support for a proposal to reintroduce legislation similar to Senate Bill 68. The committee’s co-chair Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville) thanked the student speakers, calling their presentation “the most powerful testimony” the education committee had ever received.

“Kentucky is number one in the [country] for child abuse cases. If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always got,” Boyle County teacher Amanda Underwood concluded.

JCPS Board Of Education Approves Property Tax Increase Tuesday, Sep 10 2019 

The Jefferson County Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday evening to raise county property taxes to support public schools.

The school board voted to raise county tax rates on real estate and personal property by 1.1 cent on every $100 of property. The result means a homeowner with a $100,000 house would pay 11 dollars more in property tax compared to last year.

That would help JCPS raise an additional $30.8 million to support public education and build new schools, up from the $497 million that would be raised under the previous tax rate. JCPS CFO Cordelia Hardin said the district meanwhile expects to lose about $10 million in SEEK funding from the state during the same time based on the statewide formula for education funding.

Public Comment on Tax Proposal

A public comment period beginning at 5 p.m. garnered three speakers, with two in favor of the proposed tax increase and one opposed.

“If you take a look at what’s going on in our community right now, there’s a lot of burden on people, in a multitude of areas,” Jefferson County resident Lester Gamble said in opposition to the tax increase. Gamble said rising utility costs and city budget cuts are pinching the pocketbooks of many Louisville residents.

Chris Harmer of the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, a coalition of progressive organizations concerned about education, asked school board members to go further to seek “extra-ordinary” revenue beyond the proposed tax increase.

“In the face of continuing struggles with learning gaps between different groups of students, we need more revenue for programs that are proving to narrow those gaps,” Harmer said. “Black brown, and low-income students, who make up more than two-thirds of JCPS students, need more support.”

Pat Murrell, of the Louisville League of Women Voters — a member organization of the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools — said the organization also supports the proposed tax increase.

Tax Increase Will Help Fund JCPS’ Priorities

Board member Chris Brady says JCPS would use any additional revenue raised to fund the school district’s many priorities, including employing additional mental health counselors in schools, developing an internal security team, and improving school facilities.

At the board meeting, JCPS CEO Cordelia Hardin presented a plan for how the additional $30.8 million dollars raised by the tax increase would be spent, including:

  • $22.5 million for instruction;
  • $3.8 million for maintenance of plant;
  • $1.96 million for transportation;
  • $1.76 million for the building fund;
  • $615,000 for the cost of tax collections.

Brady has also noted that one of the district’s rising costs is its required contributions to state pensions for teachers. JCPS Chief of Communications Renee Murphy said the district is estimating it will pay about $5.4 million more to the Kentucky Teacher Retirement System this current school year compared to the previous school year. That’s because the Bevin administration has adopted more pessimistic assumptions for the state’s pension plans, which require agencies like JCPS to pay more.

School boards in Kentucky typically review tax rate changes each fall and are entitled to an up to 4% rise in county tax revenue each year under state law. If the county’s property tax revenue does not rise by that amount as the result of a gain in property value alone, the school board can approve a tax increase to make up the difference. Any tax increase that amounts to a greater than 4% rise in revenue would have to go before voters for approval in a recall election.

A JCPS spokesperson has confirmed that the proposed tax increase under consideration will not be subject to a recall election because it is equal to a 4% rise in revenue.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated the expected loss in SEEK funding would be $6 million. It is actually $10 million.

JCPS Board Of Education To Vote On Property Tax Increase Tuesday Monday, Sep 9 2019 

The JCPS board of education will vote Tuesday night on whether to raise Jefferson County property taxes to support public schools. The school board will hold a public hearing beginning at 5 p.m. Tuesday to take input on the proposed property tax increases before taking a final vote later that evening. 

The school board will vote on whether to raise county tax rates on real estate and personal property by 1.1 cent on every dollar of property. The result would mean a homeowner with a $100,000 house would pay 11 dollars more in property tax compared to last year. 

That would help JCPS raise an additional $30.8 million to support public education and build new schools, up from the $497 million that would be raised under the previous tax rate. 

Board member Chris Brady says JCPS would use any additional revenue raised to fund the school district’s many priorities, including employing additional mental health counselors in schools, developing an internal security team, and improving school facilities. 

At the board meeting, JCPS CEO Cordelia Hardin will present a plan for how the additional $30.8 million dollars raised by the tax increase would be spent, including:

  • $22.5 million for instruction;
  • $3.8 million for maintenance of plant;
  • $1.96 million for transportation;
  • $1.76 million for the building fund;
  • $615,000 for the cost of tax collections.

Brady has also noted that one of the district’s rising costs is its required contributions to state pensions for teachers. JCPS Chief of Communications Renee Murphy said the district is estimating it will pay about $5.4 million more to the Kentucky Teacher Retirement System this current school year compared to the previous school year. That’s because the Bevin administration has adopted more pessimistic assumptions for the state’s pension plans, which require agencies like JCPS to pay more.

School boards in Kentucky typically review tax rate changes each fall and are entitled to an up to 4% rise in county tax revenue each year under state law. If the county’s property tax revenue does not rise by that amount as the result of a gain in property value alone, the school board can approve a tax increase to make up the difference. Any tax increase that amounts to a greater than 4% rise in revenue would have to go before voters for approval in a recall election.

A JCPS spokesperson has confirmed that the proposed tax increase under consideration will not be subject to a recall election because it is equal to a 4% rise in revenue. 

Anyone wishing to speak during the school board’s 5 p.m. public comment period can sign up right before the meeting or contact the board’s secretary, per board policy.

 

New System Will Soon Rate Kentucky Schools From 1 To 5 Stars Friday, Sep 6 2019 

The day report cards go home in backpacks is an important moment for students, who will show their families just how well things are going at school. But in an era of school accountability, students aren’t the only ones who receive grades. The Kentucky Department of Education will soon release its annual report cards that score individual public schools. And this year’s school report cards will include a new feature — a final grade.

Well, it’s not exactly a grade, like in neighboring Indiana where schools get an A to F score just like their students. In Kentucky, schools will receive one to five stars. Kentucky Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis said this will improve the state’s school report cards, which in the past have offered lots of data about schools, but no final score.

“The idea of having five stars for rating schools is first and foremost about transparency,” Lewis said.

Many states have been rating schools this way for years. In Indiana, schools have received letter grades since 2011, and the state has revised the criteria for those grades over time.

Kentucky is designing its star system right now. The Kentucky Department of Education has brought together a committee of superintendents and principals and state board of education members to define what those stars mean and minimum scores for each. The criteria that determine a school’s score is based on Kentucky’s accountability standards, outlined in Kentucky’s 2017 law originally known as Senate Bill 1.

The minimum scores will then go to Commissioner Lewis for approval.

“There’s no draft, you know, in the back room that we’re waiting to pull out, regardless of what they say,” Lewis said, anticipating any criticism that the committee might work in name only.

Advocates: Stars Provide The ‘So What’ On Report Cards

While the star system will be new in Kentucky this fall, school report cards are not. The federal Every Student Succeeds Act passed under the Obama Administration requires state departments of education to publish a variety of data about schools — from test performance to demographics to school spending. The law also requires states to rate schools in a way that helps identify the lowest-performing schools so they can receive targeted support. But states aren’t required to award schools a final score that interprets all those data points.

“It’s really hard to help a school improve when you don’t know where it stands today,” said Paige Kowalski, executive vice president of the Data Quality Campaign. The non-partisan nonprofit advocates for transparent education data. 

Kowalski says the stars or grades may be just one data point, “but it’s one that helps us put together many pieces of data points into something bigger.” 

“We want the ‘so what.’” 

The Data Quality Campaign looked at the public school report cards in every state and found that about half publish a summative rating for schools, like an A to F grade. Kowalski said the nonprofit also surveyed parents about those ratings.

“Nine in ten parents report that summative ratings help them make decisions about their child’s education,” Kowalski said.

Those decisions may include where to live, or whether to send their child to a private school. In Jefferson County, parents might use the information to decide which public schools to seek, since the district offers families a level of choice. And as Kowalski says, data is something we’ve all come to expect when making choices, “whether we’re looking at movie reviews or the health rating that the state health department gives to a restaurant when we walk in.”

Skeptics: Schools Are More Than Just A 5 Star Rating

While data transparency advocates may argue that granting schools an overall grade helps decipher meaning from a mess of data, others contend that schools are too dynamic to reduce to a five star rating.

“Schools can’t really be easily classified just like a Yelp review,” said JCPS school board member Chris Brady. 

He’s skeptical that these ratings can really capture the quality of a school.

“Schools have many different complex moving parts,” Brady said. “There’s a lot that goes into a school, and not everything is evaluated or really assessed.”

Brady says those missing parts could include a school’s climate and culture, teachers’ attitudes, and things that don’t get tested like arts education. He argues that test scores can hide the fact that schools aren’t all on a level playing field. 

“Some schools have high concentrations of poverty, and I think that obviously affects student performance and student achievement,” Brady said.

That’s a common criticism of state-issued school grades in other states — that the ratings punish schools that have more disadvantaged students, and scores don’t take into account the obstacles that students bring with them when they come to school.

“I hear that criticism quite often,” said Commissioner Lewis. “And that criticism is based on the misinformation that our accountability system is based solely on proficiency.”

What he means by “proficiency” is straight scores on Kentucky’s standardized tests. Lewis said student proficiency in math and reading factors significantly into a school’s overall star rating, but it’s not the only consideration.

“By federal law, there’s no way around [using proficiency],” Lewis said. “But we could have taken proficiency and made it count a whole lot more than we have.”

In addition to proficiency on state standardized tests, the stars will also take into account:

  • Achievement gaps — Any school will get a full star deducted if it shows significant differences in test scores between students of different races or income or between special education students and their peers. 
  • Growth — Scores for elementary and middle schools will consider student improvement on math and reading test scores from year to year, as well as improvement in English language proficiency among English language learners.
  • Multiple subjects — Beginning in 2021, high school scores will consider test scores in social studies, science and writing.
  • School climate — Beginning in 2020, school scores will reflect a measure for school climate, determined by student surveys.
  • Graduation — Scores for high schools will consider the percentage of students who graduate.
  • Transition readiness — Scores for high schools will consider students’ scores on college placement tests like the ACT and how many students complete worked-based learning or receive industry certifications that help them transition to work or college. 

All those data points will be available on Kentucky’s online school report cards for the public to sift through. But at the top of the report card, every school will be marked with a number of stars.

We’ll see how schools and families respond to the ratings when the Kentucky Department of Education releases its latest school report cards based on data from last school year later this fall, perhaps as early as the end of the month. 

 

Program Helps Kentucky Police Recruits Earn Associate’s Degree For Free Monday, Sep 2 2019 

State officials have announced a new initiative that will allow recruits going through law enforcement basic training to earn an associate’s degree.

The free program, called Educating Heroes, is being launched by Kentucky’s Department of Criminal Justice Training (DOCJT). Police officers who graduate DOCJT’s basic training would earn 45 credit hours at Bluegrass Community and Technical College. Recruits would also have an opportunity to take 15 credit hours of online courses to complete the 60 total hours to earn an Applied Science associate’s degree. The program also applies to officers who already finished basic training. Nearly 300 recruits go through DOCJT’s basic training academy every year, per a news release. 

DOCJT Commissioner Alex Payne said the program will create a better workforce.

“We’re anticipating big things, we don’t really see any downside to any of this,” Payne said. “You’ll have a more educated workforce going out. And who wouldn’t want a more educated workforce, especially in law enforcement?”

Education Heroes does not award credits to graduates of other basic training programs, so a Louisville Metro Police Department officer, who is required to take basic training through their department’s academy, would have to attend DOCJT basic training outside regular work hours in order to earn the credits.

But the program could benefit St. Matthews Police. Chief Barry Wilkerson said if any of his officers previously graduated from DOCJT basic training, they could apply for those college credits. Wilkerson said the academy is a great incentive because police work is not as attractive as it used to be.

“We’re cutting all the incentives out of being a police officer anymore. You’re putting your life on the line everyday and it used to be you’re out 20 years because it was hazardous and your pension was better … now you’re paying insurance and you don’t have any retirement at all,” Payne said. “We’ve got to find something on the other side to make it look more attractive, and maybe the college credits might do that.”

Carl Yates, a Lieutenant Colonel at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office, said police departments have struggled to recruit new officers for the last few years. But he said the DOCJT’s program gives them a tool to attract more people.

“Many of the people that we are able to attract have some college [credits],” Yates said. “This is a good way for them to get some additional training and credit.”

Payne with the DOCJT said they hope to expand the program to help police get a bachelor or master’s degree. A new nonprofit foundation created to raise money for that is expected to start next month. 

The Next Louisville: Youth Talk Education Thursday, Aug 29 2019 

This year, as part of The Next Louisville, WFPL is highlighting the stories of youth in our community. Some of that is through long- and short-form stories about kids, teenagers and young adults and their interests, achievements and challenges. You’ll also hear more first-person stories about and by young people in Louisville.

As part of this project, we’ve planned a different kind of platform to let youth talk about issues that matter to them.

Six youth talk shows are planned this year, all focusing on different topics, in partnership with WE Day Kentucky. In this edition, four young people met in our studio to talk about education — both personal stories about their experiences and suggestions for ways to change the system.

The discussion was moderated by Zina Alyasseri, a junior at Southern High School. Joining her in the studio were Tyce Hall, also a junior at Southern, Zainab Alyasseri, a sophomore at the University of Louisville and Sean Waddell, a recent graduate of DuPont Manual High School who’s now a freshman at Howard University.

Zainab Alyasseri, Sean Waddell, Tyce Hall, Zina Alyasseri

Listen here:

Tell us about a teacher or coach who has helped you get through school. How did they help?

Zainab: “Well, my Spanish teacher was Miss Maria Suarez. I met her my sophomore year of high school, when towards the end, I was trying to start a Muslim Student Association and I didn’t know what adult or what teacher to go to, to help me figure out where to start and who would supervise us. So, they directed me towards her because she was very active in the local community. She’s very active, politically, very politically aware…And then at the middle end of my senior year, it became a personal relationship, because like I said earlier, she wasn’t just a teacher, she was someone who, out of anyone in the school I could go to if I had a problem, and she would help me figure it out. She was there for me to listen to all the hardships that had to go through with my own identity, and her being from Cuba and going through similar problems to my parents — being a refugee and all — she understood how difficult it was to be in a school where nobody else really understood.”

Tyce: “I do want to say Ms. Lindsey Peden. She was my English teacher this year. And I just at the beginning of the year, I started off rough and like, I didn’t start off very well with behavior, my grades weren’t good. And like Miss Peden was always like a teacher like I could talk to and I went to her, I talked about it. And like through the year, we got closer and like we developed a like a really steady relationship. She just started helping me like get my work done. She was always somebody I could talk to like about family issues, school and like, I just know, I could always go to her.

“But then I also, have a good mentor, like a coach, Justin Hatchett, Coach Hatchett. He’s just like, always been like a father figure to me, because I don’t have a father in my life. But Coach Hatchett, he’s always been there for me, on and off the field. And whenever I need advice, I’ll go to that man, and he’ll help me out. He just keeps me going. I think he’s like made me the man I am today. So like, if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be who I am today.”

Sean: “For me, I’d say one of the greatest influences was a man by the name of Dr. James Calleroz White. He was the former head of school, at Louisville Collegiate School. And I went there and to Manual. But Dr. White was the first African American male Head of School at that institution. And he’s from Kentucky, he comes from a family that’s like a lower middle class. It’s a poor background. And what I always appreciated about him was like, he was a genuine person. He could have easily cared about just the intricacies of his job, just getting papers filed, just giving speeches that head of schools give. But he saw me as a young, African American student in an environment that wasn’t like the environment I’m from. And he made an effort to reach out to me, ask, you know, ‘How’s the experience going for you? How can I assist?’ He will have no problem giving me talks about life, helped me to see the world from a bigger scope, it helped me to navigate the world. And I don’t think I would be the person that I am today without him.”

Zina: “Yeah, in many ways, educators have a huge impact on our life, and the many ways that we experience school come from the educators that we’re surrounded by. And so for me, I think it was also Lindsay Peden. She was our sophomore English teacher. And you could talk to her about anything, and she’ll ask you questions. For example, I’m a Muslim, Iraqi American. And so whenever she didn’t know something about who I was, she would ask me. She would say like, ‘I’m sorry if the sounds ignorant, but is it okay if I ask you,’ and she’d make sure that she understood me.”

Zina Alyasseri and Sean Waddell.

What struggles have you endured with your education, or what has kept you from wanting to keep going to school?

Sean: “I feel like my issue has been with some of the content that were taught in school. Like, I’m a person that reads, and I’m a person that studies the world from my own independent perspective. And when I go look at what’s being taught to me in class, and I compare that to what I know, from what I’ve read, and what I know from just living in the world, it’s very easy to see that a lot of things, especially in history, are slanted in a way that absolves any crime or any guilt for this society in this nation. So, African American History being cut down to Rosa Parks, and ‘I have a dream,’ and a paragraph about slavery.

“Of course, those kind of things have always bothered me, but they never made me want to pursue education less; they just always reminded me that to be educated is not to be necessarily lettered. You can have degrees or you can have a diploma, you can have medals around your neck, Honor Society, this and that, because you got A’s and a 4.2 GPA. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re an educated person.”

Zainab: “I personally would say, my own struggles were within myself. Not necessarily outside factors, but just questioning myself, questioning my identity, who I was, why I was there and using that to motivate me to be better, to do better. To make my parents proud. And I feel like my identity was always you know, too American to be Iraqi, too Iraqi to be American. And then I go to school, and I try to fit in with everybody. And then I didn’t. And I was like okay, well, is it okay that I don’t fit in? Should I force myself to fit in? Asking and fighting myself with these questions was very difficult. But I realized that’s what allowed me to push through. That’s what allowed me to push through the struggle.”

Zainab Alyasseri and Tyce Hall.

How do you believe education, or lack thereof, has impacted your community?

Sean: “The notion that racism stems from ignorance, I think sometimes us saying that gives too much validation to people who should be more responsible. And as people who experience racism, I think we sometimes have the tendency to give too much empathy to those who don’t deserve it. And I think that when you uphold a racist system, and you carry out racist tendencies, a lot of times, it comes from knowledge of your power in your position, and not wanting to lose it, and not necessarily ignorance.

“I think sometimes we’re ignorant of the fact that the system that we’re fighting against, is a much bigger system. But in my reality, education and my community, as an African American, it’s a huge factor. At one point in history, not too long ago, actually, we weren’t allowed to read, we weren’t allowed to write. You add up slavery, you add up the Jim Crow period, you add up mass incarceration up to now, black people in America have only technically been free, liberated for about 60 years.

“So when I talk to a lot of my white friends, whose grandparents and great grandparents went to college, and went to this university and this and that, a lot of my friends and family are just now going to college. Their grandparents didn’t have that opportunity, they were cleaning the floors of wealthy people. A lot of our parents were the first to go to college and get a higher education. And I think that the role of education in the society is to give people the ability to see the world for themselves, and to be mobilized in that world. To have the freedom to move and to choose and to think for themselves. And when you’re robbed of that, you’re a dependent person, you’re bound to be an oppressed person, a subjugated person. So I think the lack of education produces more oppression, more poverty in a cyclical nature that’s hard to break out of.”

On disparities in the way some student athletes are treated:

Tyce: “It doesn’t make sense to me how an athlete that’s just 6’5”, 250 pounds can get a full ride scholarship. But a kid with a 4.4 GPA still has to pay $4,000 a semester. I just don’t think that’s fair, how athletes — and I am an athlete, but coming from an athlete’s perspective — we get babied through high school. Like a lot of athletes, we get our diploma, we go off to college and what do we do from there? We get a degree and we don’t make it big. And we have a degree in communications, but you can’t really use that in many things. And athletes they’re just babied through high school. And I just don’t think that’s like really fair, like coming from an athlete’s perspective, like I’ve been treated differently from a regular student.”

On integration in today’s schools:

Sean: “I’ve done a lot of reflecting recently on the Civil Rights movement, and its successes and its failures. And when I think about Brown v. Board, I think about the premise of that case. And it was that African American children who are forced to go to segregated schools, their self-esteem and their personal values were menaced by the fact that they’re segregated.

“I’m a person who’s grown up 50, 60 years from that, and I’ve grown up in the most integrated of schools. And I can say that, from my experience in the most integrated schools, that integration did not absolve what the original problem was in the beginning. And that children who have grown up in integrated environments, their self-esteem, and their dignity is just as much diminished in this different environment than it was before.

“So now that we’ve somewhat moved towards an integrated society, I think it’s becoming more prevalent, that the issue wasn’t that black and white weren’t in the same space. The issue was that whether you’re in a black or white space, the philosophy that overrides everything is a white philosophy, and a white doctrine. And that’s because we live in a society that is Eurocentric where everything that is white is put in the dominant space.”

Zina: “Tyce and I, we go to the same school. And I’m pretty sure you’ve noticed this, too. When you look at the cafeteria, sometimes, you see, like, all the white kids are sitting on one side.

“So when you look at those groups, even within those groups, it’s like all the kids that care about education within that racial group are together. The kids that don’t care about education within that racial group are on one side. And racial segregation is still a thing in school. I mean, it’s a big deal to me that I see students that aren’t really talking to each other. Because if you don’t talk to the people that are different from you, you don’t really understand their background. And that keeps you from being able to thrive in your school. Because if you don’t understand the differences around you, you can’t really embrace them. When you don’t embrace them, you stay ignorant to these different experiences that people have.”

The Next Louisville project is a collaboration between WFPL News and the Community Foundation of Louisville. For more work from the project, click here. 

 

 

JCPS Board Approves Girls Of Color STEAM Academy Wednesday, Aug 28 2019 

During a packed meeting Tuesday night, the Jefferson County Public School Board approved a school for girls of color, and moved forward with plans to start its own security force.

Board members voted unanimously to approve the Females of Color STEAM Academy, after which they received a round of applause from attendees. The academy will teach middle school girls of color science, technology, engineering, art and math. Officials estimate it will cost $5.2 million for the first three years.

Before the vote, Louisville Urban League CEO Sadiqa Reynolds said girls of color need a successful school like the W.E.B. Dubois Academy for boys.

“We are failing these girls,” Reynolds said. “It is time for us to have an opportunity to do for ourselves what it seems that the system has not been able to successfully do.”

Attendees packed the JCPS meeting, standing and applauding when the STEAM Academy was approvedKyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Attendees packed the JCPS meeting, standing and applauding when the STEAM Academy was approved

Girls of all races can apply, but like Louisville’s W.E.B. DuBois Academy for boys, the all-girls school will likely offer a multicultural and Afrocentric curriculum.

Officials want to hire a school president by September and to start classes next August. The school will open to sixth-grade students, with plans to add seventh and eighth grade classes in subsequent years.

Tuesday’s meeting was also a historic occasion as Joseph Marshall was sworn in to represent District 4 on the JCPS board. With Marshall’s swearing in, Board Chair Diane Porter said this marked the first time that three African Americans (Porter, Marshall and Corrie Shull) sat on the board.

New JCPS District 4 Board Member Joseph Marshall swearing in to the boardKyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

New JCPS District 4 Board Member Joseph Marshall swearing in to the board

After swearing in Marshall and approving the STEAM academy, board members discussed updates on its proposed security force.

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said they plan to hire a project manager to lead security in September. That person would be in charge of hiring and training SROs for all of JCPS.

But Porter said the board needs more information about the plan and how it might affect people.

“I’m not sure what the plan is,” Porter said. “What are we doing for our elementary, middle and high school[s]? How are we taking care of safety issues without either of the ones that I’ve just described, because it is happening in this district.”

Pollio said the district has $1.1 million to use toward school resource officers this year. He said he hopes to have 12 officers working in JCPS schools by February.

A law passed by the state legislature this year requires that every school have a safety officer by July 2022, though lawmakers did not approve any funding. 

UK Alleges Two Professors Engaged In ‘Significant Research Misconduct’ Friday, Aug 23 2019 

The University of Kentucky announced Friday that it seeking the resignation of two professors in its College of Medicine, citing “significant research misconduct.”

UK is alleging that professors Xianglin Shi and Zhuo Zhang in the Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology falsified or fabricated data in their research. The university has been internally investigating the professors’ work for more than a year, and in a press release UK said the resulting 1,000 page report lays out issues with the data and seven grant proposals and at least 13 scholarly papers.

UK is also seeking retraction of the publications that cite the questionable data.

“As the University of Kentucky supports outstanding research to address Kentucky’s most significant and protracted challenges, we are committed to a continual examination of our processes, policies, and procedures to protect against research misconduct. Our research must be conducted in an ethical and responsible manner, consistent with our published policies and standards,” UK Provost Blackwell and UK Vice President for Research Lisa Cassis said in a joint statement. “In the rare instances when researchers violate our expectations and standards, the University will act forcefully and without hesitation to investigate the misconduct, correct it, and take steps to prevent recurrence.”

UK has already terminated the employment of staff research scientist Donghern Kim, who worked in Zhang’s lab.

The committee that investigated the research found “some instances of an intentional effort to deceive, and in other instances, careless and reckless handling of experimental data and figure construction for grants and publications.”

If Shi and Zhang do not resign, the university will begin the process to terminate their employment.

This story will be updated.

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