The honeymoon for new school board members is over

Well, the honeymoon for new school board members is over.

The events of the past week need to be a wake-up call to JCPS and to the school board. How we as a board manage our business, what we spend our time debating, what questions we ask, and especially what expectations we demonstrate all make a difference.

The District has been reorganized under Superintendent Hargens’ leadership in a concerted effort to improve student achievement; as a board, we must take a page from that book and reorganize our work to show the same urgent commitment to improvement that we’re demanding from JCPS educators.

While my colleagues and I are personally repelled by Commissioner Terry Holliday’s choice of words, it’s time to let go of that and face the bigger issue: What are we doing to turn the tide so all students receive the education they desperately need to be functional adults in an economy that will continue to demand more from them?

Since joining the board I’ve learned a lot that I didn’t know about Dr. Hargens’ reorganization of the District, and about changes that are beginning to take effect. But there’s no question these changes have not yet fixed our weakest schools. We must do far more to explain planned changes to the community and engage parents in their kids’ education, while seeking the help of every Louisvillian to push our students to succeed – and supporting them as that happens.

Our schools are teaching students to approach problem solving with high-level, critical thinking skills. If we embrace those same skill sets we can – and will – effectively address the crisis of persistently low-achieving schools.

I’m pleased that the board is united on the urgency of turning around our weakest schools by energetically implementing Dr. Hargens’ turnaround plan. But we can and must do more to show the community the change that’s underway – and that we’re ready to try new things if this plan doesn’t work. Passively waiting for state data, and then reporting it to Louisville parents and voters, just won’t do.

So – I’m repelled by Dr. Holliday’s word choice, but I welcome his heat. I want adults to model reasonable discourse, which is what we’re trying to teach our kids, but I also know that candor is essential to fixing any problem, and that passion in pursuit of a lofty goal is no vice.

Please let me know your ideas and thoughts on this subject. Post your concerns here or email me at Thank you!

On Public Education

My family’s roots in Louisville run deep: From the California neighborhood where my dad was raised, to Main Street where I was chairman of one of the biggest employers in the city; from the parks where I bike and hike, to the public schools across the city where my children and I were educated.

My love of education was nurtured by my mother, who is a former teacher. And I’ve been fortunate to take my love of education into the classroom as a teacher, too; first in China, and later as a lecturer in law schools and at UofL’s College of Business, and teaching Sunday School at my church. I’ve also been a guest speaker in JCPS schools and served as a volunteer mentor in the Every1Reads program.

The link between the strength of a community’s public schools and its long-term economic success is intrinsic, and Louisville will never have the latter until we commit fully to the former. I’ve spent decades as a civic and business leader working to meet the challenge of guaranteeing equal opportunity for educational excellence for every child. And now I’m ready to do even more.

I want to bring a new kind of leadership to our School Board, one that instills accountability for high student achievement and requires return-on-investment of our scarce resources. Our children deserve the brightest future we can give them. But until we make every school in every neighborhood a great choice, we haven’t met our obligation to them and we’re continuing to risk our economic security.