School Board backs step for revising system
The Jefferson County Board of Education voted unanimously last night to approve a plan that it hopes will help create a new student-assignment policy in time for the 2009-10 school year.
The 14-page plan, which will be submitted to U.S. District Judge John Heyburn for guidance and approval, is one of the district's first steps to comply with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that race can't be a deciding factor in individual student assignment.
Superintendent Sheldon Berman said the district will immediately begin to follow the timeline established in the plan, which was put together by district officials with the help of the school board's attorney, Frank Mellen.
Berman also said the district will "no longer use race to determine whether a student is granted a transfer or placement at a particular school."
Board members said they were pleased with the hard work of Berman and district officials who worked "long hours" to put the plan together.
The plan includes working with desegregation experts, researching the effect of different assignment models -- such as neighborhood schools, income-based assignment, lottery and multiple-criteria plans -- and examining plans in such cities as Cambridge, Mass., and San Francisco.
It also calls for extensive input from teachers, principals, parents, city leaders, civil rights groups, business groups and religious leaders.
The district wants to conduct surveys, hold up to seven community forums and create a Web site for comment.
"I think it touches all the appropriate bases," said Debbie Wesslund, a board member who represents District 3. "It is going to be a huge responsibility to make this decision, and we want to look at the issue from a variety of perspectives. We want it sliced and diced every which way so we know that we are doing the right thing."
Berman said his goal is to have a policy that will "advance instruction and ensure that our schools remain diverse."
The plan will not affect students for the 2007-08 school year who were assigned to a school before the Supreme Court decision.
Berman did send a memo last week instructing principals not to use race to decide whether they can accept new or transfer students for this year.
He said he believes there will be "very minor" changes for the 2008-09 school year.
This from the Courier-Journal.