The Removal of Black Principals in High Poverty and Trauma Schools

Tyra Walker
Tia Kurtsinger-Edison

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) arrives at our schools with clipboard in hand ready to perform their yearly audit. They are there for just a few days observing and looking through IEPs, paperwork, finances, etc. After a few days of the audit, including a few minutes in the classroom, they write up what they observed and decide whether or not the principal is deemed capable of being a leader of their schools with the efforts to improve student achievement. The Kentucky Department of Education’s recommendation was given to the Superintendent and now he has to make the decision to retain or remove the principals. 

One of the many issues that has been brought to my attention is that most of the schools recommended are located in the South End and West End of our school district, with predominantly black and brown students, with low socioeconomic status, with students that have some kind of traumatic experience, and in schools with Black Principals. This is my experience with working with students that deal with trauma, as I work at one of the schools listed in the report. Our babies are dealing with many different emotions due to trauma and they have difficulty expressing how they feel. Therefore, they act out and in ways that sometimes the only thing you can do is hug these babies. Are all of these schools required to teach social skills as a class?   Our school are trauma informed on paper yet not informed when trauma occurs. The district does not have a mechanism for identifying kids in trauma. If someone in the neighborhood gets shot and killed in the street, the school and or principal are not notified unless that person is a student at their school. Violence on one street affects all kids on that street just not just the ones that go to the victims’ school. We need funding to implement a mechanism for identifying students in trauma. We need the system updated to include all educators involved to be notified and all of this cost money. Did all of these principals have what it really takes to address trauma?

The district has provided schools with mental health counselors however, due to the severity of our students in these schools, we need a sense of urgency for more than one mental health counselor. Another concern is that there are some schools with mental health counselors not being utilized. This is due to the parents having private insurance.Therefore, there should be a system in place where some of the mental health counselors without a heavy caseload should go between schools to ensure that students are receiving the assistance they need. Is there an inequity in the caseloads? Is having a TSI or CSI school a contributing factor for this inequitable caseload? 

Our CSI and TSI schools need to have smaller classroom sizes and this would mean more funding for our high need schools. We have 30 plus students in one classroom in what we call a trauma school. This is a system that is setup for destruction because you spend more time putting out fires and deescalating students, and less time teaching or implementing high yielding instruction. There is research and evidence stating smaller classroom sizes helps students learning and sense of belonging, so why is this not a priority in priority schools?  Instead of reassigning principals, we need smaller classrooms and more funding. We need an abundant amount of programs put in place for our minority female students so they feel included. We should be demanding wrap around services not only for the student, but also for the family members. Students are exhibiting trauma, then going home to a distressed caregiver also going through the same trauma. We need to be intentional around identifying students in trauma in real time. 

On Wednesdays We #WearRed4Ed and OPPOSE SB7 – The SBDM Bill

Today is #WearRed4Ed and Call Legislators Wednesday! 

We are asking that you CALL or EMAIL your legislators to ask that they OPPOSE SB7 – The SBDM Bill. Use one of the following scripts below when you contact legislators. Find your legislators here.


Dear [Senator or Representative] ________________

Hello my name is ______________ and I am a [your position] and [local affiliate like JCTA] and KEA member living in your district. I’m writing to ask that you OPPOSE SB7. Local control is an important part of democracy and that begins with Site-Based Decision-Making councils in schools. Teachers need to be an integral voice on those councils and know that they can’t be forcibly transferred for participating on a school council.  

Thank you for your service!

[No time to write? Click here to send an email.]


Phone Call:

Be prepared to share your name and address. You can leave a message for ALL legislators or just yours. The Legislative Message Line is 1-800-372-7181.

I am calling to leave a message for ALL senators and representatives. I am asking that you OPPOSE SB7 and any attempt to dilute local control that schools and teachers have.

Stop Removing Our Principals

Emilie McKiernan Blanton

After years of unending audits, JCPS continues to be a target for the state. Another year and another round of principals have been identified as needing to be replaced. At some point, we are going to run out of principals to hire. While some schools in JCPS are free from the shackles of the audit process due to their ability to select their student body, other schools do not have that ability, nor do we want it.

Taking on the task of being a principal in a high poverty school has become a dangerous career move. Choosing to take the job means constant scrutiny from the state and district with pressure to turn the school around. The problem is that you can’t turn a school around. Educators at these supposedly failing schools aren’t bad. It’s unfair and inequitable to try to compare our schools to schools that choose which students are able to attend. In many cases, the administrators are barely given the chance to work at schools before they are audited and found to lack the necessary leadership to run a school. It takes years and consistency for an administrator to establish a climate and culture of the school.

The idea of replacing administrators and staff began during the Race to the Top audits. Schools across Kentucky, but mostly in JCPS, found themselves under the microscope of so-called Education Reformers. The problem with Education Reformers is that they don’t understand that most of the issues inside a school building actually begin outside a school building. Schools traditionally identified as failing, priority, persistently low achieving, comprehensive support and improvement, targeted support and improvement, or any many of rebranding we are calling “this school has an achievement gap” have one thing in common and it’s not bad teachers or bad administrators. It’s poverty.

No amount of musical chairs or shuffled employees will ever fix the gaps caused by poverty. In fact, the lack of consistency caused by the constant churn of school employees can hinder students in these schools. As schools suffer from the constant line of changing faces, the ability to grow and maintain traditions becomes harder. 

Instead of constantly targeting JCPS employees with forced transfers and resignations, the state could seriously help our schools by providing additional support to these buildings. It’s difficult to succeed when you’re left underfunded and constantly worrying about if you will be allowed to keep your job. The students who come in the buildings are not changing. We teach every child that walks through our doors. We need to be able to focus on meeting the students where they are and growing the individual students we have. In order to do that, we need to give administrators a chance to lead instead of questioning their leadership within a couple years of taking on the job.

Consistency and stability are what is best for kids. Local control is what is best for democracy. If an administrator does sincerely need to be replaced, that is a job for our own superintendent and school board to work through. We know our kids. We are the ones who are here. Let us govern ourselves.

On Wednesdays We #WearRed4Ed and Call Legislators for Education Funding

Today is our first #WearRed4Ed and Call Legislators Wednesday! 

We are asking that you CALL or EMAIL your legislators to ask that they prioritize education funding. Use one of the following scripts below when you contact legislators. Find your legislators here.


Dear [Senator or Representative] ________________

Hello my name is ______________ and I am a [your position] and [local affiliate like JCTA] and KEA member living in your district. I’m writing to ask that you prioritize education funding. Education is the foundation of our commonwealth and it should be fully funded for our future! Our children deserve the best education and that means funding and new sources of revenue.

Thank you for your service!


Phone Call:

Be prepared to share your name and address. You can leave a message for ALL legislators or just yours. The Legislative Message Line is 1-800-372-7181.

I am calling to leave a message for ALL senators and representatives. I am asking that you prioritize education funding in the budget and seek new sources of revenue.

On Wednesdays We #WearRedForEd and Contact Legislators!

Emilie McKiernan Blanton

Session is fully underway in the Bluegrass State. While we have hundreds of bills to sort through, remember to keep updated on bills and their progress (or lack thereof) through JCTA and KEA in the coming months.

In the meantime, we can show our solidarity every Wednesday as we #WearRedForEd. While wearing your red, also contact legislators! If you don’t know who your legislators are, check here. On the website, you can find both an email address and phone number for legislators. 

Not sure what to write? Keep it short and to the point! Here is a sample email you can follow:

Dear [Senator or Representative] ______________,

My name is ____________ and I am a [your job title] and [local affiliate such as JCTA] and KEA member living in your district. I am asking that you prioritize public school funding and oppose any attempts to take funding from public schools such as charter schools or vouchers/scholarship tax credits.

Thank you!


If you call their specific number, you can follow the same script. Make sure to only say you are living in the district of folks where you are actually a constituent. Never lie to a legislator to let them believe you live in their district when you don’t.

You can also call the Legislative Message Line at 1-800-372-7181. At this number, you can leave messages for your specific legislators or for all senators and representatives. Messages here should be short enough for the staff to write. “I would like to leave a message for all legislators. Please OPPOSE any vouchers or scholarship tax credits/charter school funding. SUPPORT funding for public education and additional revenue.” The message staff is very nice! Sometimes you will have to call multiple times to get through. Just keep trying!

This session will be long. Remember to keep wearing your red and contacting your legislators. We need to keep reminding them how important public education is for every child in Kentucky. Big actions start with small first steps. Being visible and vocal are our first line of defense for our students.

#WearRedForEd with Florida Educators

Our union sisters and brothers are standing up for the rights of their students in their state capital Monday, January 13th. Show your support for our fellow educators by WEARING RED on Monday, January 13th!

Teachers from across the Sunshine State will descend upon their Capitol to demand more funding for education from the Republican-lead legislature. Educators are asking for an increase in funding for resources and programs, as well as an increase in salary.

Educators in one Florida county were already frightened with a notice of possible termination for their use of personal days to advocate for their students.

Don’t forget to wear red in support of our union fellows. Snap a picture and use the hashtag #WearRedForEd #TakeOnTallahassee #FundOurFutureFL

Here comes session!

Emilie McKiernan Blanton

There are 99 days until Sine Die. The 2020 General Assembly is underway today. We will be watching as the legislature crafts the biennial budget. This session will be 60 days and there are hundreds of pre-filed bills. As educators, we have watched the previous sessions closely. The last two sessions brought out a fire and passion in educators as we fought for our students. In the coming days, we will be following a multitude of bills to ensure our students have the opportunity for a free, public education in the most equitable way possible.

While we watch for bills related to education, we already know some of our non-negotiables. We refuse to accept vouchers. Whether they come in the front door or the back door, we are saying no to vouchers. No matter what pretty words anyone uses to try to hide what they are, we are saying no to vouchers. We don’t want funding for charter schools. In fact, we want to repeal the charter school legislation passed in 2017. We want the promise of our pensions protected and funded. We want new revenue. We want our students safe, healthy, and given the best opportunities for success in life. Our students are at the heart of everything we do and they are the reason we fight.

Going into session, we have a governor who is willing to work with legislators. While Republicans do hold a veto-proof supermajority, they have not had a governor willing to work with them for the last four years. There were times Bevin couldn’t even work with members of his own party. Governor Andy Beshear has promised to work for Kentucky. We are all on Team Kentucky and that means we have to work together.

What can you do while we watch session?

Follow updates from Kentucky Educators Association and Jefferson County Teachers Association on social media.

KEA Twitter

JCTA Twitter

KEA Facebook

JCTA Facebook

Also keep an eye out for email updates from our union.

Program the Legislative Message Line phone number into your phone. The number is 1-800-372-7181. Keep messages short and to the point. The operators are very nice!

Contact your legislators at their offices. If you don’t know who your legislators are, check here. For tips about contacting an elected official, check our previous post from Lousville Metro Councilwoman Nicole George.

Keep up with bills using the Legislative Research Commission page here.

We have long days ahead of us. We need to stay active and informed. We will have a page to track bills as bill numbers become available. Stay tuned!