A wording choice in a February 2018 JCPS audit document may signify that former Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt intended to recommend state assistance for the district. His successor recommended a takeover.

Audit attachment 13, a memo from two Kentucky Department of Education lawyers to former Commissioner Pruitt dated Feb. 8, 2018, focuses on the findings of testing anomalies in some JCPS schools. In the conclusion, it appears the lawyers were working under the assumption the audit recommendation would be for state assistance — not a takeover.

“This information will not serve as a source of evidence regarding any appeal of the management audit recommendation,” the memo from KDE staff attorney Erik Carlsen-Landy and Patsy Kenner from the Office of Legal, Legislative and Communication Services said.

“However, the initial statistical findings are enough to cause great concern to KDE and this issue will be a top priority under state assistance.”

A KDE spokeswoman declined to comment on Carlsen-Landy and Kenner’s role in the audit, or if the department changed its recommendation when it switched commissioners.

On April 30, the day interim Commissioner Wayne Lewis recommended a takeover, JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio suggested a takeover was not what the district had expected per its contact with Pruitt.

“We weren’t given a whole lot of detail, but I think the label was different from what we were expecting and heard at our first meeting,” Pollio said when asked if the new recommendation differed from Pruitt’s tentative recommendation, given to him on April 9.

A JCPS spokeswoman also did not return a request for comment.

Pruitt resigned suddenly on April 17, during a special state board of education meeting, a day after Gov. Matt Bevin appointed six new members to the board. The night before, Pruitt said at a town hall that the audit was nearly complete and was only waiting on an analysis of the district’s collective bargaining agreement.

Chris Brady

At the town hall, Jefferson County Board of Education member Chris Brady said he knew Pruitt’s tentative recommendation: State assistance with probably one state staffer involved. When he asked Pruitt to publicly state his recommendation before the new board could fire him, Pruitt refused. Pruitt later told Insider that Brady was wrong, but didn’t clarify what his recommendation would be.

The state board named Lewis the interim commissioner April 17, immediately leading to speculation that the recommendation would be switched to a takeover. Nearly two weeks later, Lewis recommended a takeover that would leave Pollio in charge of daily operations instead of appointing a state manager.

Boris Ladwig contributed reporting.