Jefferson County Public Schools responded to a settlement proposal from the state’s top education official, a district spokesman confirmed Monday night.

JCPS sent the response Friday, nearly a week after the Jefferson County Board of Education spent three hours discussing interim Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis’ proposed settlement in two separate closed session meetings. 

A Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman said the department responded to the offer on Friday but has not heard back since, signaling ongoing negotiations. The spokeswoman also noted that the department has continued to prepare for a potential hearing next month. 

Neither JCPS nor KDE has shared details of changes to Lewis’ initial offer.

Lewis said multiple times during the past two weeks that he would consider a counteroffer to his initial proposal, which consisted of “enhanced oversight” from the state.

“We are open to considering any counteroffers made by JCPS, and when we receive said offer, we will respond within the hour,” Lewis said in a statement Wednesday. “Our commitment is to ensuring what is in the best interest of the children of Jefferson County.”

Wayne Lewis

Under Lewis’ initial proposal, the state would have final say over several key areas, including student assignment, transportation, early childhood education and facilities, sources familiar with the offer told Insider Louisville.

JCPS would be reevaluated in fall 2019 and would waive its right to appeal the decision in the initial proposal, sources say.

However, Lewis said that reading of the deal is incorrect. JCPS would only waive its right to issue a stay that would prevent the state from beginning work in the district, he said last week.

Lewis declined to say if he considered any parts of the undisclosed initial settlement as nonnegotiable two weeks ago.

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio called a response to Lewis “imminent” in a community forum Thursday night. A settlement agreement is not something Pollio or the board “takes lightly,” he said.

Several community members filled the room during the board’s meeting last Tuesday, urging them to reject any settlement. Many held yellow signs that said “No deal,” while others spoke against the proposal during the public comment section.

“These so-called advocates of choice want to dismantle the magnet school programs and transportation plan that give the 100,000 students of JCPS their choices,” JCPS parent Rob Mattheu said at the meeting. “They couldn’t dismantle our magnet schools and student assignment plan with their terrible Neighborhood Schools bill, so now they’re going to do an end run with an unqualified commissioner and unelected board of education.”

Mayor Greg Fischer asked JCBE to continue negotiations with the state, including countering the offer if JCBE felt it necessary, in an Aug. 3 Twitter video. 

“Everybody in Louisville and the state agrees with the goal that JCPS being the best large public urban school district in the country,” Fischer said. “Now the question is how do we get there and how do we have the most people in power to contribute to that.”

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer | Photo by Joe Sonka

Fischer said he was encouraged that they’re looking at a settlement to avoid a hearing and the “long drawn out legal complications that would come with it so that we can focus on the kids.”

Legal counsel for each side met for the first time about the settlement on July 17, a KDE spokeswoman said. Lewis initially gave JCBE until Aug. 1 to respond to the offer so the Kentucky Board of Education would be able to vote on it at its Aug. 2 meeting.

Since the deadline passed, Lewis has said he hopes to present something to KBE at the special meeting on Sept. 5. The meeting had already been scheduled before news of the deal broke.

If JCBE and the state can’t reach an agreement by Sept. 5, it is likely the 12-day hearing will begin on Sept. 10 as planned and will continue on various days until the beginning of November.

Based on the evidence presented in the hearing, KBE will vote to place JCPS under state management as recommended or under state assistance.

This story has been updated to add comment from KDE.