JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio speaking at a community forum earlier this summer. | Photo by Olivia Krauth

This story has been updated to include two previously unreleased council members. 

The community members tasked with helping Jefferson County Public Schools develop and implement its racial equity policy have been selected.

Community members, students, parents and district employees make up JCPS’s Racial Equity Policy Advisory Council. With Superintendent Marty Pollio, the council will write a districtwide plan to tackle racial inequity in the district and create metrics for accountability, as Insider has reported.

The 17 members

  • Jasmine Drinkard, counselor at Male High School
  • Michael Hill, assistant principal at Goldsmith Elementary
  • Mary Barnes, goal clarity coach at Bloom Elementary and JCPS parent
  • Kevin Gunn, JCPS parent
  • Daryle Unseld, JCPS parent
  • Jaron Alexander, JCPS parent
  • Sharon Kesler, JCPS parent
  • Eden Mask, junior at Fern Creek High School
  • Grace Pennix, senior at duPont Manual High School
  • Afi Tagnedji, senior at Iroquois High School
  • Lettie Bailey-Johnson, community member – Gifted By Design Leadership & Consulting Firm
  • Hannah Drake, community member and JCPS volunteer
  • Matthew Berry, community member – 55,000 Degrees
  • Terrance Sullivan, community member – Kentucky Youth Advocates
  • Kathryn Wallace, community member – NAACP
  • Tyra Walker, JCTA representative
  • Kumar Rashad, teacher and JCTA representative

The policy, which passed the school board in May, asks for data-driven strategies to work on six goals, including reducing achievement gaps and eliminating school policies that lead to racial disparities.

Council members are asked to take an intersectional approach to creating the plan, considering race, gender, socioeconomic status and special education status.

Each council member is slated to serve a three-year term on the council, according to the applications. Members are expected to meet with Pollio quarterly, but also to devote time to the council’s work monthly, the application said.

In the application, council members were asked about their commitment to public education, why they wanted to be on the council and their experience with racial equity. Insider obtained all completed applications for chosen council members via an open records request.

Answers have been edited for clarity, length and style.

Jasmine Drinkard

Role: Counselor at Male High School

Background with racial equity: I grew up in West End of Louisville in the Shawnee area. My experiences of growing up in west Louisville led me into the field of education and advocacy.

At a young age, I was aware first hand of the lack of resources available to people who look like me. I was also aware of the many experiences that can shape the lives of people of color in the Louisville area such as, poverty, crime, education and to name a few. I became a teacher in 2007. Since then, I can say I have been an equity advocate.

Why you’d like to serve on the council: I would like to serve on the advisory council because the components of the racial equity policy are important to the advancement of this district. My professional career has prepared me to fight for and speak on behalf of those less fortunate. By serving, I would hope to aid the district and our community in implementing policies, protocols and a plan that ensures equity for all.

Kevin Gunn

Role: JCPS parent

Background with racial equity: I worked as a field representative for the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights.

Why you’d like to serve on the council: All students must feel valued, regardless of difference. And it is every person’s responsibility in Jefferson County to confirm that worth. I would like to serve a more active role in that process.

Daryle Unseld

Role: JCPS parent

Background with racial equity: Served on JCPS racial equity policy sub-committee.

Why you’d like to serve on the council: I have relevant professional and community experience that would add value to the committee.

Michael Hill

Role: Assistant principal at Goldsmith Elementary

Background with racial equity: As an educator, I have always sought out to be inclusive of all students especially pertaining to content used in the classroom to reflect the demographic of students, creating events our families can relate to, providing systems in my schools to ensure all cultural needs are being met.

Why you’d like to serve on the council: I feel that all students can be successful and we, as a school district, must provide the opportunities for them to do so. It is our job to give them the education and experiences that allow them to be successful. I feel I have the background to ensure that our district is providing this type of education. I feel I would be a good fit as my body of work to this point demonstrates that I have the knowledge to motivate students of all backgrounds. I have experience working with multiple cultures that have resulted to in positive results.

Grace Pennix

Role: Senior at duPont Manual High School

Background with racial equity: During the 2017-2018 school year at duPont Manual High School, we had an incident with our principal that caused a lot of racial tension. Although I was not a direct leader in the protest that followed, I was very involved and spoke out a lot, in school, media, etc.

Why you’d like to serve on the council: I believe I would be a good fit for a spot on the advisory council because this is my passion. To be more specific, my passion is minority children and teens. In public schools, I see the stigma that the minority children can’t do as well as their white classmates and I want to be apart of the solution to break this stigma.

Lettie Bailey-Johnson

Role: Community member

Background with racial equity: My experience with racial equity work has been accompanied with my collective work experience that I have held from 1998 serving as a student administrator in the Office of Minority Affairs under the leadership of Ralph Fitzpatrick to the formation of my career as a senior director and leader at St. Stephen Church and Simmons College of Kentucky under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Kevin Cosby.

Within these entities, our mission and goal has always remained to advocate for the underserved and marginalized communities to ensure no one is left behind. Through my leadership, community engagement and development this led me to passion of intentional Leadership development.

Why you’d like to serve on the council: My investment to our students is motivated to help Jefferson County be a beloved community. I am engaged, informed and invested. My company and personal mission both founded on an underrepresented population and unmet need. It is my hope that I am able to continue to serve our city, district and students as a equitable resource, equitable champion, leader and disruptor of traditional systems while yet providing more 21st century intentional advocacy aligned with the districts vision.

Hannah Drake | Courtesy

Hannah Drake

Role: Community member, JCPS volunteer, previous JCPS parent

Background in racial equity: As an African-American woman, my commitment to racial equity is as close to me as the air that I breathe. I do not have the luxury to look the other way. I have been an advocate and activist for racial equity and justice for decades.

Currently, myself along with several teachers at Meyzeek Middle School started The Justice League where the young people study and learn about critical local and global social  justice issues, like poverty, mass incarceration, racial segregation, urban violence, environmental destruction, and other forms of inequality and injustice. The program started last year and will continue this school year. We are also looking at starting The Justice League in other middle schools in Louisville.

I am also a poet and blogger and use both avenues to bring awareness to social justice issues.

Why you’d like to serve on the council: I believe that I am good fit for the advisory council because I have a love for young people and justice. I believe as adults our job is to be prepared to pass the baton and to help young people be ready to receive the baton. Young people all over this world are leading movements and if we can facilitate an environment where they are looking at the world through a lens of equity, that is what we are supposed to do. I am committed, outspoken and a person that is driven by innovation, creativity and finding solutions.

Matt Berry

Matthew Berry

Role: Community member

Background in racial equity: As an educator and community partner with 12 years of professional experience in the field of higher education, racial equity has always been at the heart of my work. That has been the case for many reasons including the necessity of placing a racial equity (or in my own terms justice) framework at the center of education in order to achieve community goals.

But more importantly racial equity work is right, it is just, and it is necessary. That is why I am proud to be a part of initiatives such as the Louisville Promise, The Campaign for Black Male Achievement Roundtable and the Lumina Talent Hub student success work, which focuses on providing supports for postsecondary access and success for African-American and Latino JCPS students. I would like to expand this work through the Racial Equity Advisory Council.

Why you’d like to serve on the council: I believe that this advisory council will have the opportunity to shine a light from within on work that needs to be done to improve our public school district. That is an important body of work but it is also an important message to send to our community and our state right now. It is an unapologetic acknowledgement that there is work to be done and that our community holds the people and power to do it. I believe my experience as an educator and community partner would help in the necessary work of bridging the divide between our schools and our community so that message is received and believed.

Afi Tagnedji

Role: Senior at Iroquois High School

Background with racial equity: Principal’s Advisory Board of Iroquois High school. I represent students that are like me — a black woman — as we discuss with the principal what is needed and what is not helping when it comes to student engagement.

Why you’d like to serve on the council: I have a lot of experience in leadership positions and I’m not scared to voice my opinions. I work well with others and I’m passionate about equal opportunity for people everywhere. What better place to start than your own community.

Terrance Sullivan

Role: Community member

Background with racial equity: I work on policies at the state level and with any policy my first question is the racial equity or unintended disparities that may come from any policy that is proposed. I also work in an area that looks to examine and improve racial equity across multiple spectrums including the arena of youth justice, and a large part of that comes with work in the school system. I have been focused on this type of work since 2005 and continue to do things daily to improve our area from an equity standpoint.

Why you’d like to serve on the council: I would love to be able to assist on policies that ensure racial equity for our kids. I think I would be a great fit because of my experience both personally and professionally. I have a unique viewpoint that is also enhanced by my wife who teaches middle school math and often we chat about the struggles some of her kids have and they are often minority kids like me. It is a passion of mine to work on things that can help prevent her from having 50 percent of her black boys unable to read in 7th grade due to factors that were missed when they were younger. I have been on multiple sides of this, personally, professionally, and from the policy side and think my unique combination creates a diverse perspective.

Eden Mask

Role: Junior at Fern Creek High School

Background with racial equity: I was a member of black achievers. I’ve been a member of my schools black student union for one year and was promoted to a leader of the BSU in June.

Why you’d like to serve on the council: I’d like to serve on the advisory council so that I can be the source of student representation. I think I’m a good fit for this role because I have experience in representation a big group of people and working toward racial equity.

Jaron Alexander

Role: JCPS parent

Background with racial equity: In the past I’ve worked with the Mayor’s Right Turn initiative to help keep young African-Americans from turn back to a life that was not so productive. I also work with the Youth Violence Prevention Research Committee. You will not find a more committed individual.

Why you’d like to serve on the council: I would be a perfect fit to serve on this council because I understand the greater good and effect I would have on this council.

Mary Barnes

Role: JCPS parent and goal clarity coach at Bloom Elementary

Background with racial equity: My interest in racial equity can be traced to the beginning of my career in education. I spent time teaching in both urban and suburban schools. The inequities that I observed formed a foundation for my dedication to working towards social justice.

Why you’d like to serve on the council: I would like to serve on the council because I care about doing the right thing for our students. I believe I would be a good fit because I am analytical, diplomatic, and passionate. I am a creative problem-solver and I enjoy working with a team, so I know that I could be an asset to the council.

Sharon Kesler

Role: JCPS parent

Background with racial equity: PTA leadership at 15th District PTA, Cane Run Elementary and Gutermuth Elementary.

Why you’d like to serve on the council: I would like to serve on the advisory board because I am very passionate that everyone is treated equally. I come from a biracial family and have had negative experiences from this. I have also experienced different climates from schools in different areas.

Kathryn Wallace

Role: Community member

Background with racial equity: Education Committee Chair of the Louisville Branch NAACP for 15 years, director of Minority Educator Recruitment and Retention of the Kentucky Department of Education from 1992 to 2002.

Why you’d like to serve on the council: I believe that I would be a great fit for the Advisory Council due to my career and experience in supporting public education with the focus on improving outcomes for students of color.

Before the racial equity policy idea was conceived, I coordinated participation of all of the JCPS district leadership and departmental chiefs attending the Louisville Branch NAACP meetings.

I have been engaged and in the forefront on all of the major issues for students of color in JCPS for the past few decades. My background in law and education will be an attribute to the committee as we advise the Superintendent and the Board members on issues impacting inclusion and racial equity.

Tyra Walker

Role: JCTA representative

Kumar Rashad

Role: Teacher, JCTA representative

Background in racial equity: I am currently a high school math teacher who has been involved with social justice and racial equity for years. I am also the Ethnic Minority Director for the National Council of Urban Educators Association. I am a sponsor for Men of Quality and have been for over 10 years.  I am employed by the National Education Association to host a blog page called Racial Justice/Institutional Racism. Here in Kentucky, I have started a non-profit called The Minority Teachers Recruitment Movement where we actively recruit, train, and mentor potential minority teachers.

Why you’d like to serve on the council: I am highly involved in the welfare of educating the community about racial justice because there are too many policies that hurt minorities and too many people who support these policies. I want to ensure that our students have the best and the best comes with a curriculum that reflects all of our cultures, along with teachers and administrators who also reflect the demographic makeups of our students.