Pollio reflects on his first five months as acting JCPS superintendent

He says renewed passion and energy across district have been biggest success story thus far

By Toni Konz Tatman | JCPS Communications 

As he begins his sixth month as acting superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools, Marty Pollio’s focus remains similar to what it was on his first day.  

JCPS acting superintendent Marty Pollio talks to employees

“Culture and climate in our schools is key,” Pollio said. “I firmly believe that the success of schools in any district is measured by having staff members and employees who are passionate and inspired to do great work.”

Pollio, who was named acting superintendent on May 16 and whose first official day on the job was July 1, points to results from the district’s mini comprehensive school survey that show an improved climate and culture within the district and schools as a major turning point for JCPS. 

"The biggest accomplishment is when I go to schools and I talk to principals, teachers and employees and there seems to a renewed passion and energy for the work that is being done in the schools," he said in an interview on Tuesday. "Seeing survey results that indicate there is a more positive fee and that there seems to be increased passion and energy— I think that is the biggest success story so far."

JCPS Acting Superintendent Marty Pollio talks with Doss High School student
The vast majority of Pollio’s days begin as early as 7 a.m. and are filled with staff meetings, school visits, and talking with community groups and leaders. It’s not uncommon to see him at night meetings or events showcasing student work.

“Any time I hear from the people who are doing the work in our schools and I get the chance to interact with our students and parents and they say they feel a renewed energy for the work that is taking place—it’s what inspires me to keep going,” Pollio said. “We have 155 schools, 101,000 students, 16,000 employees. A large percentage of this community is directly impacted by the work of Jefferson County Public Schools. I have always said that the future of this city is dependent on us. That’s why this job is so important to me, no matter how long I do it, whether it’s nine months or multiple years.”

Pollio has spent 22 years as an educator—the first two years at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) as a teacher and coach and then two decades as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, and principal in JCPS. 

By state law, acting superintendents can’t serve longer than nine months, and the search for a permanent leader is currently underway by the Jefferson County Board of Education.

Nine people applied for the top job during the open application period that concluded on Dec. 1. Pollio confirms he is one of the nine applicants.

“Over the course of six months, it’s something that has weighed heavily on me, on making that decision because this is a huge job, a very challenging job,” Pollio said. “But as I see the passion and energy of all of our stakeholders in JCPS, I feel like I am the right person for the job, and I have to do what I believe so that we get better as an organization. I want to see us be successful.”

At the same time, Pollio says he is focused on “continuing the work we are doing” and not on the superintendent search. 

“I have a job to do, I want to make sure I do that job,” he said. “Whatever happens with the superintendent search, happens. I need to come here and make sure I come in and do this work every single day.”

Pollio says the biggest challenge he has faced is “trying to take the overall organization and working hard to improve it with long-term mission, vision, and purpose” while “still dealing with the day-to-day challenges that we face as a district.”

He mentioned the recent incident at Jeffersontown High School that is currently under review by the district, the impending release of the state audit, and implementing several corrective action plans.

“We are expecting the audit within the next few months, but as I have said with the early results we’ve received is that whatever happens, this organization will be ready to address any issues that are brought forward and make sure we become better as a result,” Pollio said.

“We are in a challenging time. I believe the next two years—the next 24 months—will be the most important months for this district,” he said. “We have a lot on the horizon and a lot of things that are taking place right now—from the return of the audit to the selection of a permanent superintendent to charter schools, student assignment, and facilities. All of these issues will have to be significantly discussed over the next two years.”

In the coming months, Pollio says he will remain focused on improving culture and climate as well as organizational coherence and “how we align everything at central office to make sure we support our schools better.”

“We will be going through the budget process, we will take a look at everything we do at central office to make sure that we work with maximum efficiency in supporting our schools,” he said.

Pollio said another thing at the top of the list is “continuing our work with deeper learning.”

The initiative has been at the forefront of the district’s strategic plan since June 2016, when the school board adopted the Deeper Learning framework as a way to encourage students to be more independent and take a more active role in their learning process.

“We want to continue this work with student learning, how we can bring on more schools in the second semester,” he said.

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