As lawmakers decry lack of diversity, Ky.’s lone African-American superintendent has lofty goals for Covington

09/12/2013 01:10 PM

Covington Independent Schools, which ranked last in the 2011-12 state assessment tests, begins this school year under a new superintendent in Alvin Garrison, who will try to turn the academic fortunes around for the troubled district.

However, with high rates of free and reduced lunch, special education students and single parent homes, improvement will require much more than just lessons in the classroom.

Bill Grein, a retired teacher and administrator in the district, said that when he started 33 years ago, 60 percent of students in Covington Independent qualified for free and reduced lunches. That’s up to 90 percent today.

Low interest rates in the 1990s prompted many families to move to new homes in Kenton, Campbell or Boone counties, while many of the houses in Covington became rental homes catering to lower income families.

Garrison said he wants the district’s schools, which include five elementary schools and Holmes High School, to become a refuge for students who have difficult home lives.

And Garrison becomes the only African-American superintendent out of Kentucky’s 173 school districts. And he is only the third African-American superintendent since 1994 in Kentucky.

Democratic Senator Gerald Neal of Louisville said Thursday that he’s not surprised by the fact that there’s been so few African-American superintendents in the state, but he said it’s time to figure out why.

“It’s time for us to evaluate, after careful study, as to what are the dynamics that militate against that happening,” said Neal.

Also on Thursday at the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee meeting, Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, questioned Office of Education Accountability Division Manager Emily Spurlock about whether the state had any efforts to attract minorities to those positions.

Spurlock said the Kentucky Department of Education has a minority superintendent intern program.


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