Superintendent: Louisville Assignment System Could Change Little

Associated Press Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - As the Louisville school system begins to adjust to a U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down its student assignment program, the new superintendent said Tuesday that its system may only need to be tweaked, not overhauled.

Sheldon Berman, who took over the nation's 26th largest school system on Monday, said even though the high court struck down the use of race is placing students in schools, an opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy may leave Jefferson County Public Schools in good shape.

"It gives us a lot of flexibility to stay with the current plan with some modifications," Berman said of Kennedy's opinion.

Last week, Kennedy went along with the court's four most conservative members in rejecting the Louisville and Seattle student assignment plans, but also said race may sometimes be a component of school efforts to achieve diversity. Kennedy wrote that he disagreed with an interpretation that the majority opinion completely foreclosed the use of race in any circumstance.

Kennedy suggested that districts can draw attendance zones, strategically locate new schools and recruit students and teachers in a targeted fashion.

Berman, whose previous job was head of the 2,900 student Hudson, Mass., school district, said school diversity is important, but rejected the idea of neighborhood schools if it meant a return to segregated facilities.

"I'm not sure that's a solution," Berman said. "I'm not leaning in that direction and I'm not sure the board is leaning in that direction."

Attorney Teddy Gordon, who represented Louisville parent Crystal Meredith in challenging the student assignment plan, has said he wants the current system scrapped immediately and will ask a judge to enforce the Supreme Court's decision. Gordon declined to comment Tuesday.

The Louisville school district adopted its current plan in 2000, after a federal judge said the district had eliminated the vestiges of past discrimination after 25 years of court-ordered busing.

The school district is 56 percent white, 37 percent black and about 8 percent other minorities. The current plan allows some student choice while seeking to keep minority enrollment at between 15 percent and 50 percent of the population at most schools.

Meredith got involved in the case because her son was bused 90 minutes round trip each day. She later moved and her son, now 10, got into his school of choice.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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