In a March 12, 2012 Kansas City Star column “Accreditation Isn’t Out of Reach for KC Schools” writer Lewis Diuguid made a number of points in defense of the current KC District. This is DTRT board chair Bill Eddy’s response to Mr. Diuguid.

I cer­tain­ly agree that the Legislature and Governor need to quit the grown-up wran­gling and get the school district’s sta­tus clar­i­fied. The wran­gling, of course, isn’t lim­it­ed to Jefferson City. The car­tel of groups that have fed off the District for years is hard at work pro­tect­ing the cur­rent sys­tem while repeat­ing the same failed mantra about being for the kids. Slogans this time include: ” We have a plan.” “Keep local con­trol.” “Only we know what’s best for our kids.” I don’t see any evi­dence of promise in any of those.

It’s stan­dard to assert that the takeover in St. Louis hasn’t gone as well as expect­ed. The Commissioner says it’s mak­ing progress. The takeover wasn’t on her watch. It may be that the State Board has learned some things, includ­ing the dif­fi­cul­ties that arise when your leave the old school board in place. And nobody looks at what the St. Louis sit­u­a­tion might be if there hadn’t been a take-over.

The oth­er com­mon­ly expressed con­cern, the one about mem­bers of an appoint­ed board not hav­ing the inter­ests of the chil­dren, par­ents and com­mu­ni­ty in mind, is inter­est­ing. Isn’t that what most peo­ple think about the past boards? How could it get worse? With one or two pos­si­ble excep­tions I can’t imag­ine any pan­el of lead­ers appoint­ing the cur­rent board mem­bers. The major advan­tage of the State com­ing in is that con­tracts would be void­ed; teach­ers and admin­is­tra­tors would have to qual­i­fy for their jobs.

In regard to dis­solv­ing the District, I agree that it would be best if cit­i­zens in both dis­tricts voted—even though that would be around 5% of the folks in the KC District. But it seems a lit­tle unfair to lay the prob­lem off on the real estate indus­try. How about the cit­i­zens who are sick of pay­ing school tax­es while send­ing their kids to pri­vate schools? Do their inter­ests count? And to accuse the sur­round­ing dis­trict of “gob­bling up” the atten­dance areas seems pejo­ra­tive. Mostly I hear those dis­tricts say­ing they’re will­ing to help. All are accred­it­ed and prob­a­bly aren’t lust­ing for kids who come in 2 or 3 years behind.

The specter of KC District kids not being accept­ed in their new schools is well aimed to tap into parental con­cerns. However, don’t almost all kids have prob­lems when they move to a new school? I cer­tain­ly did, and so did the Westport stu­dents who were sent to Southwest.
But trans­fer­ring to one of the sur­round­ing Missouri dis­trict isn’t the same as going to the large­ly white Johnson County burbs. The Missouri dis­tricts have demo­graph­ics that are increas­ing­ly like ours.

My great­est con­cern is the argu­ment that the District is on its way to accred­i­ta­tion. By “gam­ing” the accred­i­ta­tion sys­tem they now may reach five of the 14 cri­te­ria. However, at my last count only one of those was for aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ment. They are now empha­siz­ing 3rd grade math as a pos­si­bil­i­ty for anoth­er point. But is that what we’re striv­ing for–a mar­gin­al­ly pro­vi­sion­al­ly accred­it­ed school sys­tem? Plus, my con­tacts in the District tell me that when State stan­dards go up in 2014 they will lose some of those points. The way I read it, many are still will­ing to sac­ri­fice the kids’ future to main­tain local con­trol and the eco­nom­ic resource of the District–which, by the way, is shrink­ing and will con­tin­ue to shrink.

Finally, I strong­ly agree that there are stel­lar stu­dents in the District. That’s what keeps me involved in this frus­trat­ing strug­gle. In my four years on the school board and sub­se­quent four years work­ing close­ly with Southwest I am awed by the poten­tial of many of our stu­dents and dis­heart­ened by the community’s fail­ure to pro­vide them the edu­ca­tion they deserve.

Best wish­es,
Bill Eddy

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