Do the Right Thing for Kids has focused its attention on and challenged the Board of Directors of the Kansas City Public Schools for the past eight years. Unfortunately, very little has changed in regard to the academic progress of KCPS students. We welcome new superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell to Kansas City, look forward to his leadership, and present these challenges:
- Always make decisions that have the best educational interests of the students in mind rather than being swayed by special interest groups that have greatly influenced district decisions in the past.
- Be honest with the school board and patrons of the district. Admit we have tremendous challenges in front of us. While our graduation rates may have increased, nearly 70% of our students are below grade level. A number of graduating seniors must be below grade level as well. What does that say about their preparedness for the next chapter in their lives?
- Don’t make statements you cannot keep or have no control over. We have heard several administrators say, “Full accreditation is just around the corner. We just need to work with a few students on the bubble, and we’ll gain the needed points.” Accreditation is the result of a quality learning experience, not a target on the wall. It is the bare minimum level of quality for a school district. Please focus on high quality teaching.
- Stand up to the teachers union and demand quality teaching in the classroom. Allow more autonomy in individual schools and empower your principals to make on-site decisions that affect the children in their buildings. Enable them to focus on their unique missions and subject them to evaluation and intervention if they do not perform.
- With principal input, develop strategies that pinpoint crucial areas of need and focus resources on them, such as certified reading interventionists and behavior interventionists in every building needing them.
- Provide the wrap-around services you discussed in your public interviews. As you well know, in order to learn, children must be well nourished, healthy and free from disabling trauma. Give students the opportunity to overcome the “learned helplessness” to which you have referred.
- Demand high quality performance from your administration. Eliminate waste. The Master Plan identified nearly $750,000 of excess at the administrative level. Use that money more effectively in the classrooms.
- Work with the board and community leaders to develop a proposal for a comprehensive Pre-Kindergarten program that utilizes certified teachers and is held to high professional standards.
- Engage the board in making decisions that impact academic achievement rather than spending time on numerous reports projecting student performance on state tests that have not been accurate.
- Evaluate the content and format of KCPS board meetings concentrating on meaningful information and not public relations.
To the board of KCPS, we ask you to work with the superintendent to develop policies that advance academic achievement, to set standards for the superintendent’s performance, and to evaluate him on his performance.