Do the Right Thing for Kids board watch­ers con­tin­ue to observe the two offi­cial Kansas City Public School board meet­ings each month. The first month­ly meet­ing is a “work­shop” in which staff per­son­nel make pre­sen­ta­tions on aca­d­e­m­ic and admin­is­tra­tive pro­grams, out­comes and plans. The sec­ond month­ly meet­ing is a “busi­ness meet­ing” at which reports are made and votes tak­en. A good deal of what goes on is rou­tine and does not bear repeat­ing month after month. Our ques­tion is: As pres­sure grows to improve aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ment and hope­ful­ly regain accred­i­ta­tion and hang on to con­trol of the orga­ni­za­tion, what is being done to bring about major change? What are the “gut issues” that must be solved to turn this into a high achiev­ing school sys­tem?

  • The staff is pre­sent­ing a pletho­ra of new “research based” pro­gram ini­tia­tives that are being mechan­i­cal­ly “laid on” the orga­ni­za­tion. We leave the meet­ings con­cerned about the capac­i­ty of the sys­tem to effec­tive­ly imple­ment so many new thrusts. It will take high lev­els of com­mit­ment and flex­i­bil­i­ty from teach­ers and staff.
  • In the words of a pop­u­lar man­age­ment writer, “Are the right peo­ple on the bus?” Are the human resources ade­quate to per­form at a new much high­er lev­el? We heard Superintendent Green say that the orga­ni­za­tion is in the ear­ly stages of human cap­i­tal uti­liza­tion and will prob­a­bly require a com­plete of evo­lu­tion of staff.
  • The school board con­tin­ues to fol­low rather than lead. This is part­ly a func­tion of the pol­i­cy gov­er­nance struc­ture that severe­ly cir­cum­scribes the board’s field of oper­a­tion. When an orga­ni­za­tion is in cri­sis, as this one clear­ly is, a much more dynam­ic and proac­tive board could be very help­ful. The board often asks ques­tions about actions of the admin­is­tra­tion but pro­vides lit­tle direc­tion, expec­ta­tions, or eval­u­a­tion. We would like to hear more about progress. We would like to hear more demands.
  • One of the biggest bar­ri­ers to aca­d­e­m­ic suc­cess is that too many stu­dents come to school unpre­pared to learn and to par­tic­i­pate pro­duc­tive­ly in the class­room. We are pleased to see the new efforts on preschool edu­ca­tion. Given the cru­cial impor­tance of this prob­lem we hope that it will be giv­en appro­pri­ate pri­or­i­ty for fund­ing, staff atten­tion and com­mu­ni­ty sup­port.
  • Research on effec­tive schools clear­ly demon­strates that prin­ci­pal effec­tive­ness is one of the most impor­tant factors—if not the most impor­tant. We seri­ous­ly doubt that the dis­trict will make more than mar­gin­al progress until this issue is addressed at a very high lev­el.

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