Report of the July 11, 2012 KCPS Board Meeting
The Do the Right Thing for Kids board watchers continue to focus on the progress of the organization as evidenced by Kansas City Public School board meetings and other contacts with the district. We are particularly focusing on evidence of turnaround strategies, strong focus on academic achievement and accreditation, time and energy spent on academic performance rather than internal policy and process issues, and fiscal responsibility.
The July 25 meeting was characterized by its brevity and attention to some specific programs and concerns. The board Vice President presided and vowed to keep the meeting brief and businesslike, which he did.
Some of the specific items included:
- A presentation by the College of Nannies and Tutors about collaboration with the district
- Tweaking the name of Central High School to become the Central Academy of Excellence with the promise of it being more than cosmetic
- A program for undocumented students
- A silent demonstration by supporters of the Afrikan-Centered Education Collegium Campus who held up banners
We continue to wonder why outside groups wanting to work with the district find it necessary to attend school board meetings to make their pitch. A more standard approach would be for the group to meet with the administration who could then bring the proposal to the board with recommendations for next steps, if any. At a previous meeting, a group told us that they came because they were unable to get in contact with the administration.
An ongoing concern is the request to provide reading specialists in primary grades, an important issue given the poor reading skills in grades 1-3 and above. No definitive resolution was provided.
The Director of Finance reported with the aid of charts and graphs on display screens (that were mostly unreadable to the audience) that the district is in sound fiscal condition. We have no reason to doubt that since audits will confirm it. However, we continue to be very concerned about the many expenditures approved in the consent agenda with little apparent board oversight. At this meeting $1,858,000 was approved without discussion. Under the consent agenda concept, proposals for expenditures are brought up at a previous meeting or via information sent directly to board members so that the board can study the requests, ask questions, or ask that the item be removed from the consent agenda and be placed on the regular agenda so that it can be discussed. Otherwise, there is no discussion of consent agenda items. Many boards have a budget committee that thoroughly studies requests and makes recommendations for passage to the full board.
We did not learn much about the crucial questions:
- Is there progress toward accreditation?
- What are enrollment projections at this point?
- Are the schools ready to open?
- Are teaching positions filled with certified teachers or are slots filled with “permanent (uncertified) subs” and Teach for America graduates?
- Conversations with some board members after the meeting confirmed our concerns that statistics at this point are not favorable. Test scores will be released August 14. As one board watcher put it, when the scores are released, “will they spin or address the challenges?”
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