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?”
View the agenda/minutes of this meet­ing
(will open in a new win­dow).

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