Four Do The Right Thing for Kids board watch­ers observed the April 11, 2012 Kansas City Public School Board meet­ing mak­ing the fol­low­ing obser­va­tions of this work­shop style meet­ing.
 
Presentations were made by dis­trict staff who reviewed the progress of the SIG grants and iden­ti­fied the SIG schools (schools receiv­ing school improve­ment grants) and human cap­i­tal man­age­ment indi­cat­ing the admin­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to try to recov­er from the effects of right-siz­ing and the decades of mal­func­tion that pre­ced­ed it. It should be not­ed that if there had been no right-siz­ing, the dis­trict would be bank­rupt.
 
All of the steps being tak­en sound like good ideas.  It is get­ting dif­fi­cult to lis­ten to the enthu­si­asm, how­ev­er, for such basic and com­mon­sen­si­cal actions.  It points to the fact that the dis­trict is so far gone that train­ing teach­ers to teach and man­age class­rooms, read the data all the test­ing pro­vides and find ways to con­nect with stu­dents as “names, not just num­bers” should not be con­sid­ered inno­v­a­tive. 
 
It was encour­ag­ing to hear prin­ci­pals from dis­trict high schools address their own schools’ chal­lenges with what seemed like thor­ough and ener­getic atten­tion.  Central High School’s Dr. Linda Collins described real­iz­ing that many of her stu­dents did not have basic writ­ing and math skills.  She has focused on back to basics and is see­ing progress because of deci­sive deci­sions for the good of her stu­dents.
 
There was no men­tion of Interim Chief Academic Officer Dr. Tiffany Anderson’s impend­ing depar­ture to a school dis­trict in St. Louis which con­tin­ues the revolv­ing door of staff at the expense of sta­bil­i­ty for the stu­dents nor was there men­tion of the two KCPS stu­dents who had been shot and killed the pre­vi­ous week.  By not men­tion­ing either of these sig­nif­i­cant facts, there is a sense of nev­er get­ting the whole sto­ry about what is going on in this dis­trict.  Will Dr. Anderson’s ini­tia­tives be con­tin­ued in her absence or will her suc­ces­sor bring in new ones?
 
It was obvi­ous that the nom­i­na­tion and elec­tion of offi­cers had been orches­trat­ed before the meet­ing.  It feels like impor­tant dis­cus­sions are held behind closed doors, and the board meet­ing is a vari­ety show intend­ed to build con­fi­dence in the dis­trict.  
 
Crispin Rea’s com­ment that the board is the district’s “com­mu­ni­ty face” seems like an accu­rate expres­sion of how mem­bers see them­selves.  Everyone is very heavy on pub­lic rela­tions and in per­ma­nent cam­paign mode.
 
Airick Leonard West men­tioned the impor­tance of accel­er­at­ing the increase in atten­dance fig­ures since a slow increase will not help with accred­i­ta­tion fast enough.  This acknowl­edg­ment showed some con­nec­tion to the real­i­ty of the dis­trict and an aware­ness that the tem­po of improve­ment must be increased.  Sadly, even his “tough ques­tions” seem staged.

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

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