Note:  After four years of observ­ing and eval­u­at­ing the Kansas City, Missouri School Board, Do the Right Thing for Kids has reluc­tant­ly con­clud­ed that the prob­a­bil­i­ty of the present sys­tem recov­er­ing full accred­i­ta­tion and pro­vid­ing a high qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion for the stu­dents is extreme­ly small.  Under cur­rent con­di­tions, many more stu­dents are fat­ed to received infe­ri­or prepa­ra­tion while a high­ly dys­func­tion­al sys­tem floun­ders. Therefore, rather than attempt­ing to stim­u­late improve­ments by cri­tiquing board per­for­mance we are sup­port­ing leg­is­la­tion that would turn the admin­is­tra­tion of the schools over to sur­round­ing accred­it­ed districts–several of which have demo­graph­ic char­ac­ter­is­tics sim­i­lar to KCPS.  Our Board Watch process is now focus­ing on keep­ing the pub­lic informed about the school board and admin­is­tra­tion in this peri­od where accred­i­ta­tion has been with­drawn, enroll­ment is shrink­ing and key staff con­tin­ue to leave.  

A cou­ple of things about pend­ing leg­is­la­tion need to be clar­i­fied: In spite of rumors being cir­cu­lat­ed, there is no inten­tion to force stu­dents to be bussed to sub­ur­ban dis­tricts. The pro­pos­als would, in one way or anoth­er, make exist­ing Kansas City schools part of an adjoin­ing dis­trict. The only case in which stu­dents would be bussed is where the fam­i­ly vol­un­tar­i­ly enrolled the stu­dent in anoth­er dis­trict. How this would hap­pen is still being decid­ed by the courts. A sec­ond point is the adjoin­ing dis­tricts are not typ­i­cal­ly sub­ur­ban dis­tricts with stu­dents dra­mat­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent than ours. Most have some of their land with­in Kansas City, and most are sim­i­lar demo­graph­i­cal­ly.  

Report of the February 8, 2012 Kansas City School Board meet­ing.

The first meet­ing of the month is des­ig­nat­ed a “work­shop” in which admin­is­tra­tive staff mem­bers report to the board on oper­a­tional and aca­d­e­m­ic issues and projects. The focus of this meet­ing was “Shaping a Safe and Secure Learning Environment”.  

Observations by board watch­ers:

On-going changes in staff appoint­ments and assign­ments con­tin­ue.  Only two mem­bers of the senior staff have been with the dis­trict for two years. There is a new inter­im chief aca­d­e­m­ic offi­cer after the pre­vi­ous one left.

A num­ber of pro­grams are pro­posed to improve safe­ty and secu­ri­ty. We agree that a safe and secure envi­ron­ment can enhance learn­ing assum­ing effec­tive instruc­tion and cur­ricu­lum are in place.  (We have yet to hear much about edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams.)  It was men­tioned that the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools have 22 secu­ri­ty offi­cers for 18,000 stu­dents while our District requires 88 secu­ri­ty guards for less than 16,000 stu­dents. We won­der why the dis­crep­an­cy. Is this symp­to­matic of a school sys­tem in dis­ar­ray? 

In order to bol­ster accred­i­ta­tion points a “sweep” by tru­an­cy offi­cers and oth­er staff result­ed in the arrest of a num­ber of tru­ants fol­lowed by calls to their par­ents and deliv­ery of the stu­dents back to school.  It was indi­cat­ed in the meet­ing that most of the stu­dents had left again in a few days. We won­der why that was a sur­prise. As far as we could tell, no pro­grams were devel­oped to keep the stu­dents in school.  

A mem­ber of the audi­ence at the meet­ing men­tioned a con­cern that is shared by board watch mem­bers. The school board con­ducts its “pub­lic” meet­ings as if they were in pri­vate, not in a fish­bowl. There is no inter­ac­tion with the observers; in fact, there is almost no acknowl­edge­ment that oth­ers are present, cer­tain­ly no dia­logue.  People feel iso­lat­ed from the board.

Other obser­va­tions about the func­tion­ing of the District:

There has been a regroup­ing of Standards Based Learning stu­dents to grade lev­el shuf­fling teach­ers, stu­dents and peers to pre­pare for State tests.  One teacher report­ed that she has expe­ri­enced 12 dif­fer­ent changes this year.  Teachers are being told to focus on the tests in hopes of reach­ing an accred­i­ta­tion stan­dard.

The day after the meet­ing the Human Resources Department noti­fied Head Start teach­ers that they will not have jobs next year; slots will be filled by per­sons with asso­ciate degrees.  

Some $25,000,000 in con­sent item expen­di­tures was moved on to the next board meet­ing agen­da for vote/approval.  No expla­na­tion is giv­en for these items but the pub­lic can go on the dis­trict web­site, look at the agen­da for the upcom­ing meet­ing and find a page for each item.  A brief sum­ma­ry of the item is accom­pa­nied by a list­ing of how the item impacts the tran­si­tion plan and var­i­ous poli­cies.  Since there is no longer a bud­get and finance com­mit­tee to dig more deeply into the expen­di­tures, a high lev­el of trust in the admin­is­tra­tion is required.  We hope that the cur­rent admin­is­tra­tion war­rants the trust; past staff has not.

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

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