In a March 12, 2012 Kansas City Star column “Accreditation Isn’t Out of Reach for KC Schools” writer Lewis Diuguid made a number of points in defense of the current KC District. This is DTRT board chair Bill Eddy’s response to Mr. Diuguid.

I certainly agree that the Legislature and Governor need to quit the grown-up wrangling and get the school district’s status clarified. The wrangling, of course, isn’t limited to Jefferson City. The cartel of groups that have fed off the District for years is hard at work protecting the current system while repeating the same failed mantra about being for the kids. Slogans this time include: ” We have a plan.” “Keep local control.” “Only we know what’s best for our kids.” I don’t see any evidence of promise in any of those.

It’s standard to assert that the takeover in St. Louis hasn’t gone as well as expected. The Commissioner says it’s making progress. The takeover wasn’t on her watch. It may be that the State Board has learned some things, including the difficulties that arise when your leave the old school board in place. And nobody looks at what the St. Louis situation might be if there hadn’t been a take-over.

The other commonly expressed concern, the one about members of an appointed board not having the interests of the children, parents and community in mind, is interesting. Isn’t that what most people think about the past boards? How could it get worse? With one or two possible exceptions I can’t imagine any panel of leaders appointing the current board members. The major advantage of the State coming in is that contracts would be voided; teachers and administrators would have to qualify for their jobs.

In regard to dissolving the District, I agree that it would be best if citizens in both districts voted—even though that would be around 5% of the folks in the KC District. But it seems a little unfair to lay the problem off on the real estate industry. How about the citizens who are sick of paying school taxes while sending their kids to private schools? Do their interests count? And to accuse the surrounding district of “gobbling up” the attendance areas seems pejorative. Mostly I hear those districts saying they’re willing to help. All are accredited and probably aren’t lusting for kids who come in 2 or 3 years behind.

The specter of KC District kids not being accepted in their new schools is well aimed to tap into parental concerns. However, don’t almost all kids have problems when they move to a new school? I certainly did, and so did the Westport students who were sent to Southwest.
But transferring to one of the surrounding Missouri district isn’t the same as going to the largely white Johnson County burbs. The Missouri districts have demographics that are increasingly like ours.

My greatest concern is the argument that the District is on its way to accreditation. By “gaming” the accreditation system they now may reach five of the 14 criteria. However, at my last count only one of those was for academic achievement. They are now emphasizing 3rd grade math as a possibility for another point. But is that what we’re striving for–a marginally provisionally accredited school system? Plus, my contacts in the District tell me that when State standards go up in 2014 they will lose some of those points. The way I read it, many are still willing to sacrifice the kids’ future to maintain local control and the economic resource of the District–which, by the way, is shrinking and will continue to shrink.

Finally, I strongly agree that there are stellar students in the District. That’s what keeps me involved in this frustrating struggle. In my four years on the school board and subsequent four years working closely with Southwest I am awed by the potential of many of our students and disheartened by the community’s failure to provide them the education they deserve.

Best wishes,
Bill Eddy

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