Do the Right Thing for Kids board watchers continue to observe the two official Kansas City Public School board meetings each month. The first monthly meeting is a “workshop” in which staff personnel make presentations on academic and administrative programs, outcomes and plans. The second monthly meeting is a “business meeting” at which reports are made and votes taken. A good deal of what goes on is routine and does not bear repeating month after month. Our question is: As pressure grows to improve academic achievement and hopefully regain accreditation and hang on to control of the organization, what is being done to bring about major change? What are the “gut issues” that must be solved to turn this into a high achieving school system?

  • The staff is presenting a plethora of new “research based” program initiatives that are being mechanically “laid on” the organization. We leave the meetings concerned about the capacity of the system to effectively implement so many new thrusts. It will take high levels of commitment and flexibility from teachers and staff.
  • In the words of a popular management writer, “Are the right people on the bus?” Are the human resources adequate to perform at a new much higher level? We heard Superintendent Green say that the organization is in the early stages of human capital utilization and will probably require a complete of evolution of staff.
  • The school board continues to follow rather than lead. This is partly a function of the policy governance structure that severely circumscribes the board’s field of operation. When an organization is in crisis, as this one clearly is, a much more dynamic and proactive board could be very helpful. The board often asks questions about actions of the administration but provides little direction, expectations, or evaluation. We would like to hear more about progress. We would like to hear more demands.
  • One of the biggest barriers to academic success is that too many students come to school unprepared to learn and to participate productively in the classroom. We are pleased to see the new efforts on preschool education. Given the crucial importance of this problem we hope that it will be given appropriate priority for funding, staff attention and community support.
  • Research on effective schools clearly demonstrates that principal effectiveness is one of the most important factors—if not the most important. We seriously doubt that the district will make more than marginal progress until this issue is addressed at a very high level.

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