Barbara Shelly

Troubleshooter to represent KC on state Board of Education

Updated: 2014-01-08T00:08:34Z

By BARBARA SHELLY

The Kansas City Star

It took awhile, but Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has finally filled the crucial Kansas City seat on the state Board of Education.

He made a good pick, too.

John A. Martin earned a great deal of respect in his nine years as superintendent of the Grandview School District. He retired in 2006, then accepted a temporary post as deputy superintendent of the St. Louis Public Schools. He was just finishing there when Kansas City came calling. Martin agreed to nine months as the interim superintendent of what now is the Kansas City Public Schools after the school board forced out Anthony Amato in 2008.

The district was in an uproar, with a divided staff, a feuding board and the community as usual divided about what to do. Martin was described as a calming influence. He restored confidence within an emotionally battered administration and stood up to belligerent school board members.

He didn’t succeed in balancing the budget or reaching a contract with the teachers’ union, but there’s only so much an interim can do in nine months. Those tasks would be left to John Covington, who took over in 2009.

The Kansas City seat on the eight-member state Board of Education has been vacant for almost a year, since Stan Archie, a pastor, resigned abruptly last January. And with all of the action centering on the Kansas City Public Schools, its accreditation status and the looming start of the transfer law, Kansas City really needs someone good in that seat.

Martin will bring institutional knowledge of the long-troubled urban school district, as well as a feel for how the district’s troubles and the transfer law will impact surrounding districts, Grandview being one of them.

An archaic and flawed provision in state law says that students may transfer out of unaccredited school districts into neighboring accredited districts, with the sending district paying tuition and transportation expenses. Two smaller districts in the St. Louis area are on the verge of bankruptcy because of the policy, and the same fate is likely for Kansas City if the transfer provision is allowed to take effect here.

In 2008, after serving in two trouble-shooting posts, Martin declared himself finally and formally retired. Now, he’s been pressed into service once again. His term runs only through July 1 of this year, after which a reappointment would be a possibility.

To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to bshelly@kcstar.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/bshelly.

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