A Jackson County jury determined Wednesday that Kansas City Public Schools did not breach its contract with the Afrikan Centered Collegium Campus.
The verdict, following an eight-day trial, marks another turn in what has been a rocky on-and-off relationship for more than two decades between the district and advocates for African-centered education.
During the trial, attorneys for the campus had made claims totaling around $1 million, arguing that the district had fallen well short of meeting contractual obligations in its per-pupil payments and in financing special education and food service.
Circuit Judge Sandra C. Midkiff determined during the course of the trial that the African-centered campus had not shown adequate evidence of a contractual breach in special education and food service.
The jury weighed the issue of per-pupil payments and returned its verdict in favor of the district after about 1 1/2 hours of deliberation.
Ajamu Webster, who chairs the board for the African-centered education campus, said he did not have a comment Wednesday night about the verdict or if the campus would appeal.
Kansas City Interim Superintendent Steve Green said he was pleased by the verdict.
“We have tried and continue to implement best practices regarding the fidelity of our financial operations,” he said. “...The court saw we were trying to be true to that practice.”
The African-centered program has even larger concerns going forward. While its current contract has been under dispute, Green in December informed the African-centered board that the district would not renew its contract for 2012-2013.
Several community members spoke at a school board meeting at that time on behalf of the African-centered program and, with many parents looking on, urged the district to work with the program and repair its relationship.
Green said then that the district might be able to renew a contract if it could be restructured to give the district financial control. The size of the campus, which uses three buildings, would likely have to be reduced, he said, and legal disputes would need to be settled.
On Wednesday, Green said the circumstances prompting the decision to let the contract lapse had not changed.
African-centered education, which covers the same college-prep-oriented standards as other district schools but with an emphasis on African culture and perspective, had struggled since the 1980s to attain a K-12 program.
Its primary success rose from Chick Elementary School and finally realized a full program when it opened as a magnet school campus at the former Southeast High School and two neighboring schools in 2007.
New disputes arose, particularly after former Superintendent John Covington announced that the program would have to operate from only the high school building when he planned a massive set of school closings in 2010.
The district worked out a deal, giving the African-centered program autonomy to manage its finances on a per-pupil basis, and the program opted to continue using three buildings.