A new zero-tolerance disciplinary policy at the Kansas City Public Schools’ African Centered College Preparatory Academy drew about 150 parents to a meeting with school leaders Wednesday evening to discuss curbing behavioral problems that erupted there last week.
Fights and fire alarms disrupted classes on Friday. About 50 students who were involved in the disturbances were removed from the school on Monday and directed to alternative education programs in the district, including state online education.
Many parents showed up to express dissatisfaction with the way the district has run the academy so far this year.
Parents complained that teachers didn’t have control over their classrooms and that some students didn’t have the grades or the good behavior to attend a college-preparatory academy.
“What is the point of calling this college prep if you don’t have your elite students here?” asked Darian Jefferson, whose daughter, Jamie, is an eighth-grade student at the academy.
School Principal Joseph Williams II told parents that students who are not there “to get a good quality education will not be allowed at African Centered College Prep.”
He said students from now on will need a 2.35 grade point average, a record of good behavior and must go through an interview process to attend the academy.
After last week’s problems, school administrators and additional security officers were called into the school to police the halls. Those administrators, however, will return to their regular duties by the end of the week. But Williams said two additional security guards have been hired, making a total of six. Also, parents are being asked to volunteer to patrol the hallways and monitor the cafeteria during lunch hours.
The problems at the school started this year after the district took over operation of African centered programs. Before this year, the school was operated by the Afrikan Centered Education Taskforce Inc. The program was plagued with poor management, and the district ended its contract with ACE Taskforce, which has since filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
During the summer months, parents of ACE students said they would not return to the school if it were run by the district. But when classes began this fall, most did return. In addition, parents of students who had been attending other district high schools and charter schools that had closed opted to send their students to the academy.
On opening day the school’s hallways were filled with more students than the district had expected. They’d planned for about 350 students in grades seven to 12, and about 700 showed up.
“That is why we have been playing catch-up,” Williams said.
“I have been in education for 20 years, and this has been the most difficult eight weeks of my career,” he added.
Since opening day, additional administrators and teachers have been hired, and Williams said the school will strictly enforce a school dress code that requires students to wear uniforms.
When Wednesday’s meeting ended, some parents left saying they were optimistic and they agreed with assistant superintendent Ann Sanders, who told them that “it’s going to take a village,” and called for more parent involvement.
“It is just going to take everyone working on the same page, parents, administrators and teachers,” said Felicia Stewart, whose niece attends the high school.
Yet other parents said they were not sure the district is doing enough.
“I want to be optimistic, but I think that when those administrators leave the school, the problems will be right back,” said Sydney Landers, whose son, Savino, is a sophomore at the academy. “I’m still on the fence. But we’ll wait and see.”