What a change a year and a new state commissioner of education can make for Kansas City Public Schools.
Instead of having no accreditation and being threatened with the loss of students to surrounding districts in addition to a state takeover, the Kansas City district now is being praised “for its ongoing development of innovative solutions to better serve students and families,” a prepared news release said on Friday.
Kansas City schools Superintendent Stephen Green and other district officials met with the Missouri Board of Education on March 17. At the meeting, state board members spoke highly of the work the district was doing to sponsor charter schools and create partnerships.
State school board member Charlie Shields was quoted in a district news release saying: “I see that there is a great plan in place to make things work for students and families at Kansas City Public Schools. They have the right leadership to carry out that plan, and they have the stability in leadership that makes it possible to create productive partnerships in the community. That has really made the difference in the progress KCPS has made.”
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A year ago under Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro, the district was struggling to stay afloat. It was unaccredited and was fighting to keep from losing students and being taken over by the state. But in 2014, the district earned provisional accreditation and hopes to receive full accreditation in 2015.
But Nicastro in September announced that she was resigning at the end of 2014. She was involved in her own scandal involving a contract with CEE-Trust for a potential overhaul of the Kansas City Public Schools. Nicastro has been replaced by Deputy Commissioner Margie Vandeven.
Green presented the state board with information on the progress Kansas City schools were making on providing laptops to students, teacher and administrator training, encouraging improved student behavior and wrap-around services for families.
In a follow-up meeting, the state board OK’ed the district possibly opening a charter school. It would be tied to the urban neighborhood initiative of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the United Way of Greater Kansas City, targeting a key part of the urban core. The details have yet to be ironed out.