At a community celebration Wednesday for Kansas City school Superintendent Steve Green winning the 2015 Pearce Award as Missouri’s superintendent of the year, Rev. Eric D. Williams said what people citywide may have wanted to emphatically express.
“Don’t you go nowhere!” Williams, pastor of Calvary Temple Baptist Church, said at the party for Green at Central Middle School, which attracted more than 100 people. “We want you here.
“We’re so proud of you and what you’ve been able to accomplish.”
The Missouri Association of School Administrators last week honored Green the 2015 Pearce Award. Kansas City school board President Jon Hile told me it was presented by Green’s peers, and he was nominated by superintendents from surrounding Kansas City area school districts.
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That is a huge shift from Kansas City Public Schools being scorned and even ridiculed by people in surrounding districts. That attitude was not unjustified.
Green took over as superintendent as the district closed nearly half of its schools because enrollment had fallen from about 35,000 students in 2002 to about 17,000. It laid off hundreds of workers, canceled hundreds of contracts, and then in 2012 Kansas City Public Schools lost its state accreditation. It was threatened with a state takeover and the possible loss of students and funding to surrounding school districts. Also, charter schools continue to open and compete for students in the Kansas City district.
“I think it’s amazing if you consider where the district was and where we are today,” said Hile, who oversees the school board once notorious for meddling in district affairs to one focused on governing. “I couldn’t be more proud of Dr. Green and his team.”
It’s with good cause. Under Green’s leadership, the district earned provisional accreditation in 2014, and he had been saying with confidence since last year that he expects the district to merit full accreditation in 2015. On Wednesday, Green received a white physician’s coat and a stethoscope for resuscitating the critically ill patient.
“I think he’s shown a level of stick-to-it-ness that’s highly commendable,” Williams said after his speech at the ceremony. The stability that Green has provided has been the missing factor.
“It’s like when we were growing up and we saw our dad every day,” Williams said. “On the good days we saw him. On the bad days he was there. That’s part of the sense of being invested.”
A video of Green played on a TV monitor, showing him in a suit, dancing on stage recently with kids at Gladstone Elementary School.
Green stepped to the lectern at Central Middle School during the ceremony for him but he praised the commitment of the teachers, staff and school board for making the award possible.
“On behalf of Kansas City Public Schools, this is our award,” Green said. “I feel the optimism. I feel the hope — maybe a little swagger. I want to ride the wave of hope and confidence into the next year.”
And about the thought of taking all of his accomplishments and leaving Kansas City for a more lucrative job offer elsewhere?
Green told me, “When I took this position it was to stop the revolving door.”
Kansas City Public Schools has had dozens of superintendents in the last four decades, creating a very unstable environment for students, teachers, parents and the community. Green said he will remain with the school district “as long as I’m welcomed” to oversee students’ academic climb and ensure that they are sustained.
Green’s wife, Kim, who attended the ceremony, said the couple isn’t going to leave.
“We love it here,” she said, adding they are committed to Kansas City Public Schools.
“His heart is in it,” she said. “So is mine.”
That couldn’t be better news for kids in Kansas City Public Schools.