Earlier this year, a partnership of school district leadership, local corporations and foundations brought City Year to Kansas City. City Year is a renowned nonprofit that recruits recent college graduates to provide tutoring and other teacher support in public schools. The program benefits students, teachers and the young adults who commit a year to support them in 26 cities across the country. Happily, Kansas City will be the 27th.
It is good to remember the success of the City Year project in light of the resignation last week of Steve Green as superintendent of Kansas City Public Schools. Green was at the center of that collaborative effort between groups that do not always see eye to eye but that found a way to work together in pursuit of a common end for the benefit of students in Kansas City’s public schools.
Green leaves the district in better condition than when he assumed the top leadership position in 2011. There is greater stability, as so many have noted, and there is progress toward accreditation. Perhaps more important, though, are recent efforts by district leadership to explore new ways to increase student access to seats in quality public schools.
The emergence of broad support for a program like City Year is an indication that there is a desire to promote and invest in the school district when it is clear the status quo is unacceptable. Since receiving provisional accreditation last year, a sense of hope and opportunity has been cultivated around what Kansas City’s students deserve and what is possible for them.
Green and his team have taken brave steps toward a public school system where student results are in line with those across the state and in surrounding suburbs. We are at the front end of a long road toward equitable academic and life outcomes for students regardless of income or personal circumstance — it is a road worth traveling and one best traveled with others.
The district has important decisions to make in the coming months with the lives of thousands of students at stake, but we are not starting from scratch. We can learn from what is working here and in other cities.
We are ready to stop making excuses for poor performance and to set higher expectations for district and charter schools. We are ready to continue working together, not to simply sustain the stability and promise we are fortunate to have but to build on those conditions to ensure every student has access to a quality public school.
Ewing Kauffman may have put it best when he said, “All of the money in the world cannot solve problems unless we work together. And if we work together, there is no problem in the world that can stop us, as we seek to develop people to their highest potential.”
The spirit of cooperation in our community is palpable. There is no reason this momentum has to slow or stumble as we move ahead together toward our common goal of giving Kansas City's children the future they — and our community — deserve.
Wendy Guillies is the acting president and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which is a funder of City Year and supporter of Kansas City Public Schools. She lives in Overland Park.