Four public meetings will focus on Kansas City Public Schools

The community conversation on what to do about the Kansas City Public Schools returns to the public forum Wednesday night.

District and community leaders are planning four gatherings in what promises to be a primer on possible scenarios and a workshop on ideas.

Mayor Sly James’ office is helping set up the meetings that will be run by the District Advisory Committee in the interest of finding some common ground.

“Groups that have been disagreeing are willing to put differences aside to work together,” said parent leader Jamekia Kendrix. “We might not get to a full consensus, but we can get a majority.”

The meetings will be part of the listening expedition that James promised to continue last week after he had offered mayoral control of the district as one of the options.

James has also planned private meetings with principals and teachers in the next couple of days, said mayoral spokesman Danny Rotert.

“The mayor is meeting with multiple audiences to listen to all stakeholders,” Rotert said.

The District Advisory Committee, which is led by parents, intends to unpack the options that have arisen since the state school board earlier this fall accepted Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro’s recommendation that the school district lose accreditation Jan. 1.

The major choices:

• Keep the existing elected board, with an election coming in April, but selecting an oversight panel or commission controlled by the state.

• Give the mayor control of the district with an appointed board.

• Give the state control with an appointed board.

• Create a combination board of locally elected and appointed members.

• Turn management of the district schools over to neighboring districts, which would operate the schools under contract, keeping the Kansas City district boundaries intact.

• Dissolve the district and apportion its schools to neighboring districts.

Any option that would voluntarily remove the existing elected board would need legislative action to change current law that gives the district two full school years — or until June 30, 2014 — to regain accreditation before the state could intervene.

Lawmakers are already lining up possible bills to throw into the mix when the new session begins Jan. 4, Rotert said, so the mayor wants the Kansas City community to have some agreement by early next year to help inform Jefferson City.

“It’s a critical time,” Rotert said.

Kendrix said the District Advisory Committee plans to form drafts of a recommendation in the days after the town hall meetings that participants will refine. She expects a formal recommendation would be ready for Nicastro in early January.