KC district says differences with ACE ‘irreconcilable’

Kansas City Public Schools is severing ties with Afrikan Centered Education Task Force Inc. because of “near zero” accounting for $8 million in state funding and “deficient academic progress,” interim superintendent Steve Green said Thursday.

The situation is irreconcilable, Green said at a news conference.

District officials announced Tuesday that the district would take control of the Afrikan Centered Education Collegium Campus at the end of the school year and open an African-Centered College Preparatory Academy this fall.

Green said that action would immediately save the district nearly $2 million, part of which represents salaries to ACE’s top leaders and reductions in the operation of the ACE campus. He suggested the district would evaluate the need to keep all three of ACE’s buildings open.

“I want to make sure this school district is able to account for those funds,” Green said. “This is about accountability and responsibility. We have a responsibility to make sure we are good stewards of those funds.”

Green did not allege that any ACE dollars were misspent.

In an interview later, ACE officials denied that they had not accounted for the money. They also rejected district claims that ACE had refused to list its top administrators’ salaries. And they disputed assertions that they had failed to apply for grants to help supplement the cost of the African-centered education program.“This is incredible,” said Ajamu Webster, chairman of the ACE board. “They requested complete accounting last month, and we sent it to them.”

ACE attorney Dana Cutler said that “every dollar we get from the state from the district goes right into that school. There is not a dollar that comes to anyone.”

She said the district’s “entire basis for closing this campus is based on half truths.”

In a statement, the district said the ACE elementary campus ranked 13th in communication arts and 19th in math among the district’s 32 schools. The ACE campus last year experienced “significant decreases in proficiency and MAP scores in communication arts and mathematics,” the district said.

Webster questioned why the district did not also mention that “100 percent of our seniors graduated last year, and 91 percent of them went on to a four-year college.”

The district said it would not use the ACE curriculum. Instead, Green said, the district is close to signing a contract with N-psy-T, a company based in Philadelphia. N-psy-T will serve as a consultant, helping the district give students “an African-centered experience” comparable to what is offered in similar schools across the county, Green said.

He is sending a team of administrators to meet with leaders of the company, which operates Imhotep School, an African-centered school in Philadelphia.

One of Green’s children once taught at the school. He now lives in Kansas City, a district spokesman said.