The Kansas City school board on Thursday signed Superintendent Steve Green to a new contract that would keep him in the district’s top job for up to five more years.
The contract comes as a reward to Green after the unaccredited Kansas City Public Schools greatly improved its showing on this year’s state report card.
It also is a sign for state education officials and lawmakers of greater stability in leadership — an important factor as the district faces the possibility of a financially crippling wave of student transfers.
The contract, for three years with two one-year extensions, would retain Green through June 30, 2018. That, including the two years he’s already served, would give him a total of seven years’ service.
“How do we secure for our scholars a high-quality education? Our strategy, a five-year contract for our superintendent,” board President Airick Leonard West said Thursday morning in announcing the contract.
Green, Kansas City’s 20th superintendent in the last 31 years, took over leadership of the district in August 2011 after John Covington jumped to a job in Michigan.
Green, 59, will be paid $250,000 a year. He will receive annual salary increases equal to the percentage increase given to district teachers. He also will have the use of a district-provided 2013 Buick LaCrosse that he drives on official business.
His new contract comes with a $60,000 signing bonus, to be paid in a lump sum Oct. 30 from private money managed by the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. The contract also includes incentives for reaching goals such as improving scores on the district’s annual performance report, increasing enrollment and receiving “clean” audits.
Green, whose first two-year contract expired this month, has 30 days to provide the school board with his proposed goals and objectives. He said Thursday that he plans to continue his current strategies, but intensify them. That includes closely watching students’ progress, he said.
“My analogy is I want to know the academic heartbeat of every single student in this district,” Green said. “We will bring this district back to prominence … I’m here for the long haul.”
Should Green stay the full five years of his new contract, it would make him the longest serving district leader in three decades.
Since Robert R. Wheeler (1977-1982), no Kansas City superintendent has lasted five years. Only three — George F. Garcia, Walter L. Marks and Bernard Taylor Jr. — had four-year tenures.
Teachers, parents and those in the community seem to agree that stability at the top is a key element in the district’s efforts to regain accreditation.
The state stripped the district’s accreditation in January 2012 and this week declined to restore accreditation based on the recommendation of state Education Commissioner Chris L. Nicastro.
Nicastro declined Thursday to comment on Green’s new contract and the impact it may have on the Kansas City schools’ quest for accreditation. The contract is a matter between the board and its superintendent, Nicastro said through a department spokeswoman.
If the district hasn’t regained accreditation by June 2014, it could face state takeover. In the meantime, unless a reprieve is granted by the Missouri Supreme Court or the legislature, state law allows students living in the district to transfer to neighboring accredited districts, with the Kansas City district paying tuition and transportation costs. That would likely begin at the start of the next school year.
Green told state lawmakers earlier this week that such a move could “throw the district into financial ruin.”
Paul Ziegler, president of the Missouri Association of School Administrators, said he thinks Green is the superintendent “capable of leading the district in the right direction. I just wish that he would not be undercut by potential student transfers, because I think that he is doing the right thing for the district.”
Others were more guarded in commenting on the job Green has done.
Andrea Flinders, president of the Kansas City teachers union, would not say whether teachers and staff in the district are pleased with Green’s work so far, but she did say all are glad to see the board is sticking with him.
“I think it continues the stability we are starting to see in the district,” she said.
Gayden Carruth, executive director of the Cooperating School Districts of Greater Kansas City, agreed that stability is important, along with improved student performance.
“The only thing that is going to impact them getting accreditation is student performance. I’m convinced that Dr. Green is committed to improving student performance.”
Parent leader Elisha Verge Jr. said “maybe for the first time in a long time we will have a little consistency, stability, in a superintendent.”
Verge said he’s hoping that with a five-year contract, “Dr. Green has plenty of time to complete some of the tasks he has said are most important.”
Green spoke Tuesday evening before the Missouri Interim Committee on Education, whose members, including state Rep. Ira Anders, came to Kansas City on a listening tour.
“I think the Kansas City school district is coming back,” Anders said. “They have to have stability. Teachers don’t know what’s coming next when the district is always changing superintendents, and that’s not good for kids.”