Local Columnists

Joe Robertson: Kauffman Foundation, KC schools seek to team up again

The Kauffman Foundation
The Kauffman Foundation

Peace on Earth is a common wish this time of year. Good will to all.

In their own way, the Kansas City Public Schools and the Kauffman Foundation are reuniting in the spirit of a warm Christmas carol.

It’s true the relationship between the district and the foundation “had been damaged,” Kansas City Superintendent Steve Green said.

But there has been a coming together, he said, “in the spirit of what’s best for children.”

He met recently with Jan Kreamer, chairman of the Kauffman Foundation board, and both shared their intent to put the past behind them, Green said.

The foundation’s push for new education models has frequently run crosswise of — or even threatened — the district’s administration and board.

The foundation has long supported charter school competition. Kauffman helped bring in Teach For America, which has been lauded and loathed.

It began phasing out its Kauffman Scholars program, which supports district students’ college aspirations, and turned its focus on its own charter school.

Then came the foundation’s role in bringing in the CEE-Trust consulting firm to develop a plan for the state education department to remake the school district.

Email records showed that the foundation, CEE-Trust and the state were working behind the scenes without the district’s knowledge.

And so settled in a winter chill.

The ice, however, is broken. Witness Green with Kauffman’s chief education officers, Aaron North and Corey Scholes, at a gala event urging other city leaders to help bring the service organization City Year to Kansas City’s schools.

Other ideas are taking shape as well.

The foundation wants to see more high-quality public schools and a strong pipeline of excellent teachers and leaders, acting CEO Wendy Guillies said. And it is looking to work more with the district.

Kauffman’s work has challenged education customs and made some enemies, but few entities can rally the city so well.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James said as much as he put a bow on the gala for City Year.

Here was Kauffman championing an educational cause — a grand room filled with civic leaders and education innovators.

It would be wrong, James said, to let the night end without a standing ovation. And it came, long and loud.

So, I don’t know, does an angel get its wings?

This is going to be good for children. Green and the foundation agree on that.

To reach Joe Robertson, call 816-234-4789 or send email to jrobertson@kcstar.com.