Editorials

Superintendent search in Kansas City should set a high bar

Students like Erika McCullough at Northeast High School, teachers, administrators and Kansas City residents will benefit from a careful selection by the school board of a new superintendent.
Students like Erika McCullough at Northeast High School, teachers, administrators and Kansas City residents will benefit from a careful selection by the school board of a new superintendent. deulitt@kcstar.com

Residents have a right to expect a lot of the next superintendent for the long-beleaguered Kansas City school district. That showed last week when people shared their views with school officials

The new Kansas City Public Schools superintendent will replace Steve Green, who left this summer after four years in the job to head the Atlanta-area DeKalb County School District. Mike Rush, regional search associate with Ray and Associates Inc., a consulting firm hired to identify candidates for the Kansas City job, led a meeting Thursday at Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts to get views from the public of what people wanted to see in the district’s next leader.

Attendees said they wanted the next superintendent to stay in the job at least 10 years. The district has had a revolving door of superintendents, undermining the stability of the schools. That contributed to the district losing its accreditation in 2012. Under Green’s leadership, it avoided state takeover, won provisional accreditation in 2014 and is poised to attain full accreditation.

Rush advised the 40 to 50 people at the meeting — many of them district employees — that the longevity they were seeking didn’t fit reality. Superintendents on average only stay with a district 21/2 to 31/2 years.

What else do people want in a superintendent? The list understandably is extensive:

Cultural sensitivity; management and education skills; the ability to work and inspire parents, educators, the school board and the community; being approachable; the vision to work with Kansas City’s many charter schools to develop unique opportunities for students; fiscal responsibility; the wisdom to close the digital divide and achievement gaps for all schoolchildren; builder of trust; the knowledge to tackle truancy and child-trauma problems and increase academic performance; achiever of full accreditation; and persuasive leader who will get voters to pass a levy increase for Kansas City Public Schools.

Led by Rush’s question, people also shared what they thought were strengths about Kansas City Public Schools. They included brave teachers willing to do the hard work to push the district forward; graduates who’ve been successful in college and careers; and a community of people willing to pull together to help the schools in a time of crisis.

From meetings with teachers, administrators, parents, students, community groups, civic and and business leaders, the consultants will draft a job description for the school board, which will advertise the position. According to the superintendent search time line, applications will be reviewed and screened from August to December.

By March 2016, the school board is expected to announce its choice for Kansas City’s new superintendent. It’s a long process, but it’s essential — for the community and especially its children — to get it right.

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