On April 1 at a community celebration for Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Steve Green winning the 2015 Pearce Award as Missouri’s superintendent of the year, the Rev. Eric D. Williams emphatically said at the microphone at Central Middle School: “Don’t you go nowhere! We want you here.”
Green responded in an interview, and so did his wife, Kim, that they loved this community, the children and the schools and planned to stay.
Williams, pastor of Calvary Temple Baptist Church, voiced a long-standing concern of area residents over Kansas City schools superintendents doing an outstanding or horrible job, getting national attention, and then being off to some larger school district elsewhere.
And so it goes again.
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Green, surrounded by several school board members, announced Wednesday at a news conference at the school district headquarters that he is leaving the district this summer to take the top job at the DeKalb County School District in the Atlanta area. He explained that leaving was not on his radar until a search firm in mid-April reached out to him.
He started out as one of about 120 candidates and after interviews became the sole finalist. Green explained that the appeal was because two of his children and three of his grandchildren live in the Atlanta area. Indeed, my partner Bette and I have encountered Green on more than one occasion at Kansas City International Airport on the run to catch a flight to visit his family.
“I love Kansas City Public Schools,” Green, 61, said Wednesday. “I love the work that we’re doing here. At the same time I love my children and my grandchildren.”
He said he could not pass up the unique opportunity to be close to his family. But his leaving creates a huge hole in the school district.
As TV cameras rolled and newspaper cameras flashed, I asked Green what would he write in a letter to the parents who felt fortified by his leadership and the stability he provided the district as it fought back from being nearly taken over by the state, clawed its way to provincial accreditation after losing it in January 2012 and appears on the verge of being eligible for full accreditation this year. He said the letter would note the improvements they forged together and he would urge parents to continue to move forward.
I asked Green what he would say to the teachers, who depended on him for direction. That was when he started to choke up. School board President Jon Hile put his arm around Green for support.
Green said he’d tell the teachers: “You can do this. I just helped you believe in yourselves.”
Green is superintendent No. 26 in nearly 45 years, not to mention many interim superintendents on whom the teachers, parents, students and this community have depended for inspiration and direction. The changing lineup makes stability and community support difficult.
The school board will begin a search for the new superintendent. A lot of work remains unfinished to raise students’ test scores, reverse the long-diminishing attendance and restore confidence in Kansas City Public Schools. Stay tuned.