Loss of Accreditation Coming; Fallout Already Begun in Kansas City

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Loss of Accreditation Coming; Fallout Already Begun in Kansas City
With Kansas City district schools looking to lose their accreditation at the beginning of the year, we’ll look at some of the fallout that is already occurring as a result.

With the expectation of losing accreditation in January 2012, Kansas City Public Schools are dealing with turbulence both within and outside their ranks. The school district’s accreditation was revoked in September after a vote from Missouri education officials. The decision was based on the fact that for several years, the district has failed to meet academic performance standards established by the state. With many questions about what will happen next, many within the district are reacting to the coming changes with fear, concern, and even panic.

The Decision is Made

According to a report in the Huffington Post, Missouri school officials decided to revoke the district’s accreditation less than a month after the current superintendent of Kansas City Public Schools, John Covington, left the district to take a job in Michigan helping poorly performing schools in that state. The interim superintendent, R. Stephen Green, told the Huffington Post that while the district was disappointed in the state’s decision, they would rely on community involvement to help bring schools back up to state standards.

This is not the first time Kansas City Public Schools has lost accreditation. The first vote to this effect took effect in 2000. After two years of work to get the district's schools back up to par, Kansas City has been granted provisional accreditation since 2002. However, after years of failing to make the grade, education officials decided it was time again to take matters into their own hands.

“We’ve not seen an improvement in performance, and we believe this is really the only recourse that we have,” State Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro told the Huffington Post.

This video from TV station KSHB reports on the loss of accreditation by the Kansas City School District.

Staff Positions Vacated

If the departure of Superintendent John Covington was not enough for this beleaguered school district, the resignation of three additional administrators seemed to add insult to injury. According to a report in The Republic, Covington was followed to Michigan by Rebecca Lee-Gwin, MiUndrae Prince, and Mary Esselman. Lee-Gwin had overseen the finances for the Missouri school district, Prince was in charge of academics, and Esselman was responsible for curriculum. Although Michigan has expressed delight over adding such a strong team for state schools that are currently lacking, their gain will be Missouri’s loss, according to many close to the district situation.

“I hope that we don’t lose more staff members,” Arthur Benson, a Kansas City Public School board member, told The Republic. “That instability can undermine the best plans for improving teaching and learning. Because of those reasons, it’s especially troubling to me that the commissioner of education causes the instability that the school board is sometimes blamed for.”

Benson is referring to allegations that Commissioner Nicastro caused some district administrators to panic after meeting with them and warning them that they had no real job security. However, Nicastro refuted the allegations, stating that she simply provided “motherly advice” to staff members in the wake of the changes that lie ahead.

Legislature Considering Options

In addition to Nicastro’s warnings, the Missouri legislature is faced with the daunting task of proposing a legislature to deal with the state's unaccredited school district. Lawmakers will consider who will pick up the transportation costs for students who transfer into other accredited districts and whether a state takeover is in order for the district.

“I think there are lots of options that could be coming,” Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, told The Republic. “I think when you look at the fact that it’s not working, that the Kansas City School District is not working. It is unaccredited, so what are some options out there? I do think that looking at different governance models, at maybe different sizes, breaking up the district, would certainly be options. I think many, many things are going to be on the table.”

Transfers Could be Coming

School districts surrounding Kansas City are also bracing themselves for possible transfer rushes once the accreditation is officially revoked. According to the Liberty Tribune, transfer plans for most students are currently on hold. In contrast, a lawsuit regarding transfer rules in the state has been decided, which is expected by January 1. One of the most significant factors in this lawsuit is deciding who will pay for transportation costs to bus students to other districts. When families know whether those costs will be picked up by one of the school districts, they will be more likely to make official transfer plans.

In the meantime, neighboring school districts are partnering to streamline the transfer process among districts as efficiently as possible.

“We’re working with all the suburban school districts to ensure we have consistency,” Mike Brewer, superintendent of the Liberty school district, told the Tribune.

While accreditation is inevitable for Kansas City Public Schools, the full fallout from the process may not be seen immediately. Early rumblings have already been felt, with the loss of critical administrators from the district and murmuring among lawmakers and other school districts about what changes might look like in the months ahead. In the meantime, parents and students of Kansas City Public Schools must brace themselves for the events to come next year and make appropriate preparations to ensure students currently enrolled in the district continue receiving a quality education that will adequately prepare them for the future.

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