December 13, 2011
(Editor’s Note: Below is an open letter written by Kansas City Public Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Stephen Green. Green writes about the current condition of the district, the community’s quest to find leadership for the district and what the district has already accomplished.)
“On any given day if you visit one of our schools you will find a child who lives in a car, comes to school hungry, just moved to Kansas City and speaks a language other than English, doesn’t have proper winter apparel, or lost a loved one through neighborhood violence. This is the reality of many of the children we serve.
While the discussion continues to rage regarding which individual or group of individuals should govern the Kansas City Public Schools, what must not be overlooked is that a highly talented and committed team of administrators, teachers, and staff are in the trenches every day feverishly meeting the personal needs of our students and families. On a daily basis, these dedicated educators are working diligently to increase academic achievement and ensure the restoration of accreditation for our district.
We take comfort in knowing we are not alone in our quest to create a school district in which our students graduate college, career and workforce ready. As you read this, some are planning neighborhood meetings and developing community-driven plans. However, in 2010, more than 500 interested citizens demonstrated their support by coming together to help us develop a strategic plan that has served as a framework for moving the district forward. Transformation Phase II is the blueprint that continues the work established by those courageous community members.
Even in these tornadic times regarding the district’s future, we persist with steadfast focus on the successful achievement of our students. There is no “magic elixir” to remedy the ills that have permeated KCPS over the last forty years; what successful learners need is a rigorous curriculum, enhanced learning opportunities, high expectations and a nurturing environment.
With so much attention focused on how KCPS should be governed and what the district must accomplish, little if any focus has been on what we have accomplished. Did you know:
To date, KCPS is projected to meet four of 14 state standards established by the Missouri State Department of Education by the end of this school year.
• KCPS received $34 million in Qualified School Construction Bonds that will create air-conditioned spaces that promote healthy teaching and learning environments.
• A $13.6 million federal grant will ensure we pay and retain the best teachers possible, who in turn will improve student achievement.
• Two years in a row the district has had a balanced budget, the first time in more than a decade. As a result, high-tech distance learning labs were installed in each high school allowing students at all schools to take advanced and dual credit courses.
These are signs of a district on an upward trend – not a downward spiral.
The public perspective over the last three months has been plagued by discussions regarding the adult issues that, at times, can suffocate teaching and learning. However, inside the classrooms and hallways of KCPS, learning has been taking place and achievement has been the emphasis of teacher and student efforts. Until the governance structure is determined, we will continue to take care of the 17,000 students who call KCPS home. We have real students that have a real need to be educated today.
It is vitally important that we continue to discuss the future; but at the same time, it is equally important that we continue to take care of the future – our students. We long for the day when adult issues are settled so the entire focus of our community can be placed back where it belongs – on educating children.”