Dr. Jennifer Collier is the new Interim Superintendent for the 2022-2023 school year at KCPS (Kansas City Public Schools). The decision was made after past Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell resigned on August 5th, 2022. She discusses her past experience about being an educator and leader in KCPS.
“I’ve been with the Kansas City Public Schools for 22 years. I’m going into my 23rd year now. I started at Mary Harmon Weeks elementary school. I also taught at Northeast High School. Following that I became the principal at Border Star Montessori. So, I actually taught and led in three schools,” said Collier. “I moved to the Central office and became Chief Human Resource Officer. I did that for six years, and following that I became a deputy superintendent last school year and then this year interim superintendent.”
Before being placed as Interim Superintendent, Dr. Collier was deputy superintendent until Dr. Bedell resigned. Her role was to attend meetings and be the assistant to the Superintendent. She was expected to be in place of the Superintendent until he was available.
“With Dr. Bedell submitting his resignation, that naturally put me in the place to serve as interim this school year until the board makes a decision on the permanent superintendent. At the time when the board made that decision I was elated. I was very excited about it,” said Collier. “I’ve been fortunate to work alongside Dr. Bedell these six years and I’m familiar with the work that we’re doing. I think it just gives us an opportunity to have some continuity, and to be able to continue what we’ve started here at KCPS so I saw it as a great opportunity. I’m looking forward to the future and just excited about what’s ahead.”
Collier has goals she wants to achieve with her time being Interim Superintendent; she doesn’t want it to go to waste. She is very goal-oriented, and wants her students to succeed to their fullest capacity.
“There are three areas of focus for this school year and one of those is around literacy. I really want us as a school system to be very laser focused on literacy. Literacy is a passion area for me, I believe it is critically important in order for students to be positioned for success in their prosperous future,” explained Collier. “We have to ensure that all of our students have strong literacy skills and when I say that, I mean in the area of reading, writing and communication. I want to see progress made in that area, and ultimately progress in our test scores that illustrate that we have given that area the attention that it deserves, but also not just in test scores.”
Collier is adamant on her students becoming the best they can be through KCPS. She is a true believer in her students discovering their passions and values.
“I want to see our children really develop a love and a passion for reading. I want that to be the culture in our school system because it’s like that saying, “Leaders are readers, those who read lead,” and I believe our students are so full of talent, and they’re intelligent, they have so much potential. They can lead but we want to make sure that they’re in a position to do so. That’s one way that we can help support our students now and for the future,” said Collier.
Collier has set expectations for herself while taking an authoritative role in the KCPS system. She will be tackling meetings, interviews and a different environment, but she doesn’t want to stray from what her main goals are for this year.
“There are a lot of wonderful people around me helping to accomplish this work, but I think the primary area for me is student achievement. That’s the most important thing for me that I want to focus on and make sure that we’re getting right,” said Collier. “I want to make sure that we are engaging with parents and families, making sure that their voices are heard and they feel like valued partners in this work, and I think we have some work to do in our school system in that area.”
Empowering families and her staff are also among her highest priorities while being interim.
“One of my goals that I have for myself is that I really helped to emphasize, and drive the importance of engaging with families. I want to make sure I’m empowering staff, because we can’t get the work done without staff. They’re important. I want to make sure that our staff feels empowered, heard and valued in our school system. Our students number one, then our families, and then the staff. I think if we can get those three areas right, then we can do some great work this year,” said Collier.
Collier will be using the skills and qualities she learned as an educator and leader during her time as interim superintendent to turn expectations into reality. With the support of her team in the office of the Superintendent she won’t be doing all the work on her own.
“I definitely think there’s a lot that I’ve learned along the way. The interesting thing is many of those skills that I learned as a teacher I needed in the next phases of my leadership journey. Like working to build authentic relationships with students. It allowed me to be successful as a classroom teacher, because I believe children need to feel affirmed,” said Collier. “If you’re able to make those genuine connections with your children, then you will be able then to leverage that for learning.”
Being an interim superintendent requires high leadership skills and interpersonal connection between a wide variety of people. It takes a team and a mindset to increasingly grow in a positive direction. Collier knows the importance of allowing her staff to lead as well and building strong relationships with those close to her.
“I think that leaders are not supposed to dictate, but allow others’ strengths to come forth and allow others to lead. It makes the work richer, but you also get better outcomes because one person doesn’t have all the answers, and one person can’t do the work alone. It takes a team and I think it is required to have that kind of mindset when you go into leadership,” said Collier.
Collier takes into consideration the wants and needs of her community. It is significant to understand the experiences of her staff, students and families, so she and her staff can collaborate and serve them.
You can visit https://www.kcpublicschools.org for more information about Dr. Collier and the upcoming school year.