By Dave Trabert
USD 500 Kansas City gave Superintendent Charles Foust a 17% pay increase last year, while the approximate $92 million spent on teacher pay was 1% less than the previous year and the total spent on non-teachers increased 3%. Foust, paid almost $286,000 last year, is making about $55,000 more than the previous superintendent, Cynthia Lane, was paid in 2018.
Things like this happen all the time because too many legislators won’t take action to stop it.
The Senate Education Committee approved Senate Bill 353 this year, which would have required school districts to certify that sufficient money has been allocated to Instruction so that students could at least get to grade level. But Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning (R-Overland Park), who controlled the Senate calendar, wouldn’t allow the bill to be debated on the floor and effectively killed the bill.
Over 70% of registered voters say school districts should be required to provide legal certification that they’ve allocated sufficient money to instruction so students can improve, but local school boards and administrators oppose accountability. And since too many legislators fear that standing up to the school lobby will get them unelected, there’s absolutely no accountability for how money is spent, allowing districts like USD 500 Kansas City to reward administrators and shortchange students.
The district’s response to an Open Records request from the Sentinel’s parent company, Kansas Policy Institute, shows Foust wasn’t the only administrator to get a big payday.
Assistant Superintendent Alan Kin was paid 65% more, to over $235,000. The district wouldn’t say whether this or any other big increases came from payouts of unused sick or vacation time.
Eva Tucker-Nevels’ pay jumped 54%, to more than $216,000, while Chief Financial Officer Dennis Covington got a ‘small’ 12% increase to $185,710. Chief Human Resource Officer Keli Tuschman more than doubled her pay, going from $86,115 to more than $183,000, and Susan Westfahl, Executive Secretary and Board Clerk, got a 34% boost to almost $124,000.
USD 500 also hired five new administrators making $148,000 or more, and Superintendent Foust hired a new Chief of Staff at almost $189,000.
The complete payroll listing can be downloaded at KansasOpenGov.org.
The Kansas City district is notorious for paying in-house maintenance staff far more than market wages, and this year is no different.
The electrician foreman was paid over $109,000 – more than double the average teacher pay of $53,117. The carpenter foreman received more than $92,000 and an asbestos inspector was paid $87,000.
Two head custodians were paid more than $80,000 and the district had 85 custodians who were paid more than $50,000.
Four pipefitters were paid more than $76,000. The lead bus mechanic made almost $80,000.
Three carpenters made more than $65,000.
Even general laborers were paid almost $60,000.
None of these amounts include benefits like medical insurance and pension, which is far more lucrative than most private-sector retirement plans.
By the way, the maintenance positions listed in the adjacent table aren’t the only ones that were paid more than the average teacher pay of about $53,000. There are also more positions in some categories – like carpenter, painter, and plumbers – that aren’t listed, and some categories aren’t listed at all, including brick mason, concrete finisher, and locksmith.
Low student achievement
While administrators’ pay soars, student achievement remains abysmally low in USD 500.
The 2019 state assessment results from the Kansas Department of Education shows 66% of 10th-graders in the Kansas City district are below grade level in Math; 24% are considered to be at grade level but still need remedial training to be on track for college and career, and only 10% are on track.
Results for English Language Arts – labeled here as Reading – are a bit better but still exceptionally low, with 58% below grade level. 29% are at grade level but still need remedial training and just 13% are on track for college and career.
State average results are also much lower than parents and employers are led to believe by school districts.
41% of students are below grade level in Math, and 34% are below grade level in Reading. Only about a quarter of the state’s 10th-graders are on track for college and career.
Rep. Kristey Williams (R-Augusta) chairs the K-12 Budget Committee and she’s also a former teacher. She says it’s disappointing when districts widen the pay gap between teachers and administrators.
“Good leaders should never take excessive raises when those percentage raises are not available for teachers. Teachers are essential for the growth and well-being of our students and this is one of our great failures — spending less money in the classroom for teachers and for direct instruction as opposed to bigger budgets used for administrators. This is, in part, why reading and math scores are well below where we want them to be. Our priorities are wrong — it should be kids before CEOs.”
Senate Education Chair Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) says teachers constantly ask legislators what they can do to improve pay, but those decisions are made by local school boards and superintendents; legislators have no control over how districts spend their money.
“It’s demoralizing for teachers to learn that administrators and other non-teaching employees get bigger pay increases.”
Baumgardner says school boards approve pay increases for administrators with no relationship to student achievement.
KPI Education Fellow David Dorsey, himself a former teacher, says lots of pay increases were handed out following the Montoy court-ordered funding increase about 15 years ago, but nothing really changed for students.
From the students’ perspective, it seems that local school boards and superintendents are proving Einstein’s definition of insanity with the latest court-ordered funding increase.
Interim Superintendent – my thoughts on the choice
When I think of the KCK Interim Superintendent for 2020-2021, I think of words like this: qualified, capable, experienced, familiar with our community. In the stormy waters of this moment in time, I’d like KCKPS to hire a steady hand at the helm. And I’d like the KCK Board of Education to prioritize a good, supportive working relationship with the Interim Superintendent. It’s going to take everyone working together to get through the fast approaching school year.
To start with qualified, Kansas law (KSA§72-1134) requires each school district to have a superintendent, and the superintendent must have a Professional School Leadership License. You can find all the requirements for that license at the state department of education website, ksde.org. Just briefly though, it requires a teaching license and 5 years’ professional experience in a state-accredited school, and it requires good grades in a graduate degree including a school leadership program. An individual with these qualifications then has to pass a test and do an internship in order to receive a 5-year professional school leadership license. You can’t just hire anyone to be a superintendent, even as an interim.
Clearly there are a limited number of people with the qualifications who are in a position to step up by the end of August. Such a position is often filled by a retired superintendent. We tried that in 2018, but interactions with the board leadership at the time were so caustic that she left after a few weeks. This time around, in my opinion, we can't afford governing by disruption. We need a board, administration, staff, families, students and community focused on working through urgent issues. We need a working environment that respects and supports every person involved in the education of our children.
This brings me to the concept of capable, experienced and familiar with our community. There are a handful of people in KCK who are qualified to be an Interim Superintendent, who have worked for our school district, and who are committed to the good of our community. A couple of them have only recently retired which presents some technical challenges in complying with KPERS retirement provisions. It might be worth coordinating with the state authorities to assure compliance and still be fair if such a candidate were willing to step up as Interim Superintendent. Beyond this group of possibilities, there may be other individuals from nearby communities who have a working knowledge of the advances and challenges that characterize USD500.
Whoever the board choses as Interim Superintendent, I encourage the board to fully empower that person to do the job at hand. This Interim Superintendent cannot simply coast along as a caretaker or just rubber stamp instructions from a board member. This time active leadership is required. We’re in fast-moving waters, not a placid lake. There are morale issues that need to be addressed, numerous administrative vacancies that need to be filled, special funding to be secured, tight budget to be managed, decisions about distance-learning, the digital divide, questions about school sports, providing school lunches, contact-tracing when someone becomes ill, promoting face masks and hand washing, etc., etc. It seems to me that empowering the Interim Superintendent to make administrative decisions is key. Hire an Interim Superintendent that we can trust and support. Hire someone qualified, capable, experienced, and familiar with our community.
In Kansas City, Kansas, the board of education has to name an interim superintendent, keep on top of the evolving coronavirus situation, and begin the search for a new superintendent, not to mention their usual work load of budgeting, administrative supervision and property management. Here’s how you can reach our board members to share your support, thoughts and priorities. You can go to the website, https://kckps.org/about-us/board-of-education/your-board-members. It says you can send messages to the Clerk of the Board, but that position is currently vacant. So, you can click on the contact links for each board member which will lead you to these email addresses:
Randy Lopez, firstname.lastname@example.org
Wanda Paige, email@example.com
Yolanda Clark, firstname.lastname@example.org
Maxine Drew, email@example.com
Janey Humphries, firstname.lastname@example.org
Valdenia Winn, email@example.com
Stacy Yeager, firstname.lastname@example.org
From The Pitch: Charles Foust deserts the Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools at the worst possible time
August 3, 2020
Staffers and patrons of the Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools booed two years ago when their school board announced it had hired Charles Foust as superintendent.
The disgust wasn’t personal; most of the detractors didn’t know Foust, whose most recent jobs had been with school districts in Houston and Union County, North Carolina. And that was the problem. The Kansas City, Kan., school district had been served by just three superintendents in 20 years, and all three had come up through the ranks. People predicted an outside hire would mark the end of an era of administrative stability rare for an urban school district.
The end is here.
Last week, Foust told the school board he’d be taking a few days off for vacation. On Friday, he told them he wasn’t coming back. He’ll be relocating to Wilmington, North Carolina, to become superintendent of the New Hanover County Schools.
Foust’s departure blindsided the school board and administration and comes as the Kansas City, Kan., district is struggling to come up with a plan for educating about 22,000 students, many of them low-income, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Foust’s move leaves the district with few apparent options. Most top administrators who had served under the previous superintendent, Cynthia Lane, left in the months after Foust took over. Among them was Lane’s deputy superintendent, Jayson Strickland, a local favorite who lost out to Foust for the top job. He is now superintendent of Hogan Preparatory Academy, a charter school in Kansas City.
Foust’s handpicked deputy superintendent, Lynett Hoofkin, stayed for one year before leaving a month ago for a job in Louisiana.
The district has already announced it will hold classes online for the first nine weeks of the upcoming school year. Beyond that, it appears to have no detailed plan, and no one to coordinate one. To complicate matters, the board was unable to accept the superintendent’s resignation over the weekend. Unanimous consent was required to place a motion on the agenda, and Foust’s two strongest allies on the board — Stacy Yeager and Maxine Drew — inexplicably refused to consent.
Foust touted himself as a “turnaround” superintendent, and moved quickly to shake up a district that has struggled to raise student achievement. Some gave him credit for acting with urgency; others accused him of creating a culture of bullying and driving out respected principals and staffers.
At a board meeting in late February, parents from two middle schools complained about administrative turnover and said crucial classes like math and language arts were being staffed for months by long-term subs.
Foust rather quickly clashed with Valdenia Winn, the fiery, micromanaging school board member who led the move to hire him. More recently, he’d met with resistance from other members, who criticized him for arbitrary decisions such as moving high school graduations to weekday mornings and changing the school calendar without board approval.
The detractors who two years ago predicted that Foust wouldn’t care enough to stick around in a district full of low-income, multi-racial, non-English-speaking students have been proven correct. Now, in a leaderless fix, they’re left to decide whether the district is better or worse off with him gone.
KCK Superintendent Vacancy
Let’s seek to understand the challenge. In Kansas City, Kansas, the student population of more than 23,000 students is made up of about 51% Hispanic, 27% African-American, 11% White, and 7% Asian; 44% English language learners; 63 home languages spoken. This school district includes 10 preschool sites, 29 elementary schools, 7 middle schools, 5 high schools and 4 alternative schools. (kckps.org, at-a-glance) It is a large, diverse, urban school district.
KCK is a community of resourceful, capable people who have stayed and people who have just come to stay, people who, at our best, can work together across cultural differences and viewpoints, people who are struggling with many urban and economic issues, people who are confronting the coronavirus with the rest of the world. We all still want our students to be safe and to learn in the best possible environment.
In this situation, as announced on July 31, 2020, our Board of Education has to fill a vacancy. Going into the school year, we have neither a superintendent nor a deputy superintendent. The board will have to simultaneously:
A. Name an Interim superintendent. By law, Kansas statute section 72-1134, each school district must have a superintendent, and the superintendent must have a Professional School Leadership License.
B. Direct the opening and managing of schools with the highly contagious, serious coronavirus CoVid19.
C. Begin the search for a permanent superintendent.
In order to have an administrator named by the time the previous superintendent leaves office at the end of August, the Board will probably have to name an interim at the regular board meeting in less than 2 weeks. In my opinion, we as a community should continue to support our school children and school district by paying attention, sharing our priorities and views, looking for ways to help our neighborhood schools, and supporting the Board of Education. I hope that the board can move ahead in a positive way that provides for our school children and their families.
New Hanover County Schools names new superintendent
Dr. Charles Foust (Source: Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools)
By WECT Staff | July 31, 2020 at 11:28 AM EDT - Updated July 31 at 11:46 AMWILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Dr. Charles Foust has been named the new superintendent for New Hanover County Schools following a special meeting by the board of education Friday morning.
Foust currently is the superintendent of schools for Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, a position he’s held since August 2018.
Foust, whose annual salary will be $225,000, will take office on Sept. 1.
“The members of the New Hanover County Board of Education unanimously and enthusiastically support Dr. Foust’s selection as our new superintendent,” says Board Chair Lisa Estep. “We are certain that Dr. Foust’s energy, aggressive goal-setting, and experience with school turnaround will lead our high-achieving school system to even higher achievement. His demonstrated commitment to equity, communication, and transparency made his selection a strong choice for our schools and our community right now.”
Prior to taking his current position with Knsas City, Kansas Public Schools, Foust served as the chief school performance officer for Union County Public Schools in Monroe, N.C., and as an assistant superintendent, school support officer, and principal for the Houston Independent School District in Houston, Texas. He also previously served as a principal, assistant principal, and curriculum facilitator for the Guilford County Schools in Greensboro. Foust started his public education career as a fourth-grade teacher in Guilford County.
“Thank you to the New Hanover County Board of Education in this new partnership,” said Dr. Foust. “What an honor to be entrusted as the next district leader of New Hanover County Schools. I sincerely believe all students have the ability to learn; our job is to create and offer a first-class education in a safe and inviting setting. My charge is to assist all employees in the development of our school district so that we move from a good district to a world-class educational facility. I’m thrilled to be at the helm at this critical moment for our school district, which I believe has the potential to be an exemplar of educational excellence and social impact.”
Dr. Del Burns has served as the interim superintendent since late February.
The previous superintendent, Tim Markely, turned in his resignation to the New Hanover County Board of Education on Feb. 7.
“The board believes that separating from Dr. Markley is the best solution to move this system forward,” said Estep in a statement following Markley’s decision.
Markley resigned without directly addressing the sex abuse scandal that has embroiled the school district, throughout which many people have called for his removal. He received $195,000 in severance and $32,966.66 in benefits.
Copyright 2020 WECT. All rights reserved.
This Blog is being generated by a group of citizens invited by USD 500 to participate as a Citizen's Advisory Committee during the Bond Issue campaign. This group continues to be involved in supporting USD 500 and watching the results from the successful Bond election. This Blog is best read from the bottom/oldest post to the to/newest post.