Bickering board. Constant infighting. KCK schools’ revolving door of leaders a problem
BY THE KANSAS CITY STAR EDITORIAL BOARD
Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools interim Superintendent Julia Ford’s recent resignation raised several red flags about leadership in the the district. Even more concerning is a state law that may prevent incoming Superintendent Charles Foust from starting his job in early August as planned.
Public bickering and petty infighting among school board members and district employees must stop. People in positions of authority need to recognize the devastating impact a revolving door of leadership can have on student achievement and employee morale.
Ford said meddlesome requests from board president Valdenia Winn, a stickler for transparency and process, was too much to bear. Ford resigned last week. She was replaced as acting superintendent by Assistant Superintendent Jayson Strickland.
Strickland will stay on the job until Foust arrives from North Carolina. Foust was expected to start next week. But it is unknown when the man known in education circles as a turnaround specialist will actually begin work. His license has not been approved by the Kansas State Department of Education.
Winn told The Star that she is aware of an “undercurrent of negativity” in the district from those who have opposed Foust’s hiring. The situation could get even messier if school board members don’t put aside their differences.
Foust’s application for a superintendent’s license was completed July 19. The process takes about six weeks, according to state officials. That would put Foust in line to begin work in late August or early September.
He will be the district’s third superintendent since Cynthia Laneretired in June. Kansas law spells out how to handle this scenario.
“It shall be unlawful for the board of education of any school district to issue an order for payment of the salary of any certified employee who does not hold a certificate which is valid in the state of Kansas for the particular kind of work to be performed,” a section of the state statute reads.
School board member Janey Humphries, a Strickland supporter, said the sooner Foust is in place, the sooner the district can focus on improving test scores and graduation rates. “Unrest at the top filters down,” she said. “The board needs to work together as a team and work with employees as a team. We need to do what’s best for the kids.” Humphries’ point is valid. Having multiple superintendents in rapid succession slows the district’s progress.
Board members are elected officials. They must focus on the job they were elected to do: Set policy for the district.
The superintendent – no matter who it is – should be responsible for making sure that vision is implemented without interference.
Increased training for Winn and fellow board members explaining their roles is imperative. They don’t need to involve themselves in everyday administrative functions.
If leaders want to get back to educating children as they contend, then board members need to settle their disputes. Otherwise, the district could be consumed by turmoil.
And that would be a shame for more than 22,000 schoolchildren. Their educational futures are more important than the adults’ personal agendas.
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.