The KCK Board of Education is expected to choose our next school superintendent by public vote at the next regular meeting, Tuesday June 26. The meeting will begin at 5:00 pm at the Central Offices, 2010 North 59 Street. The agenda has not been published yet, so this item may be at the beginning or after an executive session, at the end of the meeting. The agenda should be published by Monday, check kckps.org. Be there. It would be worth the effort if many members of the public could be there to show that this decision is important to all of us.
The two finalists are Dr. Jayson Strickland, deputy superintendent for Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, and Dr. Charles Foust, chief school performance officer for Union County Public Schools, Monroe, North Carolina.
I attended both of the Meet & Greet events that the board held for the public to see and consider these two finalists. Both events were well-attended. At each, the board invited us to fill out “Candidate Impression Form”. I hope the board read these and took them seriously. I would be very interested to know what these comments indicate about the community preference between these two candidates. Personally, I would easily make the choice to ask Dr. Strickland to be our next superintendent. Here are some of my reasons.
Grow our own – Here in KCK we often say that it is important for our students to see adults that prove they can succeed in life with the education provided right here. Dr. Strickland is himself a product of the KCK public schools. What better way to actualize this goal than for him to lead the school district as superintendent? Also, Dr. Strickland recognizes the strength of having one of the most culturally diverse communities in the country. In contrast, Dr. Foust described himself as a product of the suburbs, who got his first exposure to an urban district when he moved from North Carolina to Texas.
Healthy change—Some have been vocal about needing change in our public schools. It is hard to respond to this because they offer no statement about what exactly needs to change. But I agree to the extent that all human endeavors can always improve, and of course like most low-income districts, we have our problems here. Healthy change would be constructive, not destructive. I was not happy with Dr. Foust’s approach to change. He gave glib plans with no indication that he would first seek to understand the local situation. I felt that he spoke as if we in KCK cannot solve problems or understand our own issues. He spoke without any understanding of the challenges in having over 70 languages spoken in our schools, or of the breadth of Diploma Plus going way beyond just college credit for college-bound students, or the local business community’s engagement with the schools. Dr. Foust suggested that if he is not getting the discounts or donations he wants from a business, he would use school communication avenues to promote a boycott of that business. That is not my kind of community. In contrast, Dr. Strickland acknowledged the need for improvement and emphasized his style is to work with all stakeholders. Dr. Strickland has sought out innovations and best practices throughout his career.
Commitment to our students and staff as well as the whole KCK Community— I worry that Dr. Foust would not stay long. He left his work in Texas to take his current job in North Carolina, but he hasn’t been there even a year and he his applying to be our superintendent. In prior years, he has also applied for a job in Bentonville, Arkansas and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Also, in speaking to the Meet & Greet audience, Dr. Foust said that his wife and two daughters did not make the move to North Carolina with him and would not make the move here. He keeps in touch by traveling to Texas every weekend. So, with that approach, I infer that every job is a stepping-stone for Dr. Foust’s career and not a commitment to come care for our students. We shouldn’t hire a man who is not willing to move his family to our community. This reminds me of when the Kauffman Foundation hired an executive director who refused to move to Kansas City. It caused the local foundation to focus away from our city in quest of a national stage. After that experience, the Kauffman Foundation hired someone who lives here. In my opinion, our superintendent should live here. Dr. Strickland is at the other end of the scale: he has dedicated his whole life in the service of our children; he wants to do his part to strengthen and improve our community; he is a role model for good citizenship.
I encourage the board to choose the candidate who is best for our students and our community—Dr. Strickland.
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.