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Citizen Watchdog Group Reports on Kansas City, Missouri School Board’s Oct. 26 Meeting

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A citizen watchdog group, Do the Right Thing for Kids, has released its report assessing the performance of the Kansas City, Missouri School Board’s performance during its Wednesday, Oct. 26, meeting.

You can read the report here: http://tinyurl.com/3sgvv7b

The citizens’ summary of the board’s performance?:

“Five Do the Right Thing for Kids ‘Board Watchers’ attended the 10/26 meet­ing. This, the sec­ond meet­ing of the month, was the “busi­ness meet­ing” where offi­cial actions such as approval of con­tracts takes place. All stand­ing board mem­bers were present. Carl Evans, who is run­ning unop­posed for the vacant posi­tion, was invited to sit with the Board. Our reports are aimed at inform­ing the pub­lic about the Board’s and District’s progress in address­ing aca­d­e­mic achieve­ment and other issues related to accreditation.

“Preceding the offi­cial start­ing time of the meet­ing two ‘Scholar Superstar’ school groups gave per­for­mances for the audi­ence and board mem­bers present. Board Watchers thought this was a use­ful way to rec­og­nize stu­dents while sav­ing meet­ing time. We believe that such pre­sen­ta­tions should focus on exam­ples of aca­d­e­mic achieve­ment. One pub­lic speaker, Kent Kahill, spoke elo­quently about the fail­ure of some par­ents to nour­ish and sup­port their stu­dents and the need for more effort on the part of the District to edu­cate par­ents in par­ent­ing skills. Andrea Flinders, pres­i­dent of the teach­ers union, spoke about teach­ers being over­whelmed with new pro­grams, meet­ings, pro­ce­dures and other man­dates from the administration.

“We observed that this meet­ing pro­ceeded very much like pre­vi­ous busi­ness meet­ings, with no urgency or strong focus on strate­gies nec­es­sary to achieve accred­i­ta­tion or deal with the prob­a­ble upcom­ing shrink­ing of enroll­ment and the bud­get. Very lit­tle direct dis­cus­sion of aca­d­e­mic achieve­ment. We won­der whether over use of the Policy Governance board man­age­ment sys­tem is lead­ing the Board toward a pas­sive and reac­tive role in the District’s gov­er­nance at a time when strong lead­er­ship is needed.

“We are struck with how dif­fi­cult it is for the audi­ence to under­stand what is going on. A sin­gle screen in the front of the room shows power point pre­sen­ta­tions with fig­ures too small to be read by most of the audi­ence. Documents are dis­cussed that the audi­ence has not had access to. Presenters to the Board have their backs to the audi­ence. The expe­ri­ence of those present is more that of pas­sive observer than stakeholder.

“The need for alter­na­tive edu­ca­tion sites is appar­ent from the num­ber of stu­dents who are caus­ing trou­ble in the mid­dle and high schools because they are not equipped intel­lec­tu­ally or socially to ben­e­fit from and con­tribute to reg­u­lar school set­tings. Information about progress in devel­op­ing alter­na­tive edu­ca­tion options was requested by board mem­bers. The staff pre­sen­ta­tion was very gen­eral with few specifics about num­bers of stu­dents to be served, the scope of the prob­lem, etc . Nor was there much demon­stra­tion of con­cern about the prob­lem or com­mit­ment to solve it.

“A num­ber of pro­grams and pack­ages are in the process of being devel­oped or installed, but lit­tle detail about them was given.

“As is usu­ally the case, the report by Dr. Lee-Gwin on the finan­cial sit­u­a­tion was clear and use­ful. She clearly has a good grasp of the bud­get and the fis­cal con­trol pro­ce­dures nec­es­sary for the District to pay its bills in the short term. There was no dis­cus­sion about the fact that if the District con­tin­ues to expe­ri­ence shrink­age in enroll­ment the finan­cial sit­u­a­tion will become more difficult.

“The inci­dent of shots fired at a school bus after a foot­ball game was asked about. Staff expla­na­tions of the late report­ing of the inci­dent seemed vague. Nor was the much assur­ance to con­cerned par­ents that strong mea­sures are in place to pre­vent sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions in the future.”

If you would like to find out more about Do the Right Thing for kids, the KC Education Enterprise published a story last August with information about who they are and what they do: http://tinyurl.com/5ruawxv

Also, if you would like to subscribe to their monthly reports, here is a link to their e-mail subscription page: http://tinyurl.com/6avsyk7

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Read our Twitter feed for more education news from local, regional and national sources:http://twitter.com/#!/JW_Martinez

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About jwmartinez

JoLynne is a journalist and educator. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Park University and is certified to teach high school journalism and English. Former employment includes work for Cable News Network and the University of Missouri-Kansas City in addition to freelancing for clients such as the Kansas City Star and The Pitch.

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