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KC District prepares for accreditation vote

KC District prepares for accreditation vote

September 18th, 2011 by HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH, Associated Press in News

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The historically troubled Kansas City School District is preparing for a vote this coming week on whether it retains its partial accreditation.

Missouri education officials are expected to make a recommendation to the state school board by Tuesday, when the board will consider how to classify the accreditation of Kansas City and 17 other districts.

In advance of the state vote, the Kansas City School District announced it had scheduled town hall meetings Wednesday and Thursday where officials will outline the effect of the state's decision. The district will also operate a phone bank Wednesday through Friday to take questions.

District spokeswoman Eileen Houston-Stewart said it's important to prepare for all the possibilities.

"First graders don't know what's going on," Houston-Stewart said. "We've got to be there for them. Teachers have to be there for them and on point so we can continue to do what we know we need to do in order to get to where we need to be."

The timing of the state meeting couldn't be worse for the district. It comes less than a month after John Covington resigned abruptly as superintendent and within days of the state finalizing a performance report that showed the district meeting just three of 14 state standards, down from four a year ago.

Covington oversaw the closure of nearly half the district's schools and developed a following among community leaders before taking a job leading an agency overseeing the poorest-performing schools in Michigan.

Following his departure, the district named R. Stephen Green as the district's 27th superintendent since 1969. He most recently served as president and chief executive of Kauffman Scholars Inc., a program that provides coordinated, intensive tutoring and life skills support to students in Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., from middle school through the college years.

"It's not simple," Houston-Stewart said of the challenges the district is facing, "but Dr. Green definitely has a vision and we are moving forward."

During a visit to the district last month, Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro said Covington's departure and the ensuing turmoil "caused us to be concerned a little bit about where the Kansas City School District is and how we move forward from this point." She said Covington instituted changes that put the district on firmer financial footing, such as the school closures.

But she said the state remained "very disappointed" with the performance of the district and noted that it "doesn't appear at least at this point to be going in the right direction."

If the district were to lose its accreditation this school year, it would be given two more school years to make improvements. Under Missouri law, the soonest the state could take over the district and appoint its own administrative board would be June 30, 2014.

The Kansas City School District has asked to have the accreditation decision tabled indefinitely to allow the district time to improve its performance.