Some things Kansas City superintendent Steve Green is sure will carry on once he’s gone.
Like the district’s move back to middle schools, its push for more early childhood programming and early college courses.
But Academie Lafayette at Southwest?
“I’m not sure whether I’m more interested in the outcome or in the conversation,” he said.
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Put that one on the list of uncertainties.
The Kansas City school board stepped forward Wednesday night in planning the process it will use to choose an interim superintendent and then pick Green’s successor.
Some of the tasks laying before the next superintendent are self-evident. The district has to improve academic performance, strengthen ACT college entrance exam scores, continue to restore community confidence, achieve full accreditation and build enrollment.
Other roles that Green played, however, will test the school board’s will as it seeks a new chief administrator.
The community organizers who wanted to reopen Hale Cook Elementary School in Kansas City’s southwest corridor had little support at all before Green took office.
Previous superintendent John Covington, while interested like Academie Lafayette in an international high school, was not at all inclined to let the charter school run it.
So when Green announced last week that he is bound for DeKalb County Schools in the Atlanta area, the news sent a rumble of concern through those with Academie Lafayette who still hope to run a high school at Southwest for charter and district students.
“When we met with (Green), he liked the idea (of a Southwest partnership) and was willing to let us move forward and explore it,” Academie Lafayette board president Chad Phillips said. “I don’t know we would’ve gotten that far with some of the previous superintendents.
“I hope that the new pick is open to collaborating with other schools.”
Green feels it is to the current school board’s credit that it has been willing to consider new approaches in the competition between the district and independent public charter schools.
Initiatives like the district school at Hale Cook, the charter-run possibility at Southwest and a plan for the district to sponsor a charter school in the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City’s Urban Neighborhood Initiative all mean to bring more students into the district.
In the case of Hale Cook and Academie Lafayette, a significant portion of the target audience are predominantly white neighborhoods that had largely abandoned the majority black school district.
So at the least, Green figures, the board’s actions under his tenure have raised those important conversations he finds so interesting.
Green likes the idea of a multicultural Academie Lafayette International Baccalaureate high school — currently on hold — and he hopes it still can happen.
“But before that, we need to have a candid conversation and get beyond what appears to be deeply seated concerns over geography, race, class and color,” Green said. “That’s more important than the outcome.”
The planners in the Hale Cook and Academie Lafayette initiatives want diverse schools and have taken or proposed steps to encourage racial and socioeconomic balance, but Hale Cook is majority white and a new Southwest would probably be as well.
Green’s departure probably does not open the door to any major shakeup of the district’s direction, said Clinton Adams with the Urban Summit, which has opposed the plans for Southwest.
The district has gotten away from “the messiah superintendent” and Green has been carrying out goals set with the board, Adams said.
The next superintendent probably will inherit a similar dynamic that Adams said is at risk of letting the prime mission of improving academics for the majority of the students be eclipsed by a desire to “attract whites” with “elite, exclusionary schools.”
That is, he said, unless the direction of the board changes, which is why he believes board elections to come are as significant as the superintendent the board chooses.
At Wednesday night’s meeting, the board discussed early recommendations on its process.
A board committee’s research suggested that the district should plan on a public engagement process through July to create a profile with the community of the kind of candidate the district wants.
The board is gathering names of potential consultants to guide the process, including marketing the job and recruiting and screening candidates. The district also will take requests for proposals for legal counsel to guide contract decisions — with Green as he leaves, an interim superintendent and Green’s replacement.
The board committee suggested that when the board is able to identify one to three finalist candidates, it would present them in public gatherings before making a final choice.
The district probably would need to be ready to offer the job by March 2016 if it hopes to have a superintendent in place for the 2016-2017 school year.
Meanwhile the board needs to pick an interim superintendent. That decision has not been made, board president Jon Hile said, but the board will be considering internal candidates first.
Hile did not name interim candidates. The district’s chief financial officer is Al Tunis, and its chief academic officer is Vickie Murillo.
Green expects the district’s current master planning process to continue on schedule, with a draft recommendation by midsummer and a plan by fall.
It may well include plans for a district-sponsored charter school with the Urban Neighborhood Initiative. The chamber group will be ready to present its proposal soon, initiative executive director Dianne Cleaver said.
“(Green) has been open to what charter schools can look like,” Cleaver said. “He’s been open to possibilities.”
The board has been encouraging as well, she said, “and none of that has changed.”
Green, who will be leaving after four years as superintendent, knows that some of the more complicated partnerships will play out after he’s gone.
For now he still talks in terms of “us.”
The district needs to be “always cooking in the kitchen” and bringing new ideas, he said.
“It’s on us to find how creative we can be,” he said. “Where’s the community’s appetite?”
The next superintendent will have to find out.