Kansas City Teachers, Parents Feel Left Out of Takeover Talks

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Leaders with the Kansas City School District's parents' organization and teachers union don't want a state-run panel to unseat the district's school board.

News that Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro had delivered a draft resolution to the board to consider stepping down Jan. 1 prompted a quick rebuttal from the groups that felt left out of the discussion.

"You can't ignore the people who have supported this district," said union President Andrea Flinders.

The commissioner met in closed session with the school board last week and then with an ad-hoc group of community members and talked about having the board voluntarily step aside and cede control to a state-appointed board when the district loses its accreditation Jan. 1. In the ad-hoc group meeting, people there discussed interpretations of state law that might allow the state to force the change.

To Flinders and District Advisory Committee Chairman Fred Hudgins, the direction of those closed discussions seemed a reversal from the public discussion they'd heard in the commissioner's town hall meeting earlier this fall.

"I don't know what caused the 180 (degree turn)," Flinders said.

Nicastro does not see her talk of a state administrative board as a turn in a new direction. She said she is looking at all possible avenues for helping the district regain accreditation and that the school board should do the same.

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The timeline is short. Nicastro wants to be ready to present a plan to the state school board at its Dec. 1 meeting in Jefferson City on how Kansas City intends to recover. Kansas City school board President Airick Leonard West said Nicastro asked the board to put the draft resolution on the agenda for last Wednesday's board meeting.

The board has not taken any action. West said the board can't consider the proposal when the state does not yet know what kind of alternative administrative board it would offer in return.

Flinders and Hudgins said the state needs to continue its support of the district's transformation plan and to continue backing the administration and the school board.

"Our big concern is that replacing one board with another with no plan in place, if anything, will be detrimental to the kids," she said. "It will mean more turmoil."

The commissioner said the possibilities remain open. The state continues to seek ideas on its website, www.dese.mo.gov, and through the district's website, www.kcmsd.net.

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