For too long, the Kansas City School District has been about adults. The key words: Money. Power. Jobs. But shrinking enrollment and tightening budgets forced a massive “right-sizing” that closed 40 percent of district schools and cut more than 1,000 employees. Now, new leaders say, the district is about kids.
Demanding and driven, John Covington swept into the district like a whirlwind. Behind the confidence he displayed in public were doubts and frustrations. But he gathered support and never stopped pushing his audacious plan.
Superintendent John Covington inherited a financial culture marked by dysfunction, from its loose dealings with vendors to its failure to fix bad fiscal practices. A review of 15 years of records reveals a pattern of problems that must be addressed before the district can move forward.
With its enrollment plunging, the district must stem the tide of families choosing charter schools or else face many more school closures — even extinction — in the future. The district has mounted a big effort to persuade families to stick with its schools.
Education experts around the country will be watching as five schools in KC launch standards-based education, a system that has been tried only in smaller districts so far.
As Kansas City starts its transformation effort, it can look to Pittsburgh. Five years into his tenure, Superintendent Mark Roosevelt is working to turn Pittsburgh into a role model for troubled urban districts. He has seen progress — and run smack into the harsh realities of every urban district in America.