The consensus of the Kansas City community was made clear in regard to the future of their unaccredited public school district: Address the children's needs with no outside intervention.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education hosted a forum at Kansas City's Paseo Academy on Wednesday night to gather feedback from the general public on how they should handle unaccredited school districts in the state, which includes Kansas City Public Schools. Many parents, teachers and staff members of the district attended, and some voiced their concerns to state officials. This was one of four hearings that will be held across the state in the next month that helps DESE construct a final plan for unaccredited districts they can present to the State Board of Education, which can decide on the outcome of the student transfer situation unless state legislation intervenes.
"We're very, very anxious to hear from the public," said Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro, who was among the state education officials in attendance.
Under current state law, the Missouri State Board of Education has the authority to either: replace the elected school board with a Special Administrative board, attach the failing district to another district such as one in Eastern Jackson County, or divide the district and assign schools to adjoining districts. Another state law that was reinforced in December – despite EJC districts' objections citing the Hancock Amendment – permits students who attend an unaccredited district to enroll at a neighboring, accredited district at their original district's expense.
The Missouri State Board of Education asks, “What is the appropriate role for the state in supporting and, if necessary, intervening in unaccredited school districts?”
So far, six proposals by everyone from Missouri superintendents to private interest groups were submitted to DESE for consideration on how they should deal with unaccredited districts in the state. Notably, none of them suggest students should leave their neighborhood or community to attend school in another district that is nearby. An overview of all six plans can be read at the website: www.dese.mo.gov/unaccredited-districts.
Although there was one person who asked those in attendance to weigh in on these proposals, virtually all who spoke said the district has finally improved and now they have a superintendent who demonstrated that he is committed in making the district accredited.
The public can also submit comments online until Feb. 7 by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.