"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Broad Academy Alum, John Covington ('08), Shuts Half of Kansas City Schools

The Kansas City School Board was enthused when they hired John Covington (Broad Class of '08) as Superintendent. So was the Kansas City Star's Editorial Board:

Covington earned good reviews for his work as superintendent of Pueblo City Schools in Colorado over the last three years. He also is a 2008 graduate of the Los Angeles-based Broad Superintendents Academy, a program aimed at improving education in urban school districts.

School Board President Marilyn Simmons said the Broad experience, which includes continuing support and advice, was a plus for Covington.

Yes, that continuing support and advice from Eli and the Boys. Now with half the schools empty by this coming Fall, they will be ripe pickings for the property-hungry corporate welfare charters that will likely kill off most of the remaining public schools. The Board voted 5-4 to support the Broad plan to pull the Kansas City Public Schools into the bath tub for drowning. From the AP:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City's school superintendent said Thursday the plan to shutter nearly half the district's schools, while "painful," will move forward quickly so that all the closures will be complete by fall.

The school board narrowly approved the plan Wednesday night to close 29 of the district's 61 schools to try to stave off bankruptcy. The closures have angered many parents, students and teachers, but administrators say they had no choice because without them, the district would have been in the red by 2011.

"It has been a difficult and painful and emotional process that affects our entire community," superintendent John Covington said at a news conference. "No one likes closing schools."

Now officials have to focus on the massive job of downsizing the district — reworking school bus routes, figuring out what to do with vacant buildings and slashing its payroll.

Covington said he has been working on the transition plan for several weeks and that it would be in place for the start of the school year. He gave few details, but said the plan would likely involve staggering start and class schedule times for middle school students who would attend school with high school students.

"We will be moving forward with deliberate speed to put together a transformation plan that we will be using to make sure that the quality of educational opportunities and the services that we provide for all children in the Kansas City schools that will remain open is of high quality," Covington said.

Administrators have said the closures are necessary to keep the district from plowing through what little is left of the $2 billion it received as part of a groundbreaking desegregation case.

Although other districts nationwide are considering closures as the recession ravages their budgets, Kansas City's plan is striking. In rapidly shrinking Detroit, 29 schools closed before classes began this fall, but that still left the district with 172 schools. Most other districts are closing just one or two schools.

Emotional board member Duane Kelly told the crowd of more than 200 people Wednesday, "This is the most painful vote I have ever cast" in 10 years on the board. Some chanted for the removal of the superintendent, while one woman asked the crowd, "Is anyone else ready to homeschool their children?"

Kansas City Councilwoman Sharon Sanders Brooks said the closure plan had prompted some housing developers to consider backing out of projects.

"The urban core has suffered white flight post-the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. the Board of Education, blockbusting by the real estate industry, redlining by banks and other financial institutions, retail and grocery store abandonment," Brooks said.

"And now the public education system is aiding and abetting in the economic demise of our school district," she said. "It is shameful and sinful."

Under the approved plan, teachers at six other low-performing schools will be required to reapply for their jobs, and the district will try to sell its downtown central office. It also is expected to cut about 700 of the district's 3,000 jobs, including about 285 teachers. . . . .

And this from the Christian Science Monitor:

. . . .The city received $2 billion in a landmark desegregation suit in 1985. In an attempt to bring back students who had fled the public system, it proceeded to build schools with amenities such as an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

“The theory of trying to draw in middle-class families from the suburbs is a good one, but there was no sophistication to that effort,” says Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation in Washington. Cities such as Hartford, Conn., were more successful after thorough research on what would truly bring families back, he says.

“Without addressing the larger issue of concentrations of poverty, the Kansas City public schools are likely to continue to spiral downward,” Mr. Kahlenberg says. “Kids in Kansas City public schools ... already feel shut off from mainstream society. Now, the government is telling them even the schools that they had aren’t going to survive.... There’s likely to be even greater alienation that stems from this.”

If funding for education isn’t stepped up when the current federal stimulus dollars disappear after the next school year, more districts will be faced with dramatic choices beyond shutting underutilized buildings, warns Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools: “Do you give up your art and music programs, or close a magnet center even though it’s popular?” he asks. “These are issues that will impact equity and access mainly in underserved communities.”

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