Posts Tagged ‘Kansas City School District’

Now that the volcanic ash has started to settle from last week’s eruption at 12th and McGee, I’m starting to think that some good might come out of the three-day debacle.

Some good…

despite John Covington intentionally (I feel sure) squirting lighter fluid on the always-burning-embers of the Kansas City school board;

despite school board member Arthur Benson flying off the handle and accusing board president Airick Leonard West of causing the eruption;

and despite West apparently dabbling in the mechanics, at least, of a proposed multi-million-dollar bid that was supposed to be the province of the superintendent.

And how, you ask, might some good come out of this?

— It helped, I think, to bring into full public view the fact that significant problems exist between Benson and West and that those two bookends must reconcile their differences if the board is to move forward effectively.

— It showed that West has to be watched closely and has to learn, if he can, to resist the temptation to dip his hands in contractual matters that are off limits to the board until those matters are brought to the board for discussion and approval.

West and Benson

On the first point, Benson said on Friday — the day Covington accepted a new job in Michigan —  that he felt Covington had “used” him and that he was “completely distraught.”

What he apparently didn’t say to West, at least in public (if The Star’s front-page story is a guide) is “I’m sorry.” Those were the words that he should have spoken to West in the wake of his call for West to resign, when he obviously believed that Covington resigned because of West’s meddling.

However, even though Benson might not have apologized publicly, the front-page photo of him with his right arm around West’s shoulder at a Friday news conference spoke volumes.

These two guys need each other, and Kansas City needs for them to work well together. They’re both very bright; one has the benefit of years of experience; the other has the benefit of youth, vigor and good political instincts.

As for the second point — West dipping into matters that are supposed to be left to the administration — an Aug. 26 story by The Star’s Joe Robertson and Dave Helling contained a very disturbing section.

The story said:

“…e-mail records show Covington made a Sunshine Law request earlier this week seeking copies of correspondence between West and bidders hoping to win an $85 million project to modernize the energy efficiency of all district buildings.”

“West provided copies of e-mails to The Star that he believed were responsible for the concerns. Bidders were alerted in the project bid regulations not to have any contact with board members.

“The e-mails, from Peter Hinkle with Schneider Electric, shared a list of best practices and questions to ask in assessing such an energy services contract. Hinkle also shared concerns about the process in an e-mail that records show West forwarded to Covington.

“West wrote Covington, saying, ‘I contacted these folks because I thought they had questions about whom to contact regarding district projects. As it turned out, they wound up being more informative to me…’ “

The company found West to be “more informative” than Covington. Why, West must have been amazed that Schneider officials were so solicitous to him — little old Airick, just one of a handful of people who would ultimately decide who got the contract.

Everybody, even those with limited vision, can see the potential problems with a vendor cozying up to the board president.

I sure hope that West, who is 31 and doesn’t have much in the way of career achievements, can stay on the right side of the road. He’s got a lot of potential, but it could all flood away in an instant if he let temptation and greed get the better of him.

So now things now will settle down at 12th and McGee, and The Star won’t be dedicating as many column inches to the situation there. Nevertheless, Kansas City school district patrons, civic leaders and Star readers will be counting on Joe Robertson, KCMO school district reporter, to keep plenty of sun shining on school board proceedings and behind-the-scenes developments. There’s nothing like a nosy reporter to help keep people honest and alert.

West and Benson should provide another layer of public protection: As they work on their relationship, each will be watching the other like they’d scrutinize amoebae under a microscope.

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All right, let’s quit wringing our hands about John Covington up and quitting as KCMO schools chief after two years on the job and two weeks into the new school year.

F___  him. (My wife suggested that I strike the full word.) Good riddance.

Sorry about the language, but this is really irritating.

Like many superintendents we have had in the past, he’s not really interested in giving the kids a good education; he’s looking out for No. 1.

He smells bigger money and a loftier post.

The afternoon, The Star reported on its website that Covington was being interviewed in Detroit today as the sole candidate to become chancellor of a new special school district in Michigan. Later, the Detroit Free Press reported that Covington had been named chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority, a statewide school system that will oversee the lowest-performing schools in the state.

Now we know what those “other opportunities” were that he talked about in explaining his resignation.

But enough about the crafty, opportunistic Covington. Now, let’s take a look at what direction the district might go from here to try to take the next step forward and possibly get some continuity in the super’s office.

As I look back at the list of superintendents since 1977 — eight acting or interim and 10 full-fledged — something jumps out: The Kansas City district has never had a woman as full-fledged superintendent.

Now, let’s take a look at the Kansas City, Kan., school district. According to its website, it has had 12 superintendents, including current superintendent Cynthia Lane, since 1886. Maybe that’s a misprint. Maybe it’s 12 since 1986, but I don’t think so.


In addition, the district has had a female superintendent since 2005. The first woman to head the district was Jill Shackelford, who served five years before retiring and moving back to her native Oklahoma. She was wildly popular.

At her going-away party, school board member Vicki Meyer said: “You brought true our hopes and our dreams. We couldn’t have asked for anyone to represent our heart and soul better.”

And where did the KCK school board find this diamond in the rough? Why, right in the district’s ranks. Shackelford had been with the district since 1995, and before that she had worked for the nearby Turner School District.

Last year, the KCK school board turned to another insider, Cynthia Lane, who has now been with the district 24 years.


Before becoming superintendent, Lane was a special education teacher, a principal, director of the Wyandotte Comprehensive Special Education Cooperative and assistant superintendent.

You see where I’m headed?

I think KCMO should turn to a woman. In general, I think, women are better grounded and more nurturing than men and they better understand the rhythms and needs of children.

Also, if at all possible, I think the school district should hire from within.

Surely, there are several fine, accomplished women down at 12th and McGee who have shown, over a period of years, that their first interest is, indeed, the children and that they have excellent managerial and communications skills.

That’s a recipe worth trying: A woman whose first interest is the children, knows the district and can communicate well.

By the way, Covington, for all his presence and dynamism, butchered the King’s English. He should have taken some English classes at Metropolitan Community College.

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