Posts Tagged ‘the Kansas City School District’

I’ve been whacking away at the KC Star the last several days for various journalistic offenses, including running an untimely letters to the editor page and failing to include in a front-page story the governmental-approval process needed for construction of a controversial office tower on the Plaza.

But today I’m taking off my straw hat (see “About Me” page) to you, KC Star.

A group of editors, reporters, photographers and graphic artists has put together what — halfway into it, at least — is an amazing series on the Kansas City School District.

The six-part series, which began Sunday, is beautifully written, carefully and thoroughly reported, and strikingly presented, with great photos, graphics and sidebars. Each of the three parts that appeared Sunday, Monday and Tuesday started out front and then “jumped” inside to take up two full inside, facing pages. 

For any reporter, getting a story that starts on the front and covers two full inside pages is a rarity and a thrill. I was involved in two or three such stories during my 25-plus years as a reporter at The Star.   

Paralleling “Special Report — Saving 17,000 kids” is a six-part series about the end of the line for Pinkerton Elementary School, one of 24 district schools that closed for good last May. That series was written by Eric Adler of the features desk.

To tell you the truth, I haven’t yet made the time to read Adler’s stories carefully, but from a quick scan, they look equally impressive. Tuesday’s installment, for example, profiled the school’s dynamic principal, Derald Davis. (My only beef is that Adler didn’t tell the readers whether Davis has a job in the district this year. Maybe Adler is holding that bit of information until later in the series, however.)  

Day 1 of  “Saving 17,000 kids” was largely about the failures of the past, but it pointed toward the future. “…Granted, in this pivotal year to come, success for the children could be as elusive as ever…” reporter Rick Montgomery wrote. “But at least now everyone seems to be on the same page: It is about the children.”

Day 2 featured a searing profile of Superintendent John Covington, who came to Kansas City from Pueblo, Colo., a year ago. Covington granted long-time school district reporter Joe Robertson full access to his comings and goings, his thoughts and philosophy, and it paid off for them and the readers. 

One of the highlights of the piece is Robertson’s recounting of a day that Covington went home from work exhausted, went straight to bed and woke up at 7:30, worried about being late to work. After taking a shower, he found out it was 7:30 p.m. He’d had a nap, not a full night’s sleep.

Day 3 of the series (Tuesday), featured business writer Mark Davis’ microscopic examination of the district’s financial problems, abuses and, now, vigorous attempts to set things straight. (For example, the district has pared its vendor list from 6,200 to 985.)

Davis quoted Covington, who seemingly is on a crusade to root out insider deals and employment, as saying: “We are going to make sure, under my watch, that the days for making decisions based on the best interest of adults, and this patronage and cronyism that has been so long known to have had a negative effect on how we operate public schools in Kansas City — please know that while I sit in this chair, those days are gone.”

And do you know why I believe him? Why, in one respect, I think he’s got this district moving in the right direction? 

There has not been a single mention of perennial school district sycophant Clinton Adams Jr. If Clinton has left the scene, or has been removed from it, the outlook is much more promising.

Congratulations, then, to John Covington for starting the turn-around of the Kansas City School District and to The Kansas City Star for devoting the time, space and, yes, money to tell this very important story.

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