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Kansas City Public Schools Leader Wants Next Strategic Plan To Come From The Community

Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3
Community members participate in a strategic planning exercise at Central Academy of Excellence. The district is soliciting feedback for its strategic plan.

Supt. Mark Bedell says community feedback should shape Kansas City Public Schools’ strategic plan.

“We need your voice. We need your assistance. And we need you to have buy-in to this plan,” says Bedell, who is in his first year with the district.

KCPS already has a master plan. Approved last year, it changed some boundaries and targeted student achievement at underperforming schools.

But that’s the district’s plan, says Bedell. On Tuesday, KCPS asked the public to weigh in at one of two community meetings.

At Central Academy of Excellence, parents, teachers and volunteers said they cared most about success in the early years, a focus on the whole child, the development of critical thinking skills and readiness for college. (Another public meeting ran concurrently at Banneker Elementary.)

Those are the same goals other stakeholders – including educators, students, business leaders and even charter school operators  – have identified in a process KCPS calls “alignment.”

Bedell says what the district needs is an actionable plan, not one that will sit on a shelf collecting dust.

“We don’t want to have a 500 or 600 page document where we’re trying to do everything and be everything,” Bedell says. “We want to be focused on advancing this school system to a level of accreditation.”

That will mean setting realistic goals. For example, KCPS won’t be able to improve its graduation rate of 68 percent overnight. But the district might be able to make incremental progress, a few percentage points each school year, until it’s in line with the national average of 83 percent.

And while there’s been significant turnover at central office in recent years as superintendents have come and gone, Bedell says he’s planning to stay.

Still, he stressed this isn’t his plan.

“Ultimately,” Bedell says, “this school district is the community’s responsibility.”

Elle Moxley covers Missouri schools and politics for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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