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Kansas City Superintendent Says This Year's First-Day Excitement Feels 'Different'

Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent visits with students at Manual Career and Technical Center on the first day of school.

Students in the EMT class at Manual Career and Technical Center were honest when Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell asked if they were excited or scared to be back at school.

Scared, said Jayla, a senior. “I just don’t want to fail,” she told Bedell, “and I don’t want to disappoint anybody. Because I refuse to fail.”

Bedell, who made stops at several KCPS schools Monday morning, nodded sympathetically.

“I completely understand. After you graduate, it’s like, this is it. You’re a competitor of ours,” Bedell said. “What we hope we’ve done with you is each year made your experience a better experience, a much richer experience, so when you graduate, you do feel equipped.”

Credit Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
The health science teacher at Manual Career and Technical Center explains to her students what they will be learning this year.

When Bedell walked into the the health science classroom down the hall, the teacher was explaining how to use a medical lift, an assistive device used in nursing care.

“They’re not playing games,” the superintendent said with a grin. He snapped his fingers. “This is what you want to see. Instruction.”

Now in his third year with the district, Bedell said Monday that KCPS has come a long way during his tenure. He expects the district to continue to make progress based on the state’s accountability metrics.

“There’s a different level of excitement this year,” Bedell said. “I want the community to know that we’ve made tremendous investments, even spending into our fund balance to put more money into classrooms.”

This year there are assistant principals in buildings that didn’t have them last year, registrars in every secondary school and more reading interventionists and math specialists to support students who need extra help.

“You’re going to have a fully accredited school district here in the very, very near future,” Bedell said proudly.

School starts this week in most Kansas City area districts.

Elle Moxley covers education for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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