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Education

Kansas City Public Schools superintendent resigns months after district wins accreditation

A man gestures while speaking at a podium. Behind him are books on a library shelf.
Carlos Moreno, KCUR 89.3
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KCPS Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell talks in January this year after the district regained its accreditation status.

Mark Bedell is the school district’s longest serving superintendent in more than 50 years. Under his leadership, the struggling school district regained full accreditation.

The Kansas City Public Schools superintendent credited with transforming the struggling district is leaving his post.

KCPS announced Thursday that Superintendent Mark Bedell is resigning, effective Aug. 5.

“We have accomplished so much together these last six years. It has been a phenomenal experience working alongside all of you to achieve accreditation for our students. However, the time has come for me to move on personally and professionally,” Bedell said in an open letter to the community.

Anne Arundel County Public Schools announced that it had selected Bedell as its next superintendent of schools. In a news release, the district said Bedell was a former resident in the county. The Anne Arundel Board of Education will meet next Friday to formally vote on Bedell's appointment.

A KCPS spokesperson said the KCPS board of directors unanimously approved Deputy Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Collier as interim superintendent for the 2022-23 school year. Collier has served as an educator in Kansas City Public Schools for 22 years.

Bedell said in his letter that he was leaving the district in “good hands.”

“After the Missouri State Board of Education restored our accreditation in January, I emphasized that the work would continue — and it will. What we have built over the last six years is a solid foundation of support for our students and families,” Bedell said.

When Bedell took over as superintendent in 2016, the district had been provisionally accredited since 2014. KCPS lost its accreditation in 2012 after high superintendent turnover and the closure of half the district's schools.

Under Bedell’s leadership, test scores and graduation rates improved enough for the state board to fully restore the district’s accreditation earlier this year. The board also cited the district’s consistent leadership in its decision making.

Bedell's tenure made him the longest serving superintendent in the school district in more than 50 years.

Despite the district's accomplishments during his tenure, in his letter Bedell cited problems he said he was unable to overcome.

“I’m talking about racism, injustice, a lack of affordable housing, inequitable economic development practices, violence and other systemic issues that cannot be solved in our classrooms alone,” Bedell said. “Dr. Collier will need the support of the city and community if this district is to continue to make progress.”

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas thanked Bedell for his leadership in a statement on Thursday, crediting him with transforming the district and regaining its accreditation.

"His belief in our children and their potential is unmatched and his leadership in relation to COVID and racial reckoning helped shepherd our city through tough times," Lucas wrote. "More than anything, he is an exceptional father, husband, and teacher. Kansas City will miss him. I will miss him even more. I wish him well."

Bedell grew up in Rochester, New York, but said in a 2016 candidate forum that he was "a KCPS student. But I am one that succeeded."

Bedell is the only one of eight siblings to graduate from high school and was homeless for a time in ninth grade. He attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he played basketball and led Division III schools in scoring his senior year.

Before coming to Kansas City, Bedell was an assistant superintendent in the Baltimore County District for four years. He began his career in the Houston Independent School District as a teacher before being promoted to school improvement officer.

His departure comes as KCPS plans to “reimagine teaching and learning” under its Blueprint 2030 strategic plan. School closures are proposed under the plan, but Bedell said earlier this year it would give students more resources and amenities as many schools face declining enrollment.

Community reacts

Bedell’s impending departure was met with disappointment and gratitude from Kansas City leaders.

Jason Roberts, president of the Kansas City Federation of Teachers, said he was sad to see Bedell leave the district but wished him well. He said the Bedell years had been a time of growth for the district.

“I think he has been a steady hand for a district that has not had a steady leader, and the staff across the board, at every level, have got behind his leadership,” Roberts said.

Kansas City residents took to Twitter to thank Bedell for his leadership.

However, some expressed concerns about how his departure would impact the district.

Former school board chair Pattie Mansur said she believes the district will continue to thrive because of the groundwork laid by Bedell.

“The truth is, you can't get to accreditation just through fits and starts. You have to have a solid foundation on which that accreditation process is built,” Mansur said. "And he puts that in place, and that's still there."

Updated: June 9, 2022 at 5:18 PM CDT
This story has been updated to include community reaction and news that Bedell will become superintendent of schools for the Anne Arundel School District in Maryland.
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