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Interim Superintendent says she'll lead Kansas City Public Schools 'without missing a beat'

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Kansas City Public Schools
Dr. Jennifer Collier, a KCPS educator for 22 years, will serve as interim KCPS superintendent for the 2022-2023 school year.

Dr. Jennifer Collier has taken on the role of interim superintendent for Kansas City Public Schools. After the departure of longtime superintendent Mark Bedell, she says she knows "exactly what we need to do to move forward."

Kansas City Public Schools is entering the new school year without the leadership of its longtime superintendent, Mark Bedell. But it hopes to maintain the momentum he generated.

“I know exactly what we need to do to move forward, because I had the privilege to work alongside him in most of what we've done,” said Dr. Jennifer Collier, who will serve as the district’s interim superintendent for the next school year.

Collier has been with the district for 22 years, starting as a teacher at Northeast High School, becoming director of human relations and then deputy superintendent.

She said those experiences will benefit her as she continues the district’s existing work on equity and student learning "without missing a beat."

Kansas City Public Schools regained its full accreditation earlier this year after a decade-long struggle and decades marked by high turnover of its leadership. Collier said that’s another reason having someone from the district take the lead is an advantage.

“What we've seen over the years is that there's been a revolving door of leadership, lots of change, lots of change, anxiety and frustration,” Collier said. “And the result has been what we've seen in terms of performance in the classroom.”

As interim superintendent, Collier said her priorities will be equity, academics and social-emotional support for students. One area of academics she’s especially focused on is literacy.

“We have to make sure that all of our students are readers, writers, effective communicators.” Collier said. “That has to be nonnegotiable, because when we set that foundation for our students, they're able to then springboard and do many of the things that they would want to do that they are already capable of.”

One of the ways she said academic achievement will improve is through Blueprint 2030, the district's long term strategic plan. The plan aims to enhance student experiences and give them the same opportunities that students in other districts have.

To effect those changes, though, some schools will be closed and others consolidated.

“Right now, we have some schools that don't offer some courses and others do. And we know that that's not equitable. We want to make sure that all of our schools have the same opportunities provided for students,” Collier said. “And if we consolidate, then we're able to achieve that.”

Still, Collier said that closing schools won't be easy, especially because many people are emotionally attached to the district’s buildings.

This fall, parents, students and community members can weigh in on different ways the district can be reconfigured. The administration will make its recommendation in October to the district’s board of directors, which will make the final decision.

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More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.
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