Two things have emerged as Mark Bedell prepares to take over as superintendent for the Kansas City Public Schools; he has plenty of support from the district and he's ready to take over the growing charter school movement in the city.
“I’m very competitive. And we are losing kids to the charter schools so they are a competitor,” Bedell said at a news conference at Paseo Academy.
While Bedell said he would foster a "cordial" relationship with the city's charter schools, he says the district must do better in attracting them to KCPS.
“We can’t sit here as a public school system and ignore the fact that charter schools are steadily popping up, and that we have 10,800 of our students who are in those charter schools that should be attending our school system.”
Bedell has a full couple of days in Kansas City before he heads back to Baltimore County where he is assistant superintendent for high schools. He met with student government leaders Monday afternoon and Tuesday will tour Lincoln College Preparatory Academy, Foreign Language Academy, King Elementary School, Gladstone Elementary School and Central Middle School.
In addition to board members and staff, community members and the teacher's union also attended Bedell's Monday news conference. Everyone praised his energy and openness.
“The important thing for me is that you are focused on children and that’s the message that came through loud and clear with Dr. Bedell,” said teacher union President Andrea Flinders.
Bedell brings with him a reputation for working closely with the teachers. The union president in Baltimore County said he would be sorely missed. Flinders says she expects the same here. “It has been his history so I don’t see any reason why it would change now.”
Bedell knows he has plenty of work ahead. In addition to the charter school challenge the district is still not fully accredited. He says he'll have an action plan for his first 100 days in office soon after he takes over July 1.
“I don’t have the magic potion," Bedell said. "I don’t. But what I do have is a set of skills and a manner that allows me to connect with students in a way that many haven’t been able to do.”
One of the concerns with any new superintendent in KCPS is how long will they stay. Are they truly committed to the school district or using it as a stepping stone to a bigger job?
Outgoing board chairman Jon Hile addressed that question head on.
“For far too long, too many of us have relied on others to shape the future of our schools. We have hoped, and ultimately been let down, over and over again, who offer quick fixes, magic beans and other seductive promises to improve our schools.
"Dr. Bedell represents both a break from that past and a new future for the Kansas City Public Schools,” Hile said.
Bedell also says he wants to make Kansas City his home and said he was enrolling his three children in the district Monday. He said on KCUR's Up to Date Monday that he was committed to KCPS for the next five years, when his 8th grade daughter will graduate from high school.
Bedell committed to creating a highly active one-on-one mentoring system, a program that increased high school graduation rates in both Baltimore County and in Houston where he was a school improvement officer. He says he mentored a few of these every year himself, something he has also committed to do in Kansas City.