Stephen Green became interim superintendent of the Kansas City Public School District in September 2011, then superintendent in April 2012.
Nearly four years later, his time in Kansas City has ended. Green recently announced that he is leaving the district to be closer to his children and grandchildren in the Atlanta area. He will lead the Dekalb School District starting this year.
Green has led the district through the loss of accreditation and the threat of a state takeover. He has brought stability back to the district with his focus on curriculum, instruction and student achievement.
Green spoke with Up To Date host Steve Kraske about the struggles the district faced under his tenure, how it has rebuilt, and how it will successfully transition and regain accreditation.
On the loss of accreditation in 2012
It was very dark, I mean, it was very disheartening in some regards but also, like a lot of athletes you use that as a trigger for fight and for inspiration and for -- you use it to mobilize your troops as a general would and he you have a common target you need to reach and you have a hill or a mountain that you gotta climb and you go for it.
On what he did to rebuild after the accreditation loss
I mean, I knew from within, looking from the district from inside out what the potential was. It’s just like you see in individuals. A coach sees it in a kid, a teacher sees it in a child, I saw it as the leader of the Kansas City Public Schools — this district has great potential. It’s just not realized that potential and it's up to me as a leader to bring that forth.
It meant having hard conversations inside about how we're going to do things, sometimes it meant me being very prescriptive about the way we’re going to approach things, sometimes it meant having hard discussions about what’s the best strategy here.
On his focus on curriculum and student achievement
We began to assess and reallocate resources to the classroom. We focused on students first. We made the sacrifices, we took from some areas that we didn’t think were necessarily directly focused directly on what needed to happen in the classroom. We redid the curriculum. First thing we did, I think it was the Spring of 2012, we brought in a team of 20-25 folks from the state department to do a curricular audit, very much like you do your finances. How much are we aligned to the state standards? Where are there gaps in articulation between one class and the next class? Etcetera, and we just redid the curriculum.
And so it’s about accountability, it’s about a structure that you implement with fidelity, and you stay with it and we’ve been refining it for the last three years and every year we’ve gotten not just a little better but a lot better. It still needs some work it’s still not a perfect structure. But it’s a structure that is sound and solid, that it can be built upon and enhanced.
On whether the work is done
There’s still work to be done in terms of refining the system. I think it’s well on its way. But my administrative mantra when I was being trained was no matter how good you are you can always get better. We know that our students are capable of more and that we have a responsibility and opportunity to draw that out of them. So those are the kinds of thing ... you know there’s still unfinished business, but I’m very confident that the leadership that’s here, the structure that’s here, the talent that’s here will sustain that.
On whether the transition to new leadership will hurt the district's stability
I think this is a unique circumstance here. The outcome, the body of work speaks for itself, the metrics speak for themselves. Whether you are looking at us operationally, academically, or financially the Kansas City Public Schools is on very sound footing and moving in the right direction. I don’t know how long it’s been since we could say that. There’s a foundation and there’s a structure here that was deliberately put in place to outlive me as a superintendent. Kansas City is in a position to no longer be superintendent dependent. It can endure and survive a change of leadership and not lose its focus.
On test scores for this year and regaining accreditation
We have a pretty good indication, a pretty good theory of probability of where we're going to come out, at a low end, conservative end, and at a high end, and either one of those I think we're going to be eligible for full accreditation conversation.
I’m going to advocate strongly for that, I have a team that’s ready to do that, even from my distance I’m going to be advocating strongly that the change of classification — that we should get what we’ve earned.
I think that it should be recognized, the body of work and the four years of successive and progressive growth oughta be recognized and acknowledged. And I think we’re about ready to enter into a conversation that the Kansas City Public Schools has never had the opportunity to have. That we’re fully accredited and we want you to change our classification accordingly based on what we’ve earned.
On his legacy and contribution to Kansas City Public Schools
I think showing against the odds, I think we were in a situation where we actually had to defy gravity and showing folks here in Kansas City. I think Kansas City, the school district was like any other human being in some regards — low self esteem, didn’t think much of itself — and I think that’s changed. I think there’s a pride, there’s a “we can do this”, that’s what I was saying to the teachers, I think there’s a reborn confidence inside the Kansas City Public Schools, but I also think we earned some credibility and respect externally.
Some folks who had left the district — said it was washed up, had turned their backs on the district and said no more — have changed their minds and say 'you know what this is real, this is not what it was before and we’re going to get on board.'
A legacy that I see is being able to re-invite folks back to the conversation and involvement and partnership with the Kansas City Public Schools. Investing their time or their talent or their financial resources in the Kansas City Public Schools. That to me is a development towards sustainability and an important legacy that I’d like to say I had a role in.
It’s been an honor and a pleasure to work here and I will still always have a place in my heart for the Kansas City Public Schools.