More high drama and back room deals are being exposed in how The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education operates. The big news last week was the revelation that Commissioner Chris Nicastro was helping to word legislation for the abolishment of teacher tenure. The teachers would now be held accountable via Common Core assessments. These assessments are from private organizations and not under DESE or district control.
The Kansas City Star reports that Nicastro has been instrumental in planning more charter school expansion in the Kansas City School district. This plan is even as the district has shown improvement in its scores, a necessary component necessary to regain accreditation. Nicastro was also creating a job for Norm Ridder, retiring Springfield superintendent, for a position in the charter expansion plan. This plan would also ensure that DESE retain control of the district. From Emails detail a hidden plan for Kansas City Public Schools:
The electronic trail exposes a rushed bidding process, now criticized, that ultimately landed Indianapolis-based CEE-Trust a $385,000 contract to develop a long-range overhaul for the district’s failing schools.
Summer discussions in emails reveal Nicastro’s wish for a statewide district to gather poor-performing schools under new leadership, with an office for innovation and charter school expansion.
In mid-August, days before the state’s district report cards were to be released to the public showing a surprisingly high score for Kansas City, a CEE-Trust partner shared his talking points with Nicastro and staff debunking the performance of a district where 70 percent of the students still perform below proficiency.
“It suggests a conspiracy against our success,” said Kansas City Superintendent Steve Green.
The state board approved CEE-Trust at its Aug. 20 meeting, and emails show the department and the partners had prepared responses regarding their choice and the process to come.
In an internal email Aug. 21 regarding media interview requests for Gray, Nicastro wanted him to tread carefully around the question of charter schools.
“He needs to know to take a ‘middle of the road’ and/or neutral position on charters,” she wrote. “Charters are fine as part of the solution; they are here and not going away. They must be high quality. They will try to paint them as the outsiders, funded with private money, determined to privatize all public education, yada yada.” (MEW bolded)