KCPSSchool districts, frustrated over a system that sets them up to fail, are starting to fight back.

The Kansas City Public School Board announced Thursday they would file a lawsuit against the state board of education and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education over the recent court decision regarding the transfer law. KCPS is trying to block the Missouri Supreme Court ruling which declared the state transfer law constitutional. The court ruled Tuesday that KCPS must pay tuition and cover transportation costs to the four districts of North Kansas City, Independence, Raytown and Center.

At issue is Kansas City’s provisional/unaccredited status which triggers the option for parents to transfer their children to an adjacent accredited district. What KCPS is saying is that they are making progress and should be allowed to continue on that path rather than disrupting children’s education and harming the district as a whole because of the regulations set down by the state board of education and DESE which set them up to fail. In addition, the Kansas City Star uncovered emails showing that Nicastro rushed the bidding process of a consultant to restructure the KCPS system that landed Indianapolis-based CEE-Trust a $385,000 contract to develop a long-range overhaul for the district’s failing schools. The emails showed the Commissioner’s ultimate goal is a statewide district to gather poor-performing schools under new leadership, with an office for innovation and charter school expansion.

Setting them up to fail – too strong a statement? Ask Normandy Schools superintendent Stanton Lawrence who said just last year that the state did not meet its promises for his and Wellston’s school districts which led to Normandy losing its accreditation and facing the same transfer problems as KCPS. “What just happened to Normandy School District at the hands of the state board of education is politically obscene and borderline criminal,” Lawrence said. Normandy’s problem stems from points that they believe they should have earned towards their accreditation which DESE did not grant them. This pushed them into the unaccredited category. The details can be found in this St. Louis American article.

The NAACP called for Commissioner Nicastro’s resignation. The KCPS district is suing the state and it may be followed by the Normany school district. Eight democratic State Reps; Rep. Genise Montecillo; Sen. Paul LeVota; Rep. Bonnaye Mims; Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal; Rep. Judy Morgan; Rep. John Mayfield; Rep. Ira Anders; Rep. Joe Runions have called for her resignation as well and the NEA has uncovered her hand in a special interest petition that would in effect remove teacher tenure and expose districts to tremendous legal liability from teachers suing the districts over the terms of the teacher evaluation program.

Peter Herschend, President of the State Board of Education, supports Chris Nicastro.  Herschend said what Nicastro did had been misunderstood and misinterpreted to suggest she supports reducing tenure protections for teachers. According to him in the Springfield News Leader, “The vast majority of superintendents in Missouri are supportive of the work Nicastro is doing.” This would not ring true for many of the “coalition of the willing” school principals who piloted the proposed teacher evaluation system. At least one elementary school principal said he only tried it on five teachers and found the reporting requirements so time consuming onerous he could not possibly imagine doing it for all the teachers in his building.

There is enough questions about how Commissioner Nicastro has been conducting business that the state auditor’s office has called for student transfer records. We wait with baited breath to see if his office agrees that DESE has not acted in good faith, with good auditing practices or in compliance with state statute.

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Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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