I have lived in the Kansas City, Missouri Metro area for 33 years. Of those 33 years that I was aware, I have always been ashamed of the schools in nearby KCMO. I remember the whole desegregation busing deal and how much “white flight” that caused. I remember the endless parade of superintendents and the strange qualifications they needed to be hired and the strange circumstances surrounding their departure. I remember the Jon Stossel report on how throwing money at a problem doesn’t solve a problem. He used the KCMO schools as in example in that the average per student spend at that time was $10,000. How schools had nice Olympic size pools, but few graduates. I remember the whole concept of magnet schools, a school for African studies or a school for this or that. I remember the school board, with members like Duane Kelly, and their outrageous disregard for practical decisions. I remember the district losing its accreditation, meaning graduates with diplomas meant little to college entry.
All of those memories have quickly disappeared as the bold new leadership of the current KCMO school superintendent has taken hold. This man has to be the most courageous leader in KCMO in generations. When he said that we have to stop doing things for adults and start doing things for the kids, he laid it all out to the school board as to what approach he was going to take. A couple of weeks ago, he announced his plan to close HALF of all the schools in the KCMO school district, fire much of the personnel, and make teachers at the remaining poor performing schools re-apply for their positions. Where would we be if such bold action had been taken decades ago. To add the feather to his cap, last night, Covington was able to pass his plan through the board by a 5 to 4 vote. This move is apolitical. It is about leadership in a time of crisis. This is an example of using a crisis to enact positive change. To contrast the approach of Covington to Obama, if Obama had been the superintendent I believe his approach would have been to build new schools, hire additional teachers and administrators, close all private schools in KCMO and outlaw home schooling. He would also pass a 1% earnings tax for schools only. I think John Covington deserves the keys to every city in the metro for showing people how it is done. I might also add that this approach is so bold, it is making the top headlines everywhere. For once, KCMO Schools are getting good press.