Mayor, School Board President Say Community Must Save KCMOSD

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The tension between the two men was, at times, palpable. Kansas City Missouri Mayor Sly James and Kansas City Missouri School District Board president Arick West called a press conference on Monday to discuss the future of the embattled district.

The two say that they agree that the community must save the district before the state steps in, but the two men disagree strongly over the details about how to make that happen.

"We need to be focused on doing it right, not doing it fast," said James.

Last week, James proposed a plan to save the soon-to-be-unaccredited school district in which the mayor would lead an administrative team of three education professionals - including a chief executive officer - and abolish the school board.

The idea of abolishing the school board has met with some resistance, especially from the school board itself.

"There's nothing to suggest that the mayor can do a better job," said board member Arthur Benson last week. "There is no evidence nationally that a mayoral take over of a public school district will have any apprecialble effect on student learning and achievement."

On Monday, West said that for the district to succeed, it will take a partnership with the mayor's office.

"It's going to take a partnership with a lot of other folks," said West.

The state Board of Education voted to strip the district of its accreditation effective January 1 because of continuing problems - including plummeting test scores - and give the district until June of 2014 to avoid a state takeover.

Lawmakers from districts surrounding the KCMOSD say that they fear that after the district loses it's accreditation, there will be a mass exodus of students transferring to and overwhelming neighboring districts. The legislature is expected to address that issue again early next year.

Following a meeting with the state board last week, Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro said that, " the community needs to come to consensus on the best course of action."

"The legislature needs to consider emergency legislation to give the state board greater flexibility in determining when and how to intervene with the looming unaccredited school district," said Nicastro.

James says that now is the time to come up with a plan for the district.

"What is now available to us is more time between now and a pre-undetermined date in the future to come up with a plan going forward," said James.

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