Decision on KCPS accreditation expected Tuesday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The fate of the more than 16,000 Kansas City Public School students is now in the hands of a six-member board in Jefferson City, set to rule on the district's accreditation on Tuesday morning.

For the man tasked with turning around the perennially underperforming district, there's little left to do but wait, and continue to work toward next year.

"I think the main thing is to not allow it to become distracting," Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Stephen Green told 41 Action News on Monday.  "I think if we allow it to, it could become something that we become so preoccupied with that we lose focus on what we need to do this year."

What the district needs to do, Green said, is continue to build on rebounding test scores and attendance levels, and establish a trend of improvement. Only then will the district be able to regain full accreditation, of which it was stripped in 2011.

"What we can control is what we do now to have a good announcement about further gains and growth next year," Green said.

If the board does not rule in KCPS' favor on Tuesday, the district could face the same problems now stymieing two smaller districts near St. Louis, which have each lost thousands of students to a transfer law that allows them to leave unaccredited districts for better schools, often at the unaccredited district's expense.

"I think we've seen an example of instability if you look at what's happening on the east side of the state. Normandy, Riverview Gardens are going through a tumultuous time right now," Green said.

"Stability is the most important variable in all of this," Green said. "Stability for our school district, the more stable we are, the more stable the surrounding districts can be."

Green made a point to thank the leaders of surrounding districts, many of whom have supported KCPS in its bid to regain accreditation. No neighboring district, Green said, would want a flood of new students next year without the time to put infrastructure and new teachers in place to handle them.

"The instability has repercussive effects that will last for a great deal of time," Green said.

District leadership would have few options remaining if the board rules against them Tuesday. They could appeal to lawmakers to change the law – something which is already in discussion – before the new school year. The district could also sue to forestall the law, an action Green said would be beyond his purview as superintendent, but did not take off the table.

"Litigation and politics get pretty murky from time to time," Green said. "But if that's the only alternative I'm certainly sure that it will be considered along with other things."

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