Mayor and School Board President Convene Discussions About District Governance

Dec 5, 2011

Kansas City Mayor Sly James and School Board President Airick Leonard West committed to a series of community conversations over the next few months about the governance of the school district. Neither has endorsed the idea of a mayoral takeover of schools, but they say no idea is off the table.

Mayor James says he began convening people to talk about the school district after Missouri education commissioner Chris Nicastro told him that it was difficult to do anything in Kansas City because it's so divided.

"And I said, I think we have to get into this," James said, "I think we need to do something here to try and bring people together and figure out what to do."

As the state board met last Thursday, Mayor James sent a letter to Nicastro proposing a mayoral takeover of the district. He now says this is just one of many options up for discussion. School board president Airick Leonard West says he and other board members are also willing to consider eliminating the elected board.

"It's never been about me and we can't make it about any one person," West said. "This has to be about what does it take to create a system of education that works."

Mayor James says conversations begin this week with small groups of invited participants, but there's no timeline yet for reaching consensus on a new plan.