New KCPS Superintendent Issues 100-day Plan, Calls For Autonomy And Transparency

Dec 15, 2016

Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell has issued his 100 day report.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Mark Bedell has been superintendent in the Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) for 100 days and he's making one thing clear to the Board of Education, his staff and parents: things are going to change.

Bedell issued his so-called 100 Day Plan to the Board Wednesday.

Bedell's plan calls for more transparency, more autonomy for building principals and more intensity around recruiting and retaining teachers.

He also pledges to work closely with the Board, but he makes it clear that the Board makes policy but he calls the plays. He likened the relationship to the one a coach has with a basketball team owner. "They design a unified organizational structure that enhances the strengths of the coach and players and allows them to execute with excellence on the court," Bedell writes in his report to the board.

Bedell also notes that previous school boards meddled too much in the day-to-day operation of the district.

The superintendent also pledges to engage "the community in the strategic planning process."

The plan also calls for what Bedell calls an "instructional digital conversion." He believes academics will be enhanced with new technology in the classroom.

He wants to enhance the district's teacher recruiting, but he also wants to grow the next generation of leaders. Bedell says he will establish "a leadership development academy" to train future principals, vice principals and teacher-leaders.

But perhaps the most profound change Bedell envisions is how the district will approach creating curriculum.

Bedell says in the past KCPS make decisions based on what he calls a bureaucratic mindset. "Compliance is the goal of these types of decisions, and they rarely achieve anything other than average results," he writes. "Instead, every decision has to be made based on its impact on students. That's the bottom line!"

To achieve that Bedell wants more academic decisions made at the building level. "Schools will be given the freedom and resources they need to explore and grow academic solutions that will thrive in their particular ecosystem," the report says.

Bedell has been very visible in the district since coming on board in July. He makes a point of eating lunch with students, holding community meetings and, he says, playing in pick-up basketball "in the community every Saturday."

The report comes on the heels of KCPS hitting full accreditation scores for the first time in 30 years.

Sam Zeff covers education for KCUR. He's also co-host of KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend. Follow him on Twitter @samzeff.