1:24 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

St. Joseph School Board Fires Another Administrator, Demotes HR Director

St. Joseph COO Rick Hartigan was fired Thursday night by the board of education.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR

In a move long anticipated by many in St. Joseph, Mo., the Board of Education voted in closed session Thursday night to fire its chief operating officer and demote its human resources director.

The vote was announced in a statement issued early Friday afternoon.

Gone is COO Rick Hartigan who's been on paid administrative leave for about five weeks. Hartigan has been with the district for 26 years, first as communications director. He was promoted to COO ten years ago. He's a former newspaper reporter in St. Joseph.

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7:48 pm
Thu February 26, 2015

Kansas Parents As Teachers Program Still Alive, For Now

The House Social Services Budget Committee changed its mind Wednesday, voting to shelve an earlier recommendation that could have led to the Parents as Teachers program being cut from the state budget.

“We’re going to have another hearing,” said Rep. Will Carpenter, a Republican from El Dorado and chairman of the committee.

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2:55 pm
Mon February 23, 2015

Missouri Leads Nation In Suspension Rates For Black Elementary School Students

Missouri suspends black elementary school students at a higher rate than any other state in the nation.
Credit The Civil Rights Project / UCLA

Missouri suspends black elementary school students at a higher rate than any other state in the nation, according to a new report out Monday from the Civil Right Project at the UCLA.

The Kansas City, Mo., public school district is one of four Missouri districts singled out.

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St. Joseph School District
12:22 pm
Sat February 21, 2015

St. Joseph School Board Ousts Superintendent

St. Joseph Superintdent Fred Czerwonka was fired by the board of education Saturday.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR

Almost two years to the day that he signed his contract with the St. Joseph School District, Superintendent Fred Czerwonka has been fired.

The action was announced in a statement Saturday morning from the district. The board voted 6-0 to fire Czerwonka. Former district superintendent and board president Dan Colgan was absent.

No other personnel actions were taken, according to the statement.

Sources say the district has already created a list of potential interim superintendents if or when Czerwonka exits.

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2:29 pm
Fri February 20, 2015

Second UMKC Professor Resigns Amid Rankings Controversy

John Norton, another professor involved in the scandal surrounding the Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, is stepping down. 

Earlier this month, the University of Missouri Board of Curators released the results of an independent audit. It found UMKC submitted false data to the Princeton Review.

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St. Joseph School District
1:29 pm
Thu February 19, 2015

Missouri State Senator Calls For Prosecutions After Audit Of St. Joseph School District

Missouri state Sen. Rob Schaaf, a Republican from St. Joseph, has called for state prosecutions following the release of an audit report on the St. Joseph schools.
Credit Missour Senate

The fallout following a scathing report on the St. Joseph, Mo., School District from the state auditor has been swift and severe.

State Sen. Rob Schaaf, a Republican from St. Joseph, called for the state attorney general to prosecute those responsible for mishandling district funds.

The audit uncovered up to $40 million in stipends for administrators over the past 14 years that were unknown and unapproved by the St. Joseph Board of Education.

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St. Joseph School District
5:00 pm
Tue February 17, 2015

Missouri State Auditor Rates St. Joseph School District Performance 'Poor'

Hundreds of people showed up to hear the report from the Missouri State Auditor into the St. Joseph School District.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR

The long anticipated state audit of the St.

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4:55 pm
Fri February 13, 2015

Professor At Center Of Bloch School Controversy Resigns

University of Missouri-Kansas City professor Michael Song has resigned. He was at the center of the controversy surrounding UMKC’s Henry W. Bloch School of Management.

Song said his presence had become a distraction.

“For the best interests of the students and programs, I have reluctantly decided to resign from UMKC so that everyone can focus on doing the important thing — training the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators,” Songsaid in a press release issued by UMKC.

UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton accepted Song’s resignation and thanked him for his service.

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St. Joseph School District
5:34 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

St. Joseph School District Administrator Claims He Is Not An FBI Target

St. Joseph School District COO Rick Hartigan is on paid administrative leave.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR

The No. 2 person in the St. Joseph School District, who is now on administrative leave, claims he is not the target of an ongoing FBI investigation of the district.

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St. Joseph School District
2:38 pm
Tue February 10, 2015

St. Joseph School District Braces For State Audit Report

The St. Joseph School District expects a 'scathing' report from the Missouri State Auditor.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR

The beleaguered St. Joseph, Mo., School Board met behind closed doors for three hours Monday night to hear from a host of lawyers. None of what members heard was good news.

The board received a report from one lawyer on the process that lead to district CFO Beau Musser being placed on administrative leave last year. At the time, the district accused Musser of sexual misconduct and creating a hostile work environment. A different investigation cleared Musser of any wrongdoing and after seven months of paid leave he returned to work last November.

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2:02 pm
Mon February 9, 2015

UMKC Chancellor Apologizes For False Online Ranking

UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton.
Credit UMKC

For the first time, UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton apologized on Monday for the untruthful information the university supplied to online reviewers of its Bloch Business School entrepreneurship program.

Morton made the apology on KCUR’s Up to Date with Steve Kraske.

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10:54 am
Wed February 4, 2015

Audit Report On St. Joseph School District To Be Released February 17

The Missouri Auditor will release its report on the St. Joseph School District on Feb. 17
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR

The long anticipated report from the Missouri State Auditor on the scandal-plagued St. Joseph, Mo., School District will be released on Feb. 17.

Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich made the announcement Wednesday. The audit will be released during a public forum at Oak Grove Elementary School. While most audits are simply released online or at a news conference some high profile audits are released at public events.

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Kansas Legislature
5:25 am
Wed February 4, 2015

How Educators Took Back An Education Reform Plan From Politicians In Kansas

Davonte Scott, Keenan Adams and Clentel Perry are robotics students at Schlagle High School in Kansas City, Kan. Their teacher took a non-traditional route to education.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR

When they’re not talking about how to fund education in the Kansas Statehouse, they’re talking about how to change it. How to improve it. How to get better results with the same money.

Six school districts across the state are now rolling out something that may do all of that.

The school districts in Concordia, Marysville, McPherson, Blue Valley, Hugoton and Kansas City, Kan., are all part of something called the Coalition of Innovative School Districts and they all want, among other things, to license teachers differently. In a way, they say, that works best for them.

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Kansas Legislature
3:25 pm
Tue February 3, 2015

Kansas School Districts Fight Plan To Cut Their Current Budgets

The Kansas Senate Ways and Means committee hears testimony on Senate Bill 71.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR

School districts in Johnson County are waging a desperate fight to defeat a bill that would force them to cut millions of dollars from their budgets.

The measure had its first hearing Tuesday in the Kansas Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Educators from across the state lined up to oppose the bill, which would change the way the state distributes state aid around local option budgets.

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5:46 pm
Mon February 2, 2015

UMKC Bloch School Out Of Princeton Review

The Princeton Review, an influential list used by colleges and universities for recruitment and development,  has dropped University of Missouri-Kansas City's business school from the 2014 list of top 25 entrepreneurship programs in the country.

The Princeton Review made the decision after an independent audit revealed administrators with the Henry W. Bloch School of Management had inflated data about enrollment and programs.

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3:27 pm
Fri January 30, 2015

Roberts: New School Lunches Out Of Reach For Many Districts

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts visits with cafeteria works at Mill Valley High School.
Credit Elle Moxley / KCUR

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts dined on chicken teriyaki bites, brown rice and green beans at Mill Valley High School in Shawnee, Kan., Friday, where he discussed federal nutrition guidelines with students and staff.

"This menu I think would meet even Mrs. Obama's approval," Roberts quipped, taking a bite of pineapple.

Roberts, the new chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has long criticized the new school lunch rules pushed by First Lady Michelle Obama. Roberts says the standards are impossible for some districts to meet.

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9:37 am
Fri January 30, 2015

Independent Review Supports UMKC Bloch School's Top Ranking

A report released Friday confirms the rankings of the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Bloch School of Management.

The Journal of Product Innovation Management ranked the Bloch School number one in innovation management research. Controversy started last year after an article in the Kansas City Star questioned the validity of ranking the school as a global leader.

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Kansas Legislature
3:45 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

Kansas Senate Bill Has Educators Worried

A bill filed Tuesday would cut state aid to Kansas school districts in the current fiscal year.
Credit Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

A bill in the Kansas Senate would reduce the amount of state aid to most school districts in Kansas in the current fiscal year.

The measure is what educators in Kansas feared the most — a bill that would force districts to cut their budgets before the current fiscal year ends in July.

The measure would cut state aid for Local Option Budgets, that portion of school budgets raised through local property tax.

The state provides money to help equalize those taxes between wealthy and low-income districts.

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8:35 am
Wed January 28, 2015

Kansas City Metro Schools Seek Bandwidth As They Add Mobile Devices

Fort Osage School District in eastern Jackson County has recently added a lot of traffic to its Internet highways.
Credit Kyle Palmer / KCUR

The best way to visualize a school district’s Internet connection may be to compare it to a busy network of highways:

First, an Internet service provider, like Time Warner or Google Fiber, sends in the Internet on one big eight-lane freeway to a district’s main servers. Here, the Internet connection may meet some firewalls and content filters — think of these as tollbooths — and then, the Internet is streamed out to the district’s schools through fiber cable on what you might think of as two-lane country roads.

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4:45 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

Johnson County Voters Agree To More Local Dollars For Five School Districts

Voters in five Johnson County school districts have agreed to an increase in how much money can come from local property taxes.

Kansas schools have two major sources of money, state dollars and local property taxes. But the state limits how much districts can tax. Last year the Legislature raised the cap from 31 to 33 percent of a district's budget.

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10:36 am
Sun January 25, 2015

Kansas City Students Put Hand-Crafted Robots To The Test At FIRST Tech Challenge

Student built robots attempt to capture wiffle balls and put them in tall bins at the FIRST Tech Challenge qualifier.
Cody Newill KCUR

Nearly 500 students from the Kansas City metro area competed in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, or FIRST, Tech Challenge qualifier Saturday. 

Thirty-seven teams of middle and high school students filled UMKC's Swinney Recreation Center. Each team brought a small remote-controlled robot to roll around small arenas. The students guided their robots to try to collect Wiffle balls and place them in tall bins.

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3:17 pm
Fri January 23, 2015

Missouri Governor Wants More Math And Science Classes In Elementary Schools

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon meets with students at Upper Mill Creek Elementary in Belton, where students are learning about robotics.
Credit Elle Moxley / KCUR

How do you get fifth and sixth graders to see a connection between what they're doing in school and their future careers?

Talk to them about Walt Disney.

"As a sixth grader, he was sketching mice and ducks in his art class," Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon told students during an assembly at Mill Creek Upper Elementary in Belton Friday.

The school is one of 34 across Missouri that's teaching elementary school students about math and science through Project Lead the Way, which Nixon hopes will inspire them to pursue those fields as adults. 

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St. Joseph School District
10:04 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

St. Joseph School Superintendent, COO Placed On Administrative Leave

St. Joseph School District Superintendent Dr. Fred Czerwonka has been placed on administrative leave.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR

Update: Jan. 22, 2:25 pm

The St. Joseph School District has confirmed that Superintendent Fred Czerwonka and Chief Operating Officer Rick Hartigan are now on administrative leave.

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3:52 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

Cuts To K-12 Education In Kansas Revised Upwards

Cuts to K-12 education in Kansas could be $127 million next fiscal year.
Credit alamosbasement / Flickr--CC

Funding cuts to public schools in Kansas may be more severe than education observers first thought.

Gov. Sam Brownback has proposed that the legislature rewrite the state's school funding formula. While that happens, he has proposed funding K-12 education in fiscal 2016 with block grants.

But a new analysis just released Wednesday by the Kansas Department of Education says money from the state for classroom instruction will be reduced by $127 million next year.

Initially, the department’s analysis had pegged the loss at $107 million.

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7:41 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

St. Joseph School Board Meets In Tense, Day-Long Session

The St. Joseph School Board meets in executive session to discuss a scathing audit and personnel issues.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR

The St. Joseph School Board spent a tense eight hours behind closed doors Tuesday.

Board members spent more than five hours with investigators from the Missouri State Auditors office, going through the 49-page draft report page-by-page.

Those who’ve seen the report won’t discuss specific recommendations but describe it as "scathing."

After the meeting, board president Brad Haggard refused to discuss the audit's findings or recommendations. The district will write a response that will become part of the report.

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St. Joseph School District
1:03 pm
Mon January 19, 2015

St. Joseph School Board To Review 'Scathing' Audit

The St. Joseph School Board will review a state audit report in executive session Tuesday.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR

Officials in the St. Joseph School District have been nervously waiting for months for a report from the Missouri State Auditor.

KCUR has learned that the report is back and the board will discuss it Tuesday in executive session.

The Missouri State Auditor moved a five-member team into district headquarters last Spring after it was revealed that the new St. Joseph school superintendent, Dr. Fred Cerwonka, handed out $5,000 stipends to 54 administrators without seeking board approval.

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10:18 am
Sat January 17, 2015

Kansas Educators Confused About Governor's Budget Proposal

Kansas educators are confused over Gov. Brownback's proposed budget.
Credit Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The watch word for school funding in Kansas is now block grants. But how that will work remains a mystery to educators.

Gov. Sam Brownback wants to scrap the current per pupil funding formula which, he says, is complicated and inefficient.

While lawmakers try to write a new formula, Brownback proposes to give school districts lump sum payments over the next two fiscal years equal to about what they receive now.

Across the state, that’s $3 billion in aid to local school districts.

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9:47 am
Fri January 16, 2015

Hickman Mills School District Closer To Full Accreditation

The Hickman Mills School District is getting closer to full state accreditation.
Credit Brad Wilson / Flickr-CC

The Hickman Mills School District in south Kansas City, Mo., appears to be inching closer to full accreditation.

Hickman Mills lost its full accreditation after several years of dismal test scores.

At the State Board of Education meeting Thursday Hickman Mills and two other districts updated their improvement plans.

Between the 2012-13 school year and 2013-2014 Hickman Mills made huge improvements on test scores and college and career readiness.

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5:40 am
Wed January 14, 2015

Tensions Ease Between Charter Schools And Kansas City Public Schools

Fourth grade students at Gordon Parks Elementary School listen while Kansas City, Mo. Mayor Sly James reads.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR

Last week a group of parents in Midtown Kansas City realized a dream: they raised enough money to get two new charter schools off the ground.

There was a time when such an announcement would be met with suspicion and perhaps even hostility from the Kansas City Public Schools.

Superintendent Steve Green says the district saw itself as a target.

"We isolated ourselves. It’s sometimes a typical response when you’re wounded or in some way hurting you isolate yourself. But it’s probably the last thing you should do," he says.

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Kansas Budget
9:39 am
Sat January 10, 2015

Kansas Budget May Be Stressed Says Bond Rating Agency

A major bond-rating agency says the budget problems in Kansas are getting worse and indicates budget stress.

Standard and Poor's issued its latest report on the Kansas budget Friday and says much of the concern comes from a court ruling on school funding.

S&P says a ruling from a three-judge Shawnee County Court panel could cost the state another $500 million a year in school funding.

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