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Education

KCUR 89.3 covers education issues across the Kansas City region and in Kansas and Missouri. 

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Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Public Schools Supt. Mark Bedell says he’s done observing – it’s time to act.

Last month, Bedell outlined his plan to move KCPS forward in a 22-page report that recapped his experiences visiting schools during his first 100 days as superintendent.

Wikipedia -- CC

In his State of the State speech Tuesday, Gov. Sam Brownback threw down a gauntlet for state universities: come up with a $15,000 bachelor's degree. In education world, almost nobody saw that coming.

But now that the idea for a bargain bachelor's is out there, it's up to the Kansas Board of Regents to try and make it a reality.

Danny Wood / KCUR 89.3

The controversial $1.8 billion Brookridge redevelopment proposal in Overland Park is a step closer to being subsidized with help from taxpayer funds. A special committee told the Shawnee Mission Board of Education Wednesday that it should not use its veto power to stop the creation of a tax increment financing district (TIF).

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Missouri has slipped another spot in a national ranking of teacher pay.

“Missouri teachers are earning even less compared to national average as they did last year,” Aurora Meyer, spokeswoman for the Missouri State Teachers Association, says. “Overall, Missouri dropped a spot to 43rd nationwide for average classroom teacher salary.”

The ranking is based on data from the National Education Association and the National Center for Education Statistics.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

It is late morning, and Barb Wunsch limps a bit as she emerges from her office in the enrollment area of the Hickman Mills School District. Twice already she’s banged her knee on the corner of her desk in the process of jumping up to cope with a new situation.

Outside of her office, at least a dozen people sit at tables. The adults busily sort through piles of papers and fill out forms. Children color or read the children’s books on hand in the office. Wunsch moves among the tables, dispensing advice, checking on documents and admiring a newborn in a baby carrier.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Hickman Mills Supt. Dennis Carpenter will soon have a new job at the Lee's Summit R-7 School District.

“How do you live in a metropolitan area and believe yourself to be a school leader and not jump at the opportunity to serve as superintendent in one of the top places to live in this country?” Carpenter said Monday at a news conference.

The Lee's Summit Board of Education is finalizing Carpenter’s contract for the 2017-18 school year. It’s likely to be approved at the Jan. 19 board meeting.

Gustavo Castillo / Wikimedia Commons

A change in state statute is unlikely to make more schoolyard fights felonies.

When Missouri lawmakers made third degree assault a Class E felony, up from a misdemeanor, two school districts in the St. Louis area issued dire warnings that the criminal code revisions could have a dramatic impact on school discipline.

Maria Carter / KCUR 89.3

Another metro school district is at a contract impasse with its teachers.

Teachers and the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools are heading into non-binding fact finding after failing to reach a deal.

The two sides held talks with a mediator twice last month but that also failed to result in a contract.

Teachers and the district say the dispute is not over how much of a pay hike to give but rather how to distribute the two percent raise.

Republicans lawmakers reacted to the 2015 protests on the Mizzou campus by creating a commission to review the entire university system’s operations and recommend changes. And if the UM System failed to implement those changes, lawmakers would respond by slashing the system’s budget.

Those recommendations were released today.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

It’s getting harder to fill teaching positions in Kansas, especially in rural and urban districts.

In a report released in August, KSDE talked about the challenges the state faces to make sure there is a reliable source of teachers in the future and how to maintain a veteran teaching corps. "Kansas isn’t experiencing a greying of the profession but actually a greening," said the report.

But there’s a new program at Kansas State University to help fill the need.      

It used to be pretty easy to at fill open jobs for elementary teachers in Kansas.

Barbara Shelly / KCUR 89.3

Ingels Elementary School in the Hickman Mills district marked the days before the holiday break with a concert, a chance to spray the principal with silly string and enough cookies and candy canes to vault children into the new year on a sugar high.

Like teachers everywhere, the faculty was visibly relieved as the closing bell drew near. But this group may need the break more than their peers in some other schools.  As the principal, Sabrina Winfrey, told parents at the start of the concert, featuring 3rd and 4th graders, “this year has been a bit different.”

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

It only took the Olathe Board of Education about 20 minutes to approve the hiring of a new superintendent for substantially more money than it paid the previous top administrator.

On a unanimous vote, the board hired John Allison, the current superintendent in Wichita, with a base salary of $250,000.

Marlin Berry, who resigned in April, was making $231,263.

KBA

In a budget year that remains challenging for many school districts in Kansas, 34 districts got some bad news Friday afternoon.

The state sold the investment portfolio of the Kansas Bioscience Authority (KBA) for $14 million. That's far below the $25 million it was estimated to generate. 

The KBA's sale was part of  a complicated deal to fix school inequity in the state. Money over $25 million was to be used to help fund that settlement, approved by the state Supreme Court after a special legislative session in July.

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.

Wichita Public Schools

The superintendent from the biggest school district in Kansas is the "sole finalist" for the top job in Olathe Public Schools.

The district says the school board is expected to finalize the appointment of John Allison at its meeting Monday.

Allison has lead the Wichita district since 2009.  Before that, he was superintendent in the Mt. Lebanon School District in Pennsylvania and has been an administrator in Texas and the Shawnee Mission School District.

Barbara Shelly / KCUR 89.3

If an event at Ingels Elementary School calls for participation from parents, Shari Anderson is there.

Goodies for grandparents. Check. Anderson has legal guardianship of two grandchildren who are enrolled at the school.

Muffins with moms. Why not? She’s mothering the kids.  

Olathe School District

The Olathe Public Schools issued a statement Thursday morning about racial incidents reported at Olathe North High School.

Principal Jason Herman informed parents Wednesday.

"I wanted to make you aware of some very concerning behavior recently occurring at North. We have had several incidents in which students were harassed based on their race and/or ethnicity," he said in a letter.

The University of Missouri should emphasize diversity in its recruitment, train professors in the importance of diversity in their courses and increase outreach to improve diversity among faculty and staff, a systemwide task force recommended on Wednesday.

Those proposals were among priority items included in the task force’s report. It was responding to a comprehensive audit of diversity, equity and inclusion practices at the university conducted by the consulting firm IBIS.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Electing a new president is usually not a cause for great alarm in schools.

But teachers say Donald Trump’s election is causing students to turn on one another and pitting teacher against teacher.

On Wednesday, Olathe North High School Principal Jason Herman sent a letter to parents saying, "We have had several incidents in which students were harassed based on their race and/or ethnicity."

Herman called the behavior "intolerable" and promised swift action by the administration.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Shawnee Mission School District board and its superintendent faced a packed room of very unhappy parents and teachers Monday night.

The district has come under fire for strongly suggesting to staff that they refrain from wearing safety pins. The pins are seen by many as a sign to students that they're in a safe place, but some see the pins as a protest of the election of Donald Trump.

Before the meeting even started, board President Sara Goodburn made it very clear: We'll listen to your concerns but we're not changing our minds.

iStock

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas has stepped into the battle over whether teachers in the Shawnee Mission School District can wear safety pins.

The district has strongly urged staff to refrain from wearing safety pins saying they have become a political symbol. Others have argued the pins simply tell students who feel threatened after the presidential election that they have a safe person to talk to about issues.

Courtesy Hickman Mills School District

School district performance reports matter. They can affect accreditation status, real estate dynamics -- even whether students get to go on field trips.

“We are in an era of testing,” Sabrina Winfrey, the principal of Ingels Elementary School, told a group of parents at her school in the Hickman Mills School District recently. “I would love for your kids to go on more field trips, but right now they need to be in this building learning to read.”

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Everyone knew what the judge was going to do Thursday in an 8th floor federal courtroom in downtown Kansas City when former St. Joseph School District superintendent Dan Colgan appeared for sentencing.

Still, there were a couple of surprises.

Kevin Collison / KCUR 89.3

Four years after opening a school for 190 elementary students in a former office building on Central Street, Crossroads Academy is planning to open a high school in downtown Kansas City in 2018. But first, it needs a building.

“It’s an exciting time for us to be able to grow and add more kids,” said Dean Johnson, executive director of the charter school. “Parents have asked about a high school and that’s always been part of our goals.”

Kansas State Department of Education

About 41 percent of Kansas students are meeting grade-level expectations in English language arts and 34 percent in math, the State Department of Education announced Wednesday.

The 2016 results are statistically comparable to 2015, the year Kansas switched to new tests aligned with more rigorous learning standards.

“We did not see – and we realized we will not see – any dramatic spikes in our state assessment scores, not like what we saw in the past under No Child Left Behind,” says KSDE spokeswoman Denise Kahler.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The results are in, and for the first time in years, Kansas City Public received an accountability score from the state that qualifies it for full accreditation.

But it won’t be enough to convince the State Board the urban school district is back on track.

“We have been very clear that you need to show at least two years,” says Margie Vandeven, Missouri Commissioner of Education.

Still, KCPS Superintendent Mark Bedell sees cause for celebration.

Emory Maiden / Flickr - CC

After two of sessions with a federal mediator, the union representing Shawnee Mission teachers says it's reached a deal with the district.

The two sides declared an impasse back in July and met with the mediator once last month and then finalized the tentative deal last Thursday.

Shawnee Mission will put 0.65 percent more into salaries in the new contract, says union president Linda Sieck. That will cost the district, she says, about $2.9 million dollars more this year.

Sieck says this is a modest increase but everyone is worried about the worsening Kansas budget.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Educators say students more than ever will need to continue their education past high school to have successful careers.

But as the cost of college continues to vastly outpace inflation, paying for a post-secondary education is becoming more difficult, if not impossible, for many families with a low or modest incomes.

The Kauffman Foundation hopes to ease that problem for 1,500 families in the Kansas City area with a $79 million investment over 10 years in a program it's calling KC Scholars.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

If Kansas is forced to reduce its budget by five percent over the next two fiscal years, higher education in the state could take a $56.4 million hit.

That's on top of $47.9 million in reductions the previous two years.

The data comes from budget documents submitted to the Governor's office by the six Kansas Board of Regents universities.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The State of Kansas is now searching for new leadership at its two biggest universities.

Bernadette Gray-Little announced Thursday that she will step down as Chancellor of the University of Kansas next summer. Gray-Little is the 17th KU chancellor and the first woman and first African-American to lead the university.

Her announcement comes as Kansas State University is in the middle of searching for a new president. Kirk Schulz left in June to take over Washington State University. Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers is the interim K-State president.

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