public schools

St. Joseph School District

Update: April 26 at 10:15 am

The Missouri Public Schools Retirement System said in a letter to the St. Joseph District that Dan Colgan's retirement date was moved from July 1, 2005 to January 1, 2006. That means he improperly received pensions benefits for six months.

In what is the largest settlement in the history of the teacher’s pension system in Missouri, the former superintendent and school board president in the St. Joseph School District will pay back $660,000 in retirement benefits he did not earn.

woodleywonderworks / Flickr--CC

The Missouri State Board of Education Tuesday approved new Missouri learning standards, which will replace the Common Core standards that were thrown out last year. The standards will be used to evaluate students in the state.

Lindsay Thompson, who teaches English at Fort Osage High School in Independence, Missouri, was on the committee that worked for a year and a half to develop the new standards.

Olathe Public Schools

Update 4/8/16 at 4:45 pm

The Rogers School District confirms that Marlin Berry has signed a three year contract that will pay him $215,754 a year with no stated raises built into the contract. His current salary in Olathe is $231,263. That was set to jump to $250,126 had he stayed until the 2017-2018 school year.

Another superintendent from another big metro school district is leaving for another job.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

A new school funding formula for Kansas schools that would replace the current block grant scheme was filed just under the wire last month before lawmakers adjourned for a month-long recess.

Whether that bill passes or even gets a hearing is in question, but what's not in question is the concern educators and some legislators have about the 98-page bill.

www.fundforteachers.org

In the ongoing conversation about what constitutes effective discipline in schools, Independence, Missouri, poses an interesting case study. 

In January, the district briefly came under fire from a group of agitated parents over the use of the ominous-sounding "isolation rooms." In the resulting furor, several child development experts questioned the practice of isolating students as a way to control their behavior. 

Courtesy photo / Kansas City Public Schools

At first, there seemed to be nobody ready to run on the April 5 ballot for three open seats on the Kansas City Public Schools board. Now that's changed dramatically. 

A total of five people have publicly declared write-in candidacies, several coming in the past week. And now two of the races have multiple candidates, lending a sense of belated competition to a campaign that some had feared would be uncontested and, as a result, overlooked. 

A race in Sub-District 5 : Ajia Morris and Catina Taylor

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The consolidation of school districts in Kansas is off the table at least for now. The legislation would have cut in half the number of school districts in the state. 

When the bill had a hearing in the House Education Committee, it was clear opposition was mounting from all over the state. The room was packed, many educators driving hours to testify against the bill.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

There seems to be a growing tenseness over the future of education in Kansas.

The fight last year over block grant funding was hardball and, at times, ugly.

Teachers felt under the gun and many decided to leave the state.

But educators say the attacks this legislative session feel particularly bitter and contentious

You could feel it in room 112 North in the Kansas Statehouse where the House Education Committee meets.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

It's been relatively quiet recently in the scandal plagued St. Joseph School District. But that changed Thursday when the district got word from the state that many of its federal grants will be audited.

The district says it received the notice from the Department of Elementary and Secondary (DESE).

"Your district has been identified due to possible fiscal compliance issues with federal grants," according to the letter from DESE sent to Superintendent Robert Newhart.

Kansas City Public Schools

What should you do if you're caught in an 'active shooter' situation? That question has received a lot of attention in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks this month that killed 130 people.

Prominent security officials like New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton have said organizations like his are undergoing a 'very significant change' in how they approach such situations, trying to more actively fight such shooters instead of negotiating. 

A panel of state officials has approved more than $4 million in emergency aid for 25 Kansas school districts that requested the additional funding.The money was mostly provided to districts with enrollment growth or falling property values. 

The panel approved $400,000 for Kansas districts with growing student population and more than $350,000 for Wichita Public Schools to help educate refugee students. That district has nearly 100 new refugees from Africa and Asia.

Diane Gjerstad, with the Wichita district, says some of those students have had little formal education.

How do you teach religion in public schools without stirring up a hornet’s nest? It's not easy — but if we don’t do it, are we breeding more religious intolerance?

Guest:

  • Linda Wertheimer is an education writer and the author of Faith Ed: Teaching About Religion in an Age of Intolerance. She is the former education editor of the Boston Globe.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

It's not the norm, but it's not uncommon for fraternities to recruit high school seniors to join their organizations. Those that do often reach out to high school athletic coaches, and tap legacies (students with generational ties to the fraternity) and siblings for a night out on the town or a ball game.

At the University of Kansas, it is an age-old tradition.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The Kansas State Department of Education is moving full speed ahead towards its goal of perhaps drastically changing what is taught in public schools.

The department's top two officials brought their case to Johnson County educators and a few lawmakers Tuesday at the Olathe School District headquarters.

"Can we reinvent ourselves and hold on to what we have always done," asked Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson who took over KSDE in July.

Liz / Wikimedia Commons

We’re a month away from a Kansas Supreme Court showdown on whether the state is providing enough money for public schools.

The final briefs in this part of the case were filed Friday.

The arguments from the school districts and the state haven’t changed much over the years.

The school district plaintiffs, including the Kansas City, Kansas School District, say the state needs to provide more money to make sure all Kansas kids get an equal education.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

New test scores released Tuesday show only a quarter of Kansas 10th graders have the math skills needed to be ready for college or a career after graduation. Around a third of 10th graders were shown to have English skills that place them on the college track.

The goal of the new tests is to better judge if students will be ready for college or a job after high school. Board of Education Chairman Jim McNiece says this year's scores may not be as high as some people had hoped, but board members chose to set high goals for the state's students.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Mike Besler is a former Kansas state high school champion quarterback and a member of the Blue Valley West High School Hall of Fame. But he still needs a coach. 

"When I first heard, I was kind of like, 'I want my own space.' But now that I've seen how resourceful it is, it's made a world of difference," Besler says. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR

It’s the kind of story that’s a little hard to believe until you visit the neighborhood.

Just after 8 a.m., a school bus stops on North Freemont Avenue and kids pile on.

They have their backpacks, lunches and homework. It all seems normal.

Except they only live a few blocks from the school and aren't allowed to walk.

It would take Jessica Andrews’ four kids about five minutes to walk to Maplewood Elementary School in the Northland. “We’re really, really close. Why aren't they walking, it’s so close? There’s no sidewalks. It’s not safe for them to walk."

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

On a recent summer morning, a dozen would-be teachers gathered outside Kansas City's Juvenile Justice Center, preparing to go inside. 

"This is a lockdown facility," cautioned Uzziel Pecina, the professor leading what was a rather unusual field trip. "Are there any questions before we enter?" 

Pecina teaches what he calls a "summer community immersion" course at University of Missouri-Kansas City's Institute for Urban Education. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR

In a heated two-hour debate, the Kansas City Public Schools Board of Education voted Wednesday night to get into the charter school business.

The vote was the next step in the process for a partnership between KCPS and the Urban Neighborhood Initiative (UNI). 

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Area school districts seeking additional state aid due to increased enrollment took a beating from the State Finance Council Monday.

Five area districts applied for money from the Extraordinary Needs Fund, a pool of money the Legislature created when it approved block grant funding last session.

But two walked away with no additional state aid. Olathe asked for $458,501 and got zero. Bonner Springs requested $155,094 and also got nothing.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Many veteran teachers speak of a time earlier in their careers when they doubted their choice to teach. 

"It was actually one of my first days teaching kindergarten," says Julie Wilson, who now directs the state-run teaching jobs board kansasteachingjobs.com

"I had to get them lined up for a fire drill, and it was such a mess that by the time I got them out to the playground I was in tears. And I was like, 'What have I done? How am I ever going to teach them if I can't get them to line up?'" 

Let's start this story with a big disclaimer: the Common Core-aligned tests Missouri students took this year are a one-time deal that cannot be compared to either what came before or what will come after.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

This story was rebroadcast as part of our best-of 2015 series. It was originally reported in August 2015.     

Grandview Public Schools is a statistical anomaly in the Kansas City metro.

On average, teachers in Grandview have 15 years experience, which is on par with suburban districts like Blue Valley and Lee's Summit. Likewise, the district's proportion of new teachers (those with five years experience or less) is also small: less than 20 percent, compared to a metro-wide average of nearly 30 percent. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR

When the State Finance Council meets next week, it's going to have some tough decisions to make. Kansas has $12.3 million in Extraordinary Needs Funds available but school districts are asking for almost $15.1 million.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The release of standardized test scores in Missouri this year are coming out slowly, so the Kansas City Public Schools and the Hickman Mills School District won't know for at least a few weeks whether they will gain full accreditation from the state.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released statewide test results Tuesday, but the district-by-district numbers won't be available for another week.

Kansas City and Hickman Mills are provisionally accredited and were hoping to have the state fully accredit them this year.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

The front line of the nation's generational shift in teaching may be Kansas City, Missouri. 

Around the metro area  — made up of more than 50 districts and charter schools in both Kansas and Missouri — tens of thousands of students are returning to school this week. And they will be taught by a teacher force that is one of the youngest, least experienced in the nation.

KT Kind / Flickr-CC

A persistent teacher shortage remains in Kansas, just two weeks before students start returning for the new school year. 

According to the state-run Kansas Education Employment Board, there were 466 open positions at Kansas schools as of Monday. Of the openings, 236 were for certified teachers. The other openings were for administrators, support staff and other positions. 

dcJohn / Flickr--CC

With the start of school less than three weeks away, thousands of Kansas public school teachers are without contracts for the coming year. But one major Johnson County district is getting close.

While Shawnee Mission, Olathe, and Kansas City, Kansas are all still in contract negotiations, Blue Valley officials say a "tentative proposed agreement" has been forwarded to the district's teachers for approval.

Courtesy photo / Shawnee Mission School District

The Shawnee Mission School District superintendent says it's "highly likely" that Kansas state aid will come in below what's budgeted this year and the district will be forced to tap into budget reserves.

Dr. Jim Hinson told the Board of Education at Thursday night's regular meeting that he's trying to prepare for reductions in the block grant funding passed last session by the Legislature.

"Based on what we know at this time we have great concern about the state's ability to fund the formula that's in place," Hinson says.

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