We get the question a lot when talking about downtown living: “But… where will your kids go to school?” It’s a loaded question, pointing out the recent and very real tumult of our local public school district but also the general belief that not enough is happening downtown to sustain a young family (more on that topic in our next post!).

Last month, DNA’s meeting was hosted by Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) at Primitivo Garcia Elementary, and we heard from outgoing Superintendent Dr. Stephen Green about the great strides the district has made.

Full disclosure: Kansas City Public Schools is a DNA sponsor, but they did not request this post be written nor did they have editorial authority over its content. There are many great school options for residents of downtown; KCPS is the public, non-charter option so we wanted to learn more and pass that knowledge on to our resident base. If you have more questions about KCPS or Primitivo Garcia Elementary, Eileen Houston-Stewart is ready and willing to talk with you. If you are looking for a school for your child, check out an overview of all of your options at Show Me KC Schools

“Once in demise, now a rocket on the rise.”

  • KCPS is focusing on “Where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going.” Dr. Green used a metaphor of a rocketship: astronauts have to know about every moving piece, from launch pad to landing, and the school has to understand where it was in order to improve.
  • In 2011, test scores were way down. Dr. Covington had just left, and the district was meeting only three of the 14 target areas. The district fell out of accreditation.
  • Over the past three years, the district’s overall scores have increased significantly: check out this chart. It is now provisionally accredited and expects to be fully accredited soon.

Getting the community involved

  • Organizations throughout Kansas City are asking to get involved with the district, after the district all but withdrew as it struggled. City Year will partner with the district during the 2015-16 school year. High school internships impressed companies and will continue to be part of preparing students for college.
  • Revitalizing, reopening and maintaining buildings is part of how the district is trying to support the communities it serves. Woodland recently re-opened at 7th & Woodland Ave., as a Pre-K school.

Consistent administration

  • Even though Dr. Green is leaving, the administrative offices are not leaving with him. There is a dedicated group of staff who are working to keep the district moving along the same path.

  • The district has a leadership continuity plan in place for the transition. The entire cabinet has had to be “superintendent for a day”, gaining a better understanding of how the district’s day-to-day activities and responsibilities work.

  • There will be an interim superintendent while the board works to hire a new one (hopefully by March 2016). Check out kcpublicschools.org/transition for updates from the district.

What can we do?

  • Individuals can volunteer at KCPS schools

  • Join the Mayor’s Turn the Page KC program

  • ADVOCATE. Schools are important to all neighborhoods. We should be proud of KCPS’s successes and supportive of the steps that remain in creating a great school district. Learn more at kcpublicschools.org/RISE. Be prepared next time someone asks you, “But… what about schools?” KCPS wants to Reconnect, Inspire, Support, and Engage to be better than it has been in a long time.

  • VOTE. A school board has a lot of influence on the direction of the district. While elections won’t be held until April 2016, it will be important for downtowners to be educated on the candidates and to cast a ballot for the future of KC.