Nicastro delays decision on who oversees unaccredited KCMSD


The Missouri Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to strip the Kansas City School District of its accreditation status.

The six board members voted around 3 p.m. and the decision took a matter of minutes. The board ratified the recommendation from Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro.

The district will lose its status on Jan. 1, 2012, and will have two years to regain provisional accreditation or face a possible state takeover. Parents can begin transferring their children to accredited districts in January.

Nicastro said time ran out for the Kansas City School District. She said the decision was overdue.

"For decades, we've had significant performance concerns with Kansas City," Nicastro said. "I'll take my share of the responsibility for it. If anything, we've waited too long."

Sources tell KCTV5 that district leaders were told of Nicastro's decision on Monday. The state will appoint a three-person advisory committee to help the district regain its accreditation.

District officials tried to put the best face on the discouraging news during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Acting school board president Derek Richey said the state board's decision was not unexpected. He said the decision will not have an immediate impact on students.

"There is no change," he said "Don't turn in your white flags yet."

Interim superintendent Stephen Green said the state's decision "is a serious matter," but he said the district will bounce back. He said district officials are focused on regaining accreditation and he believes it will occur.

"We are turning the tide," he said. "I am very optimistic about what we can do in the future."

He said district officials know they must do a better job in preparing students for the state tests. He said the district will have "a laser focus" on improving academic achievement.

"We will be relentless," he said.

The Kansas City accreditation status was one of 18 districts seeing their accreditation status reviewed Tuesday by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The KCMSD has been provisionally accredited since April 2002. This came after the district lost its accreditation in 2000 because of poor performance, including student achievement. The district avoided the state takeover.

District officials had hoped to keep their provisional status, but the district did not obtain enough points to do so. No district in the state scored lower than Kansas City on the state's review list.

Nicastro and the board were unwilling to continue to make an exception to state rules for Kansas City because of the low academic performance.

"We believe this is the only recourse that we have," Nicastro said. "It's not a clear cut numbers game that guides these decisions."

State board member Stan Archie, who represents the Kansas City area, said it was a tough decision but the board had no choice because of the poor student performance on state test scores and other academic measures.

The St. Louis School District is also unaccredited.

The state has 14 accreditations standards. Kansas City is meeting just three standards, but none of those are in the area of academics. Last year, the district met four standards.

The district met four of 11 standards when it gained provisional accreditation in 2002. But now the state requires a district meet six standards to be provisionally accredited.

Board president Peter Herschend, who served on the board when the district was unaccredited a decade ago, said the issue for the board was whether Kansas City students are learning.

"The answer has been no," he said.

The state education agency answers questions about what happens when a district become unaccredited on their website. Click here.

The district will hold a phone bank starting Wednesday to answer parents' questions. The telephone number is 816-418-7266. The phone bank will be open through Friday.

Two town halls are scheduled on the issue. The first will be 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Paseo Academy, 4747 Flora. The second will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Manual Career Technical Center, 1215 E. Truman Road.

To read previous coverage, click here.

Copyright 2011 KCTV. All rights reserved.


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