Tuesday, December 10, 2013
The Kansas City Star has revealed emails showing that Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro made plans with an educational consulting firm to "wipe the slate" on the unaccredited Kansas City Schools system. Those secret plans and a questionable bidding process for the firm has some education officials calling for Nicastro's resignation. We have been closely following the troubled year for Missouri's Kansas City and St. Louis districts, so more controversy is no surprise. That the state had already made a deal to set a new agenda for the schools, however, was unknown until the emails were uncovered by the Star. The plans includes familiar education reforms: new leadership and an office for innovation and charter school expansion. The emails show that the state started planning to takeover Kansas City Schools as early as April and contracted an Indianapolis education consulting firm, CEE-Trust, to overhaul the district. State officials worked on an memorandum of understanding with CEE to that end, but it failed when the Kansas City Schools rejected it and called instead for open bidding. CEE drafted its bid based on its memorandum (which Nicastro's staff helped draft) and got the nod over a highly-rated Massachusetts company whose bid was one-third of CEE's. Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Green is calling foul on the entire process, saying that the state had made up its mind before the district's August report card came out showing dramatic progress on recent proficiency tests. In the past, Nicastro has acknowledged the district's gains, but appears to have concluded that it was too little-too late, particularly as 70 percent of the district's student are below proficiency in reading and math and district has been been unaccredited since 2012 and twice in less than 15 years. Yesterday, Missouri State Board of Education President Peter Herschend stated that he supports Nicastro's decisions, but Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said Monday "that it was a good time for the state Board of Education to 'monitor and evaluate' concerns' raised about her." Read more here.