Opinion: Letter to new superintendent

July 2, 2018

Dr. Charles Foust
Union County Public Schools
400 N. Church St.
Monroe, N.C. 28112

Dear Dr. Foust,

First, congratulations on your selection as the next superintendent of the Kansas City, Kansas, School District. It is an extremely important job.

I have lived in the district for nearly 50 years. One of the most important things the district does is educate students who will be ready to join the workforce. Frankly, it is falling way short in that area. The graduation rate is only about 67 percent. And, in looking at those who are awarded high school diplomas, many have to take basic reading and mathematics classes at the community college. Some of these students in remedial classes are graduates of Sumner Academy. Sumner used to be considered one of the best high schools in Kansas. Some graduates went on to earn Phi Beta Kappa honors. Some became medical doctors, engineers, lawyers and doctors of philosophy. From everything learned, it is not the school it was.

The new school board members have chosen you because they believe you are the necessary agent of change. I hope board members made the right decision. The number one concern among business owners and managers in Wyandotte County is the lack of qualified workers. Jobs such as machinists and welders, paying $40,000 a year or more, go begging. I know, this problem is nationwide. However, Dr. Foust, I live and work here. The Kansas City, Kansas, School District spends more than $12,000 a year per student. Simply stated, taxpayers don’t get their money’s worth.

Looking at the history of the district, it generally has had a history of strong leaders in the superintendent’s position. Some of the superintendents have been promoted from within; others have come from the outside. An outsider has a challenge because he or she is unknown. The past few weeks have seen strong support for an internal superintendent candidate, Dr. Jayson Strickland, the deputy superintendent. That will be something to overcome.

In talking with teachers, they are concerned about two basic issues— authority in the classroom and “social” promotions. Until those issues are resolved, I doubt that much improvement will be made.

I watched the presentation that you made when you visited here. I am concerned that you may not move your family here. That would be unfortunate. Living here would set an example in encouraging other educators and their families to live in the district.

Among urban districts, there are some positive aspects in Kansas City, Kansas. Voters recently overwhelmingly approved a capital improvement bond issue. Unlike many urban districts, our physical plants are in good shape and our enrollment is growing.

I look forward to meeting you.

Sincerely,

Murrel Bland
Executive Director
Business West

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