Journey of a Superintendent: 10,000 Hours and Counting

Dr. Cynthia Lane, Superintendent of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools

10,000 hours, 416 days, 600,000 minutes are required to become an expert in any one skill. Michael Jordan stayed on the court following a basketball game and continued to practice his jump shot for several hours. Wayne Gretzky stayed on the ice to practice 200 shots on goal following the hockey match to improve his craft.  These individuals are legends, known as the best in their fields. Emily Fleming, a kindergarten teacher at Hazel Grove Elementary School in Kansas City, Kansas, is one of eight finalists for the Kansas Teacher of the Year. She, like Jordan and Gretzky, is one of the best teachers in our state and I dare say our nation.

10,000 hours represents only a small fraction of the commitment teachers invest in their craft. In the same way that conductors of a large orchestra work to bring together the many sounds of the instruments to create beautiful music, teachers bring out the many talents and skills of their students, shaping them into successful adults.

It takes extraordinary commitment to become an expert in the profession of teaching. If 10,000 hours, 416 days, 600,000 minutes are required to become an expert in any one skill, consider the level of commitment when the craft is a combination of multiple essential skills. Teachers master multiple content areas including child development and instructional practices to meet the needs of culturally diverse students. They craft effective lesson plans, and scaffold from basic knowledge and recall to deep understanding and application of the content. They coach and collaborate with students and adults, craft assessments and analyze the data. Multiply each one of these skills by 10,000 hours which research finds is needed to become an expert in any one skill, and we can begin to capture the commitment and dedication it takes to be a teacher.

Congratulations Emily. You certainly deserve to be honored among the best teachers in our nation. We are so fortunate that you, and our many other exceptional teachers, are shaping the lives of children in the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools.  Thank you for the commitment and service to the children of our community and for “Inspiring Excellence: Every Grownup, Every Child, Every Day.”  It’s Up to Us.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Journey of a Superintendent: 10,000 Hours and Counting

  1. tchnkck says:

    It is woefully unfortunate, not to mention economically devastating, that the “voice” of teachers was so miserably represented in the process of reaching a negotiated agreement for teachers. Is the $350 lump sum for returning teachers a token of appreciation for our investment of 10,000 hours to develop expertise? I do not want to hear about how the KNEA has fought to get us where we are. Everything in perspective-if we want the needs of 21st century learners to be met; let’s compensate teachers with 21st century wages that truly acknowledge our level of expertise as professionals!

    • Tammy says:

      Your comment couldn’t be more timely or more accurately represent our many teachers whose expertise is not adequately compensated – locally and throughout the nation.

      I’ve spent a great deal of my time this week in meetings discussing the school finance formula, working to ensure that our children’s education, and their futures, are protected.
      I believe both as a district, and as a nation, must fight for what is “equitable” and “adequate” funding for the education system as a whole. Yes, it is true that we have less revenue as a state, but we do have funds. It’s all in how we choose to use the funds we have available.

      As a district, we have lost $63 million from our budget over the last seven years (including $13 million this year). This is from lost state funds and the impact of lower property values, increased costs in utilities and healthcare. And there is speculation that the cuts will continue for at least a few more years. While we have lost funding, all of our costs to manage our district have increased so if we take that into account, our loss has been much greater than $63 million. We know that our teachers and students are feeling these losses significantly.

      You are right when you say that “if we want the needs of 21st century learners to be met, let’s compensate teachers with 21st century wages.” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently asked the question, “How would the nation’s school system be different if teachers were paid like engineers?” He said teachers should be paid a starting salary of $60,000 with the opportunity to make up to $150,000 per year. Personally, I know that the value teachers provide to our students – and ultimately to our communities and our futures – is invaluable. What you do every day in the classroom has an impact that is more far-reaching and vital than most people can fathom. I’m not sure anyone can put a price on it, but Secretary Duncan was on the right path.

      I am working on your behalf, and on behalf of all our students, to fight for the funding that we need and deserve. I encourage all of our teachers – and parents and community members – to let their voices be heard through their legislators. We are the future of our community and our world and we need the resources – salaries, materials, programs and all that it takes to make this district work – to lead our children to success.

      I appreciate your comments.

      Cynthia Lane

  2. holly says:

    Dear Superintendant Lane,
    I am a teacher in one of USD 500’s schools. I am writing to give you a front row view to the impacts of your poor decision-making thus far in your tenure as superintendant. In this particular case, I am going to cast aside the fact that we have not had a cost of living increase in years and not discuss salary; instead I will focus on the issue of snow days.
    First, the facts. We live in an area where there is a high probability of inclement weather. I have lived in the Midwest for nearly my entire life. We get snow, sleet, hail, and ice. We cannot change our weather patterns, so the best we can do is expect it.
    Why do we have snow days to begin with? Of course, it’s for safety. It’s for the safety of our students, the safety of our bus drivers, the safety of our school staff driving to work, the safety of our teachers. When the roads are impacted by winter weather, at best the drive time is increased on the way to school. But at worst we have instances like we did last year: students hit by buses, buses sliding off the road on the way to school, bus accidents. And who knows what accidents may have befallen staff on their way to work, as it will not make the news until someone is killed.
    I know you care about student safety. It has to be inherent in a job like superintendant of schools. But instead of putting that first, you are putting the lofty goal of being a top ten district ahead of this.
    I know, you will still allow snow days. But, we have to make them up with additional days at the end of the year. ALL OF THEM. When the state of Kansas will forgive them for us, and when every other district in the area builds them in; you’re making us make up every single one of them.
    Now here’s your front row seat. Why don’t you visit a school when they announce to staff that there will be no more built-in snow days for inclement weather? Why don’t you sit in a classroom of middle or high school students and explain how coming back to school to make up a few days of school will help them in life, just to see what kind of response you get?
    The staff at my school is exemplary. I think highly of each of them. However, I have never seen the morale of a group of professionals be more swiftly deflated than when we were told today that you are completely unwilling to budge on that issue of our negotiated agreement. You are taking away a benefit that has been provided to teachers (and students) in this region for as long as any of us can remember. You are taking time away from our summer breaks, affecting our childcare arrangements, vacation plans, college courses, time with family. All because you want to attain the goal of being a top ten district.
    How about you do what every other school district in any area impacted by winter weather does: plan for snow days. Include them in the calendar. That way, if there is a year without snow days, our students get the benefit of extra instructional time; but it will not impact any of their plans for outside of the school year. And when there are snow days (and I say “when” because it’s inevitable in Kansas), students have not lost out on any time, they merely get to stay in the safety of their homes instead of risking their lives in the name of your goal.
    How can we be a top-ten district if your teachers’ morale is at an all-time low? How can you take a group of professionals, who are in a profession with notoriously low pay, who have not had the benefit of receiving a raise recently, who work tirelessly for their students; and deny them a benefit that is so simple. To us working the front lines in the schools, it’s a slap in the face. How can teachers work to attain this goal, if it is obvious that their requests are not taken seriously resulting in such low morale?
    Oh, I forgot. You’re boosting morale by sending out cookie cutter achievement certificates, cheap pens, and laminated paper “rulers” (by the way, inches are divided into eighths, not tenths). Yes, now I can truly see how much you care. These hollow gestures mean nothing. Your shortsightedness in achieving the goal of being a top ten district is what is going to be the downfall of this district.
    As for myself? I’m going to start fixing up my resume.

  3. tchnkck says:

    Friends and Colleagues,
    Let me begin by saying I believe passionately and in earnest that the lofty goal of becoming one of the top ten districts in the nation is not only achievable, but realistic. Our goals and aspirations should be “lofty,” because our kids are capble and USD 500 teachers are more than capable of making that happen. My experiences of teaching in suburban settings as well as KCKPS inform me.
    Unequivocally, I can say that Kansas City, Kansas Public School teachers are capable of reaching that goal, and I can hardly wait until the day when we unite and say, “hooray, for KCK!” We will-I believe.
    I also believe that the politicians, KNEA, and those who speak on our behalf, fail us- second to students, our teachers are not represented with any sense of equity or justification. In other professions, individuals are rewarded for their effort and achievement.
    Talk to your friends who are nurses, engineers, lawyers, secretaries, businessmen/women, politicians, administrators, salespeople, entrepreneurs, factory workers-have they gone one year-several years-without a pay increase?
    It’s easy to say that we can’t put a price on what teachers are worth. Let’ s do the hard work of negotiating for what teachers in KCK are really worth. We have electric, gas, water, cable, tuition, insurance, loans, taxes, association dues, mortgages, etc. to pay.
    In the early 20th century, teaching was a nice second income. This is the 21st century! THIS IS OUR VOICE! Is it being heard?
    I want to vote for a contract that communicates a true and sincere belief in my capacity as that educator who will lead our district to a top ten position. I WILL NOT vote for a contract that continues to equivocate my potential with mediocrity. I am not mediocre, and our district is not striving for mediocrity.

  4. David says:

    A couple of points: The goal of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools is that “each student will exit high school prepared for college and careers in a global society, and at every level, performance is on-track and on-time for success.” We have a vision of becoming a top ten district, but we will measure our progress as a system by how well we prepare our individual students to successfully take their place in society, and to compete with students from around the world.

    As a district, we still have significant work to do, to get every student to that level of academic progress. There are a couple of challenges we face, that are relevant to the above conversation. First, the students we serve compete with other students from around the world, many of whom attend school for longer days, and for 40, 50 or 60 more days each year. As such, every one of the 175 days in the calendar are essential; there is not a single day of instruction that our students don’t need, if they are to be competitive with other students from around the world.

    Next, we still have students who are not meeting state standards, and we know that our state standards are not high enough for our students to be competitive with students from around the world. Again, every single day we have with our students is essential for their success, and I for one wish we could have more time to support their academic growth. Other districts may be satisfied with the progress their students have made, but we are not.

    My final point agrees with much of what has been said. There is no question that teachers in the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, like teachers around the country, are not paid the true value of the work that they do. That for me is a huge national shame that should cause all of us to look inward and reexamine our priorities. Perhaps even more troubling is that in KCK, we struggle to keep teacher salaries competitive with surrounding districts. This is why, earlier this week, Dr. Lane, our superintendent, spent an unbelievably grueling day being deposed by the attorney for the state of Kansas, as a part of the build-up to the school funding lawsuit trial, which will take place next summer. Through more than four hours of sometimes brutal questioning by an attorney who seemed bent on proving that our district has all the resources we need, Dr. Lane stood strong, and defended the work that our teachers and other staff do, and repeated over and over that our students deserve the same opportunities as students in any other community in Kansas.

    Time and again, the state’s attorney tried to push her off of her beliefs, but she never budged. She stood firm, she told the truth, and she repeatedly reminded the state’s attorney that providing an equitable education for all 500,000 Kansas students is a STATE responsibility, and that attempts by the politicians and others to relieve the state of that responsibility will be resisted at every turn.

    Please remember, the district has been forced to cut more than $63 million over the past four years, because the state has decided not to fund public education at the levels its own studies say that it should. We should all be furious, but let’s direct our anger in the right direction, at those in power who have refused to fulfill their constitutional obligation. Anyone who cares about the education of students here in Kansas should lift their voice to demand that public education be funded adequately. Then, and only then, can teachers and other staff be compensated appropriately.

  5. ibelieveinkids says:

    I wanted to make sure that our leader was reading the local paper, because this article has been circulating throughout the district and MANY of your dedicated educators agree wholeheartedly with what it says. Please read and listen with the ears of a leader who wants her employees to respect her and support her decisions, because frankly, it’s been quite difficult to do so.

    Don’t blame KCKPS teachers if they vote against proposed contract

    Posted by Nick Sloan on December 3, 2011 – 6:18am
    Tagged in KCK Public Schools NEA Kansas City Kansas NEA-KCK Opinion

    Let’s be honest up front – the proposed deal between NEA Kansas City Kansas and the Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools will likely pass in this form or something very similar to it.

    Attending a board of education meeting, you would believe that the state budget situation is terrible and a tough one to deal with.

    In reality, the tough budget and the dry teachers’ market – some teachers are afraid of getting out due to the economy and openings have decreased after the economy was destroyed by the federal government and big banks – gives a school district and its superintendent incredible leverage to strike a deal.

    Any negotiations between the teachers’ union and the school district are very uphill because of the economy.

    So, it’s tough to blame the negotiators on the union’s side in this case. It’s a very tough climate for teachers to win any break.

    However, looking at the deal again, it would be very tough to blame teachers inside KCK Public Schools if they voted no on their proposed deal.

    The first issue that I personally have against this is the item on snow days.

    Because the proposed deal includes a note that “all time missed” from inclement weather will be made up, snow days are being essentially eliminated.

    The thought of “making up all class time missed” sounds noble.

    It looks good in a press release and it looks sparkling when you’re trying to build up your image as a Top 10 school district in the country.

    In reality, made up school days at the very end of the year does not provide an opportunity to learn for students.

    Though I’m older now, my high school days are not in the rear-view mirror. I can remember my days at Sumner Academy.

    Here are my personal memories of what I learned the last few days of May:

    How to get out of my desk and walk around the classroom with friends. Teachers had completed finals and curriculum items by the final day or two.
    My ability to watch movies, Channel 1 or something else improved dramatically.
    I exercised my neck by looking at the clock every 10 minutes.
    It’s good to maximize the amount of time students can learn.

    However, instead of completely eliminating snow days and putting them back into the school year, you get creative with it.

    (By the way, all school schedules in the state of Kansas usually have one, two or three days built in anyway.)

    And by getting creative with it, I mean doing something the school district itself did my sophomore year at Sumner Academy.

    Due to an extremely harsh winter, we missed several days of school. We missed four days in one week due to an ugly ice storm and a snow storm that followed.

    Instead of making up the days at the end of the year, the Kansas City, Kan., board of education and its leadership decided to add time to every school day the rest of the school year, rather than adding in the make-up days.

    Off the top of my head, I believe the dismissal time was extended by 10 minutes each day, meaning that about an hour of school each week was added to the calendar to make up the days.

    Call me crazy, but having two or three extra minutes in a class during the actual meat of the school year is more beneficial than coming back in late May after the seniors have graduated and so on.

    As small as those minutes may seem, they add up when you’re learning about biology and history. Having 15 more minutes of one class a week in February and March is a better use of time than coming back after Memorial Day.

    Still, the more troublesome thing about the snow days controversy from last year and today is the fact that it appears the leadership did not care at all about the concerns of their teachers.

    The fact that this is still a controversy indicates that there is no sign of good will being given to the teachers inside KCK Public Schools.

    As much as they get criticism, the Unified Government is pretty good at putting out fires these days. The carports issue, the precious metal controversies and other items were taken care of quickly.

    If I were a teacher in KCK Public Schools, this deal would be a slap in my face.

    There’s no raise.

    The $350 bonus being given to returning teachers is taxed at a higher rate than a normal paycheck is.

    The average salary of a KCK teacher is thousands – yes, thousands – of dollars less than your typical Johnson County school district.

    Should teachers vote no, I imagine you’ll hear the typical “teachers are greedy” spin and how the teachers’ union is ruining America and so on.

    While I do think all teachers shouldn’t receive a free pass (the best ones should be rewarded), I don’t think KCK’s teachers are greedy if they turn this down.

    In this case, I believe the issue of greed here is about teachers being greedy for respect – not money.

    • lucy says:

      These are wise and timely comments ibelieveinkids! My sincere hope is that all the teachers in this district will, hands down, rebuke this insulting contract. You are so right. Teachers are not greedy, but they often go along with what is being offered. It is the nature of teachers, and especially urban teachers, to have an altruistic perspective on what they do. There are NEA representatives telling teachers that they should vote for this contract, because it will only get worse for them if they don’t! That is just unconscionable!
      Several years ago the negotiations team struck a deal, restructured the steps on the salary scale with the intention of attracting teachers at those beginning levels with on par or higher wages than surrounding districts. Sadly, some teachers who were further into the scale were set back-and guess what? We’ve been there ever since!
      At a time when reform is the descriptive precedent for everything that is happening in education, I propose that we reform the salary schedule. It just isn’t fair that two individuals who have attained the same education level and perform the same work should be separated by a chasm of 20K a year. Unfortunately, we’re locked into a step system that screams, “because that’s the way we’ve always done it!”
      Our leader has been bold and broken the mold of business as usual, and now it’s time for our compensation packages to reflect the same innovative and progressive mentality.

  6. David says:

    Since someone has chosen to post Nick Sloan’s commentary, I am posting my response (I apologize that it repeats some of the language posted here earlier):

    Nick, I could NOT disagree with your thinking in this commentary more. To imply that the fiscal situation that KCKPS (and frankly many other districts across the state) find themselves in is somehow manufactured in order to gain a negotiating advantage over the teacher’s union is, frankly, unconscionable.

    Regardless of that you think of those of us in administration, you’ve been to enough Board of Education meetings to know that they have been forced to cut $63 million over the past four years, because of the decline in state funding. You also were around when we received additional funding after the Kansas Supreme Court decision in the Montoy school funding case, and you KNOW that a lot of money was put into teacher salaries, in an attempt to make them competitive with surrounding districts.

    Now that the state has backed away from its constitutional obligation to adequately fund ALL public schools, and the district DOES NOT HAVE THE MONEY to compensate teachers appropriately, why do you choose to turn your fire on the district? Why not go after the state, which has refused to fulfill its constitutional obligation? Per pupil funding has dropped from $4433 to $3780 (a decline of almost 15%) in the period we are talking about, while health care costs, and the overall cost of living, have continued to rise. Meanwhile, during that same time period, (over the protests of the members of the Wyandotte County delegation) tax breaks continued to be handed out left and right, not to working men and women, but to special interests.

    Thank you for pointing out the obvious, Nick: “The average salary of a KCK teacher is thousands – yes, thousands – of dollars less than your typical Johnson County school district.” Now, let me be clear: Teacher salaries in KCKPS MUST be competitive with teacher salaries in surrounding districts. Our teachers work incredibly hard, and do amazing work, and deserve to be compensated appropriately. In fact, we would be a lot better off as a society if our teachers were compensated like the professionals they are, just as they do in Finland and other communities with world class education systems.

    But Nick, the reason our salaries must be competitive isn’t really just about the teachers, it’s also about the kids. Our kids deserve the very best teachers, and no teacher should be forced to choose between teaching kids that they love, and being paid fairly. And Nick, despite what you write about us, we are fighting HARD to get the resources to be able to do that.

    You know that we joined the school funding lawsuit, in order to force the state to fulfill their constitutional obligation. Last week, Dr. Cynthia Lane, our superintendent, spent an unbelievably grueling day being deposed by the attorney for the state of Kansas, as a part of the build-up to the school funding lawsuit trial, which will take place next summer. Through more than five hours of sometimes brutal questioning by an attorney who seemed bent on proving that our district has all the resources we need, Dr. Lane stood strong, and defended the work that our teachers and other staff do, and said, again and again, that our students deserve the same opportunities as students in any other community in Kansas.

    Again and again, the state’s attorney tried to push her off of her beliefs, but she never budged. She stood firm, she told the truth, and she repeatedly reminded that attorney that providing an equitable education for all 500,000 Kansas students is a STATE responsibility, and that attempts by the politicians and others to relieve the state of that responsibility will be resisted at every turn.

    Please remember, the district has been forced to cut more than $63 million over the past four years, because the state has decided not to fund public education at the levels its own studies say that it should. We should all be furious, but let’s direct our anger in the right direction, at those in power who have refused to fulfill their constitutional obligation. Anyone who cares about the education of students here in Kansas, and particularly here in Kansas City, Kansas (and that includes THIS news outlet) should lift their voice to demand that public education be funded adequately. Then, and only then, can teachers and other staff be compensated appropriately.

  7. ibelieveinkids says:

    David…how nice of you to completely ignore the snow day part of the article where ideas were presented to make the most of any time missed that were different than what our district currently has planned…or the part about the teachers being “greedy for respect”…maybe that would be a better use of your time, figuring out how to earn some of that back.

  8. holly says:

    I voted no!!!
    No to the $350 slap in the face and no to the making up ALL snow days.
    Why oh why can’t the district leadership comment on the issue about snow days? Why are they not listening to the teachers – in the front lines? Do parents know about this? Can we publicize this more? It’s absolutely ridiculous!

  9. David says:

    Sorry about not getting to the snow day issue, in what was already an overly long post. Here are my thoughts:

    First, I understand that this is a very emotional issue for teachers, and that some teachers come at it from a very different starting point than I do. While I might disagree with some of the conclusions that you come to, Holly and ibelieveinkids, I nevertheless understand that

    While we are proud to have moved from less than 10% of our students meeting the standard on the state assessments in 1996 to almost 70% last year (and our teachers and staff deserve the credit for those gains,) still more than 30% of our students have not met the state standard. For me, those students who have yet to meet the standard deserve, at the very least, all the time that was scheduled in the calendar (and remember, our students attend school 40, 50 and 60 days less than the students they compete with from other countries.)

    Next, we pay our teachers for 186 days, regardless of how many snow days there are. In making up days missed for snow, we are asking teachers to work days for which they have already been paid. I understand that previous practice was to NOT make up those days. At the same time, such practices were established during times when fewer than 50% of our students were proficient on the state test. I am comfortable with changing practices that produced something less than excellence.

    Next, our practice of not making up snow days worked well for our teachers, but didn’t work nearly so well for our classified staff. Why? Because many of them only get paid for the days they actually work. So, for bus drivers, nutritional service workers and others, they only get paid for the days when school is in session. So, the practice of not making up snow days actually was a pay CUT for staff who are already at the low end of the pay scale in KCK.

    Do I think that teachers who advocate for NOT making up the snow days, do so with the intention of taking money out of the pockets of their non-certified colleagues? Of course not. This is an incredibly difficult issue, with valid, strongly held beliefs on all sides.

    The reason my post focused on issues having to do with state education funding is that I believe that, if the state had met its constitutional obligation to fund public schools adequately, we would not have suffered the loss of $63 million over the past four years, and we would have been able to continue to provide staff with the raises that we had prior to the loss of state funding. If you remember, those raises brought our teachers close to parity with our neighboring districts. If you doubt what I say, go back and look at the decisions that were made when the district received additional funds as a result of the school funding lawsuit. Those funds were used to attempt to achieve parity in salaries with surrounding districts, so that we could keep the teachers that we have worked so hard to develop.

    I accept that it might have been easier for teachers to accept a change in practice around the snow days, if we had been able to continue our effort to bring our teacher salaries into parity with other districts in the Metro area. I can promise you that, if we are successful in restoring our previous levels of state funding, that money will go directly towards giving staff the raises they should have received over the last three years.

  10. David says:

    Sorry, that second paragraph wasn’t complete. Here is what it should have said:

    First, I understand that this is a very emotional issue for teachers, and that some teachers come at it from a very different starting point than I do. While I might disagree with some of the conclusions that you come to, Holly and ibelieveinkids, I nevertheless understand that you come to your beliefs with the same genuine belief in doing what is right for kids that I bring to my beliefs.

  11. Brent says:

    David, you almost have a valid point when you say that we are paid for 186 days of work and therefore we would be getting paid for days that we are not in school. But by bringing up that point you bring up another one: Do teachers get paid for the work that we put in that goes above and beyond what’s required of us? Do they get paid for the weekends that they spend trying to fight for these students, trying to try something new and fresh, re-evaluating our approaches and then coming up with new strategies to reach the students that are struggling?

    If we have to make up any snow days that we miss (because we’re getting paid for them), does that mean that we can no longer work on weekends? If you think our teachers aren’t working 80+ hours a week then you’re being naive. I would gladly trade off the snow days if it meant me not having to do school work over the various 40 weekends a year that I spend working on school work, trying to plan, grade and jump through the latest hoop the Central Office wants us to jump through. 5 days for 40 weekends is a nice trade. Meanwhile score plummet and students fail, badly.

    Myself, I work starting about 5-7AM. Drive to school, work in my building fro 7:30-about 6PM (if I’m lucky). Go home get a bite to eat and then I work on school work again from about 8-11PM. Do I get paid for those extra hours outside of the 7:30-4:00 day? Heck no! In fact, I get my classroom budget cut AND I get frozen on the step scale…again. That means a net loss in my take home pay.

    Do I get paid back for the several hundred dollars a year that I spend on classroom supplies?

    That may not sound like a big deal to an administrator who makes $80,000+ but to someone who makes $40,000 and has a family to try and feed I have to cut back my budgetary spending. Who do you think is going to suffer? Teachers of course, but the students are the biggest losers in this. I can’t afford to spend money on science equipment for my students. How are they supposed to learn science by not doing science? I can’t afford to spend money on clubs that I sponsor or teams that I coach. The students are losing.

    I can teach science without any equipment, but I guarantee scores are not going to go up. It’s not engaging to read about science and to never do anything. Can you imagine a band without instruments? Imagine teaching band, but you can’t play an instrument. One could point to the ledger lines and tell me what note it is, but the beautiful music would be no more.

    You can set the bar as high as you want to, but without the backing from up top it’s not going to happen. Hasn’t NCLB taught us anything? Wasn’t this the biggest argument of NCLB; mandating something, setting a goal and then not adequately supporting it? How is what we’re trying to do in KCK any different?

    By taking away my ability to move on the scale AND taking away from my classroom budget, you are hurting the students AND the staff. If the choices this district make are hurting those two parties then who exactly are they working for?

  12. David says:

    Brent,

    I might phrase some things slightly different than you do, but we’re not really in disagreement. You believe that teachers work incredibly hard, and should be paid more, in a way that values the work that they do. I agree! Allow me, for illustrative purposes, to quote from a previous post:

    “Now, let me be clear: Teacher salaries in KCKPS MUST be competitive with teacher salaries in surrounding districts. Our teachers work incredibly hard, and do amazing work, and deserve to be compensated appropriately. In fact, we would be a lot better off as a society if our teachers were compensated like the professionals they are, just as they do in Finland and other communities with world class education systems.”

    We’re in agreement that teachers should be paid more. But then you say: “By taking away my ability to move on the scale AND taking away from my classroom budget, you are hurting the students AND the staff.” Whom do you think is taking these things from you? You know that we cut $63 million from the budget over the last four years, cut hundreds of positions, including 130 teachers two years ago, and yet you think that the administration or the Board of Education is holding money back that could go toward teacher salaries?

    Let me say it again: THE STATE OF KANSAS HAS FAILED TO MEET ITS CONSTITUTIONAL OBLIGATION TO FUND SCHOOLS ADEQUATELY! Per pupil funding in this district has gone from $4433 to $3780, a drop of almost 15% At the same time, costs continue to rise, as they do for you at home. This puts us in a situation where the money simply is not there!

    And I wish I could tell you that things would get better, but I can’t. Governor Brownback’s staff are saying that the new school finance formula will provide local school districts unlimited flexibility to raise what ever funds they want locally. Are you aware of how devastating this will be for KCK, where taxes are already higher than surrounding communities, mainly due to a much lower assessed valuation (1/3 that of Shawnee Mission)? It appears that, under the Governor’s plan, here in KCK, we can give up any hope for increased revenue, unless we are able to raise it locally, which we can’t.

    So, Brent, you’re frustrated because teachers are not being compensated appropriately. I agree with you, and I can promise you that Dr. Lane, our superintendent, would like nothing more than to have the funds to raise teacher salaries. The question is, how do we make that happen? For my part, I talk about the inequities in state funding every chance I get, I continually praise the hard work that you and other district teachers are doing, I support Dr. Lane as she fights for additional funding for KCKPS (and for public schools generally,) and I advocate for our students, and say that they deserve the same opportunities as students in any other district.

    Thus far, no one, in this space or otherwise, has challenged the assertion that the state has FAILED in its constitutional obligation to fund public schools adequately. If you disagree with me on that, say so. If you agree, then join with me in fighting for what’s right for our teachers, and even more importantly, for our kids.

    And speaking of kids, that’s the one thing that seems to be missing in the conversation about snow days: We still have more than %30 of our students not meeting the standard on the state assessment, and we know that the state assessment standards are not sufficiently rigorous to prepare our students to be successful in college and careers. The parents of those students who are not proficient call my office every day, and I can tell you that the one thing they are NOT asking for is less instructional time for their children.

    Yet and still, I hear in your post a powerful dedication to our students, and to the goal of preparing them to be successful in college and career. I hope that we can find ways to collaborate so that our students are able to reach their goals, and you and your family are able to reach yours.

  13. KCKPS Student says:

    As a student in the KCK school district, I would just like to comment on the conversation some of you are having about the snow days. I understand the ideas proposed: attend extra school at the end of the year to make up time lost because of snow days. What I don’t understand is how this will help the average student?

    Adding on days to the school year, in my opinion, will not help much. Finals will have already been taken and whether this is publicized or not, most students don’t attend school after taking those finals. So realistically speaking, the school district is adding on “free days” to the school year. I think ideas similar to the one proposed by Nick Sloan are a great idea. Adding on just a few minutes to the school day will increase instructional time DURING the school year and will benefit students more than adding on extra, pointless days to our school calendar.

    I think KCKPS’ goal of becoming one of the top 10 in the district is an amazing idea and I’m proud to be a student of the Kansas City Kansas Public School District. I just wanted to voice my opinion, as someone who will be affected by this agreement just as much as the teachers or administrators involved.

  14. lucy says:

    explains school funding in the state of California and the various options that districts and states entertained to address their significant funding problems. Every employee, every teacher, every administrator in KCKPS has a responsibility to understand and be informed and take action to equalize funding that is truly equitable for the population that we serve.
    I hope we will all unite and take action as a KCKPS community, and not as union or self-interested parties.

  15. lucy says:

    The site that I recommended did not appear on my previous post. If you google school funding formulas and read, even briefly, about some of the formulas and litigation around funding in California, you will gain perspective.

  16. tmck says:

    The following message was sent my Congressperson. If we want change, we will have to “be the change,” and take a proactive stance to say something.

    This message is being sent to voice my extreme concern for the newly proposed funding options for education in Kansas.
    If all conditions were equal, the proposal would, of course, be a simple and logical solution. Clearly, not all students, districts, and conditions are equal.
    My position in Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools as a Teacher Leader serves to develop effective teachers and support the administration in increasing student achievement.
    KCKPS has enjoyed a tremendous increase in student achievement over the years, growing from 10% to 70% achievement on state assessments. (Sadly, the state assessments in Kansas are set at relatively low standards when compared ot the nation.)
    While the western boundary of the KCK community thrives , there exists an inordinate number of people from poverty in our urban core. The consequences of poverty are seen daily in our classrooms-students arrive to school in freezing weather without warm clothing, gloves, or socks. Have you ever seen a child who delights at being able to take home extra notebook paper because it is not available at home? Often the most basic, taken-for-granted supplies are luxuries for poor children. These are material items, but the psychosocial toll that these inadequacies impose often render our students far more challenging and needy to fulfill academic needs for intellectual growth. Toward that end, we need highly effective teachers, smaller class sizes, and support personnel to fill the gaps that poverty and low-income fosters.
    While there is limited research to support that more money equates to higher student achievement, there is a plethora of information that identifies how effective teachers make all the difference, and how access to resources-good nutrition, early childhood, (especially the latter), and community involvement bear a significant impact on the marginal conditions that schools can control. In few words, we cannot affect about 50% of a student’s development-that is fixed, their home life, parenting, etc. Other criteria, such as social and physical conditions are also out of our control. However, we can influence a significant 30%, which makes or breaks the future for at-risk youth to nudge them toward higher education and economic prosperity.
    We can only influence the lives of these young people, and ultimately all of our futures, by having the resources and people to make that difference.
    Won’t you let your voice be heard to represent the people whose voices are muffled by the powerful, rich, and influential?
    We MUST have greater funding in urban districts to compensate for the immense deficits that afflict our community. PLEASE speak for us, advocate for our future, support the young people of KCK who aspire to the same and equitable opportunities that their Johnson County neighbors enjoy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *