Journey of a Superintendent: Reaching for Their Futures

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

The month of April brings the warm breezes of spring, the air is filled with renewal, and for a school administrator there are many, many opportunities to celebrate the accomplishments of our students and our schools. With each congratulatory remark, every hand shake, and every word of encouragement echoed during this season, I can’t help but wonder which of these accomplished students will be the next innovator, leader, businessman, or social activist who will change our world.

In the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, we have taken seriously the goal to prepare each student for college and careers, and to ensure that from birth (in our Parents As Teachers Program) to transition to post-secondary, our students are on-track to compete in a global economy. Some have said that this goal is misplaced. Some suggest students in an urban community need to focus on job skills and that we should not focus our curriculum on college readiness. My thinking is that our job is to fully prepare our students for whatever futures they decide allows them to follow their passions. All of our children must be prepared to be able to read, write, speak, reason, collaborate, and find solutions to existing and future problems we will face. These are the skills needed for college or technical careers. These are the skills needed for innovators, entrepreneurs and for any career choice. When given the opportunity and understanding of what it takes to succeed, our kids “smash” all anticipated limits and barriers to success.

For example, just this past week, for the first time in our history, every high school junior participated in the ACT college readiness exam. The district was afforded the opportunity to administer this assessment during the school day to approximately 1,200 students. All year, teachers, staff and administrators have emphasized the importance of the ACT. “Rock the ACT” became the rally cry. College-going or not, doing well on an assessment that can open doors to the future is significant and meaningful. Our students understood the importance of the test, and gave it their all.

School by school, our staff reported the success of our “ACT Day.” Our juniors fully engaged, and put forth their best effort. Students in other grade levels visited colleges and participated in other college and career activities. Everyone was focused, dreaming of and planning for the future. What a great day! Exciting! Purposeful! Transformational!

When we assist our students in understanding what it takes to get to their dreams, they will do whatever it takes to succeed. Our kids understand, “It’s Up to Us.” What our kids need from us is opportunity. I could not be more proud of our staff and our students. We have taken a giant step to position our young people so they can change the world. Our results will remind us we have much to do. Our actions have demonstrated we can do whatever it takes, and that we will.

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