TKC BREAKING AND EXCLUSIVE NEWS!!! KANSAS CITY PUBLIC SCHOOL DEBATE BETWEEN SCHOOL BOARD DIRECTOR AT-LARGE AIRICK WEST AND ACE CAMPUS SUPPORTER SPARK BOOKHART!!!
For tonight . . .
TAKE A LOOK AT AN EPIC DEBATE BETWIXT KANSAS CITY PUBLIC SCHOOL BOARD DIRECTOR AT-LARGE AIRICK WEST AND ACE CAMPUS SUPPORTER AND EASTSIDE LEADER SPARK BOOKHART!!!
There are some rather intense ideas in play and I don't want to get in the way of the debate.
I'll simply note:
Mr. West's initial Facebook note is titled:
"It's Time To Heal"
Meanwhile Mr. Bookhart responds:
"It's Time for Courageous Leadership"
For those concerned about he hard feeling that linger over this important debate regarding public education in the urban core. Both of these missives provide an excellent look at the opposing ideologies.
Full Text after the jump:
It's Time To Heal
by Airick Leonard West on Monday, July 16, 2012 at 11:05am ·
As a private citizen with unique perspective, I want to set the record straight -- and as a community, we need to heal.
There has been a great deal of drama back and forth between the Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) and representatives of the Afrikan Centered Education Taskforce, Inc (ACETI), the group that has led the KCPS' African-centered educational programs for more than twenty years. In the heat of all that has transpired the KCPS Board of Education, under my leadership, has largely refrained from attempting to manage the situation, instead properly leaving it to the administration. But underneath it all, several significant truths have gotten lost. Having recently experienced what it is like to have my character and accomplishments inaccurately and unfairly tarnished, I cannot in good conscience remain quiet while that happens to others -- not if I'm in a position to do something about it. Vilifying Dr. Green or demonizing ACETI are both flawed places from which to initiate solutions that best serve our scholars. Neither got to where we are by themselves. Speaking on behalf of only myself as a community resident and not in any official capacity with the KCPS, I seek three things: to clarify the narrative, to acknowledge where I have been responsible for allowing/creating harm, and where possible to repair the harm.
The KCPS Values African-centered Education
There have been assertions that the KCPS, after having cultivated what is now the Afrikan-Centered Education Collegium Campus (ACECC) for more than two decades, now seeks to end all African-centered programming in the KCPS. The exact opposite is the case: an education that is grounded in self-knowledge and the self-esteem that flows from it is precisely the sort of learning that all of our scholars deserve. Our commitment is as strong as ever. What exists now is a dispute over how best and who best to implement it, not a desire to terminate it.
The KCPS/ACETI Contract Was Not Equitable
I did not vote in favor of the 2010-2011 contract that KCPS and ACETI chose to enter into because in my opinion it was not fully equitable -- it was simply out of sync with the weighted student funding formula we were moving all schools toward. As such, the financing structure failed to ensure that scholars at ACECC received funds intended for all KCPS scholars. At the request of the previous Superintendent, I asked ACETI to execute the 2011-2012 contract with a promise that the issues of inequity would be addressed through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). They complied but due to the untimely departure of the previous Superintendent, the MOU process was derailed. In the chaos that surrounded the KCPS for the weeks to follow, as Board Chair I failed to keep the MOU process on track which resulted in ACECC parents filing suit and going to trial against the KCPS in an effort to address what we saw as inequities in both ACETI’s 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 contracts.
ACETI Isn't Accused Of Stealing Money
No KCPS official has claimed -- and certainly neither Dr. Green nor I believe -- that either the ACETI organization or any of its leadership team have stolen money. These are people who have invested much of their adult lives into creating something better for our children. Their commitment is without question and above reproach. To suggest without evidence that they stole money is ludicrous because I know these to be honorable people. What Dr. Green has correctly stated is that there were financial compliance mistakes made but that's not in dispute; even ACETI acknowledged this during the trial. The reality is that public education finance can be extremely complicated and even the staff at the KCPS and surrounding districts make mistakes. But even with mistakes made, ACETI could not have stolen $8M last year because the entirety of ACETI's contract was only around $8M. While I understand the distinction between these competing narratives, many did not. I did not speak out when the inaccurate conclusions were being reached, a lapse in judgment I will avoid in the future.
The KCPS Values The Sacrifice of ACETI Leaders
There are many people who do a lot of talking when it comes to supporting the needs of our scholars. Sadly, only a relatively small number of people step forward and give themselves over fully to the challenge of transforming the lives of our scholars. People like Ajamu Webster and Audrey Bullard are such people. We will not always see eye to eye on how best to go about the work. But many leaders in the struggle disagreed with each other and that didn't stop them from being in the struggle together. I believe that the KCPS Board of Education and Dr. Green desire nothing more than to see the two-decade long efforts and sacrifices of the ACETI leadership team honored by ensuring their continued involvement in the KCPS' African-centered work. They have earned that right.
We Can Do Better -- And Our Scholars Deserve It
All of this leads me to a simple conclusion: as a community we can do better and our scholars deserve it. What happens next will either get us closer to or farther from something worthy of our scholars on Monday, August 13th. The Board will not overstep -- this remains a matter for Dr. Green's handling -- but it will certainly remain an advocate of widespread community engagement. Dr. Green has offered ACETI leaders ways to continue their involvement and leadership. ACETI leaders have engaged in mediation with Dr. Green in attempts to identify a way forward that meets the needs of our scholars. Parents have voiced their frustration both at the KCPS and at ACETI for what became an increasingly divisive debate. And our scholars have watched, no doubt wondering if all of this will be resolved in a manner that best serves their needs. Only time will tell whether the decisions made and actions taken on both sides are in the best interests of our scholars. It's time for us as a community to heal and I hope clarifying the narrative will be a first step in that process.
It’s Time for Courageous Leadership
by Spark Bookhart on Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at 2:30pm
As the parent of an ACECC Scholar who has examined with investigative detail the issue
between KCPS and ACETI, there is one conclusion, we need educational leaders with courage.
The following remarks are in direct response to the letter released by the Board President of Kansas City Public Schools dated Monday July 16, 2012.
With the recent heightened scrutiny that Kansas City Public Schools have been under, it’s mind-boggling how those who have been elected to govern in this time of educational crisis are astonishingly silent. The School Board President has sheepishly admitted to being responsible for “allowing /creating” harm, indeed injury, to ACECC and the over 1000 families connected to ACECC Scholars, but he has failed to act with courage in seeing to it that repair is swift and without delay. We have no time for clarifying narratives, debates, or public declarations calling for healing. What this community needs, which include all of the nearly 15,000 scholars of KCPS is a demonstration of bold and courageous leadership. A body of leaders that says “We
unnecessarily caused an injury, we must repair it now!”
Truth Always Prevails Over Falsehood
In a March 22, 2012 press conference KCPS Superintendent emphatically stated that $8 million in “unaccounted” for spending was his primary reason for cancelling the contract with ACETI.
As engaged parents, we knew that was not true. We have requested supporting documentation for this allegation numerous times since it was uttered and have never been provided evidence. As our request went ignored and the character of those we entrust with the educational lives of our children continued to be assassinated we had no choice but to defend our honor and credibility. The School Board President watched this occur openly and never uttered a word or publically corrected the record. While ACETI was figuratively turning water into wine at ACECC by running the entire campus on half of what of every other school is run with, they were being publically skewered by known falsehoods. Our school board
leadership stood by and did nothing!
Harm and Injury to ACECC
Malcolm X superbly stated that, “If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there is no progress.” The school board president has called for our community to heal and find a way to move forward. How can this be done without an official acknowledgement that this harm and injury was caused by your silence and inaction, thus all of the subsequent actions pursued by KCPS administration were unwarranted? The KCPS school board allowed ACECC to be inequitably funded for two entire school years without ANY efforts to correct this gross miscarriage of justice and as a reward for their quarter-century record of educational excellence they have been unceremoniously and dishonorably discarded based on admitted falsehoods, innuendo, and character assassination. I’m sorry but the school board’s posture of “this is a matter for Dr. Green’s handling…” is an absurd assertion. The fallout and calamity that has occurred regarding ACECC has occurred due to the INACTION of the school board, primarily before Dr. Green was even hired! So to shovel this off to Dr. Green and not stand up and take responsibility for not only the harm and injury but for the resulting community strife is a cowardly act.
ACECC parents have been calling for our school board to meet with us for months now. We have called on the school board to direct Dr. Green to adhere to board policy and meet with us for months now. We would like to acknowledge former school board member Richey, and current members Rea, Hile, and Montero for actually taking the time to meet and listen to us. We let these board members know over a month ago what was confirmed by the school board president’s open letter. There is no time for further stall tactics. Parents will not stand by and idly watch this gross injustice continue. We are committed to screaming for and demanding justice from every rooftop until justice prevails. We are calling on courageous educational
leadership to take the lead on fixing what they have broken, not surreptitiously skirt responsibility.
Dr. Green’s Retaliatory Posture
Further, we call on Dr. Green to cease his retaliatory posture toward ACECC and ACETI. Dr. Green must recognize that the silence and inaction of his employers allowed him to be poisoned by the negative culture of his predecessor as it relates to ACECC. It is no secret now that Dr. Covington was incensed by ACECC’s opposition to his ill-fated “right-sizing” scheme. It is also no secret now that Dr. Covington and his administration said that “ACECC has got to pay a price for opposing right-sizing.” The “price” exacted on ACECC was in the form of two consecutive inequitable contracts designed to insure ACECC’s failure. The school board president has admitted this much.
When Dr. Green sat down on day one as an interim superintendent he had an administration that wasn’t his. He had to rely on advice and counsel from an administration who previously stated that “ACECC has to pay a price!” The entire cabinet that was here on Dr. Green’s first day is now gone. Is Dr. Green still beholding to their advice? Is this why he never sought to sit down with ACETI prior to announcing he was closing ACECC? Is this why he decided to NEVER observe the educational environment for himself at ACECC prior to announcing he was closing
ACECC? Is this why he violated school board policy that directs him to communicate with parents and the community prior to deciding to close ACECC? The answer to these questions we may never know but what is crystal clear is that the harm and injury caused to ACECC began before he walked into 1211 McGee and sat behind his desk for the first time. His administration, with the tacit approval of the entire school board sent him on a fool’s errand not based on truth, facts and honor but rather based on lies, rumors and intent to destroy. Will Dr. Green stand up and repudiate how he has been used in this gross miscarriage of justice?
Our intent as parents is not to punish Dr. Green or the school board by making them walk in front of a firing squad. What we want is justice! But not justice in the abstract, we seek restorative justice.
Restorative justice seeks to make the victim and their community whole not by simply sending an offender to jail but rather by seeking a remedy that would allow victims and offenders to move beyond the harm and injury caused with both parties ability to do good work intact. In order for this to work there has to be an acknowledgement of and accountability for the harm and injury caused. Further, there must be a commitment on the offender’s part to restore the victim to at least their pre-injury state.
Understanding this, we reject the suggestion that Dr. Green and the school board seeks to honor ACETI’s legacy by allowing their “continued involvement in the KCPS’ African-centered work.” Such a suggestion is a slap in the face. It is akin to someone breaking into your house while you are not there, taking up residence, using your clothes and your car, and when you return they say “Oh, you can stay in the guest room and feel free to use the car on the weekends.” Asking ACECC/ACETI to participate in “KCPS’ African-centered work” is just as absurd.
Restorative justice requires more. It requires the school board president to boldly move beyond his first step in “clarifying the narrative” to recognizing the destructive power of his silence and inaction, accepting full responsibility and accountability for such. If this is done in the true spirit of restoration, ACECC/ACETI will be up and running in no time, doing the work that they have been doing admirably for a quarter-century.
Our commitment to African-centeredness requires us to seek African thought and practice to navigate through challenges we face currently. Over four thousand years ago an African named Ptah Hotep authored a book of wise instruction; a passage from that book says the following:
"If you are a leader see to it that plans you make are carried out. Do great things which will be remembered long after you. Where there is praise, detraction cannot survive. But where those of ill-will enter, like crocodiles, there will be strife."
This gives us an indication that leadership is difficult and has been for over 4000 years! Why else would entire books be devoted to it? In this masterful book of wise instruction, Ptah Hotep encourages leaders to always stand on the side of truth even when it is not comfortable or popular to do so.
Our greatest desire is for the school board to recognize the harm and injury that your collective silence and inaction has caused. Many of you were not even members of the school board when many of these distasteful decisions were made. However, you are on the school board now and we are asking the school board to stand on the side of truth, despite the fact it may be unpopular or uncomfortable.
The truth is:
* Dr. Covington retaliated against ACECC for opposing his right-sizing scheme.
* Dr. Covington and his administration openly said, “ACECC has to pay a price…”
* Dr. Covington forced ACETI to sign a contract (2010-2011) that was inequitable in an attempt to destroy ACECC.
* Dr. Covington attempted to have ACETI sign a second contract (2011-2012) that was
more inequitable that the first one.
* ACETI refused to sign.
* In an executive session, the School Board President asked ACETI to sign the contract on his (and the Board’s) word that they would direct Dr. Covington to fix the inequities in a separate Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
* ACETI signs the 2011-2012 contract based on the School Board’s verbal contract.
* Dr. Covington resigns, without completing the MOU.
* School starts with NO MOU in place.
* ACETI seeks redress from the Board immediately following Covington’s departure. The Board President states “The board has bigger problems than ACETI right now” and never insures that the inequities are remedied.
* ACECC parents filed an injunction to get the inequities addressed.
In the final analysis, there was absolutely nothing done by ACETI to cause the non-renewal of the ACECC contract. Furthermore, all of the reasons given were inadequate at best. The actions required to remedy this harm and injury will take bold and courageous leadership. I certainly hope for the future integrity, creditability, and viability of KCPS, courageous leadership from our Board of Directors will come swiftly and without delay. Then and only then can the healing begin to occur.