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Will Kansas City Changes Last?

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With the school board election in Kansas City just days away, some are wondering if the slate of board members to be voted on Tuesday will mean a reversal of the major transformations underway. Five of nine school board seats are the ballot, with uncontested candidates for two seats.

The Missouri school district has made headlines, as anyone not under a rock knows, when it voted earlier this month to close 26 of its 61 schools.

The closings, as Superintendent John Covington told me for a story on school district transformations, are part of a larger plan for the district that includes an academic makeover. It will also help eliminate a $50 million budget shortfall.

The district had lost half of its students over the past decade, and many schools had significant proportions of students who are not making the grade on state exams, Covington told me.

Veteran superintendents will tell you that few things, if anything, are more difficult to get a board to do than close schools. By getting his school board to agree to close nearly half, Covington has accomplished a herculean feat. Maintaining a solid board majority long enough to get traction in a district that has had a revolving door of superintendents in recent years may prove even more challenging.

Ray Wilson, a board member on the losing side of that 5-4 vote, however, told the Kansas City Star he has no interest in going back and revisiting the issue. Wilson is not up for re-election, but some of the candidates for election have said they would like to see the board respond to some community member unsatisfied with the school closings.

As I told you in December, local citizens were so excited about the opportunity to change the school board that they waited in line before the central office building was even open just to be the first to pull a petition. So there's stronger community interest than is often seen in many school board elections. But what does that mean for Kansas City?

As always, I'll keep you posted.

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