Deputy Superintendent, Kansas City Public Schools
Q. What ignited your passion for education?
A: I am the daughter of two educators, my dad was a principal and my mom was a teacher – both worked in a very underserved community in Houston. I saw their commitment to children. I also think about my brother who was in and out of jail for so many years and a lot of it had to do with his school experience. Of course we had great parents but when children go to school we have to take complete responsibility for what happens to them while they are there. Unfortunately, it was a lack of responsibility on the educators, he went to school at a time when we were going through a crossover – integration – and we didn’t tell anyone how to deal with the children they were receiving. What we ended up with was a whole generation of children who were underserved or not served at all. When I think about that, I think about how do I shift the trajectory for other children to make sure they have what they need. My passion is around making sure that we change the trajectory for students lives, I believe we can. I believe it’s possible!
Q: What do you believe will change or improve education in Kansas City?
A: We must accept complete responsibility for student outcomes, we need to make sure that we create the environment for kids to achieve their goals. And as adults, we must accept responsibility for what they do. It is also important for us to ensure that we have quality teachers who are trained and developed to teach. We want the best people in front of our children. In addition, we recognize the importance of providing ongoing professional development for teachers and principals and anyone who may interact with our students.
Another way we want to improve education in Kansas City is to approach education from an equitable lens. Some children come with more needs than others, we must be willing to accept that and our actions have to align with that. We have to make sure that we are providing the appropriate resources to each school based on that school’s needs. Equity is about giving people what they need. At Kansas City Public Schools we want to make sure that we have an equitable way of funding our schools and an equitable way of supporting our staff.
Q: You recently were able to attend the Harvard Turnaround Institute with a number of KCPS Administrators. How is your experience at Harvard going to help you in your leadership role at KCPS?
A: Harvard was a wonderful experience and I think it was really impactful because we took people from every department. We invited staff from human resources, budget, finance, research and curriculum development. This will help us become better aligned around the needs of schools and systematically we can see what changes need to happen. Equity is at the forefront and it has to be for KCPS so when we look at equity we have to evaluate every department from this lens. What does equity look like in budget and finance? What does that look like in guidance and counseling, what does it look like in every aspect of the district? The Harvard School Turnaround Institute gave us an avenue to really listen to the same information and have the right conversations about the needs of our district.
We were able to look at problems from our different angles but the awesome thing about this experience is that there is not one right way to solve problems. A lot of the challenges that we have in our schools are adaptive problems that means it takes a little bit longer to shift. We have to shift mindsets, we have to shift the culture in order to get it done. I think having everybody at the table and hearing the same thing helps us get further culturally.
Q: What are your goals for Kansas City Public Schools?
A: We want to gain full accreditation as a school system. We had a good year last year, and we want to have another good year this year. We want to build a sustainable model that allows the work to continue in generations to come. What that entails is changing the mindsets of people, changing the expectations people have for children. We are creating a positive trajectory for Kansas City Public Schools for years to come. We want people to feel like they can win and we’re all about winning for children.
Q: What accomplishment or achievement are you most proud of that KCPS has attained?
A: I am most proud of us achieving the 82.9% APR last year. I think it represents the hard work of so many people in this system. I am proud of the way we’ve come together to work out common problems in a very uncommon way. There are a lot of people here who want to see children win and be successful; it’s just about breaking down silos so we can come together to have the right conversations. There was a time when school leadership and curriculum/instruction were separate, but now we work collaboratively.
I am also proud of how the district’s reputation is making a shift, people are respecting the district and the work we are doing. I am very appreciative of the work we are doing with School Smart KC. We have a wonderful partnership and I love the fact they allow us to be thought-partners in the work. It’s not one-sided, we sit down together and we determine what the needs are and they support those needs. These are the type of partnerships that will really turn the district around because the schools cannot do it alone.
This content was originally published by SchoolSmartKC on 07/15/2019