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Kansas City Schools Avoid Takeover

April 17, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The turbulent Kansas City school system won provisional accreditation and avoided a state takeover Wednesday after just barely meeting minimum academic performance standards.

The 35,000-student district had lost its accreditation in 2000 for failing to meet any of the state’s 11 educational criteria. The district now meets four criteria.

The unanimous decision Wednesday by the state Board of Education averts a takeover that could have occurred as early as this summer.

``They’ve patched the hole in the side of the Titanic,″ said Board of Education member Peter Herschend. ``The ship’s not safe, but it’s a lot safer than it was.″

Kansas City School Superintendent Bernard Taylor Jr. said his goal is for the district to gain full accreditation by 2004. ``I’m going to give us all one hour to celebrate and then we get back to work,″ he said.

The district’s troubles have stemmed in part from infighting at the Kansas City school board and frequent turnover of superintendents. On Tuesday, the board and Taylor agreed to a two-year contract extension _ a sign of improved relations.

Taylor is the district’s 20th superintendent in 31 years. He was hired in April after the former superintendent was fired by the board, then reinstated by a judge, only to resign after 20 months.

The district remains under federal court supervision as part of a more than 20-year desegregation effort. Regaining accreditation might help the school system in its attempts to end that supervision.

Arthur Benson, an attorney for plaintiffs in the desegregation case, said the district still must improve academics and close the achievement gap between black and white students.

``Provisional accreditation is the lowest rung of the ladder,″ he said. ``The district still has a long way to go.″

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