In honoring KCK superintendent Cynthia Lane, the media-public education complex has given life to the old Woody Allen adage, “80 percent of success is showing up.”
The retiring school super deserves credit for enduring 29 years in the chronically troubled Kansas City, Kansas School District, but KCUR’s write-up of her accomplishments shows just how little the word “accomplishment” means in the world of public education.
Lane is no doubt as passionate and as committed and as community-oriented as the KCUR article suggests, but as the Sentinel noted in its assessment of district performance last month, “The 2017 grades for the high schools in the Kansas City District are noteworthy in their sheer awfulness.”
There are no participation trophies in the business world the way there appear to be in the media-public ed complex. One does not get praised for presiding, however civilly, over failure.
KCUR’s Aviva Okeson-Haberman alludes to but one real controversy in Lane’s eight years as superintendent. “In 2015,”Okeson-Haberman writes, “state lawmakers criticized her for spending $47,000 on a new piano for Sumner Academy.”
Okeson-Haberman quickly counters by pointing out that the old piano was 50 years old as though that fact somehow justified the expense of the new piano. If that detail was not explanatory enough, the young reporter adds, “the Kansas School Superintendents’ Association named her superintendent of the year.”
The KCUR article by Sam Zeff on the 2015 award implies that Lane’s strong stand in defense of that piano purchase may have actually prompted her fellow supers to give her the top honor.
At the time, as Zeff observes, “The purchase came at a time when school funding and efficiency were hot topics in the Legislature.” What should have been–and actually was in most quarters–a huge embarrassment proved to be a net plus for Lane in the media-public ed complex.
“Lane fired right back in her blog,” writes Zeff glowingly. He quotes Lane as writing, “Someone watching all of this grandstanding from afar, might interpret this to mean, stop buying pianos for schools and the state revenue shortfall will be solved!”
By “grandstanding” Lane was referring to those elected officials who questioned how an allegedly cash-strapped school superintendent in a cash-strapped state could spend so much of their constituents’ money on a single instrument for a single school to be used by a handful of students.
Zeff closed his article on Lane by noting, “Lane is now in the running for national superintendent of the year.” The taxpayer has to wonder what variables come into play to put a superintendent “in the running” because one of them is surely not test scores.
With the exception of the selective Sumner Academy, In none of the KCK District’s four other high schools do as many as 7 percent of the school’s students qualify as “college and career ready” in either English language arts or math.
At F.L. Schlagle High School not one single student qualified as “college and career ready” in math. In the three other high schools, the math numbers were respectively 2 percent, 3 percent, and 2 percent.
In 2017, according to the Kansas Policy Institute, Superintendent Lane had a salary of $232,646. Her pay increase from 2016 was 3.8 percent. The pay increase of her teachers was 1.4 percent. And Lane was one of more than 30 KCK administrators to make in excess of $100,000 a year. That’s a lot to pay for showing up.