As KCUR’s Aviva Okeson-Haberman dutifully reported, parents and others supporters of the Kansas City, Kansas School District worry about what sort of change an outsider brings to “a poorer district that’s seen uncharacteristic stability for an urban school system.”
The outsider in question is Charles Foust, most recently the chief school performance officer at Union County Public Schools in North Carolina. His selection over long time KCK employee Jayson Strickland caused a furor among those following the selection process. If, however, Foust can productively disrupt the “stability” that has characterized the district, the KCK School Board will have made the right pick.
If Foust’s performance going forward is hard to predict, the district’s performance looking back is easy to sum up. The word “disgraceful” comes quickly to mind.
As the Kansas Policy Institute has documented, four of the five district high schools/ warehouses should be shuttered. In none of them do as many as 7 percent of the school’s students meet Kansas Assessment Programs standards in either English language arts (ELA) or math.
In F.L. Schlagle High School, for instance, only 2 percent of the students are “college and career ready” in ELA and 0 percent in math. At Wyandotte High, 3 percent are college and career ready in ELA and 3 percent in math.
Unfortunately, there is nothing in Foust’s background that suggests he has the moxie to undo this kind of stability. A product of undistinguished educational schools–his doctorate is from the University of Houston in “professional leadership”–Foust seems too fully a product of the educational establishment to dream of blowing it up.
What drives Foust is ambition. In Houston, Foust was promoted from middle school principal to school support officer for the 2013-2014 school year. By 2015, Foust was a finalist for the job as Minneapolis superintendent. In 2016, he threw his hat in the ring for the Bentonville, Arkansas, job. In 2017, no sooner did he get the chief school performance officer job in North Carolina than he began looking again.
According to KCUR, Foust wants “to increase graduation rates and make sure every student is reading at grade level by second grade.” In KCK, verbs like “increase” have not made sense in a generation. Foust should be thinking “disrupt,” “deconstruct,” “demolish.” For too long in KCK, “stability” has just been a euphemism for “complacency.”