Southwest High School–Shot Up Like the School Bus

It’s over for Southwest High School.  The dream of being a college prep school is gone, shot up like the shots fired at the schoolbus full of football players several days ago. And who fired the gun? The Kansas City School District. Again.

Last week the Kansas City Star reported that the area partners for the school (Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, Donnelly College, KC Area Life Sciences Institute, PREP-KC and UMKC) announced they were pulling their support from the school next year.  Why?  Conditions at the school no longer exist to continue as an early college school. What started out so promising four years ago, and was succeeding until last year, is in ruins.  And once again, it’s the students who suffer.

Every $#*% time I hear board members and KCMO school adminstrators talk about how ‘the community’ needs to get involved with the district, how ‘all of us’ have to create a better public schools in the city, I think of Southwest. Southwest High did exactly that:  it started with a team of dedicated staff,  parents, and students  who wanted to beat the odds and make this KCMO public school work.  Students could earn college credits.  Tutoring was available. Teachers were screened and chosen specificially to follow the challenging curriculum plan.  Students and parents had to sign contracts outlining what was expected of both parties. It was working.

Then last year, former superintendent Dr Covington closed Westport High and flooded Southwest with kids who didn’t have the same drive to learn as the college prep students.  It was overcrowded; chaos on a daily basis.  Early college prep teachers were let go and replaced with other teachers not as motivated to stick to the plan. Conferences and contracts with students and parents weren’ t being enforced. Community volunteers were asked to leave their assignments. It became just another badly managed KCMO public school.

And now the partners are pulling out.  Who can blame them? If the district, the teachers, the students, the parents aren’t going to support what was working, aren’t going to support the specific goal of that school–why bother trying to create something the district obviously won’t support?

What will happen to Southwest High School?  Principal Ed Richardson will probably resign.  The college prep courses will be gone. The highly motivated students who want to learn will leave for other schools.  And Southwest will become a teenage daycare facility, graduating kids that don’t meet the minimum learning standards.

The Kansas City School District can only blame themselves for this fiasco. The community gave the school district the support and the tools to make Southwest work–and the school district killed it.


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