A Crusader Touches Down in Kansas City

April 23, 2011  |  

(Washington Post) — John Covington hesitated before becoming this city’s 26th school superintendent in 40 years. A blunt-talking African American from Alabama, he attended the Broad Superintendents Academy in Los Angeles, which prepares leaders for urban school districts, and when he asked people there if he should come here, their response, he says, was: “Not ‘no,’ but ‘Hell, no!’ ” He says they suggested that when flying across the country he should take a flight that does not pass through this city’s airspace.  How did this pleasant place become so problematic? Remember the destination of the road paved with good intentions.  This city is just 65 miles down the road from Topeka, Kan., from whence came Brown v. Board of Education , the fuse that lit many ongoing struggles over schools and race. Kansas City has had its share of those struggles, one of which occurred last year when Covington took office with a big bang: He closed 26 of the district’s 61 schools. Kansas City had fewer students but twice as many schools as Pueblo, Colo., where Covington had been superintendent.

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