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City Hall Recognizes Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell for Accreditation

Below is the written transcript taken from the video on January 20, 2022

[Councilwoman Melissa Robinson] I am very pleased to acknowledge Kansas City public schools, Dr. Mark Bedell, parents, and teachers for receiving full accreditation. And I also want to recognize our colleague, Councilman O'Neill because we had to arm wrestle over who was able to sponsor this. He won, but he's such a gentleman, he allowed me to go forward, so I appreciate him for that.

But it goes to show you that the full council is really celebrating with you and the thousands of students, faculty, and parents on receiving accreditation.

We're recognizing that this is a tremendous accomplishment for Kansas City students, parents, teachers, and school administrators.

KCPS has improved its four-year graduation rate from 68.7% in 2016 to 77.8% in 2021.

And in 2019, when I was the Board Chair, students exceeded the state's expectations for academic growth in English-Language Arts, which was a huge celebration for us. And in 2021 the students exceeded the state's expectations for academic growth in math, despite COVID-19.

You continue to outpace the state's expectations for student growth. Even when we look at AP placement in the International Baccalaureate program, you were able to increase those courses by 34%.

So we know that KCPS is doing great things for our children.

It wasn't a matter of if KCPS would attain accreditation, we all knew that it was just a matter of when, but what was so impressive specifically about KCPS and is specifically about our superintendent, is that every day you show up and you continue to work to improve academic growth for kids.

Despite when we looked at the academics year after year, we were outperforming a lot of our other districts and so we had to remain silent, but we knew that it was coming.

And so for that, for your courage and being able to overcome a lot of the obstacles and achieving this accomplishment is great and we know that this is just the floor, it's not the ceiling, that there's a lot of work to be done, but we just wanted to take this moment to congratulate you and to let you know that we know that the processes and systems that you put in place will help us for the next generation to come.

So hats off to you and the student Braden who's here to accept this as well. We appreciate you.

[Councilman O’Neill] Well, I mean we could talk about your accomplishments all day, you've done such a phenomenal job and Councilwoman Robinson's accolades are phenomenal but it did come to my attention that you're a Bills fan and I think we have to address the elephant in the room here.

How does Braden feel about that? Thank you.

[Councilman Fowler] Well, I was going to stand up and say something nice about you all until I found out he was a Bills fan and then the whole impetus went away, but no, I know nobody recognizes, I'm a Northlander, you know, none of my district is in Kansas City Public Schools, but we can't, we have to recognize the fact that all our school districts are tied together in one way or another and for this, for Kansas City Public Schools to get out of this hole that they've been in is of immense benefit to our entire city and our entire metropolitan area.

So we want you to keep going, we appreciate it. I know our superintendents work well with you together, they have a great deal of respect for you, all of them.

I also want to call out the accomplishments of my colleague, Councilman Barnes who was on the school board for a number of years and especially Councilwoman Robinson, who led the school board and who got us onto this path to re-accreditation and their support and their work cannot be underestimated.

So, a special shout out to both of them, thank you Mr. Honorable Mayor Pro Tem.

[Councilman Bunch] Thank you. Mr. Mayor Pro Tem. First I just want to say thank you to all the dedication from members of the board, currently, past members of the board who really got this on track and most importantly brought Dr. Bedell to town because without your leadership, I don't know that this would be possible.

You have demonstrated such a remarkable patience and enthusiasm and have brought, I think, an infectious approach to the school district and I can't thank you enough as both a leader in this community and as a neighbor.

I really appreciate everything you've done and you've built an incredible team over there. It certainly wouldn't have been possible without the team that you have really helped create both faculty and administration.

So thank you so much Dr. Bedell, and this is so exciting for the city, this is absolutely necessary for the city to continue to thrive and to provide a good education to the students of Kansas city.

Thank you for your dedication and keep up the great work.

And I believe you're the longest-serving superintendent in 50 years, as I understand it. That is incredible. I think you deserve a round of applause just for that.

That’s not an empty platitude. That is that is incredible dedication to a district that so many people have given up on and thank you for believing in Kansas City. Thank you for believing in the students of the city.

Mr. Lyons, thank you for joining us here and I hope you're having a great school year. Maybe not the most exciting place to hang out, but I really appreciate you coming in and keep up your hard work as well.

[Councilman Barnes] Yes, Mr. Mayor Pro Tem. I just simply want to congratulate you, you know, we go back to when you first got here and some of the heartfelt conversations that you and I had on a personal level and understanding how hard you work and how hard you were gonna work, and it has come to fruition.

That you stuck in there and made sure that all of the people caught your vision, and that's not an easy thing to do. And when you were able to display your vision and oftentimes, you know, there were, there were folks who had, you know, it hasn't all been easy, it hasn't all been, you know, rosy.

You know, there were some folks who probably were saying, you know this, that or the other about Dr. Bedell but you kept focused, you kept on moving towards that end-goal that you had, and that number one goal was getting accreditation back and that's what we have, and I congratulate you, I commend you.

[Councilwoman Parks-Shaw] Thank you Mr. Mayor Pro Tem. You know, and I've said to you a couple of times already, I'm just so elated, I could dance a jig here and do some flips because this is so important, to not just our students, but to our city as a whole and so I want to thank you for your steadfast commitment to the work that you're doing for our youth.

I want to just use this as an opportunity to say as you continue to send your staff in City Hall to hold us accountable for making sure that we put our kids first, I want you to do that even harder now because definitely, we know that the commitment, the financial commitment and the decisions that we make here in city Hall do have a long term effect on our kids.

I love the fact in your press conference when you said, “we're only just beginning”.

I can't wait to see what the next 5, 10 years looks like for our students under your leadership. So thank you so much for your commitment.

And I also want to congratulate our students. This wouldn’t be done without them and their parents doing all the hard work every day.

So thank you so much and I would like to be added to this as well. Thank you.

[Mayor Pro Tem Kevin McManus] Thank you, any others? I'll just say if you haven't heard already, this city is very excited about you, your leadership and what this this community has accomplished together.

And I think it's fitting that we have a student here and our superintendent because really one is dependent upon the other and everybody in between. It's a team effort and we appreciate obviously the leadership at the top, but I'm really glad you're here too because you know, you are the future of the city and your fellow students and that's what this is all about, is paying it forward and we're really excited about what's to come.

So without the special action, the resolution is before council, all those in favor, please respond by saying “Aye”,

[Council] “Aye”

[Mayor Pro Tem Kevin McManus] All those opposed? Hearing none, the resolution is passed.

Please come up and say a few words.

[Dr. Mark Bedell] I would let my student speak and then I'll come and close it out. We'll give it to Braden, one of our, one of our students from Southeast High School and he's also in our Early College Academy and I'll let him speak to you all.

[KCPS Student] Hello, my name is Braden Lyons. And one thing that I would like to say is that I genuinely don't think I'd be the same person I am now if I were in a place like for example, anywhere else.

I don't get the love, I wouldn't be able to get the love from my teachers from elementary school or middle school or high school that, you know, I got here.

For a little bit, well, I'd say around elementary school, I've been kind of stuck in this whole cycle of, I'm just gonna go home. I'm gonna do my homework and you know, that's it. Play a little bit of video games for, I don't even want to say how many hours, but you know, I came down here to move down with my dad and I went to African Centered Prep and these teachers here, even though I didn't even recognize it, they had so much passion for their students. They put their pride and joy into inspiring each of them. And you know, I was one of them.

Even if I didn't, again, I didn't recognize it. And moving to Southeast and during Covid, that has taught me, you know, I don't really want to be stuck in the same place. And one teacher that has really pushed me to do more, her name is Sandra Days, and she offered me the choice of doing early college and you know what I thought? “I don't really care about it.” And that's not something that I should have thought.

But you know, going to her, she inspired me to do more. I'm a pretty smart kid and that's not something I would have said, you know, years ago. But she really pushed me to take more into consideration.

I have good grades. I could be doing a whole lot more. And here I am. I started driving this year. I started working this year and I'm in college and by next year, I'm gonna have my associates degree at the age of 18.

So again, I love the KCPS District for what they have created and what they have taught me and what they're teaching every other student like me, and they have offered so much to their students. And this is not something that a lot of other districts can provide. So, thank you.

[Dr. Mark Bedell, KCPS Superintendent] I just want to thank our city council members, those of you who graduated from the school district, served the school district, have had belief in the work that we've been doing.

It hasn't been easy.

I think when we talk about what Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw just said about accountability, I think we all have a responsibility to hold each other accountable. And I know that at times there may have been things that I've said, in particular around economic development, that may have been inflammatory to some on the city council.

It was never, ever my position to personally attack individuals on city council.

It was my intention to attack the way that the system has been designed and how an advantage is not necessarily being utilized to enhance the vast majority of the communities that I serve, on the backs of the working class poor in most cases. And so for me, my job as a superintendent, is just no different than how you all have to represent your constituents.

I have to represent the Children.

I have to represent the Children in most cases who have been intentionally shut out of the Kansas City dream by design, and it's easy to get comfortable, which is what happens a lot around this country.

You get comfortable, you get your second contract, generally you sign your second contract, it opens up the door for you to go anywhere else easily. And what I said, and I made a commitment to, was that I'm going to be here to help deliver these students and to be able to graduate them into a world that they are truly prepared for.

And if it means that I have to fight against politicians, against an adult-centered agenda, against an agenda that totally goes against what's in the best interests of them, I'm willing to do that and I'm willing to be a martyr behind it, right? Because at the end of the day, the worst thing that can ever happen to me, is that I go back and I teach, and I was a damn good teacher.

It may not be as much money, but I could tell you, I was probably the happiest in my career as an educator when I was in that classroom with my children.

And so I have a responsibility and it's never personal. I have a responsibility by policy. I see Jennifer Wolfsie, there in the back, one of the longest standing board members, she's been on ever since I started.

We have a board now that six of the other board members weren't there when they hired me. I've been through four iterations of a board and I wasn't here for those days when things were horrific.

By the time I got here, Melissa was the board chair, there was harmony. I was able to make mistakes. I was given time to learn how to be a superintendent. They took the position that they would not allow me to fail. That's why we're here today.

You can't come into a school district like this, that's been through that type of turmoil and think you can turn it around in two years. But that's what happens all around the country. People want you to perform magic when there is no magic to be performed.

It's all intentionality, it's systemic, it's gradual. This report came out on December 21st, from Saint Louis University, the Prime Center, and what you often don't see in data, if everybody just looks at proficient and advanced rates, you're only looking at one absolute.

There's a much bigger story when you think about student growth and where students are, when your teachers inherit them, until where they are as a result of the body of work.

In this study,Beating the Odds: Student growth in Missouri's High Poverty Schools, they took the data of the 30 high-poverty elementary schools in the state of Missouri, the top 30 high-growth, KCPS had 8 schools out of the 30 in E.L.A. on this list.

You may not ever see that based on professional advanced rates, but that tells you a story about what's going on inside of those schools that oftentimes get overshadowed.

We have 5 out of the 30 in Math. There were no districts remotely close to us in this report with the work that we're doing in our elementary schools.

So I am proud of the work of our teachers, our faculty and staff members, all of our support staff, the support we've gotten from parents, the support that we've gotten from our boards, the various iterations, and I also couldn't be prouder of the people in central office that I surround myself with, that have allowed for us to get there.

Lastly, Melissa Robinson made a comment about our Advanced Placement. It wasn't just that we increased Advanced Placement. We saw these numbers grow over a three-year period from 594 students taking these rigorous courses to 859 last year.

Not only that, we saw the number of kids that scored a qualifying score go from 10 in 2017 To 61, this past year. We saw our I.B. scores double.

Our kids at Lincoln, 47% of them, three years ago, were passing that exam; that number has jumped up to 80.4% this past year, earning a qualifying score, meaning that you don't have to pay anything to go to college when you passed these types of courses.

And as I've said before, the work that we're doing with our graduation rates is phenomenal, but it's because of the partnerships we have with people like MCC, the full employment Council to offer the middle college to give 17 to 21-year-olds who have dropped out of school a second chance to get their high school diploma.

So I'll say this: schools can't do it alone.

Mark Bedell can't take credit for this.

You'll never see me go on twitter and retweet anything that acknowledges my work because that's not why I'm here, that's not what I'm here for.

I get paid to do this job, this is what I should be doing.

And I want to thank all of you. Those of you who haven't partnered with us, I look for you to come back and partner with us. We got a bond that we're going to have to pass.

We want these kids in modernized buildings too.

So let's give our kids everything that everybody else gets and let's make this a very robust city for all.

We have an opportunity to do that. Thank you all.


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