Kansas City school board to apologize for past rupture with African-centered program

Kansas City Public Schools is expressing regret for turmoil that led to the closure of an African-centered educational program.

The school board plans to adopt a resolution at its meeting Wednesday recognizing the contributions of the Afrikan Centered Education Collegium Campus, which served pre-K through 12th-grade students.

The program had three graduating high school classes which saw a 100% graduation rate and seniors received more than $1 million in college scholarships, the resolution said.

The campus closed in 2012 after years of strife between the Afrikan Centered Education Task Force, Inc., and KCPS.

The resolution reads in part, “To build bridges to the future for the benefit of our kids, our families and our community, we express regret for past disagreement and apologize for not seeking a restoration of our relationship prior to now.”

The African Centered program started in 1990 at J.S. Chick Elementary and gradually expanded to middle and high school. It emphasized African culture and perspectives.

Linwood Tauheed served on the task force and said an educational system that recognizes the cultural context of African American students “leads them to be energized by the educational process.”

“The results of that process, as in the African Center School, was to have improved student achievement to not only close the achievement gap between Black and white students, but actually produce students who were excelling in terms of academics,” he said.

In 2007, the Afrikan Centered Education Collegium Campus became a contract school with KCPS with the program retaining control of its staffing and curriculum.

Contract negotiations between the two entities broke down in late 2011 and former superintendent Steven Green announced the contract would not be renewed.

The program took the district to court claiming it had not met a $1 million obligation for per-pupil payments, special education and food service. A Jackson County jury ruled in favor of the district in March 2012.

That month, the district announced it would take over the program, saying the arrangement had become financially and operationally unfeasible, according to The Star’s archives.

The takeover angered parents and school leaders fought the decision. Many believed the move was an attack on African-centered education.

Ultimately, the program shuttered and the African-Centered College Preparatory Academy opened under KCPS.

Tauheed said Tuesday’s apology was an acknowledgment that the program was producing high achievers.

“It’s a recognition of the injustice that was done to the students, to their parents, to faculty and staff, to supporters and the community,” he said. “Because this school was closed, therefore, depriving future generations of students of the opportunity for excellence in education. It’s a redemption in the value of this type of education.”

The resolution says the school board and the task force have met in an effort of “reestablishing ties and fostering a collaborative working relationship moving forward” and that they “seek a renewed partnership.”

Tauheed said they are in the process of working with the district to reestablish the program.