Kent Public Schools | KNKX

Kent Public Schools

Kent Superintendent Calvin Watts
Ashley Gross / KNKX

The superintendent of the Kent School District is the sole finalist to lead the largest school district in Georgia.

Kent School Board Directors Karen DeBruler (second from left), Ross Hardy (third from left), and Debbie Straus (fourth from left) say they will not run to retain their seats.
Ashley Gross / KNKX

UPDATE, May 20: Updates to say that two people withdrew their names from the race for the Seattle School Board District 2 seat.

The Kent School District, which has contended with budget shortfalls in recent years and criticism from its teachers’ union, will have significant changes on its school board after this November’s election.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

Kent School District's superintendent has faced public criticism for receiving thousands of dollars in stipends to participate in education-technology conferences. Now, the school board has voted against allowing him to take part in one in February.

Kent Schools administration building
Ashley Gross / KNKX


Washington state is funneling billions of dollars into K-12 public education over the next few years to satisfy a state Supreme court order in the McCleary school-funding lawsuit. But that influx of money raises questions about accountability for school district finances. Washington, unlike other states, does not require districts to employ internal auditors to monitor spending of public funds.

 

Such oversight would be welcome in the Kent School District, where financial turmoil has many people reeling, even within the organization. Ashley Gross, KNKX’s youth and education reporter, sat down with Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick to discuss her reporting on internal auditing in school districts, and the experts who champion the benefits of the additional accountability measure.

 

The Kent School Board said it plans to hire an independent auditor to examine the district's financial transactions for the past six school years, a move the board announced in a letter to two parents who had filed complaints.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

 (Updated at 10:43 am on Aug. 29, 2018, to add that the Tacoma Education Association says the raise the district is offering is 0.6 percent above what's in the current contract.)

Just a day before school is set to start in Kent, the Kent Education Association said on Facebook it has reached a tentative agreement with the school district.

The teachers' union had been at odds with district administration and said the district was trying to use money from the state intended for teacher salaries to plug budget holes. 

Ashley Gross / KNKX

The Kent School Board is preparing to vote Wednesday on a controversial extension of the superintendent’s contract that adds language on conflicts of interest and outside consulting work.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

This story is the second in a two-part series about school districts and education technology. You can find the first part here

(Updated at 6:35 a.m. on Aug. 15, 2018 to add that Steve Kupfer said he’s never been affiliated with ERDI.)

Teachers’ unions are scrutinizing school district budgets right now as they bargain for pay increases. Salaries make up the bulk of public education budgets, but districts also make significant technology purchases.

In the Kent School District, some parents are upset about the sole-source purchase of budgeting software that they say exacerbated the district’s budget mess.

screenshot of ERDI web site

 (Updated at 10:55 am on Aug. 17, 2018, to clarify that the Kent School District has a policy requiring that employees inform their supervisors in writing of potential conflicts of interest.)

As fall approaches, families are starting to shop for school supplies including notebooks and markers. But increasingly, the work of school is done digitally – from online homework apps to web portals for accessing grades.

District superintendents play an important role in deciding what software to buy, and because of that, education technology companies look for ways to get their attention.

Parents and teachers in the Kent School District are calling for the resignation of Superintendent Calvin Watts. One mother has started an online petition calling for him to step down.

With life returning to normal across much of Puget Sound, at least 24,000 homes were still without power as of 11 o'clock this morning. Puget Sound Energy has the largest number of outages and predicts it will have nearly all its customers restored by Wednesday evening.

The clean-up job is still daunting, and it's affecting some schools and college campuses.