Kansas City, Mo The interim superintendent of Kansas City schools says his first order of business will be to focus students and educators on the state tests that determine whether the district regains accreditation.
Students began taking the Missouri Assessment Program tests Monday, the same day that Benjamin Demps Jr. resigned as superintendent after 20 months on the job. In an emergency meeting, the school board voted to appoint Bernard Taylor, executive director of school leadership, as interim superintendent.
Taylor, 41, said that although he normally would be thrilled at such an appointment, "This is not a normal circumstance."
"I am heartsick people had to leave."
Six members of Demps' staff also resigned Monday.
Taylor, the district's 20th leader in 30 years, takes over a legally troubled and academically deficient system with nearly 30,000 students, 5,000 employees and a $275 million budget.
The state stripped the district of its accreditation in May 2000 after the schools failed to show adequate improvement in meeting 11 educational criteria. The district has until June 2002 to regain accreditation before the state would assume control of the schools.
The district also is trying to end court supervision of one of the nation's most expensive desegregation efforts more than $2 billion over more than 20 years.
Board members said they did not know when a search for Demps' permanent replacement would begin. Board member Elma Warrick said she hoped her colleagues would hold off until the state had decided whether to reinstate the district's accreditation.
It was the second time in less than a week that Taylor has found himself running the district. The board appointed him to the job April 18 after firing Demps. That firing later was stayed by a court order.