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A big vote of confidence for the new Kansas City Schools leader and big shoes to fill

It’s not every day that teachers, parents, community and faith leaders, and school board members speak with one voice. But Wednesday night’s unanimous vote to hire Dr. Jennifer Collier as the first woman to serve as Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent was a resounding “yes.”

Collier has led the district on an interim basis since Mark Bedell left office last summer. She has extensive experience that has made her uniquely qualified: starting as a substitute teacher with the district, she has worked as a teacher, principal and director of human resources before rising to the role of deputy superintendent.

“I am very excited that Dr. Collier has been awarded the position,” Jason Roberts, president of the Kansas City Federation of Teachers and School Staff, said Thursday morning. “This is a significant moment for KCPS that we have finally done a promotion within the district.”

His 23 years of experience with the district means there’s no learning curve with this hire, Roberts said. “He knows the strengths of the systems and he knows the weaknesses of the systems. … We can start running.”

Bedell left some big running shoes to fill. During his record six years as superintendent, the district finally regained state accreditation, more than a decade after losing it due to declining student achievement. Graduation rates and test scores have increased during his tenure, and Collier has stood by him through these improvements.

While we have no doubts about Collier’s driving ability, we can’t help but wish interested parties had at least met with the other finalist for the job, a candidate whose identity has not been disclosed by the board.

But we cannot argue with clear consensus. As the very concept of public education comes under partisan attack from radical lawmakers with a ferocity not seen in decades, we wish Dr. Collier nothing but the best. May he the fever line on the district’s educational achievement charts continue to climb under his leadership.

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