KSHB investigative reporter Ryan Kath will air a sweeps story tonight on 41 Action News that will examine whether the Derrick Thomas Academy, named after the former Kansas City Chiefs’ superstar defensive end, will be able to survive.
When the Derrick Thomas Academy (DTA) opened a decade ago at 201 E. Armour Blvd, there were former and current Chiefs in attendance, and big hopes about what the building could do for students in Kansas City.
However, 10 years later low test scores and poorly-managed finances have created an uncertain future at the Academy. According to Kath, the charter school’s sponsor, UMKC, will need to decide whether to renew a contract or close the school at the end of the 2013 school year.
A letter sent to Academy officials in June by UMKC officials and obtained by KSHB was the key for the story.
“Possession of the letter allowed us to ask much more detailed questions to officials at DTA and UMKC,” Kath told Bottom Line. “Instead of calling and saying, ‘I hear you guys are having some problems,’ we already knew the issues (finances, special education compliance, test scores, etc.) and could specifically ask about those. We could also go back to the “clarification of media coverage” released to parents last August, and ask if those statements were truly accurate.”
Kath is not sure parents are even aware of the gravity of the situation.
“I will be curious to see what kind of reaction we get from parents after the story airs. I’m not sure how many parents are aware of the issues or the significant staff turnover in recent months (principals, teachers, etc.). Even if the finance situation can be corrected, it is clear that test scores could make or break the future of the school. Those will be released soon…”
The bottom line, according to Kath?
“If UMKC chooses not to renew its sponsorship, DTA would not be the first charter school to close in KC,” he says. “However, I think the situation would resonate with more people, given the legendary name tied to the school. It would also mean roughly 900 kids looking for a new school at the end of the 2013 year.”
Because of large staff turnover–reportedly up to 45 teachers and administrators have bailed on the school—the charter school has been working to hire teachers and administrators over the summer, but remains unsure if the upcoming school year will be its last.
The Derrick Thomas Academy has already offered a “Clarification of Media Coverage” statement claiming reporting about the Academy has been “inaccurate and misleading.”
Thomas, 33, was one of the biggest names on the Kansas City sports scene when he died in 2000 after 10 years with the team. The Chiefs defensive superstar was paralyzed in a car wreck and developed a massive blood clot.
After his death it was revealed he had financial issues and had fathered seven children throughout the area. The children’s mothers filed suit for a share of his assets.
UPDATE (7/16) Link to Kath’s story: http://www.kshb.com/dpp/news/local_news/investigations/will-low-test-scores-shaky-financial-situation-spell-the-end-for-derrick-thomas-academy