Article from:  "Smart? We need the Max." by Barbara Shelly.  Kansas City Star, June 19, 1996
Like everyone else, I've completely missed the mark on the dream superintendent candidate. All this time, I thought only Superman could save the Kansas City School District.
But, that's all wrong.
Superman is too classy, too competent, too high-minded to run the city schools. He wouldn't last six months.
The guy this district really needs is Maxwell Smart.
You remember Max. The mumbling star of that classic television sitcom "Get Smart." If you weren't fortunate enough to spend your childhood chortling over Smart (a.k.a.Agent 86), look for reruns on cable.
Smart, a secret agency for an entity called CONTROL, every week took on the forces of the enemy, an entity called KAOS. Every week, he prevailed, despite himself.
Agent 86, where are you?
It's not that I think the departure of Acting Superintendent Larry Ramsey and two of his aides was a pivotal moment in the district's history.
Ramsey was out of step with the new school board. His chances of getting the job on a permanent basis were about as good as Pat Buchanan's odds of being elected President.
Even worse, Ramsey had skin as thin as phyllo dough. He was known for blowouts and walkouts. He threatened to walk out of a meeting with the Star's editorial board because he didn't like the questions asked of him. School administrators can cite other instances.
Maxwell Smart, now, has a hide as tough as a Michelin tire.
Slights and insults sail right over his head. He has a refreshing absence of ego, which would be oh-so-refreshing for a school superintendent.
These qualities enabled Smart to conquer KAOS. And despite School Board President Ed Newsome's insistence that all is well in Kansas City, the dark forces are very much in evidence.
How else can you explain a system that had two competing administrators, Ramsey and Ida Lowe, reporting directly to the school board? KAOS at work.
KAOS has infiltrated the law offices of Arthur Benson, prompting his strange request to have a three-member committee run the district.
Nobody knows which schools will be open two years from now.
Nobody knows where the money will come from three years from now.
KAOS everywhere.
Mayor Emanuel Cleaver, for whom 200 rock-throwing youths constituted a "minicrisis" says the school district has "Herculean problems." Is he working for KAOS or CONTROL? Nobody's sure.
To restore order, or at least the appearance of it, the school board needs to hire a superintendent, set an agenda and get everybody else to shut up for a while.
But, who to hire?
Newsome, who seems to be in a perpetually sunny disposition these days, says candidates "will be itching to come here." Well, let's see. The last superintendent was driven to the point of job-related stress, his replacement had his reputation dragged through a mud pit, and the replacement for the replacement huffed out last week.
If I were a candidate, I'd scratch that itch with pumice stone and steer clear of Kansas City.
Not Agent 86, though. This is just the sort of situation in which he thrives.
The Kansas City school board has no other choice: Get Smart.


A Big Tip O' The Hat to Ryan Schroer for sending me this!  Thanks, Ryan! J

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