When he took over as superintendent of the Kansas City, Missouri, School District in 2009, John Covington realized immediately that he needed to close buildings. Many buildings. District enrollment had fallen by about half since its peak in the late 1960s. But a succession of dysfunctional school boards had put off the hard choices, such as deciding which neighborhoods were going to lose their elementary schools. Covington figured that 29 of the district's 61 buildings were expendable, and he pushed the district's leadership to come to a quick decision. The process moved at an inertia-defying speed. Within a month, Covington had the votes he needed to put his plan in motion. His swift action galvanized a beleaguered district and prevented some potentially more painful decisions down the road.