Archive for the ‘KCMSD’ Category

Who to Vote for in the School Board Elections – Crispin Rea and Kyleen Carroll

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

I wrote a column at about the challenges of choosing candidates in the 6 person, 2 winner at large elections. Even if you try to get informed, it’s tough to tell one candidate from another. They all say nice, inspiring things and don’t talk much about policy differences.

Enough of that analytical even-handedness!

Vote for Crispin Rea and Kyleen Carroll. If you live in his district, vote for Joseph Jackson.

The fundamental question is whether to support the Superintendent’s “Right Sizing” Plan. Short answer, it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty darned well-thought-out and it is the only hope for transformative change in the District. I think it’s the right thing to do.

That knocks Cokethea Hill and Kenneth Hughlon off the list of candidates. They do not support the superintendent or the plan; the superintendent will be gone in a few months if those two win seats.

Here’s where the politics gets a little difficult. All of the other four candidates are good people, and will support necessary change. It’s tempting to take a “pick ‘em” stance and advise voting for whichever one you happen to prefer.


Do the math. It’s not that a vote for Robert Peterson or Rose Marie Bell is a vote for a bad person or even someone who will serve ineffectively. It’s just that if the people stuck in the status quo unite behind their two candidates, and the people who support change spread their votes among four, change loses.

Kansas Citians United for Educational Achievement – the only organization worth listening to on school board matters, in my opinion – has endorsed Crispin Rea and Kyleen Carroll. (They have also endorsed Joseph Jackson, who is running for the 4th subdistrict, which is the east part of midtown – if you live in subdistrict 4, memorize his name, too!)

It is really important that voters get out and vote on April 6. If you want an absentee ballot, get it here and return it before 5:00 on March 31. You can be sure that the people who are profiting from mismanagement and the entrenched status quo in the School District will be getting out and voting on April 6.

April 6 is an opportunity to move the district past constant turmoil and forward to a new vision. If you fail to vote, you may be abandoning thousands of children and families whose hope lies in change.

Want to Support KCMSD Success?

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

You probably don’t know the name Ron Martz, or understand his role in the formation of some of the Kansas City Metropolitan School District’s best and brightest youths. No, he’s not one of the bickering School Board members, nor one of the superintendents who have come and gone.

He’s just a band teacher.

But, in his role as the band teacher at Lincoln Prep, Ron Martz has brought discipline and practice and talent to life in children who are at that crucial age when they start either abandoning dreams of greatness or fitting them into their deepest self-images. Through music, he reaches into kids’ dreams and offers a score for their success. I don’t know how many professional musicians he has taught (though I’m sure there have been a few), but I know for a fact that he has taught kids whose self-confidence, bolstered by their demonstrated ability to master a musical instrument, has walked with them on college campuses from Harvard to Penn Valley, and helped them achieve far more than the newspapers and civic talk would allow them to dream.

Yes, I’m a little emotional on this topic, because I’ve seen him take groups of kids and transform them from unruly, surly mini-gangs into polished orchestras and bands.


Two years ago, two Lincoln students submitted their audition tapes to Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Wind Ensemble competition – and both were selected! The Carnegie Hall staff said they couldn’t recall a time when 2 high school students were selected from the same school in the same year. So last year, four more students submitted audition tapes (these are audio—it’s a “blind” audition) and were selected to be part of this National Youth Wind Ensemble this year. The artistic director of Carnegie Hall contacted Ron Martz, the director of Lincoln’s band program, and basically invited Martz to bring the entire Wind Ensemble to New York. High school bands and choirs from around the country travel to New York for this program each year, but they are overwhelmingly suburban schools. Most urban schools just can’t pull together the resources, even if they have the talent to be invited.


The budget for the trip – bus, hotels, fees, meals, insurance, all that stuff – is about $75,000, and they already have $30,000.

Are you setting up a Holiday Party for your office? How about arranging a few of these students to entertain, and making a contribution to the trip? Do you have a hard-to-shop-for relative? How about making a donation on his or her behalf? If you are fortunate enough to be in a position to donate all or a substantial portion of the $45,000, you could get the kids back into the practice room instead of out with their parents working the concession stands at the Sprint Center and Arrowhead or selling $1 donuts and candy bars. Here is a link to the web page that tells you how to make a donation.

Even if you don’t have a nickel to offer, though, come out to the Winter Concert on Wednesday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m. at Lincoln College Prep High School, 2111 Woodland Avenue. Offer your applause and appreciation for some great young musicians and their outstanding leader.

They deserve it.

Should Brookside Secede from the Union?

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

In the comments to my bit of McCain/Hilton fun, a commenter tossed out this bit of wildly off-topic but engaging thought provocation – “Can/Should the Brookside area schools separate from the KCMSD?”.

It’s tough to have a conversation about the Kansas City Metropolitan School District. First, there is sooo much misinformation out there. To some (mostly those from the suburbs who have little personal experience), the entire district is a catastrophe of corrupt administration, incompetent teachers, uncaring parents and unteachable students. For others, the KCMSD represents a source of political power, both as a potential springboard to other offices and as a fiefdom for those who prefer to remain in place. Still others look at the KCMSD as employment – an employer in labor negotiations which are intensifying to the point of a possible strike.

It’s easy to respond to the suggestion of a Brookside secession with a quick and dirty charge of racism. Or, at least, class bias. Let’s get the first class kids off the Titanic now, and God bless the souls left behind.

But that easy response may not be entirely fair. As the KCMSD administration and board have failed to provide a consistently good – heck, even a consistently decent – education to all (or even a majority) of their students, it’s been fair to lose faith. Sure, it’s a wonderful thing to hold hands and believe that the School District can turn around and accomplish great things, but when will we see accreditation? Is that so much to ask? If it isn’t, then let’s have it. If it is, then who can blame people for looking to jump ship?

And who can blame the teachers for wanting to improve their pay and working conditions?

And who can blame the administration for under-performing when the board chops off the head without explanation or apparent reason?

And who can blame the Board for reacting with micromanagement when their constituents blame them for problems they oversee?

And who can blame people like my commenter for wanting to throw up their hands and try to improve the educational prospects of at least some of the children at the screaming intersection of all of these conflicting interests?

This is the point in a typical blog post where I put forth my brilliantly thought-out, morally uplifting and shockingly practical solution . . .

I don’t have one. Sorry. And that “sorry” is truly, deeply sincere.

I do have a couple thoughts, though, about secession as a solution. It’s not going to happen. Victor Callahan was able to muscle through a secession plan for the Independence schools because they are, after all, in Independence, and nobody bothered to strongly oppose him in Jefferson City. After he did such a terrible job with the legislation, creating an ongoing litigation debacle that ought to leave him begging forgiveness from his better peers, I doubt that Jefferson City legislators are going to be eager to hear about more poorly thought-out half-solutions to what everyone knows is a bigger problem.

The solution doesn’t lie in Jefferson City. The solution, if there is one, must be found in Kansas City. I like to think that we took a step toward that solution when we elected Airick Leonard West to the School Board, but you’re fooling yourself if you believe that was enough.

Even he doesn’t think that was enough. Go look at his website - or, more accurately, the website of Kansas Citians United for Educational Achievement.

If you want to go ahead and work for a break-away republic in Brookside, I admire your willingness to think about the possibility of improving educational outcomes for at least some of our students. I really don’t think it’s going to work, though, and I think that we can take what we have and improve it.

Why Change When Things Are Going So Badly?

Friday, June 20th, 2008

Here in Kansas City, I suppose we prefer our change in small doses. The Jackson County election board chose yesterday to adopt a new district map “that created the least disturbance from the current boundaries, while evening up populations without shaking up the racial demographics.”

The reason given for rejecting the Unity map, which would have seized an opportunity to strike a blow to the heart of our segregationist past and “Us vs. Them” present? “The panel thought Option 3 presented too disruptive of a change to be considered for a single election.”

Two responses -

Is this the same election commission that “shuffled the deck” during the 2007 primaries, and provided voters with false information about where to vote? It seems to me that was a pretty disruptive change to pull – why so pusillanimous now?

Second, and more positively – this is the sort of reaction that we need to anticipate. There is a deep, deep bias in favor of the status quo, even when it isn’t working and change is clearly required. There will be an opportunity to redistrict again in 2012. I’m in for the long haul – when are the commissioners’ term limits up?

Leadership Shows Its Stripes

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

Why should we stick with segregated electoral districts for the Kansas City Metropolitan School District? Are we prepared to abandon our traditional electoral maps, with their separate “communities” representing traditional power bases?

Airick Leonard West was elected to the KCMSD Board because he is a change agent. He looks at things from a fresh perspective, and, when the need arose to redraw the electoral boundaries for the KCMSD, he saw an opportunity to strike a blow to the heart of our segregationist past and “Us vs. Them” present.

Look at the map posted here – this is what change looks like. Each of the districts stretches from State Line to the eastern boundary of the District – like a stripe across the KCMSD. Each of the districts shows a commonality of interests in making sure our children get the best education possible in the KCMSD. This map changes how we will elect our leadership and how we could view our participation in the district. (It won’t, however, alter boundaries for neighborhood schools or create zones for busing – it is solely aimed at elections for school board membership.)

If you think its time for Kansas City to try a new way of creating community, there are a few ways of helping bring this to fruition:
– send an email to both and or call the Election Board at 816.842.4820;
– contact individual election commissioners and school board members you know;
– forward this or a similar email to concerned Kansas Citians you know;
– attend the meeting where election commissions will vote on this issue: June 19th ( for further info).

We elected Airick Leonard West to make some changes. Now let’s support the change we sought.

Airick Leonard West Needs Your Vote

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

Personally, I doubt that Bill Eddy would do something as underhanded as to run a stealth campaign against Airick Leonard West, but the truth is that he has failed to withdraw from the race, and I have seen him chatting people up at an education forum.

Regardless, Airick Leonard West is the best candidate for the 1st District at-large seat, and he’s being actively opposed by a few write-in candidates, and passively opposed by one incumbent. This race needs your vote for Airick Leonard West! Even Tony agrees.

Here’s a video shot by a high school senior supporting Airick Leonard West:

A Local Blogger Having a Real Impact – Please Come Out Friday to Support Needed Change

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

I’ve written about Airick Leonard West and the Viable Third website in the past, as well as his campaign for the school board. Tomorrow evening (Friday, March 14), several of us are planning a get-together to honor the first anniversary of the most creative local use of the blogging medium.

We’ll have food and drink available at Harper’s 18th & Vine restaurant, proudly in the 3rd District, at 18th and Vine (yes, you suburbanites, it’s safe!). The party starts at 5, and will end abruptly when Law School Bound and I reprise our performance of Paradise By the Dashboard Light – which, I promise, won’t be until late in the evening . . .

In all seriousness, please drop by and chat with Airick Leonard West and Dr. Robyne Turner, the creators of Viable Third. If you believe that good people can make a difference in Kansas City, come discuss your ideas and prepare for a shot of hope, practical optimism, and inspiration.

Leave a note in the comments if you have any questions, or if you would like an e-vite sent to your email account.

The Interrupted Election – Too Soon Success

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

I woke this morning to the news that incumbent Bill Eddy has dropped his bid for the Kansas City Missouri School District, clearing the way for Airick Leondard West to take over the seat.

Normally, this would be great news. I was backing Airick Leonard West as soon as he announced his candidacy, and, even before that, I had written of my admiration of his “audacious and simple” attempts to improve life in The Viable Third. I am a sponsor for a fundraiser for Airick tonight.

So, why am I disappointed in Airick’s premature success?

Because this race was never about defeating Bill Eddy. Indeed, I appreciate Bill Eddy – he’s one of the good people on the Board with his eye steadfastly on the prize of improving education for Kansas Citians. And, oddly enough, my enthusiastic support of Airick Leonard West would not have been hugely disappointed if he lost his election – so long as he ran a good race and made people think about the KCMSD as their issue in their community.

Without the urgency and drama of an election, it will be easier to put the KCMSD in the back of our minds, and view the problems and crises of our School District as someone else’s issues. If you don’t happen to have a child in the School District, you can shake your head and blame the problems on others. If you do have a child in the District, you can do your best to get him or her into one of the best schools, and ignore the bigger problems.

That’s the status quo that Airick Leonard West was running to upset. Airick Leonard West was running against the apathetic, uninvolved, utterly divested status quo – not against Bill Eddy.

And that is why I hope (and suspect) the campaign is not over. I hope that the fundraisers and rallies on Airick Leonard West’s calendar become Community forums, and those of us who were willing to call friends to attend those fundraisers will call those same friends to come out and discuss a vision for the future of the KCMSD.

Often, candidates are urged to declare victory before the decision is complete. In this instance, Airick Leonard West cannot declare victory, even though the battle has been won, because his opponent was never on the ballot. His opponent was apathy and the feeling of many Kansas Citians that the KCMSD is not their problem. Indeed, Bill Eddy’s withdrawal from the race has strengthened Airick Leonard West’s real opponent, and I hope the real campaign continues . . .

Good Schools in the KCMSD

Friday, November 30th, 2007

One of the under-appreciated facts concerning the Kansas City Metropolitan School District is that while all the controversy and anger swirls around the highest levels, there are still great teachers teaching bright students in superb schools. It’s easy to forget that and focus on the negative.

I received a “tip” from the nonpareil public school parent yesterday about a couple holiday open houses that you might want to visit if you have school-age children, and don’t want to send them to private school, religious school, or suburban schools.

The KCMO School District operates one of the largest Montessori public systems in the country! Three schools offer preschool – 6th grade and the new Cook Montessori Lab School is a training center for preschool only (age 3-4). All classrooms are fully equipped with Montessori materials, in specially designed facilities and have trained, certified teachers. Check out the Montessori method and then come see why KC leads the country in offering this wonderful opportunity.

P-K through 6th Grade:
Faxon Montessori – Tuesday 12/4, 6-8 p.m.
1320 E32nd St. 418-6525
Border Star Montessori – Tuesday, 12-11, 6-8 p.m.
6321 Wornall Road 418-5150
Holliday Montessori – Tuesday 12-11, 6-8 p.m.
7227 Jackson, 418-1950
P-K, ages 3-4
Cook Montessori Lab School – Tuesday 12-11, 6-7:30 p.m.
7302 Pennsylvania 418-1650

Lincoln College Prepatory
Middle and High School

Lincoln students scored higher than any other school in the State of Missouri on the latest assessment!

Middle School Open House, Tuesday, December 11, 2007, 6-8 p.m.
2012 East 23rd Street

High School Open House, Thursday, December 13, 2007, 6-8 p.m.
2111 Woodland

So neighbors:
If you have or know any tiny ones or middle sized ready for Middle school — take the time to learn more about these programs! I have personal experience with all these schools and am available for more information.


Blogger Seems to Be Back

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

It’s kind of disturbing that some techie at blogger headquarters did not get around to fixing the problems until AFTER the election. I’m pretty sure my considerable influence would have changed the result in the School District election. It’s good to know that everyone knew the correct way to vote on the Sales Tax extension, even without access to my advice.

More seriously, I’m happy with the results, even though I voted against the School District Secession. Turnout was embarrassingly low, though, allowing us political junkies to have a disproportionate voice.