Chris Geden Community Outreach Director –Childrens Education Alliance of Missouri
I recently had the opportunity to attend a town hall meeting concerning the state of the Kansas City Public Schools. This meeting was the final in a series of four town hall meetings held in response to the pending loss of accreditation on January 1, 2012. The meeting was held by the District Advisory Committee’s Parent Advocacy Task Force. The presentation, which can be found on the group’s website at www.kcmodistrictadvisory.com, included data from the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education and spurred intense conversation about the future of the Kansas City Schools. I could go on and on about the logistical discussions, but more important than those were the people who came out. The crowd was diverse in every sense of the word. Attendees included teachers, union members, parents, grandparents and concerned community members. They shared stories during breakout sessions. Many of those in attendance were once students in the district and spoke both fondly and sadly of the school system that they knew so well. I spoke to a teacher who, upon learning that I was from St. Louis, discussed with me the similarities between the two districts. She was quite knowledgeable about our district and even had some thoughts on schools outside the Kansas City and St. Louis Public Schools. In my next breakout group, we discussed the high poverty rate of the students in the Kansas City School District and how their specific needs were (or were not) being met. I reminded the group that we don’t have to end poverty to educate our kids; we need to educate our kids to end poverty. The best part of the day came after the meeting was over. I had the chance to speak one-on-one with a couple of parents. Once I had explained why I traveled all the way from St. Louis for a meeting in Kansas City, one mom explained to me her distress about the system and how she understands the importance of high quality education options for her kids. She went on to share that she grew up in poverty and, had it not been for a teacher who cared, she would not have gone on to college. The mom also told me she is considering moving to the East Coast if she cannot find a quality education option for her child. There is no doubt in my mind that this trip was not in vain. I know there are informed and engaged people who want nothing but the best education for the students of Kansas City.