Thursday, April 20, 2017

School Board Adds Two Members, Loses Three

by Brent Kalwei

The Hickman Mills School Board experienced a number of alterations through the combination of the April election and reorganization meeting held Thursday, April 13.

New directors Clifford Ragan and Brian Williams were sworn in after filling the seats of Bonnaye Mims, who retired after being on the board since 1999, and Karry Palmer, who resigned.

After the oath of directors, the board placed nominations for president and vice president. Williams nominated Carol Graves. Director Byron Townsend nominated Darrell Curls, who currently held the president position. Graves won with four votes coming from Graves, Director Evelyn Hildebrand, Ragan and Williams. Graves in return nominated Williams as vice president, while Director Wakisha Briggs nominated herself. Williams won with four votes also coming from Graves, Hildebrand, Ragan and Williams.

“Although he’s a new member on the board, I have seen Mr. Williams at events such as neighborhood associations and South Kansas City Alliance meetings,” Graves said. “I think it’s important that when we have people in leadership, that their heart is for the kids. I have seen him demonstrate that.”

Townsend did not attend the work session held after the reorganization meeting. Later in the evening he submitted a letter of resignation.

"Five presidents in four years is just too much,” Townsend said in a statement. “I’m tired of fighting to unite members that don’t trust each other. I truly hope that the remaining members can learn to be their brother’s keeper. I wish all of them the best of luck. More than anything, I hate to put Yolanda Cargile in the position of not having a full board, but my state of mind was more important.”

Curls also resigned on the morning of Monday, April 17.

Superintendent Dennis Carpenter and board members spoke on their appreciation for the work Bonnaye Mims provided for the district.

“Mrs. Mims has been phenomenal,” Carpenter said. “Mrs. Mims has worked extremely hard in the time that I’ve been here, and you hear stories even prior to serving on the school board.”

Mims would sit under a clock in the audience at school board meetings prior to her joining the Hickman Mills team.

“People say that under the clock she would hold the community and its school board members accountable for their actions, as a community member.”

According to Carpenter, the district was in a vicarious place with not a lot of trust from the community when he took over as superintendent four years ago.

“Everyone was saying, ‘Why in the world would you want to come here?’” Carpenter said. “One of the reasons I wanted to work in the Hickman Mills School District is because I saw the resolve and commitment of several school board members. One of which was Mrs. Mims.”

Mims announced to the board and community in the audience that supporting incoming Superintendent Yolanda Cargile will be essential.

“But most important are those 6,800 babies that you all are responsible for,” Mims said. “You all are the parents, so I’m turning that over to you all. I will be ever so grateful if you all take the lead and move this district forward. In the meantime I’m going to visit, and sit underneath that clock where I started 30-something years ago.”

Graves credited Mims for teaching her to make motions without fear, and to fix mistakes by learning through example.

“It’s important for us to know that we are a policy-making board,” she said.

Curls enjoyed working with Mims.

“I want to thank you for your years of service, your leadership and your friendship,” Curls said. “Through that time, we have had ups and downs. We have fought, and been on the same team and opposite teams. But, through it all, I knew that you had the best interest of this district, with the children in your mind and in your heart.”

After leaving the school board, Mims began serving as the first African-American on the Raytown Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, April 18.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Woman receives certificate of life thanks to local medical heroes

by Mary Wilson

In the morning hours of December 12, 2016, South Kansas City resident Noelle Beck received a phone call she will never forget. Every mother’s worst nightmare was coming true for Beck on that cold day. Her 29-year-old daughter, Kayli Welvaert, was found not breathing by her boyfriend.

“He had gone out to start our cars and warm them up. I had gotten up, and went and lay back down in bed, and that’s all I remember,” said Welvaert.

Beck said that she doesn’t think her daughter was not breathing for too long before her boyfriend discovered her and called for emergency services. He noticed she was lying in a strange position, 
possibly due to a seizure, and saw her lips were blue.

“He called 911 and started doing CPR, breathing for her and doing the chest compressions,” said Beck. “When he called them, the dispatcher walked him through how to do it.”
When EMT’s arrived and took over her care, Welvaert’s boyfriend then called her mom to let her know that she would be taken to Belton Regional Medical Center.

“He told me, ‘I don’t know if she’s going to make it or not, I don’t know if she’ll even be alive,’” said Beck.

When she arrived to the hospital, Beck was informed that her daughter’s heart had to be revived three times. Beck and her husband were able to go immediately into Welvaert’s room with her, as she had been intubated and her medical team was working to get her stabilized.

“It was devastating seeing her like that,” said Beck. “You don’t think your daughter, at 29, is going to have a heart attack.”

Once Welvaert was stabilized and her seizures were under control, she was then taken by ambulance to Research Medical Center, where she would later receive a pacemaker and be released from the hospital within six days. While at Research, she was put into a medically-induced coma, and as she was brought out, it was a matter of waiting to see how Welvaert would respond.

“We just didn’t know how long she’d been out or how long she was without oxygen,” said Beck. “Then I started praying, and hoping for miracles to happen.”

Miraculously, Welvaert woke up. Depsite some short-term memory loss, she seemed relatively fine, given her circumstances and health history. With a new, clean bill of health, Welvaert returned to work a short time later.

“I just thank God every day for the people who gave me the care they did, from the woman who coached CPR over the phone to the doctors and nurses at the hospital, I am so very thankful,” said Welvaert.

On Tuesday, April 11, Welvaert had the opportunity to thank the individuals responsible for helping save her life. Belton Regional Medical Center hosted a Great Save event, and invited all of the first responders and the medical team who provided care for Welvaert.

“What a miracle and a blessing to be able to stand up here and look every one of you guys in the face and tell you, honestly, thank you so much,” Welvaert said to her team of medical professionals. “All of you can rest easy knowing that my four-year-old daughter, Hadley, has her mom.”

Welvaert said she wants others to know that despite age and health, medical scares can happen to anyone. This week, along with leadership from Belton Regional Medical Center, she was honored with a Certificate of Life and her entire medical team was recognized.

“This is what we do. This is who we are at Belton Regional Medical Center,” said BRMC CEO Todd Krass. “We are a team. I think this is the best example of our mission. I’m so proud of the work our team did that day.”

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Grandview detective puts GPEA in middle of Lee’s Summit election

by Mary Wilson

While Tuesday’s election in Grandview was fairly quiet with only one contested race and the Grandview C-4 bond issue vote, nearby Lee’s Summit residents saw numerous races and issues on their ballots. Included were 12 charter amendment questions for voters to approve. The City of Lee’s Summit’s charter is a document outlining the conditions under which the city is organized, and defining its rights and privileges. Under the Lee’s Summit City Charter, the document is reviewed by a commission of appointed citizens every ten years, and amendments or changes are put before voters.

In the weeks leading up to the election, community members in Lee’s Summit and other organizations were vocal about their efforts to not approve the charter amendments. One such organization, the Citizens for Government Accountability, paid for a “vote no” billboard along 50 Highway. The billboard asks Lee’s Summit voters to “stop reckless changes” and “vote no” on questions 1-12 of the Lee’s Summit Charter, listing Paul Brooks as treasurer.

Brooks, a detective with the Grandview Police Department, as indicated on nonprofit filing as of December 2, 2016 with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, also serves as vice president for the West Central Missouri Regional Lodge No. 50 Fraternal Order of Police (FOP 50).

On April 1, Citizens for Government Accountability filed a contribution statement with the Missouri Ethics Commission, as required prior to the April 4 election. The report indicates that prior to this election cycle, the organization had a balance of $460.56, which included funds in depository, cash, savings accounts or other investments.

On November 28, 2016, according to the MEC report filed by the organization this month, the Grandview Police Employees Association Political Action Committee (GPEA) contributed $4840.66 to Citizens for Government Accountability, and is the sole contributor listed on the report.  Brooks is also listed as the registered agent for GPEA’s state filing.

According to Grandview Sergeant Brandon Grantham, who currently serves as GPEA’s president, he was unaware of any GPEA funds being used for the Citizens for Government Accountability’s political fight in Lee’s Summit. Grantham said that if a contribution was made under $1000, the organization’s board of directors would not have to vote on the disbursement, which would have come out of the Political Action Committee (PAC) account.

Grantham added that GPEA created the PAC account around three years ago, and with a balance of just under $5000, decided to, due to stringent paperwork and other tasks that had to be completed with the state, put their funding under the control of FOP 50.

“We did not have the manpower or the resource to keep up with that constant reporting,” said Grantham. “Paul Brooks is a part of that. Those funds are earmarked for us; however, they put it in their bank accounts to hold it. Basically, we can use it at any time.”

The Citizens for Government Accountability contribution statement also indicates that $1700 was used, as the only expenditure reported besides $294 in banking fees, for the billboard in Lee’s Summit. Grantham indicated that he was not aware of GPEA being a part of the organization in Lee’s Summit, nor did the organization approve any expenditure using their funds.

“We as a board have not approved anything like that for a donation or money to be given,” said Grantham. “The only thing we did was the transfer of that money to FOP 50, but I’m not aware, and I’d definitely be aware, of any money being used for something like that.”

Brooks, when contacted via his City of Grandview email address, responded with: “I will not and cannot discuss any type of political activity on city time or using city resources. I will attempt to contact you when I am available and not working. Please do not attempt to contact me using a city email or information.” 

GPEA, FOP 50 and the Citizens for Government Accountability organizations are all listed in good standing with the Missouri Secretary of State. Grantham stated that GPEA has made no direct donations toward the political actions that the other organizations are taking in the Lee’s Summit community.

“I had no idea. GPEA should have nothing to do with that,” said Grantham. “We have no dog in that fight.”

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Congressman Cleaver’s Statement on the Budget FY 2018

“President Trump’s FY18 budget contains significant cuts and changes to several departments that are simply put -- harmful. This budget hurts working families and makes low-income families and elderly citizens, most vulnerable.

I am especially troubled by the proposed cuts to Community Development Block Grants, (CDBG) which are vitally important to urban and rural areas. Kansas City, Independence, Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs are four cities entitled to CDBG grants. All of the rest of the cities, in the 5th District of Missouri, compete for funding from the state of Missouri allocation.

The President’s budget proposal;

·         Eliminates the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program. In 2016, the 5th District of Missouri had 4 grantees and received over $8.5 million and in 2015 received $8.7 million.

·         Eliminates the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which the KC area has received 2 grants worth over $2 million in 2016.

·         Choice Neighborhoods program (Eliminated) – KC received grants totaling over $30.25 million

·          Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program (Eliminated)

·         Eliminates the $35 million of funding for Section 4 Community Development and Affordable Housing

  • Cuts Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition assistance from $6.4 billion to $6.2 billion.

  • Eliminates the $500 million Water and Wastewater loan and grant program. The current Water and Wastewater loan and grant program struggles to help many rural communities update their facilities and keep their water bills from going up outrageously.  This program needs to be bolstered…not cut.

·         Unspecified staff reductions at USDA service center agencies around the country – which would almost certainly close many county USDA offices meaning local jobs lost and a distancing of the federal government from the population. 

  • Cuts $95 million from the Rural Business and Cooperative Service

  • Eliminates the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Missouri received over $73 million in 2016 and so far in 2017 has received $65.3 million to help low-income families, individuals with disabilities, and the elderly living on fixed incomes afford to heat and power their homes.  Veterans also make up nearly 20 percent of all LIHEAP recipients. During the hottest and coldest months, energy bills can cost up to 30 percent of a low-income person’s monthly income. The program is continually oversubscribed, and there are about 1.3 million additional households across the country that have not received funding who are eligible for the program.  LIHEAP is an effective partnership between the federal government, states, and the private sector, and Congressman Cleaver has been a leader in supporting the program and pushing for greater funding for the last several years. 

  •  Eliminates the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), cutting out $4.2 billion

  • TIGER Grants Eliminated – this is a highly competitive program that is oversubscribed every year by both rural and urban communities.  Last year the program received 585 applications from around the country.  In 2010, KC received $50 million for new bus stops, sidewalks and other work in the metro area – including the Troost Bridge - and created 2,455 jobs throughout the region and transportation benefits totaling $710 million.  In 2013, the City of KC received a $20 million TIGER grant for the planning and development of the downtown streetcar.

·         President Trump’s proposal to cut education by $9 billion is extreme. Public schools will see a loss in qualified teachers and training. Students struggling for affordable college will see a $4 billion cut to Pell grants.

It is my hope that this budget be rejected by Members of Congress.”

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Early Literacy Space Opens in Grandview Library

by Mary Wilson

The Grandview Branch of Mid-Continent Public Library opened the Early Literacy Space last Friday, March 3, and celebrated the occasion with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The idea behind the space is to help build necessary pre-reading skills from an early age.

“Let me thank all of the voters of Jackson, Clay and Platte Counties for your overwhelming support of us and the things we do within our communities,” said Brent Husher, Grandview Branch Manager.

Husher added that while it may look like parents and kids are playing in the Early Literacy Space, it provides a developmental process to get young children ready to read.

“That is what this space is designed for,” Husher said. “They’re learning without even knowing it.”
The Early Literacy Space is the latest addition to Mid-Continent’s Grow-a-Reader initiative, which includes story time, the summer learning program, and other activities to promote literacy skills throughout a lifetime. A portion of the funds for the new space was given from Ross Dress for Less in Truman’s Marketplace, who donated $2,500 to the library when they opened last summer.

The Grandview Branch offers free weekly story times on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10:30 a.m., and on the first and third Thursday nights at 7:00 p.m. each month. Play and Learn open play, where early literacy educators will help guide activities for parents and children, is on the first and third Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. each month. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Facebook Rant Leads to Results

Community steps up to solve perceived trash problem

by Mary Wilson,

The Grandview Litter Gitters, as they’ve aptly named themselves, formed after a recent post on a social media website expressed concerns regarding trash at the redeveloped Truman’s Marketplace shopping center. A handful of community members decided to take action, and formed a small group of like-minded citizens to tackle the trash problem.

“It all started because of a rant on the Grandview/Martin City Rant and Rave page on Facebook the Friday before last,” said organizer Janet Dupuis, a 20-year resident of Grandview. “I commented on the post and told people that Grandview has a program called the Trash Busters Program, and they will pay $5 per bag of litter picked up from designated areas. When my kids were younger, we did this for Girl and Boy Scout activities. I also organized a group of kids from my neighborhood to pick up litter along Blue Ridge Road.”

From there, the conversation grew, and before long, a group of organizers scheduled a meeting place, garnered supplies from Grandview Public Works and JobOne, and got to work. On Saturday, February 11, nearly 40 people donned orange vests and carried bright yellow trash bags up and down Grandview’s outer roads in search of treasure…or trash.

“This was very short notice so we really didn't expect a huge group our first day,” said Dupuis. “We worked from 9 a.m. to noon and collected 72 bags of trash. We had already agreed that the money Grandview Public Works paid us would be donated to the Grandview Assistance Program.”

McAlister’s Deli provided a voucher for a free cookie to each worker and several students from Grandview High School’s cross country team and the A+ program joined in to earn service hours. According to Dupuis, the students even remarked that this was the most fun they've had volunteering yet.

On Monday, Dupuis turned the gear back into Public Works and a check in the amount of $360 will be donated directly to Grandview Assistance Program, all because a group of Grandview residents decided to come out from behind their computer screens and solve a problem they determined needed fixed.

“How cool is that? Look for another clean-up event sometime in May,” said Dupuis. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Ruskin students qualify for national competition thanks to teacher's push

by Mary Wilson,

Tucked in the halls of Ruskin High School, in between ordinary and required classes, Robert Nellis’s students are nothing short of extraordinary. The dual-credit social studies teacher is known in the school as somewhat of a beast, with high expectations of his students.

“The district has afforded me the greatest opportunity in the world,” said Nellis. “I have an incredible wealth of talent in my classroom every hour.”

Some students, according to Nellis, find the level of curriculum and the rigidity of expectations to be too much. He considers it his calling to prepare his students for success in college, and life beyond.

“I want them to be well-prepared to succeed at the next level,” Nellis said. Former students have thanked Nellis for pushing them beyond what they considered their academic limits.

Over the last several years, Nellis has incorporated personal finance into his curriculum, including the Future Business Leaders of America’s (FBLA) competition conferences. Students have qualified to attend the national conference and competition, including two seniors this year who have the opportunity to go to Anaheim. Luis Jiminez and Shelby Woodroof took the online assessment together and earned the top score for students in Missouri. 

During class time, the students spend time learning different subjects such as personal finance, consumer rights, technology, environment and health and safety. Jiminez and Woodroof completed the 180-question LifeSmarts FBLA Challenge and scored ninth in the nation.

“Everybody took the test, but I knew they’d be exceptional,” said Nellis. “I knew that they would score high. These two were chosen because of their skills and their talents, and the fact that they are really good kids.”

Last school year, Woodroof’s sister took the test and won the opportunity to go to nationals, but couldn’t make it due to the cost and timing of the event. This year, with time on their side, Jiminez and Woodroof plan to raise the funds for their trip.

“Once again, the district does not have the financial resources this year to send them to California,” said Nellis. He said he remains hopeful with the Cerner expansion in South Kansas City and the new intermodal facility out south, the district will begin to see further investment into its students in the future.

At the convention, the two will attend the National Leadership Conference and will include a competition portion and go through leadership-building activities and seminars.

Woodroof plans to attend Missouri University Science and Technology and study geological engineering, while Jiminez isn’t sold on a four-year school yet, but knows he’d like to study music therapy. They both agreed, though, that their teacher has pushed them to be better in school.

“He’s really motivated me. He doesn’t accept anything that’s not your best and he recognizes in each student what their best is,” said Woodroof.

“I thought I was doing my best until I got in his class and realized I have a lot of room to improve,” added Jiminez. “He pushed me way beyond any teacher would have.”

In order to make the trip, the two have setup an online GoFundMe page. Their very first donor, according to Nellis, is a former student and alum of Ruskin High School. Donations can be made at

“We are both just really excited to represent our school,” said Woodroof. “We have really great kids here and we do really great things. It makes me mad when people look at us a certain way and demean what we are and what we are capable of doing.”

Both are exceptional students outside of Nellis’s classroom, as well. They’ve both attended the gifted program since elementary school, and have been involved in student council, National Honor Society, and are inherently competitive with each other. Jiminez is also a member of the Federal Reserve Student Board of Directors.

“I love the kids I have,” said Nellis. “They are a tremendous resource. If we can get more of them to get their degrees and come back then my job is done. There’s this great little band of talent that I have that we can go do things that other districts and other buildings can’t do.”

Nellis’ students will be competing at the LifeSmarts statewide challenge in Jefferson City later this month. He says the students will do well.

“I’m not bashful about pushing our kids out in these competitions,” said Nellis. “Even if they come in fourth, I have no problem being proud of those kids. The fact that they can even go out there and compete makes these truly great kids.”

Nellis is retiring at the end of the school year due to his wife’s health problems. His students from the last eleven years are his legacy. With students like Jiminez and Woodroof, it’s a legacy that will last well into the future.