Friday, October 13, 2017

Santa Fe Christian Church’s Final Homecoming Celebration



by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

Hard work, dedication and a few tears paid off for one South Kansas City woman this past weekend. The culmination of research and interviews with locals came to fruition as Diane Euston, a local high school teacher and avid historian, along with members of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) Little Blue River Chapter and the Historical Society of New Santa Fe, held a homecoming ceremony for a former South Kansas City church.

On Saturday, October 7, the Santa Fe Christian Church received a permanent marker dedicated to the education of visitors to the area about the history of the landmark lost. Euston provided the history of the church to roughly 150 visitors who attended the ceremony.

In 1869, members of the Bethlehem Church of Christ organized a new congregation. The church organizers believed that the church community needed a burial ground for their loved ones, and in 1885, the New Santa Fe Cemetery was established. An adjacent lot was used for building the church. The Christian Church at New Santa Fe (later shortened to the Santa Fe Christian Church) was dedicated in 1892, and thrived through the years due to the hard work of the pioneer community.

“Every Friday, the women of the community would take fresh farm goods, like milk and eggs, by horse and buggy to Westport to sell to support their church,” said Euston. “The little church was the only true remainder of the town that was once here and attending the church became the reason to return to this community.”

Euston added that the church was a gathering place for the community. As the area changed from a farming community to suburbs of Kansas City, the Santa Fe Christian Church welcomed new members. In 1965, a group of men with no attachment to the pioneer families legally incorporated the name Santa Fe Christian Church out of a home in Grandview.

“The new group essentially took the name that was already being used,” said Euston. “These pioneer families were unaware of the incorporation and what the future held.”

On November 14, 1969, at approximately 7 p.m., a fire started in a defective heating system, damaging the north side of the historic church. The fire chief stated that the structure was not severely affected and that the church could be restored to its former glory.

“It became clear, very clear, that not everyone was willing to save the little Santa Fe Christian Church,” said Euston.

In the spring of 1970, a secret vote was held to raze the church, and a restoration committee was quickly formed to prevent that from happening. The committee determined that if the funding was available to make the repairs to the church, there was no reason to destroy it, and they worked to raise money to save the building.

The restoration committee met with the trustees of the church to try and reason with them. According to Euston, one stated that the building would always smell like smoke, while another stated he was looking toward the future, not the past. In October of 1970, three trustees of the Christian Church at New Santa Fe signed a special warranty deed that dissolved the former organization. All legal rights were then given to the Santa Fe Christian Church, the same church organized in Grandview in 1965. One of the members said during a deposition that he believed what he was signing was simply a release of trusteeship.

“He had no idea that he had signed the church away to this new organization,” said Euston. “But that’s what happened.”

Estimates to fix the damage to the church were between $3000 and $10,000. Insurance paid the church over $20,000, and that money was in control of the new organization. Instead of repairing the old church, they bought the lot next door for $7000 and began construction on a new church.
Meanwhile, funds were still being raised to help restore the damaged building by the restoration committee. On February 7, 1971, they met with the new leadership to plead their case one last time to allow their church to be restored with private funds. The restoration committee and their supporters tried to vote, but were not allowed because they hadn’t been active members of the new church for at least 90 days. The vote proceeded without them and in the end, 17 out of 20 members voted to raise the church.

On February 12, a restraining order was filed against the Santa Fe Christian Church to stop demolition. The next day, February 13, 1971, Judge Richard Sprinkle signed the filed restraining order and at 10:36 a.m., the injunction became official;  the Santa Fe Christian Church was to not be touched or destroyed. However, at approximately 9:30 a.m. that same day, demolition of the Santa Fe Christian Church had already started.

“66 minutes. All of this fight came down to just over an hour,” said Euston. “I can only imagine the shock and heartache that was left behind after this church was reduced to a pile of rubble.”

The restoration committee wasn’t going to give up their fight, and filed suit against the new church. A resolution was found four years later with the creation of the New Santa Fe Cemetery Association. The small burial ground was all that was left of the community, and it became their mission to save it from the new organization.

“In 1975, for $1, the new church organization sold the cemetery to this new committee,” said Euston. “Even as I recount all that I’ve learned, it still gives me goosebumps and it still shocks me. This church should still be standing. This is a revival, not of religious proportions, but of recollections, memories and the importance of preservation of historic landmarks. Today, we need to stand in celebration of a landmark lost.”

A common theme for the month of October for the Santa Fe Christian Church was homecoming celebrations. An annual homecoming service was held, drawing a large crowd of former members and friends of the church and provided fellowship for the entire community.

“A homecoming in southern church tradition is about the celebration of memories past,” said Euston. “It’s about finding a reason to gather together and reminisce. It is also a celebration of the future.”

Approximately two years to the day after the church was bulldozed, the Little Blue River Chapter NSDAR was being organized in Grandview. It would take another 42 years for the New Santa Fe Historical Society and the local NSDAR chapter to come together to apply for a special grant project to celebrate the historical value of the church that once stood on the grounds of New Santa Fe.

“Little Blue River, in 40 years, had never tackled anything like that before,” said Margo Aldridge, Regent with the Little Blue River NSDAR.  In 2015, Aldridge contacted Trailside Center volunteer Ann O’Hare to see if she knew of any local projects that needed funding.

The project received $1844 in an education grant from DAR and was sponsored by the local chapter. The project was originally submitted in 2015, and after being turned down the group resubmitted in 2016. They were notified in March of this year that the Santa Fe Christian Church dedication was approved for funding.


The final homecoming for the former members of the Santa Fe Christian Church revealed a permanent marker dedicated to its memory. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Rodeway Inn property deemed public nuisance


by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

Should the former Rodeway Inn motel building, which has been deemed a public nuisance, be demolished or allowed to be repaired? That was the question during the Grandview Board of Aldermen’s administrative hearing concerning the property last Tuesday, September 26.

According to the hearing’s background report, the building at 15201 South US 71 Highway was subject to a high-wind event on December 31, 2011, and sustained damage to the flat roof of the motel. As a result of the damage, the motel was vacated due to interior water leaks. The property owner at that time filed claims with his insurance carrier so that repairs could be made. The owner engaged the services of a structural engineer to develop plans for the roof replacement and worked with the City to have a new, sloped roof constructed and installed over the existing flat roof.

The second phase of the repair and remodel for the Rodeway Inn motel concentrated on the demolition of the interior to provide rooms that met the needs of today's lodgers. The property owner utilized several contractors on the demolition portion of the work with very few issues. The remodel project started to bog down in 2014 when permits were pulled, very litte work was completed and communications with the property owner dropped off significantly.

In August 2014, the City received notification that the property owner had declared bankruptcy. During this process, no work was completed on the structure. The bankruptcy process was completed in 2016. City staff had some meetings with the commercial real estate professionals about the property as they prepared to market it to potential buyers. In May 2017, the property was purchased from the lender. The property was purchased in July 2017 by an entity called RW1 LLC. RW1 LLC, according to its corporate filing with the Missouri Secretary of State, has two owners, Charles Soucek and James Woodley.

Shortly after taking ownership, large quantities of materials were brought on to the site by Soucek, with the intent to have a flea market. City staff, including the Building Official, Building Inspector and Fire Marshal, completed a comprehensive inspection of the property. The composition of materials brought on to the site was cause for concern by the City. In addition, Soucek made little effort to clean up the property or to hire the required professionals to develop plans for the continued remodel of the former motel so that it could be re-opened as a motel or demolished and removed to make way for another allowable use.

The purpose of the hearing was to allow the owner of the building to show cause as to why the building should not be declared a nuisance detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of the community. However, if such findings were made, the building would be ordered to be demolished or repaired.

Joe Gall, an attorney for the City of Grandview for the purposes of the administrative hearing, asked to testify first to provide the Board of Aldermen with some background on the property’s ownership before offering a recommendation. While paperwork filed for the LLC show Soucek as the registered agent, according to Gall, the organizer was Woodley.

“I’ve learned some additional information today that I want to share with you at this point,” said Gall. “From the face of this document, we really can’t tell who the owner of the company is. The owner of the company, RW1 LLC, is related to another company, IPX 1031. We didn’t know that and as a consequence, didn’t send notices of the hearing to IPX 1031.”

Gall said that the registered agent, Soucek, was attempted to be served notice of the hearing, however, Soucek died on September 1, after sustaining injuries in a car accident on August 31. The notice of nuisance, sent to Soucek, was signed by his daughter, Susan Miller.

“Under Missouri law, when you’re serving a registered agent, I think a court would find that the delivery of service has to be to the registered agent,” said Gall, “not someone else on his behalf. So, that’s a service issue there.”

Another notice of the public hearing, dated August 28, directed to Soucek was also signed by his daughter, Susan Miller, on September 1, the day that Soucek died.

“I have a bit of discomfort about the validity of the service of this notice of hearing on the registered agent of RW1 LLC,” said Gall.

Miller, who attended the hearing to speak on her father’s behalf, stated that her mother has Alzheimer’s; and because she needs round-the-clock care, she was in her parents’ residence and signed for the notices addressed to her father.

After his death, Soucek’s assets have gone into a trust, with Miller now serving as the successor trustee due to her mother’s health. The property, the former Rodeway Inn, will eventually end up as an asset in that trust.

Gall recommended that, due to the complicated ownership issues with the property that will likely change, the hearing be continued to allow those issues to solidify before returning to look deeper into the evidence on the condition of the building.

“We need to come back and ensure that the proper parties have been given notice and they have the opportunity to appear,” said Gall.


Ultimately, the Board of Aldermen unanimously supported Gall’s recommendation to continue the hearing until Tuesday, October 24, providing Miller opportunity to clean up some of the material on the property that was a cause for concern before the hearing to determine whether the property should be demolished or repaired.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Grandview administration focuses on cultural competency

by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

Typically, when students are out of school for district in-service, their teachers spend the day in meetings, talking curriculum and learning new ways of instruction. However, last Friday, teachers in the Grandview School District participated in a visual representation of privilege among their peers and how that affects their teaching.

Superintendent Dr. Kenny Rodrequez invited every certified staff member onto the Grandview High School football field for a privilege walk. Teachers lined up evenly, and Rodrequez read a series of statements, asking that each person take a step forward or backward if each statement were true in their lives.

Eventually, the educators were no longer even in their line. Some took several steps forward, some took several steps back, while others remained on the line where they started. The end result was a look into how instances in a person’s life which cannot be controlled often relay into how they perceive the world around them.

“We have a lot of things in common,” said Rodrequez, “but the number one thing we have in common is that we are all educators and we are all teachers. We are all one member of the Grandview family. We support each other, but we also need to understand that there are varying levels of things that happened to us in our backgrounds that impact us every single day.”

He went on to say that life experiences have an impact on decisions that teachers make, the way they teach and the way relationships are built with their students.

“With all the things that we have in common, we still have a lot of differences,” said Rodrequez.
The exercise was part of the district administration’s focus on cultural competency to better relate to students and families. The activity led to conversations regarding unconscious bias and trauma.

“We’re going to continue this work on cultural competency, not just because it is a board priority, but because it is one of the main things that we have to get right,” said Rodrequez. “If we don’t get this right, we will not be as successful with our students and our families as we should be.”

Rodrequez said that if the exercise was done with the students in the district, the outcome would have looked very similar. Several Grandview educators felt uncomfortable throughout the demonstration; some were emotional afterward.

 “It was truly an eye-opening exercise that showcased how each of us comes from a different background with different experiences,” said Grandview High School teacher Diane Euston.

After the privilege walk, district teachers reflected on what they felt and how they can use their own experiences to better connect with students and their families. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Grandview alum returns home to help fill the GAP

Jackie Knabe, at right, Grandview Assistance Program's new Executive Director, receives a donation of school supplies from Burger and Brown Engineering.


by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

Grandview Assistance Program’s new executive director may be a slightly familiar face to those who have been in the area for a while. Jackie (Burkhart) Knabe officially began her new role at the beginning of the month, but has already made a splash in the community by helping to bring relief to those who suffered damage due to the recent flooding.

Formerly with Hillcrest Transitional Housing in Kansas City, Kansas, Knabe is a Grandview High School alum with two children. She grew up in South Kansas City and Grandview, and after getting married, became a stay-at-home mom in Lee’s Summit. She ran a daycare in her home for a while and became very involved in the PTA organization at her children’s elementary school.

“When my daughter was heading into kindergarten, I realized that I felt invisible as a person,” said Knabe. “I became just this mother and wife and nothing was for me anymore.”

She began reading a series of books that opened her mind to the world outside of motherhood, and at 38-years-old, decided that she wanted more out of life.  She then reflected on her entire life and weighed the pros and cons of most everything.

“From just being so involved in volunteering at the school at the time, I realized that I knew a lot of women who were in the same place I was,” she said. “I could tell that they, too, felt invisible.”

Knabe would hear of needs in her own community, and began a gift card program where women would buy WalMart or other cards and started a small food pantry. Another mom came to her and told her that the heat was out in their vehicle, so Knabe then organized funding for the family for a new van after enough community members pitched in what they could.

Circle of Hope was born out of this group of moms who would gather together for dinner, crafts and fellowship. She began visiting a different church after reading a book read by the congregation that changed the way she thought about life. There, she met the pastor and they began Coldwater of Lee’s Summit, a faith-based organization which provides food and clothing for those in need in the community.

“They had just started a clothes closet, and I had my little food pantry. So, we created Coldwater,” said Knabe. “The premise of it is that if you have nothing else to give, you can offer a cup of cold water. Sometimes just doing something small is enough to make an impact.”

She then divorced, and as a single mom couldn’t manage the hours of working at Coldwater. An opportunity with Hillcrest Transitional Housing eventually came along and Knabe became a case manager there for four years. She was happy where she was, and wasn’t looking for a change when the Grandview Assistance Program’s executive director position became available.

“It is GAP’s desire and passion to really impact people’s lives and to really help people, not just by putting a bandage on, but to help them learn to be self-sufficient,” she said. “If somebody is willing and the circumstances are right, you can change their lives for the better. To get to do that in Grandview, where I came from, it just really spoke to me.”

She is excited to be able to give back to the community that raised her, as she said she had a wonderful experience growing up here. Knabe brings a fresh set of eyes and new ideas to the organization, and would like to see GAP further their financial education and training for their clients. She’d also like to partner with as many other area resources as she can.

“I definitely want to get involved in the community more than just GAP,” she said. “Everything that was said during my interview process for GAP just aligned with what I am all about. I can’t wait to get past this learning curve I’m in right now and really get in there.”

Knabe would also like to expand volunteer opportunities to get more citizens involved in the organization. She feels that GAP’s hours are not aligned with when families can typically volunteer to serve and she’d like to find a way to offer an opportunity for those who may not have had one before to become involved.

“I want kids in there working, and teenagers and families,” said Knabe. “I think it’s important that we offer an array of options for people in the community to be able to give back.”

She’d also like to create a welcoming and inviting space for clients using GAP’s services and those who are there to volunteer.

“I want us to be able to say yes as much as we can, and I’m working on figuring out a way that we can do that,” said Knabe. “I don’t want to just give people a fish, I want to find ways that we can teach them to fish.”


Established in 1991, GAP’s mission is to assist in a dignified manner families and individuals in Grandview and the Grandview School District with emergency assistance and guidance toward ultimate self-sufficiency. Community members looking to volunteer with GAP can do so by either emailing Knabe at grandviewassistanceprogram@gmail.com, or by calling 816-761-1919. Currently, Grandview Assistance Program is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and days align with the Grandview School District. They are located at 1121 Main Street in Grandview. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Union head, BOA clash over safety tax details

by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

Divided public opinion on the prospect of a public safety tax vote and its ultimate usage brought Bill Galvin and Mayor Leonard Jones face to face during last week’s Grandview Board of Aldermen work session.

“I think you know why I’m here,” said Galvin, president of Local 42, Grandview’s sole bargaining union for firefighters and EMTs. “You’ve heard what (the public safety sales tax) can do. We’d like to know what the issue is with not putting it on the ballot.”

Mayor Leonard Jones asked Galvin to explain why the public safety sales tax issue has become a priority for Local 42 to push in front of Grandview’s voting population. Galvin and his organization have been leading the charge to persuade city elected officials to put the tax on a future ballot. Discussion during public comments during previous meetings, social media posts and paid advertisements expressing Local 42’s dissatisfaction with the Board of Aldermen and Grandview’s Mayor prompted last week’s meeting. 

“Why didn’t this come up last year, the year before, or the year before that?” asked Jones. “What has changed?”

Galvin credited the urgency to legislation passed recently, while Jones and City Administrator Cory Smith said that the legislation Galvin referred to has been established for quite some time. As far as Galvin knows, there has not been an issue in other municipalities with getting a public safety sales tax on the ballot.

“I think it’s time to put it on there,” said Galvin. “You keep losing firefighters and getting new ones, I don’t know, every three months. I think you’ve lost 12 in the last nine months. I’d like to work as a partnership instead of going against each other, but I don’t know what the deal is why you wouldn’t want it on there.”

 Ward III Alderman Jim Crain said that, despite Local 42 claiming through advertisements and social media the Aldermen are anti-public safety, he was instrumental in equipping police vehicles with mobile data units, bringing thermal imaging cameras to the department, and demanding that all three ambulances be outfitted with electronic-powered cots to prevent injuries. 

“If you had done your homework, you would know that over the years that I’ve been sitting here I’ve been a very, very strong supporter of public safety,” said Crain. “I’m surprised you would even question my support of public safety. I support the public safety sales tax. My guess is that between three and six months we’ll have it on the ballot.”

While Crain said that several discussions have taken place regarding putting the public safety sales tax on the ballot, the Aldermen are still trying to figure out how such a tax would be implemented if it were to pass.

“I doubt very seriously that the way a lot of it will be used is going to be up for negotiation,” said Crain. “The Chief will have recommendations, but this Board is going to figure out how it will be spent. I strongly disagree with the tactics of the union, and I’ve heard a lot of negative comments. It’s been disheartening and disappointing.”

Ward II Alderman Brian Hochstein brought up the fact that the City of Grandview has negotiators who help determine contracts for public safety employees.

“The public safety tax is a separate issue, but you’ve drug it into this,” said Hochstein. “You’re going to say things like we’ve failed and we don’t care about firefighters’ lives or our citizens’ lives? That’s really disappointing. If people showed up at this meeting at other times, they’d know that we’ve talked about the public safety sales tax.”

Hochstein added that he has personally brought up a potential tax numerous times. In 2014, the City of Columbia voted down a similar tax, so Hochstein said the tax has been around since before then. When it comes to a specific public safety tax, he said he is in full support of putting one on the ballot for the voters in Grandview to decide.

“However, we had already lined up other taxes for our citizens to vote on,” said Hochstein. “We’ve had two major problems in the last few years when it comes to sales taxes that feed the general fund which allows us to provide services. My concern has always been, first and foremost, making sure that my constituents were getting services from all departments and that those were funded.”

“What is more important though, their safety or other services?” asked Galvin.

“Their safety is factored into that,” said Hochstein. “I’m not saying that we can’t do better.”

Hochstein added that with Grandview voters recently passing the Capital Improvement Sales Tax this month, the Aldermen are looking toward passing the Local Use Tax. With online sales, the City of Grandview has seen significant reduction in sales tax revenues.

“We finally have the ability to recoup some of that, and that’s been our plan,” said Hochstein. “Our sales tax has been getting killed, absolutely murdered, by online sales.”

Hochstein also said that he has been a part of frank discussions with the Board regarding timing of putting the issue on a ballot. He would like to see it go to a public vote in six months, though he understands that while Local 42 is in negotiations with the City of Grandview, the timing is not convenient for the union.

“You said a keyword there, you said killed,” said Galvin. “Is that what it’s going to have to take to happen, one of these officers or one of these firefighters to get killed?”

“We can’t look at everything in one little bucket, Mr. Galvin,” said Hochstein. “I don’t look at it that way. I agree that there are things that can be improved, and I think there is a way to get there. But, the negotiating parts of public safety taxes are separate things. We have other concerns, and frankly, Local 42 attacking us (with billboards and on social media) is not productive and is not helping things.”

Ward I Alderman Damon Randolph asked what the staffing standards are for fire departments. According to Galvin, the standard number of firefighters to fight a residential fire is 15 and goes up from there with larger fires. Randolph also asked why strategic partnerships with other surrounding departments are considered to be a bad thing in regards to Local 42’s efforts to educate Grandview’s citizens on the need for additional fire employees.

“We don’t think it’s a bad thing, but the staffing would be nice if it was here,” said Galvin. “A lot of municipalities around here have a four-man staff on every rig while you just have three.”

Randolph said he has heard Local 42 say the opposite, that a strategic partnership is not a good thing.

“If you had proper staffing, you wouldn’t need as much help, which also hurts other cities too,” said Galvin. “You’re then taking resources from other cities. Now they have to find somebody to fill them spots.”

If voters in Grandview were to pass a public safety sales tax, Ward I Alderman Sandy Kessinger asked what the proposed use of the additional tax revenue would be. Galvin said that Grandview’s Fire Chief would have the ultimate say, but that Local 42 would be involved in negotiations to determine the use. He added that he would like to see the tax used for salaries and the hiring of additional firefighters.

“Grandview is not the first jurisdiction to push back or have concerns about a vague plan from the firefighters’ union,” said Kessinger.

Ward II Alderman Annette Turnbaugh added that she is also in support of a public safety sales tax ballot issue, but she feels that the personal bashing Local 42 has used to force the issue has caused a loss of confidence in the community.

“They feel that we don’t care,” said Turnbaugh. “That could not be further from the truth.” Though he was absent from the meeting, Ward II Aldermen John Maloney said he has always been supportive of having the public safety sales tax on the ballot, and if not in November, he’d like to see it be voted on in April.

Mayor Jones said that the City of Grandview has been doing the same thing it has been doing for several years and nothing in regards to public safety has changed.

“You now have the opportunity for change with the public safety sales tax,” said Galvin. “If it’s been there for a long time, how come you didn’t implement this a long time ago? The opportunity was there to have those tax dollars for public safety and it was never acted on.”


Jones said that the Board of Aldermen has approved a sequence of ballot issues to benefit the entire city, and the public safety sales tax has already been queued to move into the ballot cycle. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Area superintendents discuss back to school and district goals

by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

The preparations for the new school year have been completed as area districts welcomed students back this week. District leaders from Grandview, Hickman Mills, Center and Kansas City are focusing on predetermined Board of Education priorities heading into 2017-18. Superintendents from each district presented those focus areas to members of the South Kansas City Alliance on Monday, August 16.

New Hickman Mills Superintendent Dr. Yolanda Cargile said that the focus of the district continues to be acquiring full accreditation. Hickman Mills is a provisionally-accredited district and Cargile said that emphasis will be on the five priorities, including highly-qualified staff, attendance, being fiscally responsible, racial equity impact and increasing community and family engagement.

“We believe focusing on those five items will help us to get closer to full accreditation,” said Cargile. She added that her personal goal as the new superintendent in Hickman Mills is to be visible in the community and establishing trust and relationships with the Board of Education and district staff.

Hickman Mills is also implementing restorative practices in order to think differently about how to discipline students. Cargile said that not every offense should result in a suspension, and the district will be looking at new, innovative ways to determine punishment when rules are broken. She said that Hickman Mills has seen a decrease in out-of-school suspensions and formal hearings that have occurred over the last few years.

“I’m a proud graduate of the Hickman Mills School District,” said Cargile. “Being able to come home and serve as the superintendent of schools for a district that educated me? I attended Ingels Elementary, Smith-Hale Middle School and graduated from Ruskin High School. I never would have thought that I would come back and be superintendent, but here I am. I’m proud of that. So, when we think about commitment and successes, I’m super proud to be able to come back and talk to kids that I relate to. My goal is to inspire students and inspire staff.”

Center School District Superintendent Dr. Sharon Nibbelink spoke about the Made Smart initiative and campaign to promote student academic achievement. The goal of Made Smart is to engage parents and the community in the learning process from birth through graduation to make students college and career ready.

“The influence of parents on student success cannot be understated, and we want to support that,” said Nibbelink. The district doesn’t assume that parent guidance in education is natural, and has developed support materials to help families through every step of schooling.

Nibbelink added that the four districts presenting share a lot of the same students, and therefore all have student success at the forefront of their goals. “We celebrate the successes of all of the schools around us because we all rise together,” said Nibbelink.

Center’s strategic plan includes six goals focused on academic achievement. The district has hired a college and career coordinator to help with the focus on having students ready to enter the world after graduation.

Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell is beginning his second year at the helm as students headed back to the classrooms on Monday. He said the first year provided an opportunity for him to get a feel for the district and gain some contextual understanding as to why the district is where it is.

“Unless you just recently moved to the city, there is a very dark history in the district,” said Bedell. “In addition, there is a conversation that we have to deal with in KCPS that a lot of other districts don’t have to, and that’s charter schools.”

He added that the mobility of families in his district is high due to the other 14 school districts surrounding KCPS, along with the 23 charter schools that reside in his boundaries. Preliminarily, Bedell said it looks like Kansas City Public Schools is trending in the right direction according to the district’s strategic plan. As part of that plan, the district engaged 170 secondary students to provide feedback and insight into KCPS’s blueprint for success.  

“We have to accelerate and close these gaps. We have to give these kids what they need because we don’t have a lot of time,” said Bedell. “My kids are down to 179 days remaining in the school year. We need to focus on what we are doing in the time that we have them and make sure that this plan addresses that."

Grandview Superintendent Dr. Kenny Rodrequez said that the focus on his district is around centralizing their message. He said that everyone who works in the district is a teacher, and that building positive relationships with students is a priority.

“On any given day, there is an opportunity for three or four employees to have an impact on a kid before they even step foot inside a classroom,” said Rodrequez. “We don’t want to miss those opportunities. If we don’t do this, we will never get to the academic side.”

Each staff member in the Grandview School District has gone through cultural competency training, and is working on trauma-informed care training this school year. The focus is also on making sure students in the district are successful when they leave for work or college. Rodrequez said that the district’s ACT scores were not where they needed to be, so they are working on ways to implement test-taking strategies and trainings for students to be better prepared.

“We want to make sure we can meet the needs of all of our kids,” said Rodrequez.


All four district leaders presented highlights of their students and staff, and continue to work together to better the community as a whole. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

City of Grandview looks to renew Capital Improvement Sales Tax

by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

Voters in Grandview will head to the booths next Tuesday to determine whether or not to renew the city’s half-cent sales tax devoted to funding capital equipment and improvement to infrastructure and facilities. The tax was originally approved by voters in 1998 for a 10-year period, and then was renewed in November of 2007. The current Capital Improvement Sales Tax (CIST) plan is set to expire at the end of 2018.

“Back in 1998, we ran out of funding in the general fund for any capital projects, particularly ambulances, fire trucks, police cars, dump trucks and other big ticket items,” said City Administrator Cory Smith, “let alone things like City Hall repairs, computers and other facility issues that come up. We’ve got a tremendous amount of facility and equipment all over the city and we just couldn’t squeeze it into the general fund anymore.

From 1998 to 2007, several projects were completed totaling nearly $14 million. Those CIST projects were: completion of the Merrywood Bridge, storm drainage improvements, West Frontage Road improvements, police video and electronic equipment, police and fire radio system upgrades, computer-aided dispatch replacement, police vehicle replacement, public works vehicle replacement, fire trucks and ambulances, communication system improvements, 140th Street bridge, Blue Ridge traffic signals, new sidewalks and repairs, storm channel repairs, curb repairs, facility improvements and repairs, fire equipment and station improvements, and computer and technical improvements.

From 2008 to now, the city has seen CIST dollars go toward: facility improvements and repairs, computer and technology, police and fire equipment, vehicles, technology and facilities, street construction projects, storm drainage improvements, sidewalk and curb construction and repair and various vehicle replacements.

To date, nearly $3 million of the 2008 CIST has been devoted to police equipment, vehicles, technology and facilities, while $2.6 million has gone to fire equipment, vehicles, technology and facilities.

“This year, the general fund is at least 80 percent personal services,” said Smith. “The rest is just support costs, contractual supplies, uniforms and all those things.”

On Tuesday, August 8, voters will decide on the renewal of the CIST, with a projected $15 million in revenue from the half-cent sales. That projection includes a two-percent annual growth in sales tax revenues as well as interest income and the trade or sale of miscellaneous vehicles and equipment that the city owns.

City of Grandview’s administration has put forth a CIST renewal plan with $15 million in expenditures for the next 10 years. 46 percent of the renewal plan, totaling nearly $6 million, is public safety improvements, including body worn cameras for police officers, tactical equipment, replacement of cars and motorcycles, mobile data terminals, radio equipment, ambulance and fire truck replacement, mobile radios, cots and other ambulance equipment and firefighter safety gear.

Also included in the CIST renewal plan are: a new roof, various repairs and HVAC replacement at City Hall, a new roof at the public works facility, fire station improvements, computer and technology improvements, replacement of vehicles in public works and community development, the replacement of the Kansas City Southern Railroad overpass at Blue Ridge and new equipment and furnishings at The View community center.

“We have received money from the Federal Railway Administration through a grant that is good for the next two or three years,” said Smith. “The railroad would potentially cover about 25 percent of the project. It’s a $7 million project.”

Ultimately, it is up to Grandview voters to decide whether or not the project list gets completed in the next ten years. The specific ballot language reads: Shall the City of Grandview, Missouri reimpose a sales tax of one-half of one percent (1/2 of 1%) for the purpose of funding capital improvements, which may include the retirement of debt under previously authorized bonded indebtedness, for a period of ten (10) years commencing January 1, 2019, and ending December 31, 2028?


The City of Grandview has developed a website with more information. Voters can go to www.buildingtomorrowscommunity.com  to find out more.