Friday, February 1, 2019

Grandview C-4 removes half days from 2019-20 school year

by Mary Wilson

The Grandview Board of Education typically adopts the school calendar for the following year each January without much discussion, as the overall scope of it doesn’t change year after year. However, Grandview families and teachers will see significant changes in the 2019-20 school calendar. 

“This board item is a bit lengthier than it usually is because we have a dramatic change in our calendar for next year,” said Superintendent Dr. Kenny Rodrequez during the Board of Education meeting on Thursday, January 17. “We’re looking at the removal of early release days in our district and going to full professional development days. This removes the half days and would give us more opportunities with our teachers to work with them on professional development, not just our certified staff, but our classified staff as well.”

Districts in Missouri are required to provide 1,044 hours of student attendance, with no minimum number of days. School calendars must also include 36 make-up hours for inclement weather, for a total of 1080 hours. After several input meetings from district personnel and staff and parent surveys, a proposal to move to full day professional development was considered.

“With the staff survey that we did, and we were provided a lot of input from a variety of different sources throughout our individual sites, we saw that staff is 70 percent in favor,” said Rodrequez. “The survey was also completed by district families, and 70 percent of our families were also in favor of this. I know that I have heard, since I’ve been in this district, several parents who struggle with the early release days.”

The proposed 2019-20 calendar creates eight full-day non-student attendance days, eliminating all but two half days (during parent/teacher conferences in October and the final day of school). The 175-day calendar, which the district has had for many years, provided for approximately 1,091 student attendance hours. Although the draft 2019-20 calendar exceeds the number of state required hours, five minutes will need to be added to the daily schedule in order to maintain approximately the same state funding.  Doing so provides 1092.16 hours, comparable to the current calendar.

“How adding that five minutes plays out in regards to each school’s schedule, we’ll get into that later on as we’re developing this,” said Rodrequez.

The district did its best in the calendar to keep the full days off on Fridays, providing for a long weekend for students. Non-student attendance days are designated as Professional Days. In November and April, they will fall on election days to alleviate safety concerns and disruptions to schools that are polling stations. 

“Overwhelming feedback from our sites that are polling stations was that they would rather not be in school on election days,” said Rodrequez. “It is a security risk for us, in our opinion, and it can be very disruptive.”

The calendar also includes a transition half day for incoming sixth and ninth-grade students.  All middle school and high school staff will be on site to help and support those students the day before classes officially begin on the first day of school. Elementary staff will have an additional half-day without students. The first day of school will be all day. 

The Board of Education unanimously approved the adoption of the 2019-20 school calendar with the proposed changes, and a copy of it will be available in the coming months on the district’s website.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

US Army awards Military Outstanding Volunteer Service medal to Grandview fireman

by Mary Wilson

For firefighters, community engagement can come with the territory, but one local fireman is receiving national recognition for his involvement in Grandview. Service is second nature to Grandview Fire Department Engineer Rodney Baldwin, who was recently honored by the 7456th Medical Backfill Battalion Army Unit in Des Moines, Iowa, for his work with the Grandview Assistance Program.

Baldwin also serves as Command Sergeant Major for his Army Reserves unit. On his last tour, he met Dr. Gary Morsch, co-founder of Heart to Heart International, who retired from the US Army Reserves in 2012 and has written a handful of books focused on humanitarian efforts. Morsch gave Baldwin several copies of books he authored and the two got to talking.

“Gary Sinise was doing his USSO show, and I mentioned to Morsch that I’d like to meet him. So, Gary Morsch pulls out his cell phone and calls Gary Sinise,” said Baldwin. “I was like, holy crap, you know Gary Sinise? So, I met Gary Sinise, and I read the book.”

At the time, Richards says, the Grandview Fire Department wasn’t doing much as far as community outreach or service projects. Baldwin began his career as a volunteer paramedic, and wound up working in Grandview because he thought he would see more action here. What started as a way to help his neighbors in the town he grew up in evolved into a career that makes him proud.

Knowing that his friend Morsch was able to make great things happen in his own community with the organization he started, Baldwin knew he wanted to do something here.

“I knew I couldn’t do something that great,” said Baldwin, “but I knew I could at least be doing something and be a part of the community.”

Wondering how the rest of his crew felt, he decided to go around and ask his coworkers why they joined the fire department.

“Only one guy said he did it to help the community,” said Baldwin. “I knew we needed to be a part of this community.”

The first thing he did after the deployment where he met Morsch was research Grandview and its people. Seeing a great need for mentorship with students, Baldwin wrote a program, which has since developed into the Lunch Buddies in Grandview elementary schools.

“It was going pretty well, but I then realized that there were a lot of kids that we saw who didn’t have food,” said Baldwin. “I did a little more research, and I found that about 70 percent of students in the Grandview School District are food insecure.”

Wanting to find a way to help the families he serves, Baldwin organized a food drive for the Grandview Assistance Program’s (GAP) Back Snack program in the spring. This led into another drive in the fall for holiday needs.

On December 1, 2018, Grandview Fire Chief Ron Graham traveled to Des Moines to witness Baldwin receive the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service medal, awarded for substantial volunteer service to the local community above and beyond the duties of the United States Armed Forces.

“I was talking with another guy at the ceremony who told me this is something he hardly ever sees awarded,” added Graham. “It was a really, really big deal. I didn’t even realize how big of a deal this was until I got up there.”

Baldwin added that it is an award he’s never seen given before. The impact to the community from Baldwin’s efforts is immeasurable, according to Graham. The number of backpacks filled, hours spent with children, and pounds to food donated can likely be calculated, but the lasting impression on the community is what Baldwin was recognized for.

“It was truly an honor to be there to see it. I was really proud of him,” said Graham. “With these programs, it can be hard to see what an impact you are having, but the guys just continue to go in and hope they’re making a difference.”

Graham said that volunteering on their own time can be a hard sell for his crew members, but once they go and they see that they are needed, they fall in love with it. He added that the community service aspect has become a part of the change in culture in the department, and he thanks Baldwin for his role and leadership to make a positive impact.

Baldwin is gone one weekend a month, or two weeks a year, for the Army Reserves. He works in a medical unit, where they are currently focusing on readiness processes for soldiers heading overseas. Back at home, and after seeing living circumstances in the community he works in, Baldwin has also begun other efforts to help GAP, including a coat drive.

“Giving back makes you feel good,” said Baldwin. “It’s good for our guys to see the good of what we’re doing, and it makes them feel good about themselves, too.”

To help Baldwin and the Grandview Fire Department with future coat or food drives, follow them on Facebook.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Grandview alum keeps his wheels spinning despite disease

by Brent Kalwei

Since the age of 13, Doug Bolton has dealt with symptoms of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), a neuromuscular disorder. CMT has paralyzed him from his knees to his toes, and from his elbows to his fingertips. However, Bolton’s disorder has not taken away his ability to fulfill his love for competing in sports.

Bolton, 41, is a 1996 Grandview High School graduate who has pushed his body to the limit by competing in a number of athletic activities. He has competed in triathlons, including the Capital of Texas Triathlon, a national event for para-athletes, which Bolton raced against athletes who qualified for the Paralympics.

“I got to race, and see how I compared to other athletes similar to me,” he said. “I was in the pool, I was running, and on my bike every day for a year working my butt off.”

Bolton occasionally uses a wheelchair in his personal life. He also wears a device called an ankle foot orthotic (AFO) to help him walk. With Bolton’s condition, he can become fatigued by overexerting.  Without his leg braces, he can walk up to about 500 feet before getting tired, adding that his braces allow him to walk about a mile without feeling completely fatigued.

Over the years, CMT has progressed to the point where it has affected Bolton’s ability to work. He said he can still write, but added that it’s difficult to type.

Bolton loves biking so much that he participated in Biking Across Kansas (BAK) seven times. BAK is an eight-day bicycle tour across the Sunflower State.

He has also taken part in Ride the Rockies, a six-day cross state tour of Colorado. Bolton still enjoys
occasionally riding his bike about 100 miles on the Katy Trail from Pleasant Hill to Windsor. With no feeling below his knees, riding a bicycle is a challenge for Bolton.

“This affects the power that I have going uphill,” he said. “I cannot stand safely. I have to be careful  on how hard I push myself, so I don’t break down the muscles further.”

Bolton’s feet are clipped into foot pedals while riding his bicycle.

“If I don’t have pedals that keep my foot in place, my feet just flop off,” he said.

Bolton also enjoys swimming. He competed on the Grandview swim team from 1993-1996.

“Swimming has always been something that I’ve done to help me stay competitive, and also to keep my health up,” he said.

Bolton has also competed in cyclocross, which is raced on a circuit spanning one to two miles.
“You’re in the grass, in the mud and in the rocks. You have to dismount and climb hills and jump over barriers,” Bolton said.

In October 2017, Bolton made the decision to participate in his first team sport activity. He joined the Kansas City Revolution Wheelchair Rugby Club, playing games at the Hy-Vee Center, formerly known as Kemper Arena.

“Since day one, he has always been a hard worker,” said Brad Hudspeth, a KC Revolution player/coach. “He’s done a lot of training with head coach Tony Durham and me, outside of just our one practice a week to really help himself get in rugby shape.”

Hudspeth added that Bolton brings a positive attitude to the team.

“If you’re having a bad game or not liking how the weekend is going as far as your own personal play, he is always there to tell you that you are doing a good job,” Hudspeth said. “He may also point out what he sees that you can be working on.”

Bolton’s interest in the sport began after meeting a man at a bike store, who was getting a tire changed on his wheelchair rugby chair.

“I started asking questions,” Bolton said.

He instantly fell in love with wheelchair rugby after deciding to give the sport a try.

“Playing the game requires every ounce of my ability and brain function,” he said. “It is the most rewarding thing that I’ve ever had when I get the ball, do something right, and we score.”

According to Bolton, players who participate in the sport have disabilities such as a spinal cord injury, amputations or neurological disorders. Although traditional rugby and wheelchair rugby share a similar name, the two sports are quite different.

“The only similarity between rugby and wheelchair rugby is the aggressiveness,” Bolton said. “It’s 100 percent effort the entire time. Think of soccer, think of hockey and think of basketball when it comes to wheelchair rugby. There is a lot of the same strategy in comparison to those sports.”

Bolton said each wheelchair rugby chair costs $5,000 to $10,000. He raised about $1,000 to buy his and paid for the rest out of pocket.

“I also sold a bunch of my personal belongings to buy this wheelchair to be able to play,” he said. “I made some sacrifices to play.”

The Kansas City Revolution used money raised to play in a national tournament called the Wheelchair Rugby Metal and Muscle Tournament from Friday, December 7 through Sunday, December 9, in Houston, Texas. Bolton only played a few games, but he was proud of getting the opportunity to compete on the national stage.

“It allowed me to be validated for all the training I did over the last year,” Bolton said.

He enjoys participating in wheelchair rugby, because the sport allows him to be around other people with disabilities.

“It’s just a pure joy to get them out on the floor and let them hit someone. The smile is something amazing,” he said. “It’s like the very first time you tackle someone playing a football game.”

One of Bolton’s favorite memories of the sport came in his first practice with the Revolution.

“At the end of practice, one of the big guys and I started at opposite ends and hit each other at midcourt,” he said. “That was my addiction point.”

Bolton’s eagerness to compete has allowed him to travel to new places and meet many para-athletes along the way. He likes hearing stories about how other para-athletes deal with their disabilities and he enjoys sharing his story. Bolton urges others with disabilities to never give up on their dream of playing sports.

“If you’re motivated after an accident, and if you are willing to put in the time and effort, it’s going to be rewarding,” he said. “Going and pushing your boundary, and learning what you can actually do to play a sport are huge.”

Bolton is always looking forward to his next athletic challenge. His goal in the next year or two is to compete in the Redman half Ironman Aquabike event in Oklahoma, which is a 1.2 mile swim and a 56-mile bike ride.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Grandview McDonald’s owner retires, restaurant sold

by Mary Wilson

Back in 1988, young entrepreneur Ty Yano opened his first McDonald’s restaurant in Grandview, Missouri, after moving to the area from California. Since that time, Yano has acquired a dozen more restaurants, and has sold a countless number of hamburgers and French fries to the communities surrounding his stores.

Believing in promotion from within, Yano has provided employment and advancement opportunities for his crew. Many began their careers under Yano’s direction, working their way up to management positions in the company.

“So did I,” said Yano. “I worked my way up, too.”

In recognition of owning and operating the McDonald’s restaurant in Grandview for 30 years, Mayor Leonard Jones and the Board of Aldermen presented Yano with a proclamation during their meeting on Tuesday, November 27. As he was preparing for retirement and more time to enjoy his family, Yano sold each of his restaurants.

“Thirty years have gone by very, very quickly,” said Yano. “I understand this thanking, but I’m the one who should be thanking the city. They accepted me thirty years ago and with that one store, I now have thirteen. It's a blessing.”

“Ty has been very instrumental here in Grandview,” said Jones. “Of the 13 McDonald’s restaurants he owned, Grandview McDonald’s on Blue Ridge was his first. Because of the success of that one, he was able to open up 12 more, which is a blessing by itself.”

Over the last three decades, Yano has been a generous community supporter, with financial donations going toward many area nonprofits including the Grandview Education Foundation and Grandview Assistance Program.  He has provided support for Music on Main and Harry’s Hay Days, to name a few.

“We want to say thank you for all you’ve done and, if you know anything about Ty, you know he’s been very faithful in helping support the community,” said Jones. “Ty has given back to the community over and over again.”

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Creators of impactful fundraiser in Hickman Mills honored

by Mary Wilson,

The Hickman Mills Educational Foundation recognized two outstanding alums on Friday, November 2, at their annual gala fundraiser. Mark Launiu, a 2007 graduate of Hickman Mills High School, and AbdulRasheed Yahaya, a 2006 graduate from Ruskin High School, teamed up to host a basketball fundraiser last August called “Play It Forward,” in which former Hickman Mills and Ruskin students competed, raising funds for school supplies.

Launiu went on to graduate from Longview and attended Kansas State University. He is cofounder and co-owner of MADE Urban Apparel, and is also the founder of Kritiq Fashion Show in Kansas City. Yahaya also attended Kansas State, where he studied Computer Information Systems. He is the owner of Local Legends Gaming.

As a child, Launiu moved to California from Hawaii, and ended up in Kansas City by accident when an aunt from Indiana said she was tired and made a pit-stop with the trailer.
“’What do you think about moving to Kansas City?’ she asked. So, here I am, right in front of you in Kansas City,” said Launiu. “I went to Dobbs Elementary School, Ervin Middle School, and graduated from Hickman Mills.”

His clothing company, MADE Urban Apparel, recently opened their second location in Kansas City, and his products are carried and sold in retailers internationally. Launiu’s wife is a teacher at Ervin.
“Everything I do is brought right back to this community,” said Launiu. “None of this I would have been able to accomplish if it wasn’t for this district.”

Yahaya attended Symington Elementary, Smith-Hale Middle School, and graduated from Ruskin.
“Mark and I met briefly at K-State, and it’s crazy how the world works and we’ve circled back around and get closer and closer,” said Yahaya.

His company, Local Legends Gaming, hosts a slew of competitive games all around the Kansas City area. It began with a mobile gaming truck one year ago, and Yahaya is currently in the middle of a 5000-square-foot build-out of a gaming center, opening in mid-December in Westport. His wife also works in education, and is an administrator at Longview Community College.

“This idea Mark had really hit home for me,” said Yahaya. “Being a product of the Hickman Mills School District, it is really great to be part of something that allows me to give back. Year after year, teachers reach in their own pockets to provide for their students. That’s the reason I wanted to be a part of this. Even if I couldn’t fork it out of my own pocket, I can use my resources to generate something with an impact.”

“Play It Forward” was inspired by Launiu’s wife, who had a DonorsChoose funding page asking for help with getting students in the Hickman Mills district what they need to be successful in the classroom. Each time, Launiu paid each project off to give back to the community he was raised in. He then decided he would like to do something for the district on a bigger scale and make a larger impact.

“I wanted to help out every teacher in the district,” said Launiu. “If my wife needed help, I was sure everyone needed help. I know what it’s like growing up in south Kansas City and being very limited.”
The charity game raised enough money to fill around 300 book bags with supplies, which were distributed at the beginning of the school year to students from all schools in the district.

“I alone can’t change the perception of what people think south Kansas City is,” said Launiu. “But, I want the change to start in the classrooms.”

Launiu and Yahaya intend to make the “Play It Forward” charity basketball game an annual event.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Missouri girl gets a taste of local politics

by Mary Wilson 

Mayors across the state of Missouri are showing their sweet side as one five-year-old girl invites each of them to meet her for an unforgettable treat. Taylor Duncan, the “almost six-year-old,” as she’d tell you, from Waynesville, is on a mission to meet every mayor in Missouri while learning about each town and enjoying some ice cream along the way.

On Saturday, October 13, Taylor, her mother and younger siblings, visited Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones, her 116th mayoral ice cream visit, to be exact. The idea came about when Taylor, who is homeschooled, was studying the state and learned that the ice cream cone originated in Missouri. So, she set a goal to have an ice cream cone with every mayor in the state.

“It’s a really delicious idea,” she said through a big bite of her rainbow sherbet.

Taylor toured the Truman Farm Home before heading over to Topsy’s with Mayor Jones for their special treat. There, she also met Alderman Damon Randolph, and was excited to ask questions of both elected officials. Randolph, with bubblegum ice cream, and Jones, with his vanilla swirled with fudge and peanuts, answered questions from Taylor like why they decided to get into local politics, the biggest challenges, and what their favorite thing about living in Grandview is.

When asked which mayor has been her favorite so far, Taylor responded, “Mommy asked me to not answer that question.” Her mom said that she’s supposed to answer the question differently than that, but Mayor Jones is convinced that he’s the favorite.

While she couldn’t answer which mayor she likes best, cotton candy ice cream is the flavor she chooses most. She also loves orange sherbet. Following their treats at Topsy’s, Jones, Randolph and the Duncan family headed over to City Hall. There, Taylor was impressed with the size of Grandview’s municipal government building. She also sat at the mayor’s desk and played at Freedom Park.

After Grandview, the family was headed to Oak Grove. Taylor’s trek across the state is documented by her mom on a Facebook page. Follow her journey at Show Me Ice Cream.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Aldermen approve a number of ordinances to finish out Grandview’s fiscal year

Splash park and shooting range to become reality; shopping center revitalization receives CID; outer roads to eventually convert to two-way

by Mary Wilson

With sixteen ordinances to get through in one meeting, the Grandview Board of Aldermen had a stacked agenda before them for their regular session on Tuesday, September 25. In just over an hour, all 16 ordinances were approved, but not without opposition on a handful of items from one alderman.

“Each issue I voted no on is the same issue that I voiced concerns and opposition to during all previous work sessions,” said Ward 3 Alderman John Maloney. “Though, knowing that I am in the minority doesn't stop me from voting no on any issue that I have serious concern or opposition to. Our responsibility as aldermen is not to be a rubber stamp, but to make the best decisions for the future of our city. Luckily, the Board usually sees eye-to-eye and we always treat one another with respect, but I believe we can all do a better job saying no and asking for more responsibility and accountability from staff and developers.”

Maloney’s first opposition of the evening had to do with the construction of the city’s newest splash park, which will be located adjacent to The View community center. Grandview citizens approved a no tax increase bond vote in 2014 for the splash park for $2.25 million. The project had been tabled after the original bid came in over budget. Mega Industries will be responsible for construction in the amount not to exceed $1,859,653. The project will include spray features, playground with slides, site furnishings, cameras, and fencing.

“We have a very limited amount of money, and I think we’re doing a very poor investment by putting the Splash Park next to The View,” said Maloney. “I think this is being used as an excuse to raise membership rates at the community center, and we’ll essentially be competing with ourselves because we have a free Splash Park on the other side of the city. This goes against what the parks commission and staff are wanting.”

With Maloney’s no vote, the ordinance still passed 4-1 (Alderman Sandy Kessinger was absent from the meeting). Ward 3 Alderman Jim Crain stated that while the location of the splash park is not preferable to him, he is simply going along with the majority on his yes vote.

Maloney also disagreed with the two ordinances on the agenda that would begin the process of converting Grandview’s I-49 outer roadways to two-way traffic. While both passed 4-1, Maloney said that he was not in favor of the conversion project partnership with the Missouri Department of Transportation and the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission

“I’ve voted no on the outer roads before,” said Maloney. “Grandview lost a lot of its economic competitiveness years ago, and most of the businesses that have moved out don’t even exist anymore. Everyone wants to blame Grandview’s loss on the outer roads. We just didn’t do a very good job selling ourselves while neighboring communities offered so many incentives to developers and they went elsewhere.”

Finally, Maloney also opposed the petition to establish a Community Improvement District (CID) for the Grandview Village Shopping Center, located on Main Street. The property owners propose to use the CID as an economic redevelopment tool to upgrade the center, demolish a vacant building (former Econo Lube), and build a next-generation Dairy Queen Restaurant (DQ Grill and Chill). It will impose a one percent sales tax upon all retail sales within the CID, all proceeds to be used for the redevelopment project.

“I will not be supporting this tonight,” said Maloney. “I find it very hard to support an owner who has built and maintained this property from start to finish and has allowed it to become in certain array to be considered blighted, and then reward them with a CID. I think that sets a very bad tone for our city, in which all our property owners are allowed to just let their property become in disarray and then ask for a CID.”

Despite 4-1 approval, Ward One Alderman Damon Randolph expressed concern that shop owners and managers didn’t seem to have any knowledge of the CID process for their buildings nor had any communication with the property owners.

“I know several people up there, and from what the current tenants say, they haven’t been told anything,” said Randolph. “They read about all these improvements happening at the center in the Advocate.”

The project attorney said that he was surprised to hear that the tenants were unaware, but will ensure communication happens going forward.

The first of the unanimously-passed ordinances included the construction of the shooting range to be installed next to the Grandview Ball Park, off of Arrington Road. Grandview citizens approved a no tax increase bond vote in 2014 for the shooting range in the amount of $750,000. An additional $250,000 was secured from the Land Water Conservation Fund, along with an additional $12,300 from earned interest on the bond. TRS Range Services, out of Idaho, will be responsible for construction, including handicap parking and walkways, shooters briefing building and storage shed, the range, a target turning system and fencing.

With the project estimated to be completed in the spring of 2019, Grandview Police Chief Charles Iseman said that they plan to offer an education along with the opening to make patrons aware of the expectations and what will and will not be allowed at the public shooting range.

“This is a new adventure for us, so there definitely needs to be an education piece to it,” said Iseman.

Also approved at the meeting were the installation of a new roof at City Hall; a one-year extension to the Metropolitan Area Regional Radio System (MARRS) user agreement for all city radios along with software support for the Response CAD system, Police RMS and other public safety systems; an increase in charges for ambulance services ($900 for residents and $1050 for non-residents), an increase in the first-aid rate to $250 and an increase in the mileage charge to $14 per mile; and an ordinance to begin use of an electronic grant management system with the Federal Railroad Administration for the Blue Ridge Boulevard overpass replacement project. 

Grandview High School freshmen Taj Manning and Cierra Smith recently competed
on the international level at the first ever Junior NBA World Championships
in August. For their accomplishments, Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones issued a
proclamation during the September 25 Board of Aldermen meeting in recognition
of their outstanding individual efforts, team play, sportsmanship and success in
their sports and academic careers now and in the future.
“On behalf of the Board of Aldermen and the citizens of Grandview, I hereby
congratulate the Central Boys and Girls teams for their Junior NBA World Championship,”

said Jones.