Friday, December 2, 2016

Grandview’s only provisionally-accredited school feels sense of urgency

by Mary Wilson, Editor

As part of the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP), the Grandview C-4 School District is required to develop an ongoing, written Comprehensive School Improvement Plan (CSIP), which directs the overall improvement of its education programs and services. The CSIP includes goals and strategies that direct the improvement efforts of the district for at least a five-year period.

One of the focus areas in the district’s CSIP is student achievement, including processes to develop and enhance quality educational/instructional programs to improve performance and enable students to meet their personal academic and career goals.  In accordance with this focus area, one of the action items states that each school site will utilize the School Improvement Process during teacher collaboration to identify goals, focus on adult learning to improve instruction, and monitor student achievement progress to inform instruction.

These plans have been developed by the school leadership teams and have incorporated feedback from site-based stakeholder groups.  On Thursday, November 17, Grandview Middle School presented their School Improvement Plan to the Board of Education. With the final Annual Performance Reports released last month, the district learned that GMS fell below the fully-accredited range (70% or higher), garnering 63.6% of possible points. In 2014, the school was considered accredited with distinction, with 94.3% of possible points earned.

“We are sticking out like a sore thumb as a provisionally-accredited school,” said Grandview Middle School Principal Jacqueline Spencer. “That is not who we want to be and we do have a sense of urgency with where we are right now.”

This year, GMS is focusing on culture, professional learning community processes, and reading and writing in all content areas.

“The numbers that we are seeing just do not reflect our students,” said Spencer. “Nor do they reflect our staff. We have a lot of work to do. It’s not our story, but these are the numbers that we have.”

The first goal is to increase achievement in English Language Arts (ELA) for all GMS students. An emphasis will be put on various writing types as well as increasing reading comprehension through close reading strategies and the implementation of a building incentive program.

“Our target this year is to have 50% of our students proficient (in ELA),” said Spencer. “That will mean moving approximately 22 additional students to the proficiency level. We think that we will be able to do that.”

The second goal is to increase GMS student achievement in math. This will include teaching multi-step problem solving, algebraic expression and fractions at the middle school level. Each area will be assessed through the district’s benchmarking process. While the school did see an increase in algebra scores, it does not reflect on GMS’s overall points because algebra is scored at the high school level.

“We have to help at least 65 more eighth-grade students become proficient math students,” said Spencer. “With two math classes, that is 32 students per teacher, or seven students per class. Drilling it down that far shows the teachers that we can do this, this is feasible.”

Spencer and her team have also broken down student achievement levels in math for seventh and sixth grade students. In seventh grade, at least 40 additional students will need to score proficient.
The third goal is to increase student achievement in science, emphasizing earth and space, physical, life, engineering, technology and application of science. GMS plans to increase the number of students scoring proficient and advanced by 5% or more and decrease the number of students scoring basic and below basic by 5% or more.  

“Our target goal for this year is 50% of our students scoring proficient in science,” said Spencer. “With 28% proficient last year, this would mean that we need to increase by 45 students.”

A focus will be on the number of students in remediation, or those students who simply don’t understand the concepts, as well as the number of students who are in mastery-level on testing.

“Once we have that picture, we can then drill-down on what the students need individually,” said Spencer. “We will now focus on how we get our instructional strategies so aligned to either accelerate our students or enrich our students. For those students that are in remediation, we’ll have to fill in the gaps.”

Reading, writing and vocabulary continue to remain at the forefront of instruction. Spencer and her administrative team will also work to increase attendance and decrease the number of discipline referrals by creating a positive school culture and climate and provide a safe learning environment where respect and responsibility are hallmarks of character. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

CAC celebrates a giving community this holiday season

by Mary Wilson

Community Assistance Council is thankful this holiday season, and volunteers and employees have been celebrating all year. Marking 40 years in 2016, CAC held an anniversary celebration in September with over 200 people in attendance. Mary Russell, an original board member and community leader from 1976, was on-hand and recognized as an honored guest. The largest single fundraiser to date for CAC, the event netted approximately $20,000.

This year, after 33 years with CAC, executive director Carol Bird Owsley announced her retirement. Owsley received a personal proclamation from the City of Kansas City, Missouri, and Councilmen Scott Taylor and Kevin McManus declared Friday, September 30, 2016, Carol Bird Owsley Day in Kansas City.

With Owsley’s retirement, CAC announced April Diaz as the new Executive Director. Diaz holds a master’s in social work and African studies, and a bachelor’s in political science and sociology, all from the University of Illinois. She also holds advanced certifications in nonprofit management, fundraising management, nonprofit board of education, meditation and human services management.

Prior to CAC, Diaz worked in donor relations for United Way of Greater Kansas City. She also served previously as an AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA), as the assistant director of a community center in Illinois, and as a graduate research assistant at the Children and Family Research Center at the University of Illinois.

“It’s been good having April on board and having a fresh set of eyes on everything,” said Pam Meek, CAC Programs Coordinator.

Within the last year, CAC has opened the SAFE pantry, started a Happy Bottoms program, and was named Harvesters Agency of the Year.

“We’ve been blessed because we’ve had so much community support, especially on food drives, the past few months,” said Meek. “It’s amazing, it seems like this year, everybody is hearing about us.”

With the community support, CAC was able to help 98 families over the Thanksgiving holiday with food baskets. The Holiday Store is set for December 12-16, and CAC is currently collecting donations of gifts, stocking stuffers and gift wrap. Interested volunteers can serve as guides, food basket packers and shelf stockers. Shifts are from 9 a.m. to noon and noon to 3 p.m. each day.

CAC will help around 120 families with holiday this season. Suggested gift items include toys and games, household items, small appliances, wallets and purses, bedding, cologne, small tools, crafts, electronics, and sporting goods.

“If it’s a gift you would get for someone in your family, someone else would likely want it too,” said Meek. “We are always in need of food items. Anything that would contribute to a holiday meal always works.”

Looking toward the future of CAC, Meek added that they will be on the hunt for some architectural designers to help coordinate their upcoming move to Burke Elementary. Currently, CAC has just over 5000 square feet of space. When they move, they will double their inside square footage and have access to grounds for potential gardens and outdoor use. According to the Hickman Mills School District timeline, CAC will have access to their portion of the property beginning on August 1, 2017.

“With construction and other projects we’d like to have done, I’d imagine we won’t be in there and fully functioning until 2018,” said Diaz.

Potential volunteers for the Holiday Store, donation pickup drivers, Meals on Wheels drivers, food pantry workers or any other projects can contact CAC by calling 816-763-3277, or visit them online at

Friday, October 21, 2016

Local libraries push for Proposition L approval

Branches to see expansion of services in each community

By Mary Wilson,

For less than the price of a new hardback book, Mid-Continent Public Library hopes to increase its operating levy by passing Proposition L in the November 8 election. The resulting 1% property tax increase upon passage would impact homeowners with homes valued at $150,000 approximately $22.80 per year. The impact approval of Proposition L would have on local libraries would include building and renovating library branches and maintaining or expanding library collections, services and programs.

System-wide, library users will see a growth in the services offered through Mid-Continent. Grandview and South Kansas City residents can expect to see changes at the three branches serving the area: Grandview, Blue Ridge and Red Bridge.

“The thing that is specific to each branch is the facility piece,” said Jim Staley, Community Relations and Planning Director for Mid-Continent Public Library.

According to Staley, the Grandview branch is one of the few locations that will receive an expansion. While plans are still in progress, it will likely receive a new entrance on the front side of the building with the addition of interior room into what is currently greenspace. One concept includes added windows to increase natural light, with the addition of study/collaboration rooms, a community room, outdoor space, interior renovations and other enhancements.

“All around the system, we’re trying to get more light in our buildings,” said Staley. “Most of the buildings were built at a time when we wanted to limit the light because of the books. Now, with the ability to coat windows and so on, we would prefer to build the buildings for people instead of for books, which is what they were originally built for.”

Blue Ridge and Red Bridge will also receive enclosed meeting spaces or community rooms. All three will also have two or three smaller rooms big enough to accommodate small groups inside the library. Each building would also receive a facelift.

“If a community group wants to come in and use the library, it’s there,” said Staley. “We want the library to be an inviting place for people to come in. While many of them are looking their age, we want people to see the buildings and want to visit.”

The look of the Red Bridge branch will be influenced by the rest of Red Bridge Shopping Center’s improvements currently under construction. Red Bridge currently has Google Fiber lines, while Grandview and Blue Ridge do not, but will receive them with passage of Proposition L. Plans also include the addition of technology-related infrastructure, including power plugs and internet ports.

“All of the improvements are essentially making the library more functional for a modern library user,” said Staley. “We have people who sit in their cars and use the Wi-Fi connections. If we added outdoor spaces, the library would be useful even when it is closed.”

Due to transportation challenges in certain areas, Mid-Continent would like to expand the Grow A Reader program with the Grow A Reader bus, the Reading Rocket, an early-literacy mobile unit that can reach kids that may not have access to the library otherwise.

“In some of the communities in this area, we have identified there is a need for these types of services,” said Staley. “It’s just a matter of getting the revenue to help support getting it in different communities.”

The Reading Rocket is being tested in Independence with positive response from communities in that area, said Staley. Center, Hickman Mills and Grandview school districts have partnered with Mid-Continent, and Staley said that the library would like to continue to offer support to the districts.
“All three districts, while they can’t formally endorse Proposition L, have been very supportive,” said Staley.

The small business program has started to gain momentum in the south, according to Staley, and that is another service enhancement that voters can expect to see implemented. Other service enhancements include increased support for seniors, expansion of literacy programs for children and teens, increased community-driven programming, increased availability of books, audio/visual, and digital items and expanded hours.

“We did 8,700 free tax-help programs for seniors last year,” said Staley. Library-By-Mail currently serves homebound residents who can’t make it into their local library branch, with 20,000 materials delivered to 370 customers.

“We’ll deliver books, music or movies right to their doorstep,” said Emily Brown, Public Relations Coordinator for Mid-Continent Public Library.

Each community will determine the expansion of library hours, rather than a sweeping change across the board. The expansion of specific services will also be dictated by local needs and wants. Library resources will also be expanded, including books, digital resources, music, movies and more.

Mid-Continent Public Library’s last tax levy was increased in 1983. Over the next 15 years, the district population is forecasted to grow by 1 million residents. To serve the growing communities, the library needs to update and construct buildings, grow the collection of available resources, and increase services requested by the community.

Proposition L’s exact ballot language on November 8 will be: For the purpose of renovating and replacing aging library facilities, enhancing spaces and programming for children and adults, expanding services and collections to serve public demand, and for the general operation of public libraries, shall there be an eight cent tax increase over the thirty-two cent tax per hundred dollars assessed valuation for Consolidated Library District #3, known as the Mid-Continent Public Library?

A yes vote will include the renovation of 28 library buildings and the construction of six new or replacement library buildings, along with other expansions and investments. A no vote would minimize library maintenance to basic repairs with the elimination of possible expansion, possible reduction in branch hours of operation, staff, and scaled-back internet bandwidth, decreased library outreach and partnership development and services, and a reduction in the current investment in resources. 

For more information, visit the library's website dedicated to Proposition L at: 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Aldermen approve SB 650 changes to local ordinance

by Mary Wilson,

The State of Missouri legislature in 2014 passed Senate Bill (SB) 650, the Uniform Wireless Communications Infrastructure Deployment Act, thus creating significant changes to law in response to what the telecommunications industry lobby portrayed as municipal governments acting as impediments to review and approve their proposed facilities, including towers and accessory equipment. These changes were intended to limit or remove local government authority for zoning and land use approvals.

The changes approved in SB 650 were brought forward to the Grandview Board of Aldermen after a public hearing for approval on Tuesday, September 27, in order to bring the city into compliance with the new law.

With the new bill, communications towers and facilities will be permitted on buildings and structures 2 stories in height or greater. Mast supporting antennas may extend up to ten feet above the roof line. In residential districts, the existing structure must be on property developed with a non-residential use. Applications will be required to submit a site plan and associated fee, as they are subject to review. A building permit will also be required.

The ordinance includes development standards, including a minimum distance between towers, but removed the city’s authority of security for maintenance or removal of antennas or towers.

 “Senate Bill 650 came about because of extensive lobbying at the state level by telecommunications companies and I think what they’ve done is a tremendous disservice to cities,” said Ward 3 Alderman Jim Crain. “We can no longer require financial security in the form of a bond or letter of credit. We no longer have right of access. We can no longer require the removal of abandoned antennas and towers. We can no longer require proof of study of additional potential sites. What the state has done has allowed telecommunications companies to come into cities and cram it down our throats.”

After brief discussion Tuesday night, the Board of Aldermen approved the changes, with Crain being the sole opposition to the ordinance.

“While I guess we have to abide by this, I strongly disagree with it,” said Crain. Mayor Leonard Jones asked Crain if the bill was another unfunded mandate. He responded, “I think it’s at least that. It’s not requiring us to spend any money but it is certainly taking away local control.”

Bill number 7175 passed and thus became Ordinance 6923 in the City of Grandview. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Grandview Alderman Resigns

by Mary Wilson,

The City of Grandview has seen tremendous strides toward progress over the last several months, including groundbreakings, ribbon cuttings, announcements and more. Week after week, the City’s elected officials have been welcoming new businesses and been present at numerous community activities promoting the great things happening. One alderman has been noticeably absent.

Ward 1 Alderman Debbie Bibbs last attended a work session on June 21, while her last regular meeting was on August 9. On Monday, September 12, Bibbs submitted a resignation letter to Mayor Leonard Jones effective immediately, stating recent health issues require her immediate attention.

According to Bibbs, resignation wasn’t something she envisioned, but because of her health issues she felt she didn’t have any other option. She added that there is nothing in place for medical leave of elected officials.

“I have appreciated and enjoyed the relationships that I have developed while in this position,” said Bibbs. “I hope our relationships will go far beyond having worked together as elected persons and staff representing our great city, but relationships that have developed into friendships.”

Elected in April 2015, Bibbs became the first African-American woman elected to the Grandview Board of Aldermen. It also became the first time in Grandview’s history that three female aldermen were seated at one time. In 2014, the City of Grandview was seeking a candidate to fill a Ward I vacancy. With encouragement from friends, Bibbs, a resident for over 35 years, applied. Although she did not get the appointment, Bibbs decided to run for the position when it appeared on the April 2015 ballot.

“I’m so thankful and I appreciate the opportunity I was given to be on the Board and to sit in and be a part of helping move Grandview forward,” said Bibbs. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”

Going forward, according to policy on vacancy, the City Clerk will accept letters of interest from and send applications for appointment to qualified individuals to fill the position within a period of time specified by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen. That timeframe will be determined soon, according to Jones.

The applications will be reviewed, and after the Mayor and Board of Aldermen have selected an individual to fill the vacancy, a special meeting will be convened; the individual will be appointed and will serve until the next regular municipal election in April 2017. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Former KCMO Councilman Targeted in Drive-by Shooting

by Mary Wilson

Tucked back on a dead-end street in a quiet neighborhood in South Kansas City, John Sharp was home working on a few things before heading to bed in the early morning hours of Thursday, September 1. The former Kansas City, Missouri city councilman lives on a street where children are often playing outside, with bicycles left in driveways and basketballs finding home in nearby yards.

The peace and quiet of the overnight hours was disturbed on September 1. Sharp said he had just returned inside the house after retrieving some items from his garage when he heard at least eight rounds of gunfire from just outside his home.

“I thought they were right outside my window, it was so loud,” said Sharp. “Police recovered five shell casings that night and neighbors found two more after that. It’s just a wonder that somebody wasn’t killed.”

A neighbor had surveillance cameras on the night of the shooting, but Sharp said the quality of the video is poor. The footage shows the suspect’s car heading west down the street, slow in front of Sharp’s house with a suspect hanging out of the passenger’s window shooting at the house over the roof of the car and then drive away. Another neighbor saw the car, but didn’t make out enough details to provide police with make or model.

“They were shooting a 40-caliber, which is a pretty big gun,” said Sharp. At the time of the shooting, a vehicle in Sharp’s driveway had a hole in the back window with the bullet lodged in the roof of the car. Since then, the window has shattered. Another bullet hole can be seen in Sharp’s garage door that eventually hit the back wall of the garage.

Sharp’s neighbor’s house was also hit with bullets, including one that went through a sleeping child’s bedroom. A car in that driveway also has a bullet hole in it, along with the roof of the house.

“I hadn’t even realized they were hit that night,” said Sharp. “I found out the next day. She (the homeowner) just moved in from out of state. She hasn’t been here long enough to make any enemies. I’m not sure she’ll be here very long after this.”

He believes he was a target of retaliation stemming from a recent election and political activities he’s been involved with.

“I don’t go to clubs anymore and I’m not messing around with somebody’s wife, you know?” said Sharp. “About all I do anymore is charitable work.”

A reward of up to $2000 is being offered for any information regarding the drive-by shooting. Witnesses are asked to call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Local Restaurant Owners Make Giving a Business Priority

by Mary Wilson

A popular restaurant in Grandview has been serving up more than chicken wings since opening last April. Wingz and More owners Chris Ray and Katie Benner have been busy making a name for themselves in the community, thanks to the power of social media.

Having known each other for a few years, Ray and Benner, who grew up in Kansas City and Grandview respectively, were looking at business opportunities to pursue in the area. They did some planning and research based on the needs of the community, and ultimately settled on opening a restaurant.

“We knew a chicken wing place was here before and was a fan favorite,” said Benner. “So, we started to look around and see what venues were available that might work for us.”

The duo began negotiations to find a home in the new Truman’s Marketplace shopping center redevelopment when they found the current location just across Blue Ridge.

“This location works out really well for us and the business and is much better suited for us,” said Benner. “Chris began working on recipes for the menu, while I worked on the back office side of things.”

Benner and Ray have worked various charity events together in the past, and knew that giving back to the community would remain a priority in their business endeavors.
“It’s something simple that we could do, especially with food,” said Benner. “Everyone has to eat.”
Ray suggested a lasagna dinner, where community members were invited via social media to come and have a meal, no charge, no questions asked. A tip jar that sits on the counter at Wingz and More is labeled “for the needy.”
“For our first shot at something like that, we had a fair number of people here,” said Benner. “With the tips, whether someone drops the change given back to them or larger bills, our customers are always contributing to those funds that we can then turn around and use for those meals that we provide.”
The lasagna dinner, only being advertised through social media and word of mouth, provided a warm, full meal for those in need in the community. On Facebook, the post for the dinner was shared 62 times, and talked about in various groups. That morning of the dinner, Ray also visited some areas in the community where he knew homeless and hungry people live and invited them to the restaurant.

“I thought about putting a sign out to advertise it as well,” said Ray. “I figure, if people are going to come in and take advantage of it, that’s not really my cross to bear. I won’t turn anybody away.”

While he’s more inclined to provide the meals outside of the major holiday seasons, he does understand there is a need during Thanksgiving and Christmas, and he has plans in the works to help fill that need. Ray has also begun working with the Grandview High School football program, helping provide food for the athletes to help alleviate the burden to the parents.

“You can’t expect kids to perform on a football field if they haven’t eaten,” said Benner. “A few from the team have even interviewed for jobs with us.”

Two young men from Grandview were recently hired part-time at the restaurant. Ray said he was pleasantly surprised by the mannerisms and overall maturity of the teammates from Grandview he has met.

Passionate about education and providing for the community, Ray ran for the Hickman Mills School Board a few years ago, losing the election by only 30 votes. Benner’s mother is a former teacher at Santa Fe.

Wingz and More has received rave reviews on social media, and has only advertised themselves through different media outlets, but Brenner said they’ve found the most luck through Facebook. On a local rant/rave page, Wingz and More is possibly one of the top-reviewed businesses within the last several months since they opened.

“We are so far ahead of where we thought we’d be at this point,” said Ray. “We had decent projections which we’re surpassing majorly. It is a good problem to have.”

Wingz and More is located at 11902 S Blue Ridge, Suite C, in Grandview. They are open daily on Monday for dinner from 4-9, Tuesday through Thursday for lunch and dinner from 11-9, Friday and Saturday for lunch and dinner from 11-10, and Sunday for lunch and dinner from 12-7. They also have meeting space available and catering options.