Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Grandview Aldermen Discuss Aquatic and Athletic Facilities

By Mary Wilson
The City of Grandview hired consultants to perform a feasibility study for aquatic facilities to assist Parks and Recreation with decision making regarding the feasibility of either renovating the existing outdoor Meadowmere swimming pool or building a new outdoor aquatic facility. The consultant team of Confluence, PROS Consulting and Waters Edge Aquatic Design worked closely with city leadership and staff to evaluate the current condition and desired future aquatic programming and facilities. In addition, ETC Institute conducted a community survey to provide insight into the attitude of residents toward the city’s current aquatic facilities.
The City also had the same consultants perform a study regarding the feasibility of renovating the existing outdoor athletic complexes and building a new athletic complex near Meadowmere Park.
At the December 18 Board of Aldermen work session, representatives from Confluence gave a brief overview to give an understanding of the purpose of the studies, which was to determine the outdoor aquatic and athletic field facilities.
According to Terry Berkbuegler of Confluence, the results showed that Grandview should develop aquatic facilities that enhance the quality of life in Grandview. The plans included promoting a community pool with enhanced features to attract more patrons. The final results of the study indicated that it would be financially feasible to operate a new outdoor aquatic facility in Grandview at the Meadowmere Park site, assuming all capital funding required to demolish the existing swimming pool and construct the new facility will come from sources other than operational revenues for the facility.
“The success of a new aquatic facility will depend on how the City programs, prices and operations of the facility work,” said Berkbuegler.
The Board made no final decisions on moving forward with the plans presented, and most members stated their concern that the findings of the study were based on predictions and not based on concrete evidence.
The feasibility study for athletic field facilities indicated that the proposed new athletic complex has the potential to operate at a 58% cost recovery in years one and two of operation and at a 70% cost recovery rate beginning in year three, if programmed and managed according to the assumptions in the study. The recommendation given is to leave the existing facilities, and don’t spend capital to improve what is currently there.
“We think it makes more sense to invest in developing a new facility that meets the desires and needs of the community across from Meadowmere Park,” said Berkbuegler. “The study does not calculate the potential of additional sales and tourism tax dollars that would result from out-of-town users. We spent a day out here this past year meeting with different groups and stake holders in order to get an understanding of their desires or needs. The public input meetings gave good input on athletics, and gave us good insight into what Grandview citizens want.”
The plans included four state-of-the-art baseball diamonds, along with soccer fields. After discussion, the Board asked the consultants to bring further information regarding artificial turf versus lawn turf, and whether or not to go with soccer fields for now, and add baseball later.
“If we can add these soccer fields on this side of the state line, we will be able to hold large regional tournaments right here in Grandview,” said Mayor Steve Dennis. “I don’t know if there are any other field turf soccer fields at all in the KC Metro area on the Missouri side.”
Other board members were in agreement, and ultimately decided that more research needed to be done before they can come to a final decision on how to proceed.
The Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) has asked the City of Grandview to partner with them in the Solar Ready KC initiative. The goal of the challenge is to achieve measurable improvements in the market conditions for rooftop photovoltaics (PV) across the United States, with emphasis on streamlined and standardized permitting and interconnection processes.
The Board approved the partnership with MARC, and has joined the Cities of Kansas City, Lee’s Summit and Olathe.
The Jackson County Health Department approached The View to use the facility as a secondary site in Grandview for dispensing medication or shots to large numbers of the public. Currently, Grandview High School is the primary site, and the federal government is now requiring two sites. The City approved this measure.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hickman Mills Set to Conclude Superintendent Search

By Paul Thompson

After weeks of searching, the Hickman Mills school district now appears ready to choose their next permanent superintendent.
The C-1 Board of Education has spent the past month interviewing candidates, and is now wading through their shortlist with an eye on naming a permanent superintendent by December 18. Although he was unready to name names, school board president Breman Anderson Jr. indicated that the board has narrowed their focus in the search.
“Yes, we have made a short list, and there is one that is looking a little bit more favorable than others,” said Anderson last week. “We’ve entered into somewhat of a negotiation.”
The board hopes that an official announcement can be made in time for December’s regular Board of Education meeting, to be held on the night of the 18th. With any luck, the new superintendent can be introduced at the meeting after an official vote is held. The whirlwind search has proceeded with an aggressive timeline, beginning with the announcement naming former Grandview administrator Barbara Tate as interim superintendent in October.
“We put together a very aggressive 90-day, or 120-day schedule. We were on a very aggressive schedule, and it looks like we are going to meet it,” said Anderson. “The only thing that I would have done differently, in hindsight, is I would have started the process much earlier.”
Interim superintendent Barbara Tate, who is expected to remain with the district through the fiscal year (concluding June 30), has been a key figure in the selection process despite not having an official board vote.
“She has been instrumental,” said Anderson of Tate. “Her opinion has weighed heavily during this process.”
Despite the narrow window, Anderson feels confident that the district nonetheless interviewed a strong class of candidates. Now, it looks like the district is only a couple of steps away from wrapping up the search.
“I know that we’re in the final stages of negotiations. I’d say that we’re about 95% through with negotiations,” said Board member Dan Osman. “The five percent that we’re dealing with are some of the most important parts in my mind. I’m of the opinion that we need to have a superintendent that not only can make us academically successful, but is contractually compelled to do so.”
The new superintendent will likely be signed to a three-year contract that will need to be renewed by the board each year. More information will be available as the process unfolds.
“Once the contract is signed and agreed upon by all parties, then more information will become available,” said Anderson.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Local Artist Shows in Lawrence

By Becky Davis
Mary Foley Gorman, a local artist in South Kansas City, is currently enjoying a showing at Do’s Deluxe in Lawrence, Kansas. Gorman, a former art teacher, taught for a total of 33 years, 31 of those in the Grandview district, which included 15 years at Grandview’s former East Junior High before moving to Grandview High School. Since retiring in 2003, she has had more time to work on her own creations.
From her home studio,Gorman works in various mediums. The showing in Lawrence is of her highly-manipulated photographs and oil paintings, using bold splashes of bright colors. She has received inspiration from her 10-year-old niece, Emma, making her an angel every Christmas. Each angel is unique, and Gorman has made stained glass, wire, and hand-made paper angels, to name a few. All of Emma’s angels have coppery, curly hair just like their namesake.
Gorman’s warm and cozy home is a reflection of the artist and the works of her friends and family. Artwork is everywhere, and each piece has a story or sentiment attached, including a trio of Italian scenes she painted in watercolor during a trip to Florence, and the oil still life over the mantel painted by her good friend, artist Rod Schuch. From her cheery studio overlooking her woodsy back yard, she has a constant work-in-progress under the careful watch of her rescue companions, lab-mix Margo Joy, and cats Kelly Green and Miss Lydia.
Gorman has had several showings during the past few years, including the Community Christian Church, Unity of Overland Park, a coffee shop on Wornall, and East Market Studios in downtown Kansas City. Her current show at Do’s Deluxe, 416 East 9th Street in Lawrence, opened last week and runs through December 29, 2012.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

NFL PLAY60 Visits Martin City

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Jamar Newsome (#84) stopped by Martin City K-8 last week to take part in the popular Play 60 Program at the school. Newsome showed Martin City students how to run agility drills, and then coached selected students as they competed in lateral drills, hiking and catching practice, and even a trivia competition against Kansas City’s own KC Wolf. KC Wolf drew a raucous ovation as he entered the Martin City gym, and remained a crowd favorite after the program as he hung around to sign autographs for eager students. Newsome thanked the Martin City students for all of their hard work, and presented a Chiefs game ball to the school as a token of their great work.
“This ball is symbolic because it stands for excellence,” said Newsome to the students. “The Chiefs would like to present a game ball to Martin City for their excellence.”
Newsome also earned some instant karma for his visit to Martin City, as he was activated to the Chiefs active roster and recorded a catch in last week’s 17-9 loss to the Denver Broncos.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

SKC Man Charged With Murder Made to Look Like Suicide

By Mary Wilson
Twenty-three-year-old Micah Moore of South Kansas City was charged Saturday with first-degree murder in the death of twenty-seven-year-old Bethany Deaton of Grandview.
Deaton’s body was found on October 30 at Longview Lake. A c c o r d i n g to the Probable Cause Statement, Jackson Count Sheriff’s Deputies were dispatched to a Longview Lake shelter house on a reported dead body. Once there, deputies found a tan-colored van in the parking lot with a body slumped over in the rear seat. The body appeared to be that of a white female with a white trash bag over her head.
A notepad was also inside the vehicle, with an apparent suicide letter, along with over-the-counter medication. Deaton’s photo identification for Menorah Hospital, where she was a nurse, was also found on the floor of the vehicle. There were several International House of Prayer CD’s on the front seat.
On November 9, ten days after Deaton’s body was discovered, Moore responded to the Grandview Police Department and made statements about being involved with the death of Deaton.
According to court records, while being interviewed Moore stated, “I killed her.” Moore said he killed Deaton because she and her husband, Tyler Deaton, had shared a residence with Moore and several other
males, where they had sexually assaulted her for several months. According to Moore, Deaton had been seeing a therapist and they were afraid that she was going to tell her therapist about the assaults.
Moore admitted to being at Longview Lake with Deaton and said he “…placed a bag over her head and
held it there until her body shook.”
The court records also state that Moore said someone (the name of whom is blacked out) told him to kill Deaton, saying they knew Moore had it in him to do it. Moor told detectives that Deaton had been given
Seroquel, a prescription anti-psychotic, and mentioned it being given to her during the sexual assaults and in a water bottle the day of her murder.
Detectives interviewed International House of Prayer Pastor Shelly Hundley, who stated that she had talked with Moore at the Grandview Police Department and he admitted to the sexual assaults, saying they were video recorded on Moore’s iPad. Moore also stated there were poems, which the assailants wrote about the assaults, on his iPad.
Detectives also interviewed several other roommates of the Deatons. One, who said he was a roommate and member of his church and religious community, said he had been in a secret ongoing sexual relationship, which Tyler Deaton claimed was to “discover his masculinity.”
Another roommate stated that he had not been in the “community” as long as everyone else. This person had come into contact with Tyler Deaton at Southwestern College and moved to Kansas City to become part of the community after graduation. He advised that Tyler Deaton was the leader of the community, and that he felt he was groomed to fit into the group of men. He recalled,according to court records, one time that he was lying in bed and Tyler had laid next to him and held him, and stated that he realized now that Tyler was attempting to make him a member of their sexual group.
Another roommate describes Tyler Deaton as “controlling and manipulative”, and said that the sexual activity that went on in the house was part of a “religious experience.”
The final roommate interviewed stated he had been involved in a long-term sexual relationship with Deaton. He said he and Deaton’s sexual relationship had been in secret, but he knew of other male roommates also involved with Deaton. He explained that Tyler Deaton was viewed as a “spiritual leader” that had control over the members of the household. He also said he believes that members of the household would lie for Deaton so he could remain the leader of the group.
According to court records, Deaton’s behavior the weeks prior to his wife’s death was “angry and frustrated.” Deaton told him that he had a dream that he had killed his wife by suffocating her.
Prosecutors requested a bond of $500,000 and said there could be more charges coming in the case.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Honoring Our Veterans

 By Paul Thompson
After 88 years on God’s green earth, United States World War II veteran Omer “Jeff” Embree will tell you that he’s a lucky man.
The day Jeff Embree turned 18, he registered for the United States Army. Four months later, Embree left his childhood farm in Knob Knoster, Missouri, to help his fellow Americans finish World War II. The year was 1943, and Embree had begun what would become a wild, crisscrossing journey across the globe. One of nine children and three Embrees who served in the U.S. Army during World War II, Jeff felt it was his duty to fight on behalf of America. Jeff’s older brother Harvey had enlisted in 1942, and his twin brother Homer enlisted right alongside him January of 1943.
Embree’s first stop was Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he reported for basic training.
“I walked guard when it was 35 below zero,” recalls the 88 year-old
Embree today, the memory cutting through the fog of decades.
Embree was also paid a visit in Cheyenne from older brother Harvey, who had found time on leave
to visit his young brother at Basic Training. Jeff still remembers getting sick before his brother arrived,
and hiding the illness in order to keep the visit on track. When Harvey arrived, Jeff begrudgingly showed his brother the rashes that traveled up and down his arms: a tell-tale sign of scarlet fever. Harvey told Jeff to check himself in for treatment immediately, but Embree was happy just to have seen his brother.
“I knew I was sick enough that they weren’t going to let me cut loose,” says Embree in explanation.
After surviving that scare, Embree was shipped off to Bloomington, Illinois, to be schooled as a mechanic at the Midwest Motor Trade. He was taught how to tear down a vehicle and change parts. After three months of training, he was dispatched to Camp Ellis, Illinois, where he was charged with teaching officers how to maintain their cars, changing oil and the works.
“All the officers there had to learn how to change oil, and I had to teach them,” says Embree, an
almost apologetic tone in his voice. “Could you imagine a corporal issuing orders to a colonel or a major?”
The job did not last long, however, as Embree was eventually loaded into a boxcar for New York City, where he would board a boat overseas towards the European theatre. There was only one problem: Embree broke his foot jumping out of the boxcar.
“They told me I couldn’t go o v e r s e a s , c o u l d n ’ t be shipped with a broken foot,” says Embree of his imjury. “But the colonel said ‘yes he can.’ He pushed me onto the boat on a wheelchair. Sixteen days later I landed in Marseilles, France.”
Embree found his first bit of luck when he was picked by his colonel (yes that colonel) to drive into town
to find a woman to do laundry for the men in his unit. Soon enough, Embree’s background with cars
elevated him to a new role: his colonel’s personal driver.
“The guy that was supposed to drive for the colonel was from St. Louis, but the colonel was scared
to drive with him,” says Embree. “So he picked me to drive for him. I drove all over Paris with him.”
Embree ran errands all through the night for the colonel, and his new position offered him one notable perk.
Because he had to be ready at a moment’s notice, Embree was assigned to sleep in the officer’s tent. As a result, he was afforded extra bedding during the coldest of nights. Embree’s role in France was simple. With most of the heavy fighting concluded, he was tasked with bringing supplies through battle zones
in Germany for Allied forces surrounding Berlin. Although hobbled at first with his foot in a cast, Embree was able to help his compatriots. He was part of a regiment in which engineers utilized inflatable
pontoon bridges to cross the Rhine River into Germany with pivotal supplies and rations. The pontoon bridges were necessary in order to circumvent vital bridges that had been destroyed. Those supplies helped replenish the Allied troops that eventually coaxed a surrender.
When the Axis powers conceded defeat, Embree was packed onto a boat for what he only assumed was a
return voyage. It wasn’t long, however, until he and the rest of the ship’s passengers realized that they weren’t headed home after all.
“We thought we were headed home, since the war was over,” remembers Embree. “By the second day,
we realized that we weren’t going the right way to get home.”
Instead, Embree was headed around the world to the Pacific Theatre.
“We traveled about thirty days on that boat,” says Embree. “We rode 14,000 miles, from Germany to Okinawa.”
On the way to the destination, the boat stopped through the Panama Canal. There, the crew bought
enough bananas to feed the crew for the rest of the voyage and then some.
“We bought them for 25 cents a bunch, and there were bananas lining the boat,” remembers Embree.
The day that Embree and company reached Okinawa was the same day that the Japanese surrendered. It was lucky timing for Embree, too, as he broke his foot once again while jumping off the boat. Although the fighting had concluded, he spent the next three months recuperating in Okinawa.
Once Embree finally touched back down on U.S. soil, he bee-lined back to his old home in Knob Knoster, Missouri. Although it was 4 a.m., he couldn’t resist the urge to wake up his twin brother upon arriving home.
"I hadn’t seen my twin brother in four years,” said Embree. “He was in bed. I went in there and brought
him out of it.”
Looking back through the years, Embree is thankful at how his family was able to make it back safely from the harrowing war.
“I was very lucky, and my twin brother was lucky,” says Embree. “My older brother got shot in the knee, and I never knew it until he died.”
After the war, Embree continued to find success in his endeavors. He worked for the Kansas City Highway Department, and at one point earned an unprecedented two raises in one month. He also threw his vast energy into his local VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post. Embree organized musical acts and dances, served as post commander, and even met his second wife Jenny at the VFW (his first wife died of cancer in her 40’s).
“We were introduced at the VFW 1829, up here at 59th and Crystal,” says Embree of Jenny. “We’ve been together 43 years.”
For 30 years, Embree orchestrated two pig roasts a year for the VFW. He also secured a liquor license
for his post, and instituted a popular bingo night to help bring in funds. Embree continues to be proud to
serve his fellow veterans.
“You probably don’t know what the VFW does,” says Embree rhetorically. “We give money to people who are hungry. We give our money to GAP; we just gave $1,500 to them. We give our money to the Salvation Army.”
Although Jeff and Jenny still contribute to VFW dinners and events, their advancing age has caused
them to cut back on their activities. Embree has not contributed a pig roast for a few years. It simply became too much work. It’s a familiar theme at many VFW posts: many struggle financially as their members continue to age.
Embree is not the only veteran with a compelling story. He’s not the only lucky veteran who survived to serve their peers in the VFW. On Friday, the Grandview VFW Post 8100 will be servinga ham and bean dinner throughout the afternoon and evening in honor of Veterans Day at 3413 Main Street in Grandview.
Veterans eat for free, and the general public is welcome to join for $6. The company alone will be worth
the charge of admission.
Try to make it out to support our veterans, and spend a moment to remember how lucky we all are to live in the United States of America.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Grandview Citizens Petitioning for Audit of School District

By Mary Wilson
Some Grandview community members are speaking out against the Grandview CSD-4 School District and requesting signatures for a state audit.
The petition is asking for registered voters in the Grandview C-4 School District to consider signing for a state audit to potentially uncover over $200,000 that was written off by the district’s auditors, as well as raising some questions in regards to the turf installation and MAP scores.
“I think it is important that the school district keeps close track of the patron’s money in this district,” said former school board member Donald Fisher.
The school district underwent a state audit at year-end in June of 2004. At that time, the state auditors found no material weaknesses and no misuse of funds. The 2004 audit was the result of a petition at that time, as well.
“That audit cost the district just under $20,000, not including staff involvement,” said Ann Marie Cook, Assistant Superintendent of Finance & Operations for the district. “We are now working with a completely different set of people than who were here in 2004.”
For the 2011 fiscal year, the Board of Education approved DSWA to audit the district’s financials. While the audit was clean, DSWA did identify some material weakness. This could have been a deficiency in internal controls, or a possibility of a misstatement of funds.
“We were not doing complete monthly bank reconciliations for all of our accounts,” said Cook. “All of that was reconciled by the time it went before the board for approval.”
As part of the 2011 audit, DSWA did find and report a $221,524 prior adjustment, and brought that to the district’s attention. However, per the scope of the audit that was being performed, DSWA did not go in and identify what exactly that money was as part of their regular audit work.
DSWA was then separately contracted out to further investigate the un-accounted for funds. After the September, 2012 board meeting, Advocate staff reported that the school district’s current process for handling outstanding checks at the end of the year, as well as outstanding transactions after year-end processes, were what was creating the problem. There were no missing funds as a result of the material weakness.
“DSWA made recommendations to us that we needed to change our monthly processes and make improvements as needed, and we’ve done that,” said Cook.
“I would like somebody else besides DSWA to look at it,” said Fisher. “I stated that at the board meeting, and I was turned down.”
According to district officials, the request for an outside audit was on board agenda in Februrary, 2012. At that meeting, it was decided to add the item to the March workshop. At that time, DSWA came out and presented to the school board.
“After their presentation to the board, there was a time for questions, comments or concerns,” said Board Secretary Kathy Meyers. “There were no comments made at that time. The board did not direct or deny moving forward with another agency.”
Those behind the petition feel that there needs to be a more in-depth audit. On whether or not Fisher hopes to uncover that $221,000 with a state audit, he said, “basically, and also to see if there are any other problems.”
Another issue is the fact that the district had $1,000,000 of bond money left over and decided to use it to install artificial turf on the GHS football field. According to petitioners, the school district chose to forego a potential $200,000 NFL grant to help defray the cost of the project.
The bond project was originally for piping work to be done at Grandview Middle School. Phase one of the project was to replace the central core piping. After that work was completed, the workers replacing pipes noted that the piping in the “pods” of the school were not as deteriorated as they originally thought. At that time, the school district hired an independent company to test the pipes as well as a separate independent company to analyze the pipes. This determined that the piping did not need to be completely replaced and could be repaired, which then caused a significant reduction in the scope of the work as well as a significant reduction in the cost.
“I think it’s important that the school district keeps close track of the patron’s money in this district,” said Fisher. “The people that I’ve talked to are not happy with the way that the district was being run. They do not like the football field. They thought that the money could be better spent elsewhere.”
The district then held several open community input meetings, and ultimately the turf installation passed in a board vote of 4-3.
“Grant proposals for the NFL grant were due last December,” said Cook. “We were too late for that. If we waited another year, there was no guarantee that we would receive the grant. Because of this, the board of education decided to move forward with the project.”
In order for the state of Missouri to approve an audit of the Grandview school district’s finances, the petition must garner 1500 signatures.
“We’re right about halfway there,” said Fisher.
According to the school district, the implications of a state audit would be more than just the cost to the district.
“I imagine the cost of the audit would be similar to what it was in 2004, which was right around $20,000,” said Cook. “We would also be considering how much time our staff would need to devote to the audit. Their plates are full enough as it is, and this would pull them away from their regular work. The audit would also, I believe, cause a distraction or disruption to the district as a whole, especially when we’re trying to focus our efforts on positive things.”

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tate Replaces Williams as Hickman Mills Superintendent

By Paul Thompson
In a surprise move, the Hickman Mills C-1 school board announced last Thursday that former Grandview assistant superintendent Barbara Tate will be replacing interim superintendent Everlyn Williams for the remainder of the 2012-2013 school year under the title of acting superintendent.
The move is effective immediately. A final decision was made in a closed session that conspicuously dragged past the scheduled 7 p.m. start time for the October 18 regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting. The majority of the board voted to approve Tate as acting superintendent, although the decision was not unanimous. Board President Breman Anderson Jr. made the announcement in a brief statement.
“We have a new acting superintendent, her name is Barbara Tate, and she’ll be taking over for the rest of the school year,” said Anderson at the beginning of the meeting.
Williams’ turn as interim superintendent had been plagued with issues since the outset. In September of 2011, outgoing superintendent Dr. Marge Williams recommended to the C-1 board of education that Everlyn Williams be promoted to deputy superintendent, the idea being that she could learn under Dr. Williams before taking over as interim superintendent for the 2012-2013 school year. The board voted 5-2 to make that recommendation a reality, but without first compiling a superintendent search committee, there was some concern that they had violated board policy.
After a July 2012 retreat, the board announced their intentions to proceed with a national superintendent search over the subsequent months, with the intention of hiring a permanent superintendent to take over the C-1 district by July 1, 2013. At the time, Everlyn Williams was still expected to shepherd the district until the permanent superintendent took over.
But when the district met just 7 of 14 standards in their Annual Performance Review (APR) released in August, and Hickman Mills received only “partial accreditation” from the state for the first time, the plans for Everlyn Williams wavered.
“I’d say maybe a little over a month ago, we were looking for someone when we went to provisional accreditation,” said Anderson last Friday. “We had been looking around for some leadership to take over while the (superintendent) search was underway. We as the board kind of felt as though the leadership, the experience, and the drive were just not there.”
Anderson indicated that some within the district held out hope that Hickman Mills could still receive full accreditation despite the disappointing standardized test results. When that didn’t happen, and when the board did not receive a sufficient explanation of what the administration was doing to curb academic issues within the district, they felt that a change must be made.
There were some major controversies with personnel and student achievement,” continued Anderson without getting into specifics. “Our hands were tied, and we had to move in a different direction. Accreditation and student achievement is the ultimate goal of the district.”
Board member Dan Osman acknowledged he was surprised by the swift action to name Tate as acting superintendent.
“I had not been told that this would officially occur until I arrived at the board meeting,” said Osman early this week. “I assume there had been some prior discussion beforehand.”
Nonetheless, Osman felt that Everlyn Williams had failed to sufficiently appraise the Board of Education of steps being taken to assure an increase in student achievement for the 2012-2013 school year.
“There were a number of board members that wanted, for several months, to have an update of what’s been going on with the school district,” said Osman. “I can’t fix a problem that I can’t fully understand. We’d been looking for that presentation for a while, and it never occurred.”
As board expectations were not met, the leadership began to look at alternatives. Over the past couple of weeks, Anderson and the board put together a short list of potential interim replacements for Williams. Eventually the board homed in on Tate, the former Grandview C-4 administrator and Hickman Mills principal from 1990-1992.
“Ms. Tate has a history of accomplishments, and she has an excellent rapport with DESE,” said Anderson of Tate’s credentials. “Her name just really rose to the top.”
With Tate taking on the role of acting superintendent, Williams has now been reassigned to Baptiste Elementary to fulfill yet-to-be determined responsibilities. She will not be facing a pay cut in her new position.
“At this point and time she is still an employee of the district,” said Anderson, adding that “Her duties have not been determined.”
Although Tate was enjoying her retirement, she simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work for the Hickman Mills District again.
“One of the things was the fact that I worked at Hickman Mills previously,” said Tate of her new position. “I thought at some point I might do some consulting, but I didn’t think it would be this soon. It’s not a full-time position, so that was also a big factor.”
Tate is referring to the tight limit she will have on the hours she can work within the district this year. In order to keep receiving her pension from the Grandview School District, Tate will have a strict 550 hour workload limit in her role as acting superintendent.
“I’m going to make my schedule; I can work 550 hours through the end of June,” confirmed Tate. “I’ll be working with the board and the cabinet on how to do that as well.”
As of last Thursday’s Board of Education meeting, Tate has been jumping into her new role with both feet. She says she is excited to be a part of reform efforts within the district she once called home. Tate was meeting with staff as early as Friday, and is committed to getting to the bottom of the C-1 district’s lagging academic achievement figures.
“It’s really important to talk to teachers, principals and parents’ groups,” said Tate last Friday. “But the biggie is the achievement data. The people want to change; they want to increase student achievement. That’s not unusual for the district. They’ve always been committed.”
As part of her duties, Tate will also be assisting in the search for a permanent superintendent. Tate has said she is not considering taking on the position on a permanent basis, and school board members have concurred that Tate is not currently a candidate. As such, the board is currently proceeding with plans to interview potential superintendents in the first week of November.
“This is an acting role for the remainder of the school year,” affirmed Anderson. “There are no plans to bring her in as a permanent superintendent. The board has agreed to bring in some candidates, and we will be interviewing them next month.”
I’m really excited about working with the board and getting a new superintendent,” added Tate.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Fall

 By Mary Wilson

This is my favorite time of year. The leaves start changing color, and the air feels a little brisker. There are many reasons why I love this time of year, and I have compiled my top ten reasons for loving fall:
10. When I order hot apple cider, I don’t get strange looks from the barista. Is it so awful to enjoy it all year round?
9. It is actually considered fun to get lost in a corn maze. I can get lost in my own neighborhood, so this is a great way for others to relate to me.
8. Fresh, cool breezes through open windows in the house. Though I love the fresh air, it’s really that my husband is too cheap to turn on the furnace.
7. Extra blankets on the bed. See number 8.
6. Going to haunted houses. Or just walking around my own house in the middle of the night.
5. Football games. Not actual football games, but everything associated with them: friends, chili, and commercials.
4. Hayrides. Riding up the hill, I’ll never forget when the cart a bunch of kids and I sat in began to roll backwards. It would have been fun to report that the cart picked up speed and we all loomed to our deaths, but it turned out to be a mostly adventureless moment.
3. Fall decorations. I love the colors, and I have my decorations up when school starts.
2. Sweaters, jackets, and pants. After spending an entire summer walking around seeing people show too much skin, it’s nice that everyone is covered up.
1. An extra hour of sleep! Daylight saving time ends on Sunday, November 4. This is without a doubt my favorite day of the year.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Ruskin Rally Repelled by Visiting Truman

By Paul Thompson - JC Advocate
On Homecoming night, the winless Ruskin Golden Eagles nearly extended the celebration to their home turf.
But the Truman Patriots, also winless coming in, proved to be too much as they pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 35-15 victory. The final score belies what was a compelling contest for more than three quarters, despite the fact that Ruskin head coach was forced to miss the contest due to personal reasons.
The Patriots kicked off the scoring with an early 26 yard touchdown pass, although they failed to convert the extra point. Truman added to their lead on Ruskin’s ensuing possession when quarterback Kieston Burrell was called for an intentional grounding penalty inside his own end zone. With the safety, suddenly, the Patriots were up 8-0 and bracing for a Ruskin kickoff.
Truman took advantage of the opportunity, as star running back Demetric Dinwiddie moved the ball effectively against the Eagle defense on the ensuing drive. The Eagles marched right down the field for an eventual one-yard touchdown plunge from quarterback Alex Ryan.
Before the first quarter had elapsed, the Eagles were down 15-0.
Ruskin, meanwhile, looked sluggish offensively to begin the game. Punter Kaymonn Lunn was an active participant in the first half. Fortunately for Ruskin, though, Lunn (also a punt returner, wide receiver, and defensive back) would utilize his wide skill set to close the gap before halftime.
With hope waning, Lunn turned the game around with 3:20 left in the second quarter with an improbable, momentum-shifting 89 yard punt return for a touchdown. Lunn caught the punt on the right hash, veered left, and jetted down the left sideline for Ruskin’s first score of the game.
And he wasn’t done yet.
With 8:33 left in the third quarter, Lunn struck again. This time, it was on a 26 yard touchdown pass from Burrell. Burrell threw a deep out pattern near the left sideline, and Lunn hauled the ball in over his shoulder as he crossed the end zone barrier. After Burrell charged into the end zone for the two-point conversion, the game was tied 15-15.
That’s how the score remained until Dinwiddie seized control early in the fourth quarter. The dynamic running back, who had shown flashes of elite speed all game, finally broke out with a 56 yard touchdown to begin the quarter. From there, it was all Dinwiddie. The tailback added touchdown runs of 27 and 6 yards to put the feisty Eagles away, and Truman handed Ruskin their sixth consecutive defeat to begin the season. The Eagles play an away game next against the Oak Park Northmen, who are also winless on the season.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Advocate Wins Awards at Annual Missouri Press Convention

The Jackson County Advocate staff won several awards at the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest Awards Luncheon on Saturday, September 22. The list of awards included first place in Best Sports News Story or Package, Best Sports Feature Story, Best Coverage of Community/People/Lifestyles and Best Photo Illustration. The second place awards earned were for Best Front Page, Best Story About Religion, Best Story About History and Best Information Graphic. The staff also received an honorable mention award for Best Story About Education. Paul Thompson, Advocate’s Sports Editor, received the Outstanding Young Journalist Award of Merit, which included a cash prize as well. Pictured above is Phil Conger, MPA President and publisher of the Bethany Republican-Clipper, Andrea Wood, Gavin Wood and Paul Thompson.

Kansas City Water Department Overflow Control Plan in Development

By Mary Wilson - JC Advocate

Concerned community members have been put at ease, for now, in regards to the plans for the above-ground overflow control program near 87th Street and Blue River. Members of the community gathered for the monthly Southern Communities Coalition on Wednesday, September 19, to hear from representatives regarding the Overflow Control Plan currently being developed in Kansas City. The Overflow Control Plan commits the City of Kansas City to design and implement a new generation of sewer infrastructure.

According to the Water Services Department, since 2002, the City of Kansas City has been in discussions with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to address overflows from the City’s sanitary sewer systems. In December of 2008, the City Council authorized submittal of an Overflow Control Plan to the agencies for approval.
The first step for the 87th Street project is deciding whether it will be an addition of tanks to an existing pump station or a more expansive underground tunnel, which remains to be decided. If above-ground holding tanks are decided to be the best fit both financially and aesthetically, they will hold approximately 20-million gallons of wastewater.  The entire Kansas City sewer system serves 653,000 people, which equals to roughly 40-billion gallons of sewage per year.
“This equals to 6.5 billion gallons of overflow annually,” said Ron Coker, who is a vice president and general manager of Burns & McDonnell’s Water Group. He currently serves as officer in charge for the firm’s projects with the City of Kansas City, leading implementation efforts for the combined sewer overflow control program. “This is significant. This is what the project is about, to reduce that overflow.“
The total project is estimated to cost around $2.5 billion, which will come out of the pockets of Kansas City Water bill payers.
Traditional urban development and conventional methods of storm and wastewater management now threaten Kansas City’s water quality. The expansion of impervious surfaces in watersheds, along with increases in pollutants, has diminished the quality of ground water and the vitality of the soil and landscape. Kansas City’s current control system of collecting, conveying and discharging storm-water to prevent flooding has failed at many levels. The system has not prevented flooding, and in areas of combined sewers, wastewater overflows are increasingly common. When this system works as intended, the wastewater is transferred into the river systems and downstream neighbors.
Because of these overflow concerns the US government issued the City of Kansas City a consent decree alleging that the City is in violation of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (or the “Clean Water Act”). Under the consent decree, the City became the first municipality in the nation to receive 25 years from the EPA and Department of Justice to implement a sewer overflow control plan. The City also paid $600,000 as a civil penalty and will spend a total of $1.6 million for a Sewer Connection and Septic Tank Closure Program for qualified individuals.
According to Terry Leeds, Director of the Water Services Department, the City has embarked on neighborhood sewer rehabilitation projects and has implemented some green solutions projects, such as the Middle Blue River Basin near 75th Street and Troost Avenue.
The site at 87th Street is an old, undocumented dump site. No testing has been done to see what type of waste is buried at the site, nor how much. Depending on what is determined to be present, the whole project could move locations.
“We know that there is some seepage on the site,” said Coker. “Until we can get in there and see for ourselves what it is we are dealing with, we won’t know for sure whether or not this is the location we will be using.”
The Overflow Control Plan and Consent Decree are posted on the City’s website,, and progress on the Overflow Control Plan will be posted as work continues.
Also discussed at the meeting was the possibility of a convenience and liquor store going in at 10921 Hickman Mills Drive. After a meeting with the Coalition, the store owners have agreed to go ahead with the plans to renovate the outside of the building in the likes of the surrounding historic theme. Another convenience and liquor store plans to inhabit the old daycare at 11304 Blue Ridge.
Community Interaction Officer Michael Hammer reported that there were no serious problems at The Bay waterpark this past season for off-duty officers. He also promoted the upcoming Drug Take Back event on September 29, at CVS Pharmacy (Red Bridge and Holmes) from 10-2. Citizens can bring old prescription or non-prescription medications to the event to be properly disposed of.
The next regular meeting for the Southern Communities Coalition will be on Wednesday, October 17, at 7 pm at Baptiste Educational Center, 5401 E. 103rd Street in Kansas City.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hickman Mills School Board Holds Special Meeting for Reallocation of Funds

By Mary Wilson

After the last meeting’s push to redistribute funds and personnel in order to enhance student achievement, the Hickman Mills School Board met on September 4 to discuss and ultimately approve the adoption of a new proposal for reallocation.

The board members present unanimously approved the proposal for improved student achievement, with some modifications. Put forth by Budget Analyst Shellie Wiltsey and Associate Superintendent of Elementary Casey Klapmeyer, the proposal had eight areas of redistribution. According to Wiltsey and Klapmeyer, the agenda of the board was taken, and meetings were conducted along with research to determine the best plan of action. The two presented the findings to the board thus far.

Included in the proposal were increases in salaries for certified and non-certified staff members, who will each receive a step increase on their pay scales. According to Klapmeyer, staff has not received their step advances for many years in the district.

“This is not just more money, we are awarding years of service in order to motivate and improve morale,” said Board President Breman Anderson, Jr. “This is a small way for usto recognize the service teachers are giving. Next year, we need to look at creating a fund for continuing education in order to retain quality staff members. I don’t think there is any guarantee that it will raise student test scores, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.”

While several members of the board voiced concerns of needing to raise test scores, the need for additional elementary teachers, due to increased enrollment, was determined to be a necessity. The board approved the addition of eight elementary teacher positions, at a total of $450,000.

“How is adding additional teachers going to help us meet our goals and surpass our deficiencies?” asked Board Member Eric Lowe. “We have to fill that gap. If our students are not meeting the standard, we have to teach them this year, as well as teach them the things they didn’t learn last year. How are we going to measure their success at the end of the year? The steps do not deal with our issues of student achievement.”

It was discussed that funds need to be reallocated to help more children with reading in order to meet the Communication Arts standards by putting additional Reading Specialists in each elementary school.
“If we bring in reading and math specialists, and can come in contact with more children, I believe we will get to where we are supposed to be,” said Anderson.

The board decided that funds will be made available to add eight additional 550 Supplemental Reading
Teachers, along with the already allocated eight 550 Supplemental Math Teachers, for each elementary school. With excess grant funds, the board approved the Title I Elementary Textbook Adoption.

Of equal importance was the issue of homeless student transportation funds. It was discussed that the school
district was in contract with Kansas City Taxi to provide the transportation of homeless students, but it is still unclear as to what the contract specifically entails. According to Interim Superintendent Dr. Everlyn Williams, it is difficult to cut out funds for this service due to “place of origin” laws. This means that the district is  responsible for fees associated with students who are staying out-of-district but claim their place of origin is within Hickman Mills. It was also voiced that there might be federal or state funds available for reimbursement of these charges to the district.

If the district can receive these reimbursements, along with unpaid invoice revenues from surrounding districts that share these costs, it was determined that this is where a portion of the funds will come from in order to pay for the additional staff members at the elementary level.

“We will only meet the standards if we put the money where the mouth is,” said Anderson. “If the kids can’t
read, we’ll be in trouble. We need more money allocated to reading in the 3-5 grade levels so we can meet these standards.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, the board voted 7-0 on the amended proposal for fund reallocation. The board then recognized member Bonnaye Mims for her twelve years of service to the Board as well as being elected into the Missouri House of Representatives.

The next regular meeting for the Hickman Mills School Board is on Thursday, September 20 at 7:00 p.m.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Terrace Lake Home Association Letter

By Gary Kempf

We are glad to report that our neighborhood continues to enjoy the lowest crime rate in the South Kansas City area. We do have a few continuing issues, however, one of which is theft from unsecured vehicles. When you park your car at night, make certain that you don’t leave anything of value in your vehicle, and make sure that your vehicle is locked. Thieves thrive on easy opportunity. Let’s make life at least a little more difficult for them.

Next, we want to address neighborhood appearance. There have been reports of nonfunctioning and out-of-date tagged cars in driveways, large campers improperly parked in front of houses, and littered yards in some areas. One of the functions of the Terrace Lake Gardens Home Association is to encourage residents in maintaining their properties to the highest standards with a view to keeping property values up for all of us. If your house falls into one of these aforementioned categories, please give consideration to making remedy for the situation. We want to be neighborly and friendly about this, by we also want to honor our duty as leaders. Please help us in holding our standards high.

If you live in an area where you think someone is not following the proper guidelines, you can call me, and the matter will be addressed in a personal way. Sometimes a knock on the door and a friendly conversation is all it takes.

Saturday, September 22 is the date for our neighborhood indoor picnic. As it was last year, it will be held at the Grandview Assembly of God Church Chapel, at 12320 Grandview Road. We will have a nice meal for you, entertainment for the kids (a clown), and drawings for gift cards from Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and Applebee’s. Join with us and enjoy a great time meeting your neighbors and making new friends. We need to be able to plan for this, so an RSVP would be appreciated. You can call me at 761-7522, or e-mail me at Dinner will be served at 1:00 pm, and we have the hall until 4:00 pm. We look forward to seeing you there.

Neighborhood brush and trash pick-up is schedule for October 20. As usual, we will be set up in the Terrace Lake Methodist Church parking lot. Please note that we will not accept tires, batteries, major appliances, or paints and any toxic chemicals. For our neighbors who are suffering from a disability, or cannot get their items to us for some reason, we will provide a pick-up service. If you need help with this, you must call in advance and we will be glad to pick up your items for you. If you do not call, your items will not be picked up.

Please do not leave any items on the curb, expecting them to be disposed of. If you do not call, and you leave items on the curb, you will be cited for code violations, and ticketed by the city.

Next meeting is September 19th. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Grandview Pours it On Chrisman

By Paul Thompson •
JC Advocate

 Grandview’s new synthetic field remained immaculate despite torrential downpour during last Friday’s home opener, and the Bulldogs matched the quality in a 42-14 victory over William Chrisman.
Grandview overpowered the visiting Bears with over 350 yards rushing, including matching 134 yard efforts from the elite running back tandem of senior Jaavon Turner and junior Jerel Alexander. The two backs also combined for five touchdowns (3 for Turner, 2 for Alexander) in the game. A raucous home crowd and the opening of the new field added an element of exhilaration into the droplet-filled air.
“I know it was raining, but everybody still came out and supported us,” said Turner after the game. “That adrenaline, it just makes you feel like you can’t stop. You feel like a hero or something.”
“It’s absolutely huge,” added head coach Andy Leech. “We lacked confidence at times last year, and we knew we’d have an opportunity for a fast start this year.”
Grandview certainly embraced their opportunity for a fast start on Friday, as the Bulldogs jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Turner kicked off the scoring with a 40 yard touchdown, and receiver Ryone Winters followed up with 36-yard touchdown scamper on a double-reverse.
Just when it looked like Grandview would dominate the rain-soaked contest, Chrisman responded with two quick scores early in the second quarter. From there, though, the Bulldogs shut down a Bear offense that repeatedly hindered itself with turnovers.
William Chrisman finished the game with seven fumbles, three of which were recovered by Grandview.
Grandview safety Pete Brittain recovered one of the fumbles, and also laid a series of big hits on a night where the defense didn’t give an inch after the quick-strike second quarter.
“One of the big keys that we have this year for our kids, is to play on fire,” said Leech of Brittain. “He’s on every special team, and he gives everything he’s got on special teams.”
Although Turner and Alexander will get the headlines, the remarkably sturdy performances from offensive linemen Apa Visinia, Akil Williams, and Josiah Quick (among others) paved the way for the home-opening victory.
“This whole offensive line, they’re pancaking guys from the first quarter through the fourth quarter,” remarked Leech.
Both star running backs also recognized the significant role their line played in opening up holes throughout the evening. The line dominated in blocking for the run despite only four pass attempts from senior quarterback Ryan Lee through the blustery conditions.
“I can’t thank those guys enough,” said Alexander. “We can’t do anything without those guys.”
 “The offensive has been putting in work every day in practice, all day,” continued Turner. “This is the first year when I’ve had an offensive line that loves what they do.”
The line will likely continue to love their jobs as long as the Bulldogs continue their winning streak. The victory over Chrisman lifts Grandview to 2-0 on the season and matches their total for victories in each of the past four seasons. Even with a quality Winnetonka team waiting in the wings next week, the offensive line remains confident that they can keep their momentum going.
“We’re very much confident in each other,” said Visinia. “There’s a trust there between us. The chemistry is at a high level.”
That level of trust and chemistry permeates through the entire Bulldog roster. That’s why Grandview doesn’t seem like a team that has recorded a losing record in every season since 2005. Even on a dark Friday evening, through three hours of pounding rain, it was clear that the ominous clouds were only temporary visitors over a team with an undeniably bright future.
“It’s just truly amazing,” said Alexander. “The new turf is just a new beginning.”

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Passing the Torch

Passing the Torch

Jackson County Advocate owner & editor Andrea Wood reflects on moments of synchronicity during her 10 years with the newspaper, announces new ownership that will proudly continue the tradition of our hometown newspaper being family owned and operated by those who also call this area “home.”

I remember clearly the day I was hired at the Jackson County Advocate, nearly ten years ago.
Aggie Turnbaugh was sitting at her famous desk just inside the front door of the office at 5th & Main, her trusty typewriter and canine companion at her side. No job had been posted for the newspaper, and I wasn’t sure why exactly I had felt compelled to walk in with my resume. 
But I did.
Later, Aggie told me she felt Jim had sent me.
The passing of her husband in spring 2003 had been incredibly hard on the family, as well as the entire community. Jim had started the Advocate in 1953, and the Turnbaugh family had run the newspaper for 50 years. My own family has lived in Grandview for generations, so I knew how important the Jackson County Advocate was to our hometown. I was happy to help in any way I could.
Through the years, as I worked my way from reporter to editor, and from editor to owner, I took to heart that moment of synchronicity that had brought me into the Advocate. I was proud to be a steward of something precious that our community has, and to continue the tradition of Grandview and South Kansas City having a top-notch newspaper that was run by one of their own.
Now, synchronicity has once again stepped in to guide the future of the Jackson County Advocate.
(Thanks Jim!)
For the past few years, I have had a number of health issues arise, and this summer, I underwent neck surgery to have an non-cancerous tumor removed from my parathyroid gland. I needed desperately to have time to focus on my health. At the same time, we were looking for someone to fill Seann McAnally’s shoes after he had the opportunity to become the editor of a locally-produced magazine.
That’s when I met Mary Wilson, the editor of The Raymore Journal, and her parents Mike and Becky Davis. When Mary was a kindergartner at High Grove Elementary School, my husband Gavin had been her sixth-grade “big buddy.”
Within moments of talking to this wonderful family, I knew it was time for us to pass the torch. Next week, their first as the new owners of the Jackson County Advocate, I’m sure they will introduce themselves more fully. But suffice it to say, their history with our area is rich, and one that also spans generations. I’m excited to announce that the newspaper is in safe, capable, and caring hands.
So now, as I look back on nearly a decade of involvement with my hometown newspaper, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. I’d like to take a moment to talk about what it has meant to me to be a part of the Jackson County Advocate.
To all of you who wrote us kind letters and e-mails over the years--even notes at the bottom of your subscription renewals--thank you! Your words brightened my days, and I posted each of them on the wall behind my desk as a reminder of who I was really working for all these years.
A big “howdy” to Eileen McCoy, whose adorable cartoons adorned my office walls, and to Velma Pittman, whose treats and smiles were always appreciated!
Thank you to our office neighbors, Lauri and Tammy, for working with us over the years!
A huge hug to all my former teachers and parents of schoolmates who wrote me saying how proud they are of me. (Hi Kathy Brown! Yes, we remember Karyn, and please tell her we said hello! Thank you for your kind notes!)
A shout-out to the Boy Scouts who toured our office and wrote us thank you letters--in particular Max Christy, whose family I first met when working with the Turnbaughs. We did a story on the return of Max’s father Roy who had been deployed in the Middle East. Years later, when Max’s pack toured the Advocate office for their Communicator badge, I pulled out the archives and showed him the story. “Thank you for showing me my Dad in the newspaper. Love, Max” His note said, pinned on my wall.
By far, my favorite part of this job has been writing about the amazing people in our community.
There’s a saying among media professionals that “if it bleeds, it leads.” Just watch a few minutes of local news to see the truth in that statement. But I could never muster that philosophy, not when I saw so much “good news” in my fellow neighbors, whose stories I found a valuable thing to share.
I was fortunate enough in my first year as editor to have the time to spend Thursday afternoons eating lunch with a lovely group of people at the Hillcrest Community Center. Wilma Heckart took me under her wing, and introduced me to a number of true American heroes, whose stories I will never forget. They inspired me to begin a series I called, “A Story to Tell...” which featured, among others, Charlie Platz--a WWII aerial gunner, John Irvin--a WWII and Korean vet, Bun Olson--who re-wrote the safety manual in the early days of the U.S. Air Force, and Jack Williams and Josie, his WWII “war bride” from England.
The first veteran brave enough to allow me to share their story of wartime memories was the incredible Ben Alvarado. Many may know him as the owner of Ebenezer the Donkey, who was himself an icon of our community. But Ben’s story touched my heart.
In 1944, 18 year-old Ben arrived on the front lines of WWII armed with a shovel, a raincoat, a canteen, a mess kit, a rifle, and a letter from a girl named Vicky, who he had only met twice before being shipped off to war. Ben and Victoria have now been married for 60 years, and the Ruskin Heights residents and former local business owners have left quite an impact on our community.
In 2006, I wrote about GHS Senior Brandon Thibault-Burkett, a brave young man who dreamed of competing in the paralympic games and had won several races using a standard, manual wheelchair. After hearing about his story, the community rallied to buy him a wheelchair racer, and he was invited to the Paralympic Academy in Torino, Italy.
Although I may not have written an article about each of them as individuals over the years, there are the unsung heroes of our community whose activities we tried to bring to light in nearly every issue--the community organizers like Carol McClure, Orrin Ellis, Karry Palmer, April Cushing, Tim Henry, Vernon Wilson, JoeAnn Herron, Irene Lynch, Ann O’Hare, Lou Austin, Sharon Kinder, Carol Bird-Owsley, Jim and Judi Beckner, Grandview Mayor Steve Dennis, Alderman Jim Crain, Councilman John Sharp, teachers, school board members, librarians, veterans and elected officials who are unpaid or underpaid to serve their community--the list goes on and on!
But if I had to pick a favorite article I’d written over the years, it was about Grandview FD Captain Tom Marinan, who was receiving a Medal of Honor in 2009 for saving the life of fellow firefighter Colin Richards in 1988. Tom and Colin had been trapped in the basement of a burning house, when Colin’s oxygen tank ran out. As Colin’s helmet began to melt in the intense heat and he began to lose consciousness, Tom was able to share his own oxygen and locate a basement window through the thick smoke, punching a way out to safety.
There were few dry eyes the moment that the medal was placed around Tom’s neck in honor of his bravery. But notably missing from the ceremony was Colin, who had left firefighting in the years following the near-death experience to become a nurse. No one could track him down to be part of the ceremony.
So I put on my investigative reporter’s cap and spent a few days tracking him down to a hospital on the East Coast. When I told him about Tom receiving an award after all these years, Colin was overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude.
“I still think about that day all the time,” he told me, adding that he had goosebumps just thinking about the day he nearly lost his life. “If it wasn’t Tom down in that basement with me that day, I don’t think we would have....”
He couldn’t finish his sentence.
I was able to put the two former partners in touch with one another again, and was honored that they allowed me to share their story. Following the publication of the article, Tom sent me an e-mail that was also promptly printed and hung on my wall:
“What an unbelievable job you did writing this. I was able to keep my emotions in check throughout this recognition but you got me with this article. I can’t express my appreciation and thanks enough...”
To be able to meet heroes like this man, who serve our community every day, made the past ten years completely worthwhile.
The timing of Captain Marinan’s medal of honor was done so that his father William Marinan, a WWII veteran, would be able to see his son receive the award. In another moment of synchronicity, his father passed away at nearly the same time last fall as my grandfather, Huey Thompson. My grandpa represents another category, one that fishermen sometimes call “the one that got away.”
When I hired Arthur McGregor in 2007, we soon discovered that our grandfathers had been competing milkmen in Grandview and South Kansas City around the 1940s and 50s. My grandpa had worked for Country Club Dairy, while his had worked for Sunrise Farms. We thought it would be wonderful to share their milkmen adventures, competing to serve the families who were stationed here for the Richards-Gebaur Air Base, running into President Harry Truman and his family...
Needless to say, Arthur’s untimely passing in a car accident in late 2009 was a low point in my years here. The milkman story never got written, and my grandpa joined Arthur in October last year.
Not all of the stories in the “ones that got away” category are tear-related, however. In fact, one brings a smile to my face every time I think of it!
In 2007, we got a report that a cow was missing in Grandview and South Kansas City. It had escaped a trailer while the owner was stopping to get gas off Blue Ridge, and had run away. I could not resist putting a picture of the cow on milk carton with the words “Have you seen me?” to accompany the article! Some had seen the cow in the woods near Wayside Waifs, and in fact, a young man named Joe Paine came very close to roping the cow and returning him home.
That was in 2007. Just last week, a young woman named Lora contacted me about the trials she has been through in the past year. (Look for her remarkable story in an upcoming issue of the Advocate.) She wrote to me a few days ago after remembering that her brother, Joe, had been in the newspaper when he had nearly caught a missing cow...
Small world.
We are all connected, our stories and lives, and this newspaper is a place where those connected paths have often intersected. Maybe that’s what synchronicity is: When we become aware for a moment that our stories are intertwined with others in a meaningful way.
With that in mind, I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to work with people over the years that have often felt more like family than co-workers: Aggie and Annette Turnbaugh, Linda Weise, David Weikal, Colleen May, Nicole Higgins, Nate Taylor (Who is now a sports reporter for The New York Times! I’m so proud of you!), Stephen Hale, Arthur McGregor, Mary Kay Morrow, Sally Morrow, Seann McAnally and Paul Thompson...such talented, creative individuals.
And to those who dedicate their writing talents as well to our pages--Emmerson Brown, Everett Lee, Cheryl Wills, and Joe Dimino--your work is appreciated!
Thank you also to John Ivey and Diane Wolfe, as well as Jonathan Freiden, who believed in the importance of local newspapers, and without whom the Jackson County Advocate may have slipped away.
To my actual family, who made it possible for me to make sure that the Jackson County Advocate was one of the best, award-winning weekly newspapers in the state of Missouri, my endless love and thanks: My husband and partner in this adventure Gavin Wood, his parents Hal and Lyn Marie Wood, and my parents Gary and Kathy Thompson. Each in their own way has sacrificed to make this newspaper possible, particularly in the past four years. Gavin, as co-owner, spent countless hours doing the bookkeeping for the newspaper after a long week teaching middle school science and math.
My family, along with our little boy Ethan, are the absolute treasures in my life.
Shortly after we purchased the Jackson County Advocate in 2009, the radio station KCUR, Kansas City’s National Public Radio affiliate, did a couple of stories featuring the Advocate. I said in the interviews that the newspaper business is about people, connecting neighbors and bringing to light the news from city halls and school districts that directly impact our back yards.
“There’s something special about sitting down with your hometown newspaper,” I said then. “It ends up in scrapbooks, and being sent to grandparents. There’s a special-ness about newspapers that I don’t think you get from the internet or any other medium.”
As I look back, this business has never been about owning a business. It was about the people, the community, and being a good steward for something we felt was important and special.
There are many, many stories left to tell, and I will continue to write them for the newspaper I love. With your continued support, as well as support from local businesses and our community, the future is bright. I can’t wait to see what is in store in this next chapter of the Jackson County Advocate!
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If you’d like to contact me, I can be reached at

Thursday, August 23, 2012

State Grades Out: Hickman Mills Misses Goal

- By Mary Kay Morrow and Paul Thompson
The state’s report card for how each district did last school year is out, and Hickman Mills
was one of only two area districts which failed to make the grade.
Missouri’s Annual Performance Review (APR) results, released last week, showed Grandview C-4 met 13 of 14 standards, their highest numbers for several years.
The only standard that the district did not meet was the EOC English II Communication Arts standard. The EOC English II standard has not been met since 2008, and administrators say they are working on meeting that goal.
Despite the positive showing, the C-4 administration is not resting on their laurels. In fact, the district is already preparing for the MSIP 5 cycle, which will begin in 2014.
“Grandview began preparing for an increase in academic rigor several years ago by aligning curriculum to the state adopted Common Core Academic Standard,” said Assistant Superintendent Lisa Walker. “And this past year GHS students participated in the optional state exams which will become required assessments with MSIP 5.”
Hickman Mills C-1 met just seven of 14 standards, down from nine standards met last year. The district met seven in 2010, and six in both 2008 and 2009.
With only seven standards met, Hickman Mills is currently facing the prospect of receiving only provisional accreditation for the upcoming year– which will be determined by state officials this fall.
Districts must meet nine APR standards to be fully accredited, and at least six for provisional status, but the state takes other things, such as improvement and closing gaps for subgroups, into account as well when making accreditation decisions.
Only Kansas City Missouri fell below Hickman with five standards met – up from three last year when it lost accreditation.
The disappointment was a big one for Hickman Mills, which had promoted a “12 in 2012” goal last school year with pins, bracelets, posters and bookmarks, promotional videos, and skits from the students and staff.
Dr. Everlyn Williams, the district’s interim superintendent, said last year she was committed to make “12 in 2012” a reality.
“‘12 in 2012’ is what we’re going to do,” she said.
Despite the disappointment, C-1 official John Baccala said he believes his district is making strides.
“If you look at our (standardized test scores) data from the last five years, our numbers are still up,” said Baccala. “So we feel like we’re still on the right track.”
 In June, Missouri Area Supervisor Dr. Tony Stansberry reminded the Hickman board the district was not out of the woods, despite an improved score last year.
“You got nine out of 14 standards. That puts you at the bottom of being fully accredited,” Dr. Stansberry said then. “The state wants to see sustained improvement.”
Unfortunately, that did not happen and the district appears poised to move to the “provisionally accredited” category next month.
Hickman Mills Board Member Darrell Curls raised the issue of the C-1’s disappointing annual performance score (APR) at the end of last Thursday’s regular board meeting. It was not on the evening’s agenda.
“We need a discussion regarding our academic achievement on the agenda….” Curls said. “Very seldom do we have conversations about academic achievement. I would like to see … what’s going wrong, or where we’re failing, and even good news … be part of the agenda at every board meeting,” he said. “If we don’t keep our eye on the ball and stay focused, we find ourselves in the situation that we’re in now – trying to catch up.”
Board President Breman Anderson Jr. said he too was uncomfortable with the district’s accreditation but “optimistic we’ll regain accreditation if moved to provisional (status).”
Dr. Stansberry has stressed the important role that boards play. He warned that boards that generally get into trouble are those that don’t pay attention to academics, have instability at the top, or fail to rely on hard data.
Other members echoed a desire for more board involvement in academics last Thursday.
Board Vice President JT Brown said the board has the information it needs and knows what needs to be done.
“It’s just a matter of the board getting really involved in academic achievement – of
using what we each bring to the board,” Brown said.
Member Dan Osman pressed for an understanding of what has gone wrong in the past in order to know what it will take for academics to move in the right direction now.
Director Eric Lowe noted that the state’s looming Cycle 5 Missouri School Improvement Plans (MSIP) will soon further complicate Missouri’s accreditation process.
Under MSIP 5, optional tests will become mandatory, and they will be joined by a bevy of new exams over new subject areas, including Social Studies and Science. Furthermore, The ACT will cease being the only college exam used in the system, as the SAT, COMPASS, and ASVAB tests will also be included in scoring the college and career readiness standards. Attendance rate and graduation rate standards will also become more stringent under MSIP 5.
On Thursday, Lowe told his peers, “I’m sure you’re all aware that with MSIP 5 and some other changes that are coming at the state level - that are going to increase the testing standards that we’re already under - us, being provisionally accredited, is not going to be good.”
He added that with just two years to prepare for that testing, “I think we need to be better informed.”
Interim Superintendent Dr. Everlyn Williams reminded board members of an out-of-the-ordinary Wednesday, August 22 meeting.
“This will be the first set of meetings where we’re going to talk about our test results,” Dr. Everlyn Williams said. “What we have planned to do is precisely what you have said tonight. We have analyzed concerns we have observed.”
Details about Hickman Mills’ scores will include some good news, and some bad news. The good news from the state’s annual report card - elementary students grades 3 to 5 met the math
standard. The district also met benchmarks for attendance and graduation rates.
The bad news – Hickman lost its high school math standard along with a bonus point for closing achievement gaps last year. Hickman Mills also failed to meet APR standards in Communication Arts MAP scores for Grades 3-5 and Grades 6-8, as well as 6-8 Mathematics. The district also fell short of state standards on End of Course Algebra I testing and End of Course English II testing. ACT testing was another category in which the district failed to meet state standards.
 Dr. Williams provided members with the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan and a letter of explanation so they could prepare questions for the August 22nd meeting.
President Anderson outlined additional meetings – a financial meeting on August 28 at 6pm to identify places to cut costs – and an August 29 6pm meeting to allocate
personnel to classrooms.
This fall, if DESE decides to classify Hickman Mills as provisionally accredited, Baccala says that the district will be put “under the microscope.” But he insists that the C-1 district will not make a drastic overhaul in their operations just because of a potential provisional status.
“Worst case scenario, at seven points we are provisionally accredited,” said Baccala. “Is it going to change anything in the classroom? You won’t be able to notice anything different. We’re not going to overhaul the whole system.”