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.”

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Health Department Expands Clinic Registration for Back-to-School Immunization Rush

The City of Kansas City, Mo., Health Department has expanded clinic hours to meet the increasing demand for back-to-school immunizations. No appointments are necessary. Participants should plan to arrive early. The change in time only applies to the childhood immunization clinic.
To accommodate the large number of children seeking immunizations, the clinic schedule has expanded to include lunch hours on most days. Clinic registration is Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for the remainder of the back-to-school immunization rush. Children registered during those times will be seen the same day. There will also be a Saturday Clinic on Aug. 11 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“Although parents can get their child’s back-to-school immunizations anytime in the summer, we always see a rush as the first day of school nears,” said Ron Griffin, division manager, Communicable Disease Prevention and Public Health Preparedness. “We encourage parents to make sure their child is current with their immunizations before they get to the first day of school as many schools will not admit them without updated vaccinations or a religious waiver.”

Parents and guardians will need to present a copy of their child’s shot records or a letter from the child’s school stating what shots are needed. If the child has previously had shots at the Health Department, parents and guardians may get a copy of the shot record when they register at the event.

Immunizations are free for children who have no insurance, who have limited insurance that does not cover immunization or who are eligible for Medicaid’s Vaccine For Children program.

Immunizations are available daily in the Health Department’s immunization clinic during regular clinic hours.

For more information about this event, call the Health Department at 816-513-6108. For more information on childhood immunizations, visit our Web page at

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Election Results

Following Tuesday's election, some races are over, while others are just beginning.
The primary sets in place candidates from each party who will be facing off in November. In Jackson County, however, there were a number of races in which no Republican had filed. The primary election took on extra importance then for the following seats and their winners:
• Jackson County Sheriff - Mike Sharp
• State Senate - Jason Holsman (7th District) and Kiki Curls (9th District)
• State Rep.- Bonnaye Mims (27th District), and Kevin McManus (36th District)
A contentious race between three Democratic candidates for State Representative in the 37th District-Joe Runions, Chris Moreno and Mike Sager-has resulted in Grandview Alderman Joe Runions facing Republican Nola Wood for the seat in November.
Republican Jacob Turk won a four-way battle to once again challenge Emanuel Cleaver for the U.S. Representative seat in the 5th District.
In the race for a U.S. Senator seat, Claire McCaskill (D) will face Todd Akin (R) in November.
Some of the state-wide races that have lined up for November for the Democrats and Republicans are as follows:
• Governor - Jay Nixon (D) will face Dave Spence (R)
• Lt. Governor - Susan Montee (D) will face Peter Kinder (R).
A Missouri Constitutional Amendment generally nicknamed the "Right to Pray" was overwhelmingly approved.
And Kansas City voters approved two questions on their ballot as well. Question 1 will raise KCMO's sales tax by 1/2 cent, but replace other taxes and fees, in order to fund the maintenance and operation of Kansas City's many parks, parkways, boulevards, and community centers.
Question 2, also approved by voters, allows KCMO to authorize $500 million in revenue bonds to upgrade the sanitary sewer system, as mandated by the federal government, to reduce overflows of combined sewage and storm water.