Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Mid-America Regional Council Honors Grandview Main Street

by Mary Wilson,

As crews put the finishing touches on the fourth phase of Grandview’s Main Street renovation, the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) notified the City of Grandview that the project is among the honorees as a 2016 Sustainable Success Story.
Grandview’s $6.1 million, four-phase Main Street Improvement Project is an example of a complete street design, incorporating a road diet to minimize the width of the street, widened sidewalks, and pocket parks along the six-tenths mile stretch into the heart of Downtown Grandview. The Main Street Improvement Project is often seen as the catalyst for recent growth in Grandview, including a redeveloped Truman’s Marketplace shopping center, and construction of Gateway Village, a $300 million stay-and-play development of soccer fields, hotels, restaurants, retail and residential components.
 “With its unique style, native landscaping, special architectural features and design, and pedestrian-friendly feel, Public Works Director Dennis Randolph and our design consultants BHC Rhodes have created a whole new Main Street Corridor that should stand the test of time for our city’s residents for many years to come,” said City Administrator Cory Smith.
Grandview presented its Main Street Improvement Project at MARC’s Sustainable Success Stories program, alongside other innovative projects like the KC Streetcar, at the Kauffman Foundation.  MARC’s Sustainable Success Stories competition encourages local organizations to submit projects focusing on sustainable development in the Greater Kansas City region, with an emphasis on green and complete street policies, projects and initiatives.
Receiving over 20 submissions each year, MARC’s Assistant Director for Transportation and Land Use Martin Rivarola said that they chose Grandview in order to highlight a completed project that included a long-range transportation plan to improve and enhance the community.
“These changes can be challenging along existing corridors, impacting surrounding businesses and other pains as projects are improving the area,” said Rivarola. “What we saw in the project from Grandview as a good amount of effort given to implementing the street elements we were looking for, including streetscaping, as well as solid demonstration of innovative stormwater management, in conjunction with other economic development efforts currently taking place in the city.”
Rivarola added that MARC saw a need to showcase successful implementations of complete projects to replicate elsewhere in the region.

MARC’s Sustainable Success Stories is part of an ongoing community dialogue focused on building a better understanding of sustainable practices that have the potential to transform the entire community into “America’s Green Region.” By sharing local successes and challenges, MARC can enable community partners to learn about and replicate locally-tailored, high-impact sustainability practices.

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Bulldog's Christmas Wish

by Mary Wilson,

All Stanley wants for Christmas is to walk on all four legs. A two-year-old English bulldog, Stanley has spent his entire life overcoming obstacles. Born with a bilateral cleft lip, he underwent correctional surgery in March of 2015. He also had deformities in the bones in his legs, and his family was originally told there was no way to fix them. However, despite the initial setback, in July of this year, one of his hind legs was operated on to fix the disability that prevented him from walking. A few weeks ago, the other leg was corrected with another surgery.

“He was born with his hind legs tucked under him,” said Stanley’s mom, Deborah Pack. “So, with these surgeries, he’s learning to straighten his legs out and build the strength to stand and walk.”

Pack hopes that Stanley can be an inspiration to children with disabilities. Currently an ambassador for the Smile Train organization, Stanley helps to raise funds for children across the world to receive cleft palate surgeries.

“We want to show that Stanley is working hard, doing these exercises to build his strength,” said Pack.

Stanley visits the Animal Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in Grandview weekly to go through exercises and be monitored by Grandview Animal Hospital veterinarians. At the ARC, he also receives acupuncture and laser therapies. He’s undergoing therapy to ensure equal weight distribution on the corrected legs.

“When he first came to us, he was not wanting to put any weight on his back legs at all,” said Dr. Jill Clark, of Grandview Animal Hospital. “He is doing significantly better from where he was. We move at the pace of the dog, and each rehabilitation schedule is tailored to the individual.”

Before the corrective procedures, Stanley worked with what he had. He ate, with the help of his brother, and he got around in whatever way he could manage. During his recent surgeries, it was discovered that Stanley also has a curve in his spine, and he’s working on different methods to compensate for that disability, as well.

“That’s how children are, they work with what they have,” said Pack. “So, when they find out they have a friend who actually knows what they go through, it can help encourage them. It’s important for children to understand they’re not alone.”

Armed with a Santa hat, Stanley feels confident to get through his different therapies put before him during each visit to the ARC.

“The hat encourages him, in a way,” said Pack.

Whether it’s a hat, food, or another type of motivation, Stanley is encouraging to watch. Working three times each day at home, his family is pushing him to reach the goal of walking by Christmas.
The Animal Rehabilitation Center provides care in weight loss, family walks, playing fetch, post-operative exercise or making the most out of the time families have with their pets. Located at 1012 Main Street, Suite B, in Grandview, they can be reached by calling 816-492-6061.

“It’s a very unique thing they do here (at ARC) and we were very blessed to find them,” said Pack. “He’s worked really hard, and we think he can be an inspiration to others. While he’s not to that point yet, he’s trying.”

Like most two-year-olds, after his therapy sessions, Stanley has half of a McDonald’s cheeseburger. According to Dr. Clark, Stanley is not the only ARC patient that leaves and goes to get a cheeseburger. He also enjoys seeing Christmas lights, and when it’s nicer out, he likes watching boats and birds. You can follow Stanley’s story on Facebook, and cheer him on along his journey to walking by Christmas, under Stanley The English Bulldog Puppy fan-page. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Plumber's pipe dream made reality in Haiti

by Mary Wilson,

Timing is everything. In life, we make time to do the things we love, when we can. For Jeff Morgan, taking the trip of his dreams just took a little patience, and time. Earlier this year, Morgan stepped away from his successful plumbing business and entered into retirement. But, he’s not the kind of guy to just sit around waste away the minutes, days or weeks he’s been afforded.

Morgan believes that if you have a dream, and you say it out loud, you can make it happen. That’s exactly what he did. A few years ago, Morgan voiced his desire to travel to a third-world country to make what little bit of difference he could in a different part of the world. Being a social-media guru (he has been to “Facebookland,” as he calls it, and worked with their small business professionals), he saw a post from the Plumbers Without Borders organization.

“They shared a Build Health International (BHI) post about what they were doing in Haiti,” said Morgan. “I thought, ‘well, that would be really neat.’ So, I got on BHI’s website, filled out some paperwork, but I didn’t turn it in. It was all filled out; I just had to push one more button.”

While Morgan felt compelled to do it, he said he also felt a little scared. In February of this year, as he was leaving the office for the last time, a coworker told him he should go ahead and volunteer.

“He said, ‘why don’t you just go ahead and go to Haiti and do that work like you talked about,’” said Morgan. “So, after he left the office and I was boxing away the rest of my stuff, I pushed the button.”

Morgan put the thought in the back of his mind. It wasn’t until 6-8 weeks after he sent in his paperwork that he received an email. He then went through an interview-type process, where he spoke with folks from every spectrum of the BHI organization. The executive director of the organization owned a mechanical company, sold it, and took the proceeds to start BHI.

“Our stories were so similar,” said Morgan. “We had something in common.”

Having not worked with his hands in over a decade, and not worked any new construction for quite some time, Morgan was a little surprised to discover BHI thought he was a good match for their organization.

“I couldn’t even tell you how long it’s been since I’ve done that stuff,” said Morgan. “But, I can direct, and lead, and teach. So, that’s what I thought they would have me do.”

He scheduled an appointment to get current on all of his shots, and once those were complete, BHI started throwing some dates out to him.

“The very week that I was supposed to go, the hurricane came,” said Morgan. “I didn’t know how soon they would reschedule me, or how that even worked. But just before Halloween, they wrote me back and said they were ready.”

The timing worked for Morgan, and he flew to Miami where he met a representative from BHI whom he would travel with to Haiti.

“I was, literally, the last person on the plane to Haiti,” said Morgan. “I was charging my phone until the last possible minute. I wanted to make sure I was at 100%; I didn’t know what it was going to be like when I got there, you know?”

Once they landed in Haiti, Morgan was instructed to “do what I do” from his guide.
“It was absolutely berserk,” said Morgan. “There were animals everywhere. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.”

Hearing people speaking in Creole, Morgan said he definitely felt as though he was in a foreign land. With barbed-wire surrounding the first jobsite (a security measure), Morgan was escorted through and saw a security guard with a sawed-off shotgun.

“I respected him right away,” said Morgan. “That’s when it got a little bit scary. Not of getting shot or anything like that, I was scared because I knew that I couldn’t turn the channel.”

He then felt this new strength and armored himself with a shell to somewhat compartmentalize what he had stepped into.

“Something just came over me,” said Morgan. “You’re here; you have to get through this. That’s what I kept telling myself. Enjoy it. Do what you’re supposed to do; be what you’re supposed to be.”

Some equipment came to take back with them. Throwing the tailgate down on a truck, Morgan immediately started hauling the tools onto the bed. It was then that he said the others could tell he was there to work.

“And, man, they tested that,” said Morgan. “I dug a ditch. I did gas piping. I had to get all the equipment myself, having to go find it and work with whatever I found.”

While in Haiti, he felt a sense of overwhelming pride and humility. Many towns don’t have electricity, and some only have it during certain times. With no running water, the Haitians get their water from wells. Orphans earn their keep as indentured servants.

Morgan got back to his plumbing roots while he was in Haiti. The first week, he did a job that took up most of a day (which, he said he would expect his guys back home to finish before lunchtime). The second week, armed with a pick and a shovel, two apprentices and Morgan dug a ditch for a water line.

“This kid dug this ditch, 85 feet long, 2 feet deep, all day long, with flip flops on,” said Morgan. “I was just in admiration of the kid.”

He bonded with the boys. Later that week, the one in flip flops had gotten a pair of tennis shoes. At the end of the week, right before his return home, Morgan knew the bigger of the two would fit into his boots.

“I gave him my boots. I gave him my pants and a couple shirts,” said Morgan. “The other one wouldn’t have fit into any of my stuff; he was kind of little. The company, Morgan Miller Plumbing, had given me a care package. It was all wrapped a bandana. That thing was my savior while I was there, it was the best tool I had. So, on the last day, I gave the smaller of the two boys my bandana.”

On his way out of Haiti, Morgan’s transportation returned to the jobsite for gas and oil. He noticed that all the young men were lined up waiting for their job assignments for the day. Rolling down his window, Morgan looked to see if he could spot the two boys, thinking they’d be in line and he’d see his bandana.

“There he was. He’s got my freaking bandana on his head,” said Morgan. He raised his fist out the window. The boy spotted him, and raised his fist in the air as the car drove out of sight. “It was awesome. I didn’t know if I’d ever see him again.”

Coming home after his two-week adventure, Morgan knew he was forever changed.

“All I could think about the whole way home was, ‘who am I going to be?’ I can’t complain about anything ever again,” said Morgan. “I don’t know what to do with this knowledge. I’m still, a month later, walking around in a daze. I’m not the same, I’m just not. And it’s a magical feeling.”

The impact the trip made on Morgan’s life is profound. He’s unsure of what the future holds, though it seems as though the inherent need he has to lend a hand may lead him to other parts of the world and other people who are struggling.

“Facebook does this; it takes you all around the world and leads you to all kinds of paths that you would have never gone down otherwise,” said Morgan. “I’ve got the time. I’ve got the energy. Why not help where I can and when I can? That’s what it’s all about.”

Friday, December 2, 2016

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

by Mary Wilson, Editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 26, 2016

CAC celebrates a giving community this holiday season

by Mary Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 21, 2016

Local libraries push for Proposition L approval

Branches to see expansion of services in each community

By Mary Wilson,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 7, 2016

Aldermen approve SB 650 changes to local ordinance

by Mary Wilson,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Grandview Alderman Resigns

by Mary Wilson,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 16, 2016

Former KCMO Councilman Targeted in Drive-by Shooting

by Mary Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 19, 2016

Local Restaurant Owners Make Giving a Business Priority

by Mary Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 12, 2016

Ranch-style Home Cookin’ Opens in Grandview

Michelle’s Ranch Café moves to new location from Raymore

by Mary Wilson

Having been at the Benjamin Ranch Café for 21 years, Michelle Reynolds opened the first Michelle’s Ranch Café 10 years ago in Raymore when Cerner announced their plans to purchase the properties and redevelop the former Bannister site.

“Of course, it took another 10 years after we moved out of there for anything to start happening,” said Reynolds. “We were told they were coming right in and so we did what we thought was best.”
More recently, the 10-year lease on the café in Raymore was up and Reynolds made the choice to move her restaurant to a new location.

“The people in Raymore were really good to me,” said Reynolds. “My restaurant there was off the beaten path a bit, so it’s nice to open up again and see all these familiar faces.”

Reynolds closed her restaurant in Raymore on Monday, July 25. On Tuesday, July 26, all of her furniture and supplies were moved to her new location in Grandview. With a team of help and assistance from local company JC Love, Reynolds was ready to serve breakfast in Grandview’s Ranch Café on Friday, July 29.

“We got in a lot faster and it went a lot smoother than I thought it would,” said Reynolds. “Everybody here is so awesome. The city, my staff and our vendors have really bent over backwards to help get us up and going again. They all worked their butts off.”

Visible from the highway, Reynolds pointed out that the new location is close enough for her former Raymore customers to visit, as well as for those who remember her from Benjamin Ranch.

“When I drove by and saw it was empty, I knew that was where I wanted to be. I couldn’t have picked a better location,” said Reynolds.

Her success at Benjamin Ranch was due a lot to current construction at the time, including the Walmart and Montgomery Ward stores going in. The entire operation was strictly word-of-mouth; no advertising was done in the 21 years the restaurant was open.

“It was mostly the construction guys who would eat there and then go back and tell their families and friends about us,” said Reynolds.

The restaurant business runs in the family. Reynolds’ daughter, Katie, owns and operates a restaurant in Peculiar, and she considers her son her left-hand-man.

“If I’m not here, my son will be,” said Reynolds. “We’re truly a family business. My other half, Mike, does all of my errand running for me.”

Visible from I-49, Michelle’s Ranch Café is located at 12704 E Frontage Road, in the former Livingston’s and Shirley’s restaurants. Open daily from 6-2 for breakfast and lunch, the Ranch serves home-style, comfort foods, ranging from biscuits and gravy to meatloaf and tenderloins.

“We’re excited and really happy to be here in Grandview,” said Reynolds. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

KC man, GV grad alleged in Baton Rouge shooting

 Suspect in Baton Rouge police murders Gavin Long, 
pictured above in 2005 Grandview yearbook photo, and below in 
a YouTube video posted  on July 10, 2016.

by Mary Wilson

The man who fatally shot three law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge, La., and wounded three others before being killed by the police on Sunday morning “was targeting officers,” Louisiana state police officials said Monday.

The three officers killed Sunday were: Montrell L. Jackson, 32, a 10-year veteran of the Baton Rouge Police Department, who was married with a new baby at home; Matthew Gerald, 41, who had served with the Baton Rouge Police Department for less than a year; and Brad Garafola, 45, an East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputy and a father of four. Of the officers who were wounded, one was “fighting for his life” in the hospital on Monday.

Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, Colonel Michael D. Edmonson, said in a news conference that his department is confident that the suspect, 29-year-old Gavin Long of Kansas City, was the only shooter in the incidents that took place in Baton Rouge, LA.

“When he engaged those police officers, he was deliberate and extremely accurate,” said Edmonson.

According to Baton Rouge police, three guns were taken from Long, and they recovered a rented Chevy Malibu with Missouri plates from the scene. Edmonson added that one of the more challenging things in this case will be the examination of Long’s social media, including posts and activity on his accounts after the crime took place.

“Three officers are dead, one is fighting for his life, we owe it to them to do it right and get it right,” said. Edmondson.

According to Long’s YouTube videos, under the pseudonym Cosmo Setepenra, he believed the world is run by devils and that “it takes one revolutionary to stand up against oppression and sacrifice.” He also believed that 100% of revolutions have been “successful through fighting back, through bloodshed. Zero have been successful by simply protesting.” It is believed that while he was in Baton Rouge, Long was specifically and intentionally looking to engage with police officers.

Long attended Grandview Schools beginning at Conn-West in 1996, for fourth and fifth grades. He then attended Grandview Middle School, and ultimately graduated from Grandview High School in 2005. According to Grandview High School’s yearbooks from his high school career, Long was not involved in clubs or organizations outside of normal curriculum.

Long joined the Marines in 2005 and served until 2010, according to military records obtained by the Associated Press. He rose to the rank of sergeant and served in Iraq from June 2008 to January 2009. Records show he received several medals, including one for good conduct. Long received an honorable discharge and was listed as a “data network specialist.”

Since then, Long claimed to be a world traveler, spending the last two years in Africa before recently returning to his home in Kansas City, at 1166 E 77th Ter., where records show he has lived since 2012.

“With our partners from local, state and national agencies, we will leave no stone unturned. This is a unified team,” said a federal investigator during Monday’s news conference. “This will only make us stronger. We will work tirelessly to ensure safety in this community and throughout the nation.”

Anyone with information related to the suspect or the Baton Rouge investigation is encouraged to call 800-CALL-FBI.

Friday, July 15, 2016

County leadership faces violence head-on

by Mary Wilson

The entire country is feeling the heat this summer, and not just because of the rising temperatures. Violence has impacted every community, including Kansas City.

“In July of 2016, it is a hard time to talk about violence reduction,” Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said to a crowded room of community members.

The South Kansas City Alliance on Monday evening hosted Peters Baker, along with County Executive Frank White, Sheriff Mike Sharp and Legislator Dan Tarwater, to provide county-wide updates that may have an effect on South KC.

“There are some prosecutors and some police officers that think that violence is just something we have to accept and that there’s nothing we can do about it,” said Peters Baker. “That’s just wrong.”

Since becoming prosecutor, Peters Baker has made an effort to expand the partnership between her office, the police and into the community with pastors, neighborhood associations and citizens. They have called upon the help of the metro as a whole to engage in the effort of violence reduction, creating the No Violence Alliance, or NoVA.

“It can feel like a tough time right now,” said Peters Baker. “We are all feeling the weight and the burden of violence in our city and in our country. I don’t believe that there is nothing we can do about violence.”

She added that because violence has been looked at through a particular scope for so long, other options have been neglected for reducing violence. Prosecutors and law enforcement continue to look for ways to engage the community.

“We have to own, as law enforcement officers, that we have lost some of the public’s trust,” said Peters Baker. “We want to build it back through real programs that really help, that are credible and that are designed to help neighborhoods help themselves.”

In 2014, at the infant stages of the NoVA, Jackson County’s homicide level was reduced to a 40-year low. Some ground was lost, according to Peters Baker, when the Ferguson case happened, which shifted some focus and some credibility that was being established.

“I know that there is far more that unites us than divides us, even on our worst day,” said Peters Baker. “We are Americans and we have faced tough times before. We have looked in the face of strife, faced it and moved through it a stronger country. We are in the middle of a heated debate, but sometimes that can take us to a better place if we listen.”

White added that now is the time to make some positive changes in the community, and the County has made efforts to promote positive quality of life experiences for everyone, including parks, trails and other county assets.

“If we make it important to us, it becomes important to those around us,” said White. “I’m not a big status quo guy, and as an elected official, I don’t have the time to make big changes. You have to go in and make your points clear, be able to delegate and get out of the way and let your people do their jobs.”

Tarwater suggested that community members reach out to the county legislators to voice concerns and share interests. It is the legislature’s job to then find ways to implement programs and other suggestions in the county.

“Your needs are the needs of Jackson County,” said Tarwater. “We look at ways, probably for the past ten years or more, to do more with less.”

He added that the money tied into the drug prevention programming all ties into violence reduction. While some may argue that the county doesn’t have the best solutions in place to combat drugs and violence, Tarwater suggested coming up with alternatives and looking at different options.

“I want to hear about it; we all do,” said Tarwater. “That’s how we find out what works.”

Sharp, who formerly worked for the Kansas City Police Department, said that since he became Sheriff, he has worked to unite the law enforcement departments. He added that there was a “turf” war between departments.

“I don’t step on your turf, you don’t step on mine. Criminals don’t live by that rule; they travel,” said Sharp. “We now work very closely with the Kansas City Police Department, Lee’s Summit, all of the local agencies.”

The Sheriff’s department has become a support unit for the other agencies when they are low on manpower, such as during the World Series. Sharp also sits on the Governor-appointed board that oversees statewide drug task force dollars.

“The Jackson County Drug Task Force, funded by COMBAT, and the drug task force through the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, are the two top-rated drug task force units in the state,” said Sharp. “We recover more narcotics and more money than all other drug task forces combined.”

Sharp added that without tax support and support from local police departments, that would not have been possible.

The panel was united in the county’s efforts to reduce violence, and all spoke of garnering feedback from the community. More information on NoVA, COMBAT and the legislature’s priorities can be found on

Friday, July 8, 2016


by Brent Kalwei

The Hickman Mills football program no longer exists, but for those who witnessed Cougar running back Mike Harper play, the memories have stood the test of time. He arrived at Hickman Mills High School in the fall of 1976, shortly after  the school’s inaugural year in 1972. By the time Harper graduated in the spring of 1979, he had left a legacy that is perhaps unmatched by any other Cougar in the 38-year existence of athletic programs at the school.

The greatness of Harper’s high school athletic career may have been best exemplified on the soggy, rain-soaked field during the evening of September 29, 1978, when he scampered for 358 yards and four touchdowns in a dominating 35-0 Homecoming victory against Raytown.

“I was blessed with the gift of speed. I knew I had a deep desire to beat people in  running,” he said.

It has been 37 years since Harper graduated from Hickman Mills, but some of the memories are still fresh in his mind.

“Probably the most long-lasting memories have been the friendships and fellowships that I’ve maintained to this very day,” he said.

Harper played alongside teammate Jeff Leiding, fullback/linebacker, who later made the Division I All-American team in 1983 as a linebacker with the Texas Longhorns.

“He was a phenomenal blocker, and an ever better tackler,” Harper said. “I benefited greatly because of his capabilities and his ability to move guys out of the way. He was probably one of the best fullbacks in the country at that time.”

Leiding died of a heart attack on July 13, 2014, at the age of 52.

As a student-athlete, Harper developed a number of relationships at Hickman Mills.

“I enjoy the fond memories of coaches, teachers, teammates, students and competitions between other rivals, for example Ruskin and Grandview – where we came out on the better end of most of those,” he said.

In the third week of Harper’s 1978 senior season, the Cougars defeated Grandview 14-7, which turned out to be the Bulldogs’ lone loss of the season. He recalled a crowd of about 4,000 attending the game. Harper said the Hickman Mills football team had a strong determination to win. Before and after wins, the Cougars would, as a team, listen to the 1977 hit song “We Are the Champions” by Queen. The 1978 squad proved to play like champions, as they finished the regular season with a perfect 10-0 record, while also becoming Big Six Conference champions.

The team ate like champions as well. He recalls eating pre-game meals with teammates at Ponderosa Steakhouse at Truman Corners.

In the 1978 Class 4A state quarterfinals, Hickman Mills fell to Jefferson City, who went on to claim its third straight state championship. The Cougars also fell to Jefferson City in the state quarterfinals the previous season.

Harper marvels at how good the Cougar defense was during his tenure at Hickman Mills. He said the unit that featured All-Conference players such as linebackers Leiding and David Mehrer; defensive
lineman Clint Loy; and safety Darren Blair, may have been the best in the state. All four went on to play college football.

“When I watched old films of our defense, it was amazing. We were dominant. It was hard to score against us,” he said.

Harper became popular among his peers in high school. The Hickman Mills art class created a mural of him playing football and when finished, they posted the art on the school’s wall. He said they cut the photo into 48 small squares.

“Each student took a square home and made it their project to blow that up to a full 1-foot by 1-foot square, and they all brought it back and put it back together,” Harper said. “I thought that was special.”

In a high school career filled with many individual and team achievements, perhaps the most impressive for Harper was breaking the 2,000-yard barrier during his senior season. He finished the regular season with 2,228 rushing yards, 9.6 yards per carry, while scoring 32 touchdowns.

“I did not realize at the time how much that would turn out to mean to me personally. Not only did it mean a lot to me, but it seems like it meant a lot to the school, to the community and to the city,” Harper said. “I did not realize that was a milestone that wasn’t reached that often.”

His accomplishment helped him make the high school Parade All-America Football Team in 1978. Eventual National Football League Hall of Famers John Elway, Dan Marino and Eric Dickerson also made the list of 1978 All-Americans. A September 28, 1978, Jackson County Advocate football article said, “Mike Harper is his name and running is his game.” The same could be said about Harper on the track surface. While in high school, he developed rivalries with three sprinters – Ruskin’s David Gaylord, Grandview’s David Haynes and Columbia Hickman’s Gary Anderson. The three also happened to be top running backs at their respective schools during Harper’s high school tenure. Anderson went on to play in the NFL.

“I had to run against them in the 100-yard dash and they were a challenge. If I didn’t have the perfect start and if I wasn’t on top of my game, any one of those guys could beat me,” he said. “David Gaylord was a stocky, strong runner. He was always a threat in the sprints.”

Harper helped the Cougars track and field team win the 1979 Class 4A state championship.

“It was a total team effort. Everybody had to be at their best,” he said. Harper claimed the state crown in the 330-yard intermediate hurdles. Harper appreciates the support and guidance he received as a student-athlete during his three years at Hickman Mills. He said his greatest mentors and supporters included his parents Linzy and Marva; grandmother Candis Shelby; teacher Ms. Snodgrass; Sunday school teacher Ms. Hickman; and Ray Beeson, assistant track and field coach and assistant football coach. He also mentions his neighbors Jeannie Martin and Shirley Johnson, who helped him out in so many ways – each being like another parent.

“I certainly had a group of people who all supported what I was doing, in many ways. Not just in football, but in life. They made me work for what I had to do because I had to work hard and wasn’t just given things,” Harper said. “I enjoyed all of the time that I had at Hickman Mills. It was a gift and blessing. I can’t tell you how many times I had the opportunity to say thank you to parents, coaches and fans. For a high school kid – looking back, that was a bigger deal than I realized. I was on television probably every week.”

Despite all his high school athletic accomplishments, playing professional football is not a level Harper saw himself reaching.

“I recall people making what I thought were outlandish statements about me playing pro football,” he said. “I was 178 pounds in high school. I had speed, but hadn’t yet envisioned myself playing pro football, but the opportunities to play in college were certainly available. I was recruited by many schools across the nation.”

Harper decided to take his talents to the University of Southern California, where in the fall of 1979 he joined the backfield of eventual Heisman Trophy winners Marcus Allen and Charles White.

“My dream was to be the fastest man in the world; my opportunity was to play college football,” he said. Harper made a good first impression as a freshman for the No. 1 ranked USC Trojans in a game against Oregon State.

“I gained 48 yards on my first carry and 126 yards in the game, and that was the second half of the game,” he said. “For a brief moment, I thought it was going to be easy.”

The Trojans completed the season with an 11-0-1 record, while claiming the Pac-10 title and defeating No. 1 Ohio State, 17-16, in the Rose Bowl. The College Football Researchers Association selected USC as National Champions. The Trojans also received a No. 2 ranking in the final Associated Press poll.

Injuries during Harper’s sophomore season did not allow him to compete the full season with Allen for the premier running back spot. He also had to red shirt the following season due to injury. He finished his USC career strong, by leading a committee of Trojan tailbacks with 685 rushing yards during his senior season.

Harper graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the Marshall School of Business at USC in the spring of 1984. The Los Angeles Rams selected Harper in the 11th round of the 1984 NFL Draft, but he did not make the roster. Harper then played a short stint in the Canadian Football League before returning to the NFL. After being cut a second time by the Rams, the New York Jets signed him as a free agent. Harper would go on to play four more years (1986-90) as a wide receiver and kick return specialist for the Jets.

After his NFL career, he spent nearly 18 years working for Fortune 500 companies such as Amdahl Corporation, Sun Microsystems, Hitachi Data Systems and NetApp. Harper eventually went on to work as a Development Director for Acres of Hope, a nonprofit program that helps provide for homeless women with children. During Harper’s time with the organization, they acquired a new property that he said was more conducive to the needs of the women and children. With community support, the program raised more than $2 million.

“That helped me appreciate how much community means,” he said. “Working at Acres of Hope and engaging with the community … taught me something as a man, as a person, as a dad and as a husband about how special that relationship with your wife can and should be.”

Harper also worked as the Director of Community Outreach for the Sacramento Mountain Lions, a member of the United Football League. He engaged with community organizations such as youth sports teams, churches and faith-based organizations. Harper now works as the Associate Athletic
Director for William Jessup University, Rocklin California. He began working at the university in January 2015 and his primary role is in development and fundraising for athletics.

“It’s a culmination of my athletic background, my interest in young people and athletics, and my skills from sales and marketing for the last 18 years,” Harper said. “I go out among different constituents, donors, alumni and administration, to build, identify and steward relationships with boosters, teams and community.”

He is now 55 years of age and lives in Roseville, California with Cheryl, his wife of 29 years. They have four children - Jazmin, Joslyn, Jarad and Jada.

Jazmin graduated from Stanford University and is working on a master’s degree at Duke University. She competed in track and field from age 6 to college, winning national championships in three different age groups on relay teams. Joslyn graduated high school this year and plans to attend Santa Clara University. Jarad enters his junior year of high school this fall. He runs track and plays football.
Jada will be a high school freshman this fall.

“I’ve been blessed to have a beautiful  wife and family. Being a father means a lot to me,” he said.

As a Christian, Harper said he attributes his successes and relationships to his faith.

“I learned to be a loving person because of my faith,” he said. “I try to live every day, knowing and understanding that it’s because of my faith in Christ that I do have the opportunities that I have had and that I can overcome the challenges and obstacles that I face.”

Although Harper now lives many miles away from his original stomping grounds, the many moments he experienced in Kansas City are still close to his heart. He recalls his greatest childhood memories as running up and down streets, chasing people on the playground, sledding in the winter, going trick-or-treating, playing pool and table tennis, and hanging out with friends.

“I’m glad I was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. It’s a great mid-America, wholesome environment,” he said. “The times then were more innocent. You could choose to be innocent and you didn’t fall too far out of the margin of society. That time I spent at Hickman Mills was very special.”

Friday, July 1, 2016

New Superintendent intends to share secret of Grandview schools

by Mary Wilson

“The Grandview School District is one of the metro’s best kept secrets.” It’s a saying that Grandview C-4’s new superintendent has heard time and again since he was hired by the district in 2014. And it’s a rumor that Kenny Rodrequez would like to see disappear.

“I’d like to see that tune changed,” said Rodrequez. “I feel as though the districts surrounding Grandview have it figured out; they understand. There are some great schools, and while I’ll never be in a position to pit one against the other, we can make it to where we focus on the positives and not just the negative.”

One of his priorities going into his new position will be to better communicate with the community, parents, teachers, staff and students the good news happening in Grandview’s schools. Rodrequez plans to work on presenting a message that dispels any negative connotations the district has received in the past.

“Several years ago, I know the high school had an extremely negative perception in the community,” said Rodrequez. “I feel that’s at least somewhat changed, but we still have a lot of work to do.”

He added that with the positive changes in the City of Grandview, along with growing test scores and student achievement in the district, the community as a whole is moving in the right direction. He anticipates meeting with local elected officials and other community stakeholders on a regular basis to ensure the message being stated is cohesive and positive in nature.

Rodrequez brought 20 years of experience in education with him to Grandview. His first teaching job was in Carl Junction, just outside of Joplin, where he was a music teacher and band director for three years. After his daughter was born, he and his wife wanted to be closer to family, so they moved to the Tulsa area.

He spent three years as a band director in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, a district Rodrequez said is similar in size and demographics to Grandview. Moving up, Rodrequez then went to work for Tulsa Public Schools as a resource music teacher. The large district consisted of 40,000 students in nine high schools, 15 middle schools and 60 elementary schools. He also managed to complete his Master’s Degree in administration during that time, and continued to move up the ladder as an assistant principal, principal, and director of secondary schools.

After 12 years with Tulsa, Rodrequez came to Kansas City Missouri Public Schools as a director for secondary schools. It was there that he worked with Dr. Tony Stansberry, former Grandview superintendent who now works with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. While seeking a position as an assistant superintendent, he was advised by Stansberry that Grandview was a great district.

Since being hired, Rodrequez has served as Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction in Grandview, and upon current Superintendent Dr. Ralph Teran’s retirement at the end of this month, will assume his new role on July 1.

For the first time since Stansberry was in Grandview, the district will have a superintendent with children in the district. Rodrequez and his wife have two children: a daughter who will attend Grandview High School and a son who will attend Martin City Middle School. This will also be a first for Rodrequez, as he has not previously worked in the same district his children attended.

“It will be different to have them here,” said Rodrequez. “It’s going to be something that we’ll all have to get used to as a family, but I think it will be a positive experience for us as well.”
Rodrequez expects his transition into his new role to be fairly seamless. Having been in the district for two years now, he has gotten to know the personalities and work habits of those he will now supervise.

“We have a great team in place, and I look forward to seeing us take everything we have accomplished thus far to the next level,” said Rodrequez.

In August, before the beginning of the next school year, Rodrequez will address teachers and staff at district orientation as Superintendent of the Grandview School District. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Public Works looks at speed bump alternatives in Grandview

by Mary Wilson, editor

The Grandview Board of Aldermen spent some time focusing on public works programming and projects currently underway and forthcoming. Included in those projects are Main Street improvements, bridge work, sewer and water maintenance and speed bumps.

“I think it’s important for us to realize how much money we utilize that’s not on the City,” said Mayor Leonard Jones. “I think that’s important for when we’re articulating what’s going on in the city. There’s a lot being done with both state and federal funds.”

Public Works has received a number of speed bump requests, according to Dennis Randolph, Director. With the requests, the department has been working to develop a process to follow, mirroring what Lee’s Summit currently has in place.

“One of the things we’re trying to do in this process is give people time to think about whether or not there are alternatives to installing a speed bump,” said Randolph. “I’ve put them in and I’ve had success with them (in other cities), but they are miserable if you have to live by them and go over them daily.”

Speed bumps also raise concerns for fire and police traffic. Fire Chief Ron Graham stated that according to research he’s seen, speed bumps can delay response time about ten seconds per bump. Randolph stated that he has seen temporary speed bumps work well in areas, and the fact that they are removable during winter makes it easier for snowplows to clear the streets.

“If we are going to do something, I’d prefer we use temporary ones until we know exactly what is happening,” said Randolph. “Temporary speed bumps are also easier on fire trucks.”

Randolph estimates that permanent speed bumps would range from $15-20,000, while the initial investment for temporary speed bumps would be around $5,000. However, the temporary speed bumps can be moved to other locations.

In the meantime, Public Works had some signs made for residents to place in their yards to remind drivers to slow down. For those requesting the speed bumps, the signs provide an immediate action from the city with very little cost.

“We’ll see how these signs work,” said Randolph. “A lot of times it’s a complaint against a neighbor, and sometimes they just need a little reminder. It makes people feel better, like they’re doing something to prevent speeding on their street.”

The public works department has also been working on root control to help with backup prevention where there are mature trees. Randolph said that the measures in place for preventing sewer backup have been successful so far.

“We’ve gone three weekends without even a call for sewer backups,” said Randolph. “Even with seven inches of rain in the last month, we haven’t had complaints.”

A major project currently underway is the replacement of the 155th Street bridge. Working with the cities of Belton, Kansas City and Grandview, MoDOT is still implementing a design. Once that is completed, public works will bring an agreement before the Aldermen for approval.

Randolph also mentioned that an agreement with Kansas City Power and Light will be before the aldermen soon for power stations in the city. These charging stations, currently throughout the metropolitan area, will be installed at no charge other than electricity usage to the city for two years, at which point the user, or vehicle owner using the station, will incur the electricity charges for each station installed.

“We are actively pursuing different things that will make our facilities more efficient and take advantage of what’s available now that maybe wasn’t before,” said Randolph.

Phase 4 of the Main Street Revitalization Project is also underway. Randolph stated that last week, construction began on the opposite side of the street with sidewalks opening for pedestrians.

“If it stays dry, we’ll move along fairly quickly,” added Randolph. “I think sometime in August we’ll have the paving done to a point where the only thing we’ll have to worry about is the tower installation.”

Because Phase 4 is funded by a combination of the City’s Capital Improvements Sales Tax funds and a Federal Highway Administration grant, construction didn’t begin until spring 2016. Phase 4 is a more complicated project that will ultimately connect Phase 3 to the West Frontage Road.