Thursday, April 27, 2017

Hickman Mills Receives Accreditation from External Review, State Accreditation Unchanged

by Mary Wilson

The Hickman Mills Board of Education in April 2016, approved the pursuit of accreditation through AdvancED. Since then, the district has been preparing evidence of progress for the external review team. On April 20, AdvancED’s review team concluded the process, which began three days prior, with a presentation to the Hickman Mills Board of Education.

AdvancED Accreditation Commission recommended that Hickman Mills C-1 School District be accredited with distinction by their review team made up of nine educators from across the United States. A comprehensive review was conducted of all district processes in the areas of teaching and learning, leadership capacity, and the utilization of resources showed that Hickman Mills is performing within AdvancED’s acceptable ranges as compared to expected criteria as well as other institutions in their network. The external review team also reviewed district artifacts, conducted classroom observations, and interviewed approximately 215 district stakeholders to support their recommendation of accreditation to the AdvancED Accreditation Commission.

“I am extremely pleased to announce to our school district community that we have been recommended for international accreditation through AdvancED,” said Superintendent Dr. Dennis Carpenter. “We know there is work yet to be done in the area of student achievement, but it’s refreshing to have the district’s processes, systems and overall programming validated. This ensures we are on track in terms of providing a holistic education of the district’s children validated. In addition to highlighting five powerful practices in the district, this external review team also noted three improvement priorities that should guide this district’s work in the short-term future. I am humbled by positive sentiments of the external review team. This makes me extremely proud of the work of the faculty, staff and students of our district. We have come a long way.”

Currently there are six districts in Missouri accredited through AdvancED, and Hickman Mills will be the only urban school district in the state to receive the distinction. Parents and interested community members can learn more about the System Accreditation Process by visiting

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) still designates Hickman Mills C-1 as provisionally accredited, and stated that the independent review will not impact the district’s accreditation with the State of Missouri.

“This accreditation service is unrelated to the state’s system of accreditation,” said Sarah Potter, communications coordinator for DESE. “Therefore, it would have no bearing on the department’s accountability and accreditation system. Local districts have the option to consider employing outside accrediting organizations in addition to the state’s process.”

The total price tag for the independent accreditation review from AdvancED remains unclear, as the district has not yet received invoices for the services provided in the initial review process. According to Ruth Terrell, Director of Public Information and Partnerships, Hickman Mills, as part of AdvancED’s member network, will pay $11,550 annually. In five years, AdvancED will return to the district to perform another review, which will cost an estimated $2000 on top of the membership fee.

Deputy Superintendent Dr. Carl Skinner, who coordinated this effort with AdvancED, said, “Although the process was comprehensive and exhausting, it was worth it. Hopefully this honor will encourage our stakeholders and demonstrate our district-wide commitment to excellence, as well as our desire to continuously improve and be the best we can be for our students.”

While AdvancED cannot comment on the nature of the identified improvement priorities and powerful practices, as those were given directly to the district, the AdvancED Engagement Review process, according to  Mariama Jenkins, AdvancED Director of Public Relations, enables institutions to self-reflect on their progress, and provides them with specific recommendations or improvement priorities in various environments, from classroom instruction, culture, and student engagement, that are designed to improve overall school quality.

“The State of Missouri has a test and performance based accreditation process which differs from AdvancED’s more holistic approach to improving school quality,” said Jenkins. “School improvement is a journey, not a destination. Engaging in the continuous improvement journey with AdvancED has given Hickman Mills a way to analyze their work, make necessary adjustments for student improvement and determine how what they are doing is aligned in meeting the state standards.”

Thursday, April 20, 2017

School Board Adds Two Members, Loses Three

by Brent Kalwei

The Hickman Mills School Board experienced a number of alterations through the combination of the April election and reorganization meeting held Thursday, April 13.

New directors Clifford Ragan and Brian Williams were sworn in after filling the seats of Bonnaye Mims, who retired after being on the board since 1999, and Karry Palmer, who resigned.

After the oath of directors, the board placed nominations for president and vice president. Williams nominated Carol Graves. Director Byron Townsend nominated Darrell Curls, who currently held the president position. Graves won with four votes coming from Graves, Director Evelyn Hildebrand, Ragan and Williams. Graves in return nominated Williams as vice president, while Director Wakisha Briggs nominated herself. Williams won with four votes also coming from Graves, Hildebrand, Ragan and Williams.

“Although he’s a new member on the board, I have seen Mr. Williams at events such as neighborhood associations and South Kansas City Alliance meetings,” Graves said. “I think it’s important that when we have people in leadership, that their heart is for the kids. I have seen him demonstrate that.”

Townsend did not attend the work session held after the reorganization meeting. Later in the evening he submitted a letter of resignation.

"Five presidents in four years is just too much,” Townsend said in a statement. “I’m tired of fighting to unite members that don’t trust each other. I truly hope that the remaining members can learn to be their brother’s keeper. I wish all of them the best of luck. More than anything, I hate to put Yolanda Cargile in the position of not having a full board, but my state of mind was more important.”

Curls also resigned on the morning of Monday, April 17.

Superintendent Dennis Carpenter and board members spoke on their appreciation for the work Bonnaye Mims provided for the district.

“Mrs. Mims has been phenomenal,” Carpenter said. “Mrs. Mims has worked extremely hard in the time that I’ve been here, and you hear stories even prior to serving on the school board.”

Mims would sit under a clock in the audience at school board meetings prior to her joining the Hickman Mills team.

“People say that under the clock she would hold the community and its school board members accountable for their actions, as a community member.”

According to Carpenter, the district was in a vicarious place with not a lot of trust from the community when he took over as superintendent four years ago.

“Everyone was saying, ‘Why in the world would you want to come here?’” Carpenter said. “One of the reasons I wanted to work in the Hickman Mills School District is because I saw the resolve and commitment of several school board members. One of which was Mrs. Mims.”

Mims announced to the board and community in the audience that supporting incoming Superintendent Yolanda Cargile will be essential.

“But most important are those 6,800 babies that you all are responsible for,” Mims said. “You all are the parents, so I’m turning that over to you all. I will be ever so grateful if you all take the lead and move this district forward. In the meantime I’m going to visit, and sit underneath that clock where I started 30-something years ago.”

Graves credited Mims for teaching her to make motions without fear, and to fix mistakes by learning through example.

“It’s important for us to know that we are a policy-making board,” she said.

Curls enjoyed working with Mims.

“I want to thank you for your years of service, your leadership and your friendship,” Curls said. “Through that time, we have had ups and downs. We have fought, and been on the same team and opposite teams. But, through it all, I knew that you had the best interest of this district, with the children in your mind and in your heart.”

After leaving the school board, Mims began serving as the first African-American on the Raytown Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, April 18.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Woman receives certificate of life thanks to local medical heroes

by Mary Wilson

In the morning hours of December 12, 2016, South Kansas City resident Noelle Beck received a phone call she will never forget. Every mother’s worst nightmare was coming true for Beck on that cold day. Her 29-year-old daughter, Kayli Welvaert, was found not breathing by her boyfriend.

“He had gone out to start our cars and warm them up. I had gotten up, and went and lay back down in bed, and that’s all I remember,” said Welvaert.

Beck said that she doesn’t think her daughter was not breathing for too long before her boyfriend discovered her and called for emergency services. He noticed she was lying in a strange position, 
possibly due to a seizure, and saw her lips were blue.

“He called 911 and started doing CPR, breathing for her and doing the chest compressions,” said Beck. “When he called them, the dispatcher walked him through how to do it.”
When EMT’s arrived and took over her care, Welvaert’s boyfriend then called her mom to let her know that she would be taken to Belton Regional Medical Center.

“He told me, ‘I don’t know if she’s going to make it or not, I don’t know if she’ll even be alive,’” said Beck.

When she arrived to the hospital, Beck was informed that her daughter’s heart had to be revived three times. Beck and her husband were able to go immediately into Welvaert’s room with her, as she had been intubated and her medical team was working to get her stabilized.

“It was devastating seeing her like that,” said Beck. “You don’t think your daughter, at 29, is going to have a heart attack.”

Once Welvaert was stabilized and her seizures were under control, she was then taken by ambulance to Research Medical Center, where she would later receive a pacemaker and be released from the hospital within six days. While at Research, she was put into a medically-induced coma, and as she was brought out, it was a matter of waiting to see how Welvaert would respond.

“We just didn’t know how long she’d been out or how long she was without oxygen,” said Beck. “Then I started praying, and hoping for miracles to happen.”

Miraculously, Welvaert woke up. Depsite some short-term memory loss, she seemed relatively fine, given her circumstances and health history. With a new, clean bill of health, Welvaert returned to work a short time later.

“I just thank God every day for the people who gave me the care they did, from the woman who coached CPR over the phone to the doctors and nurses at the hospital, I am so very thankful,” said Welvaert.

On Tuesday, April 11, Welvaert had the opportunity to thank the individuals responsible for helping save her life. Belton Regional Medical Center hosted a Great Save event, and invited all of the first responders and the medical team who provided care for Welvaert.

“What a miracle and a blessing to be able to stand up here and look every one of you guys in the face and tell you, honestly, thank you so much,” Welvaert said to her team of medical professionals. “All of you can rest easy knowing that my four-year-old daughter, Hadley, has her mom.”

Welvaert said she wants others to know that despite age and health, medical scares can happen to anyone. This week, along with leadership from Belton Regional Medical Center, she was honored with a Certificate of Life and her entire medical team was recognized.

“This is what we do. This is who we are at Belton Regional Medical Center,” said BRMC CEO Todd Krass. “We are a team. I think this is the best example of our mission. I’m so proud of the work our team did that day.”

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Grandview detective puts GPEA in middle of Lee’s Summit election

by Mary Wilson

While Tuesday’s election in Grandview was fairly quiet with only one contested race and the Grandview C-4 bond issue vote, nearby Lee’s Summit residents saw numerous races and issues on their ballots. Included were 12 charter amendment questions for voters to approve. The City of Lee’s Summit’s charter is a document outlining the conditions under which the city is organized, and defining its rights and privileges. Under the Lee’s Summit City Charter, the document is reviewed by a commission of appointed citizens every ten years, and amendments or changes are put before voters.

In the weeks leading up to the election, community members in Lee’s Summit and other organizations were vocal about their efforts to not approve the charter amendments. One such organization, the Citizens for Government Accountability, paid for a “vote no” billboard along 50 Highway. The billboard asks Lee’s Summit voters to “stop reckless changes” and “vote no” on questions 1-12 of the Lee’s Summit Charter, listing Paul Brooks as treasurer.

Brooks, a detective with the Grandview Police Department, as indicated on nonprofit filing as of December 2, 2016 with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, also serves as vice president for the West Central Missouri Regional Lodge No. 50 Fraternal Order of Police (FOP 50).

On April 1, Citizens for Government Accountability filed a contribution statement with the Missouri Ethics Commission, as required prior to the April 4 election. The report indicates that prior to this election cycle, the organization had a balance of $460.56, which included funds in depository, cash, savings accounts or other investments.

On November 28, 2016, according to the MEC report filed by the organization this month, the Grandview Police Employees Association Political Action Committee (GPEA) contributed $4840.66 to Citizens for Government Accountability, and is the sole contributor listed on the report.  Brooks is also listed as the registered agent for GPEA’s state filing.

According to Grandview Sergeant Brandon Grantham, who currently serves as GPEA’s president, he was unaware of any GPEA funds being used for the Citizens for Government Accountability’s political fight in Lee’s Summit. Grantham said that if a contribution was made under $1000, the organization’s board of directors would not have to vote on the disbursement, which would have come out of the Political Action Committee (PAC) account.

Grantham added that GPEA created the PAC account around three years ago, and with a balance of just under $5000, decided to, due to stringent paperwork and other tasks that had to be completed with the state, put their funding under the control of FOP 50.

“We did not have the manpower or the resource to keep up with that constant reporting,” said Grantham. “Paul Brooks is a part of that. Those funds are earmarked for us; however, they put it in their bank accounts to hold it. Basically, we can use it at any time.”

The Citizens for Government Accountability contribution statement also indicates that $1700 was used, as the only expenditure reported besides $294 in banking fees, for the billboard in Lee’s Summit. Grantham indicated that he was not aware of GPEA being a part of the organization in Lee’s Summit, nor did the organization approve any expenditure using their funds.

“We as a board have not approved anything like that for a donation or money to be given,” said Grantham. “The only thing we did was the transfer of that money to FOP 50, but I’m not aware, and I’d definitely be aware, of any money being used for something like that.”

Brooks, when contacted via his City of Grandview email address, responded with: “I will not and cannot discuss any type of political activity on city time or using city resources. I will attempt to contact you when I am available and not working. Please do not attempt to contact me using a city email or information.” 

GPEA, FOP 50 and the Citizens for Government Accountability organizations are all listed in good standing with the Missouri Secretary of State. Grantham stated that GPEA has made no direct donations toward the political actions that the other organizations are taking in the Lee’s Summit community.

“I had no idea. GPEA should have nothing to do with that,” said Grantham. “We have no dog in that fight.”

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Congressman Cleaver’s Statement on the Budget FY 2018

“President Trump’s FY18 budget contains significant cuts and changes to several departments that are simply put -- harmful. This budget hurts working families and makes low-income families and elderly citizens, most vulnerable.

I am especially troubled by the proposed cuts to Community Development Block Grants, (CDBG) which are vitally important to urban and rural areas. Kansas City, Independence, Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs are four cities entitled to CDBG grants. All of the rest of the cities, in the 5th District of Missouri, compete for funding from the state of Missouri allocation.

The President’s budget proposal;

·         Eliminates the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program. In 2016, the 5th District of Missouri had 4 grantees and received over $8.5 million and in 2015 received $8.7 million.

·         Eliminates the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which the KC area has received 2 grants worth over $2 million in 2016.

·         Choice Neighborhoods program (Eliminated) – KC received grants totaling over $30.25 million

·          Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program (Eliminated)

·         Eliminates the $35 million of funding for Section 4 Community Development and Affordable Housing

  • Cuts Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition assistance from $6.4 billion to $6.2 billion.

  • Eliminates the $500 million Water and Wastewater loan and grant program. The current Water and Wastewater loan and grant program struggles to help many rural communities update their facilities and keep their water bills from going up outrageously.  This program needs to be bolstered…not cut.

·         Unspecified staff reductions at USDA service center agencies around the country – which would almost certainly close many county USDA offices meaning local jobs lost and a distancing of the federal government from the population. 

  • Cuts $95 million from the Rural Business and Cooperative Service

  • Eliminates the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Missouri received over $73 million in 2016 and so far in 2017 has received $65.3 million to help low-income families, individuals with disabilities, and the elderly living on fixed incomes afford to heat and power their homes.  Veterans also make up nearly 20 percent of all LIHEAP recipients. During the hottest and coldest months, energy bills can cost up to 30 percent of a low-income person’s monthly income. The program is continually oversubscribed, and there are about 1.3 million additional households across the country that have not received funding who are eligible for the program.  LIHEAP is an effective partnership between the federal government, states, and the private sector, and Congressman Cleaver has been a leader in supporting the program and pushing for greater funding for the last several years. 

  •  Eliminates the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), cutting out $4.2 billion

  • TIGER Grants Eliminated – this is a highly competitive program that is oversubscribed every year by both rural and urban communities.  Last year the program received 585 applications from around the country.  In 2010, KC received $50 million for new bus stops, sidewalks and other work in the metro area – including the Troost Bridge - and created 2,455 jobs throughout the region and transportation benefits totaling $710 million.  In 2013, the City of KC received a $20 million TIGER grant for the planning and development of the downtown streetcar.

·         President Trump’s proposal to cut education by $9 billion is extreme. Public schools will see a loss in qualified teachers and training. Students struggling for affordable college will see a $4 billion cut to Pell grants.

It is my hope that this budget be rejected by Members of Congress.”

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Early Literacy Space Opens in Grandview Library

by Mary Wilson

The Grandview Branch of Mid-Continent Public Library opened the Early Literacy Space last Friday, March 3, and celebrated the occasion with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The idea behind the space is to help build necessary pre-reading skills from an early age.

“Let me thank all of the voters of Jackson, Clay and Platte Counties for your overwhelming support of us and the things we do within our communities,” said Brent Husher, Grandview Branch Manager.

Husher added that while it may look like parents and kids are playing in the Early Literacy Space, it provides a developmental process to get young children ready to read.

“That is what this space is designed for,” Husher said. “They’re learning without even knowing it.”
The Early Literacy Space is the latest addition to Mid-Continent’s Grow-a-Reader initiative, which includes story time, the summer learning program, and other activities to promote literacy skills throughout a lifetime. A portion of the funds for the new space was given from Ross Dress for Less in Truman’s Marketplace, who donated $2,500 to the library when they opened last summer.

The Grandview Branch offers free weekly story times on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10:30 a.m., and on the first and third Thursday nights at 7:00 p.m. each month. Play and Learn open play, where early literacy educators will help guide activities for parents and children, is on the first and third Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. each month. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Facebook Rant Leads to Results

Community steps up to solve perceived trash problem

by Mary Wilson,

The Grandview Litter Gitters, as they’ve aptly named themselves, formed after a recent post on a social media website expressed concerns regarding trash at the redeveloped Truman’s Marketplace shopping center. A handful of community members decided to take action, and formed a small group of like-minded citizens to tackle the trash problem.

“It all started because of a rant on the Grandview/Martin City Rant and Rave page on Facebook the Friday before last,” said organizer Janet Dupuis, a 20-year resident of Grandview. “I commented on the post and told people that Grandview has a program called the Trash Busters Program, and they will pay $5 per bag of litter picked up from designated areas. When my kids were younger, we did this for Girl and Boy Scout activities. I also organized a group of kids from my neighborhood to pick up litter along Blue Ridge Road.”

From there, the conversation grew, and before long, a group of organizers scheduled a meeting place, garnered supplies from Grandview Public Works and JobOne, and got to work. On Saturday, February 11, nearly 40 people donned orange vests and carried bright yellow trash bags up and down Grandview’s outer roads in search of treasure…or trash.

“This was very short notice so we really didn't expect a huge group our first day,” said Dupuis. “We worked from 9 a.m. to noon and collected 72 bags of trash. We had already agreed that the money Grandview Public Works paid us would be donated to the Grandview Assistance Program.”

McAlister’s Deli provided a voucher for a free cookie to each worker and several students from Grandview High School’s cross country team and the A+ program joined in to earn service hours. According to Dupuis, the students even remarked that this was the most fun they've had volunteering yet.

On Monday, Dupuis turned the gear back into Public Works and a check in the amount of $360 will be donated directly to Grandview Assistance Program, all because a group of Grandview residents decided to come out from behind their computer screens and solve a problem they determined needed fixed.

“How cool is that? Look for another clean-up event sometime in May,” said Dupuis. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Ruskin students qualify for national competition thanks to teacher's push

by Mary Wilson,

Tucked in the halls of Ruskin High School, in between ordinary and required classes, Robert Nellis’s students are nothing short of extraordinary. The dual-credit social studies teacher is known in the school as somewhat of a beast, with high expectations of his students.

“The district has afforded me the greatest opportunity in the world,” said Nellis. “I have an incredible wealth of talent in my classroom every hour.”

Some students, according to Nellis, find the level of curriculum and the rigidity of expectations to be too much. He considers it his calling to prepare his students for success in college, and life beyond.

“I want them to be well-prepared to succeed at the next level,” Nellis said. Former students have thanked Nellis for pushing them beyond what they considered their academic limits.

Over the last several years, Nellis has incorporated personal finance into his curriculum, including the Future Business Leaders of America’s (FBLA) competition conferences. Students have qualified to attend the national conference and competition, including two seniors this year who have the opportunity to go to Anaheim. Luis Jiminez and Shelby Woodroof took the online assessment together and earned the top score for students in Missouri. 

During class time, the students spend time learning different subjects such as personal finance, consumer rights, technology, environment and health and safety. Jiminez and Woodroof completed the 180-question LifeSmarts FBLA Challenge and scored ninth in the nation.

“Everybody took the test, but I knew they’d be exceptional,” said Nellis. “I knew that they would score high. These two were chosen because of their skills and their talents, and the fact that they are really good kids.”

Last school year, Woodroof’s sister took the test and won the opportunity to go to nationals, but couldn’t make it due to the cost and timing of the event. This year, with time on their side, Jiminez and Woodroof plan to raise the funds for their trip.

“Once again, the district does not have the financial resources this year to send them to California,” said Nellis. He said he remains hopeful with the Cerner expansion in South Kansas City and the new intermodal facility out south, the district will begin to see further investment into its students in the future.

At the convention, the two will attend the National Leadership Conference and will include a competition portion and go through leadership-building activities and seminars.

Woodroof plans to attend Missouri University Science and Technology and study geological engineering, while Jiminez isn’t sold on a four-year school yet, but knows he’d like to study music therapy. They both agreed, though, that their teacher has pushed them to be better in school.

“He’s really motivated me. He doesn’t accept anything that’s not your best and he recognizes in each student what their best is,” said Woodroof.

“I thought I was doing my best until I got in his class and realized I have a lot of room to improve,” added Jiminez. “He pushed me way beyond any teacher would have.”

In order to make the trip, the two have setup an online GoFundMe page. Their very first donor, according to Nellis, is a former student and alum of Ruskin High School. Donations can be made at

“We are both just really excited to represent our school,” said Woodroof. “We have really great kids here and we do really great things. It makes me mad when people look at us a certain way and demean what we are and what we are capable of doing.”

Both are exceptional students outside of Nellis’s classroom, as well. They’ve both attended the gifted program since elementary school, and have been involved in student council, National Honor Society, and are inherently competitive with each other. Jiminez is also a member of the Federal Reserve Student Board of Directors.

“I love the kids I have,” said Nellis. “They are a tremendous resource. If we can get more of them to get their degrees and come back then my job is done. There’s this great little band of talent that I have that we can go do things that other districts and other buildings can’t do.”

Nellis’ students will be competing at the LifeSmarts statewide challenge in Jefferson City later this month. He says the students will do well.

“I’m not bashful about pushing our kids out in these competitions,” said Nellis. “Even if they come in fourth, I have no problem being proud of those kids. The fact that they can even go out there and compete makes these truly great kids.”

Nellis is retiring at the end of the school year due to his wife’s health problems. His students from the last eleven years are his legacy. With students like Jiminez and Woodroof, it’s a legacy that will last well into the future. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Legend of Bob Boyd

By Brent Kalwei,

Bob Boyd had the reputation for being the tough guy at Ruskin High School, but when the odds stacked up against him on the wrestling mat, it was determination that allowed this Eagle to soar to great heights.

Boyd finished his high school wrestling career 136-6, placing fourth at state as a sophomore and third as a junior. But perhaps what makes Boyd’s story legendary are the challenges he overcame during his 1972 senior season and after high school.

Prior to Boyd’s senior season, he wed and began working at a gas station.

“Of course being married, I had to work. I had to be at work at 6 p.m. and did not get off until 2 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “It started wearing me down and my grades suffered. They suspended me for the first half of the wrestling season, so I worked hard to resurrect my grades and eventually did.”

With the difficult task of having zero season matches under his belt, Boyd competed in the Suburban Nine Conference tournament on January 29, 1972. He knocked off his first two opponents to set up a conference championship showdown with No. 1 seed and rival Rod Gravitt, Raytown South. Gravitt came into the match undefeated with 20-plus wins.

Earlier in the evening, Boyd’s wife and Gravitt’s girlfriend met in the hallway and began talking trash to one another.

“My wife said, ‘Come here, Bobby.’ I said what? She said, ‘Rod told his girlfriend that he was going to kick your butt.’ I said, ‘Oh really. Go get Rod and bring him here,”’ Boyd said.

Boyd met Gravitt before the match and said, “Here’s what’s going to happen. I’m not going to pin you, but I’m going to torture you. Then I’m going to beat you. Then I’m going to beat you next week and the week after that.”

Boyd backed up his words, winning the conference title, and then beating Gravitt again in both district and regional championship matches. Oddly enough, Boyd and Gravitt became friends after the conference showdown.

“I’m not so sure if he really said a lot of that stuff,” Boyd said.

Boyd wrestled in the 145-pound class all four years of high school despite naturally weighing about 175 pounds his senior season.

“As soon as each tournament was over, I would eat like a pig to gain calories back because I would starve myself to make weight,” he said. “I would gain anywhere between 12 and 14 pounds in between tournaments, then have to turn around and cut weight again.”

The process of cutting so much weight led to Boyd catching the flu about five days prior to competing in the 1972 state wrestling meet at Lee’s Summit High School. To make matters worse, he realized he forgot his wrestling shoes when the Ruskin team reached Lee’s Summit High School the day of the opening-round matches.

“Coach Bill Allen had to drive me all the way back to Ruskin,” he said. “By the time I got back, it was time to dress out and warm up.”

Boyd, not feeling well, fell 8-2 in the opening round to eventual state champion Mike Clark, Northwest, who was an honorable mention high school All-American the following season. Boyd managed to battle his way back through wrestlebacks to claim second.

“I was dog sick during the tournament. I don’t want to make excuses, but it is what it is,” Boyd said. “I always felt that championship belonged to me. If I could have wrestled him 10 times being healthy, I think I could have beaten him 10 times and probably pinned him five. I think if I would have went up a weight class or two, I probably would have been a two-year state champion.”

In addition to Boyd’s second-place finish, teammates Rick Gonzales, 119 pounds, and Mike Drescher, 138, each placed third. Ruskin, as a team, placed third.

Boyd has a great amount of respect for the teammates he wrestled with during his time as a Ruskin Eagle.

“They’re unselfish human beings,” he said. “Even if someone had been beaten out at conference or districts, they would show up for the workouts, and bring you water and cheer you on.”

A coach in the conference dubbed the 1972 Eagles “The Dirty Dozen” out of respect for the team’s toughness.

“We wore it like a badge of honor. We were known all over the city as tough kids, but we were not hoodlums,” Boyd said. “Whether it be athletics or band, we were proud of everybody. There was a lot of pride in being at Ruskin High. We were like a family.”

Boyd enjoyed hanging out with his teammates at places such as Paul’s Drive-In, getting Big-Boys and sodas.

“We had a very unique team,” he said. “We were really like a family. We did everything together during wrestling season. We worked out, went to matches, went to each other’s homes and had parties with families.”

In addition to having a close relationship with his father, Boyd said head coach Jim Clark and assistant coach Bill Allen were like father figures or extended family. Both coaches made sure he was well-disciplined.

“They went above and beyond the call of duty of being a coach,” he said. “They both profoundly touched my life.”

Allen, who has coached wrestling for 50 years, said Boyd brought a good tone to the room.

“I talk to kids about it all the time. Wrestling is about the individual once you get to the mat and you are wrestling that opponent,” Allen said. “But Boyd brought a lot to the room to help teammates and make them better.”

Boyd joined the United States Marine Corps in July of 1972 and continued his wrestling career.

“In my family, it was always a tradition to serve in the military,” he said. “I had some scholarships to wrestle, but I was married. I knew that the only way I could wrestle, make money and be married was to do it through military services.”

Boyd, who began wrestling in the seventh grade, achieved what he considers his proudest wrestling feat in 1974 – winning the All-Marine national championship at 163 pounds.

Boyd said not placing first at state in high school may have been a blessing in disguise.

“I may have never been as driven to be an All-Marine national champion,” he said.

The accomplishment did not sink in with Boyd until about two years later when he went back to visit Ruskin.

“Coach Clark and I were talking and he said, ‘Man, I can’t believe we had someone that was an All-Marine national champion,’” Boyd said. “As soon as he said that, it just kind of struck me. I look back on it now and it’s almost like a dream.”

Boyd had a fear of failure that drove him during his wrestling career.

“If I decided to do something, I couldn’t imagine not accomplishing it,” he said. “Any time I lost a match, I wasn’t the kind of guy that would get mad and throw my headgear. But it affected me. I went home and wasn’t able to sleep or eat at night. I didn’t want to let myself down, my coaches down, my teammates down, my school down and my Marine Corps down.”

Winning the national championship made Boyd a member of the All-Marine Team that wrestled against other military branches, colleges and teams outside the country. Beginning in January of 1974, Boyd became a five-day-per-week workout partner with Lloyd “Butch” Keaser, who won gold at the 1973 World Championships and silver at the 1976 Olympics.

Dan Gable, with a resume that includes a 181-1 record in college while winning two NCAA championships, and taking gold medals at the 1971 World Championships and 1972 Olympics, made a visit to where Boyd was stationed.

“Dan came to one of our workouts for a couple of days. I got to wrestle him, and it was like wrestling a gorilla that was a meat grinder,” he said. “I think I only took him down three times, but that is more than most did.”

After making the All-Marine Team, Boyd had his sights set on competing in the 1976 Olympics.

“I knew the only way to get there was to be a member of a high-powered Freestyle/Greco-Roman team like the All-Marine Team,” he said.

A neck injury at a National AAU camp ended Boyd’s wrestling career and a shot at the Olympics.

“If I had not gotten hurt, it’s hard to tell if I could have really done something or not,” he said. “It’s another one of those things like the state championship. You never know.”

After Boyd left the Marines in 1976, he spent many years working at car dealerships, including his current position as a sub-contractor for Midwest Auto Group.

Forty-five years have passed since Boyd last wrestled at Ruskin, but the memories of growing up near Truman Corners have not left him. There was a special trust his family shared with fellow citizens of the community.

“I remember in the summers going to Branson a lot and we wouldn’t even lock our doors,” Boyd said. “I know a lot of guys who lived around Ruskin High School back in those days did the same thing. If they knew I was coming over, they would say, ‘Bob if you come on over, the door is unlocked. Just come on in.’ The worst thing that would happen was some little prankster kids might take your bikes out of your front yard and ride them around for the night. But they would return them before the sun came up.”

Boyd said growing up in the 1960s and early 1970s was an honorable time in the community if a disagreement arose.

“We would go out in the parking lot and do what we had to do,” he said. “But there were no knives or guns. People had disagreements, but we held them like men. When it was over with, we shook hands and it was done. In this day in age, I don’t think that would happen.”

Rick Alford, former track and cross country coach volunteered time to wrestle with members on the Ruskin team from 1970-82. He also had Boyd as a student. Alford described Boyd as someone who stood up for classmates who were bullied.

“Bob never really went out and caused a fight,” Alford said. “If somebody needed help, Boyd was there. Boyd was a loyal type of kid. You never heard him cuss and you didn’t hear him belittle anybody.”

Alford said Boyd would help discipline students in class.

“You didn’t have any trouble in class if Boyd was there,” he said. “If you had trouble with somebody, all you would have to do is look over at Bobby and he kind of nodded, and that ended that problem.”

Boyd, who began showing off his strength as a child by getting on the ground and bench-pressing his father’s 25-pound crowbar, still lifts weights and does cardiovascular work now at 63 years of age.

Boyd’s wrestling career was filled with questions. What if he never missed the first part of his senior season? What if he had wrestled in a class closer to his natural weight? What if he had never gotten sick? What if he had never had the career-ending neck injury?

But through his challenges, Boyd found triumph. No one can ever take away his All-Marine national championship, the relationships he gained, his reputation of being the tough guy at Ruskin High School, or the memories he created for himself and others.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Building Tomorrow’s Community: State of the City

by Mary Wilson,

Within the last year, the City of Grandview unveiled a new tagline. With new developments, growth, and opportunities, city officials decided it was time to give the city’s slogan a new sense of pride. “Building Tomorrow’s Community” was selected, and in his State of the City address last Thursday, January 26, Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones relied heavily on those three words.

“2016 will go down as one of the best years of growth and development Grandview has seen in decades,” said Jones. “In 2016, we have seen a record number of ribbon cuttings and grand openings, a groundbreaking ceremony for the nearly $300 million soccer development and national honors for our revitalized Main Street.”

He added that the transformations seen in Grandview have received attention from other municipalities across the metro.

“People are saying good things are happening in Grandview,” said Jones. “I say there are more than ‘good’ things happening in Grandview because we are building tomorrow’s community.”

According to his address, in 2016, Grandview’s department directors had a lot on their plates. A goal was set with City Administrator Cory Smith and each department head to complete each project on-time in 2016 and begin 2017 with those accomplishments finished.

These accomplishments included: Truman’s Marketplace redevelopment, the groundbreaking for Gateway Sports Village, the Blue Ridge Shopping Center is under new ownership and updates are underway, the opening of the new Grandview Amphitheater, and 5,500 building permits have been issued within the last six years generating $1.3 million and $137 million of new construction.
Upcoming projects could include additional developments along the 150-Highway corridor, the former K-Mart site along I-49, 300 new apartments at Grand Summit, Gateway Village developments taking shape, a Jack-in-the-Box restaurant added in Truman’s Marketplace, and Waffle House on Main Street will be rebuilt in its same location.

The Grandview fire department in the last year has refurbished a ladder truck, purchased a new pumper truck, remodeled two fire stations and expanded fire prevention efforts in the city. Public Works completed phase four of Main Street improvements and the interconnection of the Frontage Road at the I-49 and 150 interchange. The city also received a grant to extend public bus service to Main Street in Grandview and funding to replace the Kansas City Southern Railroad bridge over Blue Ridge Boulevard.

“All together, over the past seven years, our grant work has brought about $24 million into the city,” said Public Works Director Dennis Randolph. “When we have completed all the projects involved, we will see over $34 million in infrastructure improvements for Grandview.” 

Construction is underway at City Hall for the police department’s storage facility. The department also purchased new AEDs and overdose medical kits for every patrol vehicle. Since 2010, major crime in Grandview has been reduced by 17%. Police Chief Charles Iseman continues to press community outreach as a priority, and encourages his officers to get out of their vehicles and engage and interact with kids.

“We want kids to feel comfortable and move toward the badge, not away from it,” said Iseman.
Mayor Jones ended by saying 2016 was a full year. He said that in 2017, the community will see increased safety for residents and families, good schools, quality places to work, shop, eat and play.

“In 2017, as we work toward building tomorrow’s community, we are mindful of what that means,” said Jones. “A true community creates a sense of belonging. Together, we solve problems and we celebrate accomplishments.”

He added that progress will continue into the next year, with Missouri Department of Transportation beginning work on the Main Street bridge replacement. The 155th Street widening project begins this week, and the Presidential Trail will be under construction. In August, the City will once again ask Grandview residents to renew the capital improvement sales tax, previously approved by voters in 1998 and in 2008.

“Building tomorrow’s community is about us. It’s all about people and the awesome connections we make to each other and to a city we can take pride in,” said Jones. “Grandview is a grateful city with appreciative people. Help us build something you want to be a part of today and tomorrow. Get to know and get involved with your local businesses, your neighbors, your school district, your churches, your water district, your chamber, your Grandview employees, your Grandview Board of Aldermen, and yes, even your mayor.”

“Grandview is known for its thriving, customer-focused businesses and community-minded residents,” he added. “I am honored to serve as your mayor. Together, we are truly building tomorrow’s community.”

Friday, January 27, 2017

Local caterer ties the knot on consistency

by Mary Wilson,

 If you’ve attended a banquet, wedding reception, chamber luncheon or corporate event in the Kansas City area where food was served, chances are you’ve tasted Affordable Elegance’s food. In 1997, Greg and Dee-Dee Stokes rented space in a building in Raymore and combined their talents to begin what is now a nationally-recognized operation.

With Dee-Dee’s background in catering and Greg’s background in the kitchen, the pair realized after working together on a job that they should be partners. After their first event, the two had their first date and were married six months later.

“We always know the anniversary of our first date because it was a Cinco de Mayo party,” said Dee-Dee. “The client wanted an on-site fajita bar, which was way out of my league, so Greg and I partnered on it. We went out for drinks afterward, and that was that.”

Working in restaurants since he was a teen, Greg began washing dishes and worked his way through different positions at a variety of restaurants, learning the ropes as he went along. Working as Affordable Elegance’s head chef, Greg says that his favorite thing to make is good food.

Affordable Elegance provides custom catering for all occasions, as their tagline suggests. The Stokeses tell their employees that a fringe benefit of working for them is that while they are able to eat a lot of really good food, they also have the opportunity to make people happy.

“We talk about offering brown-bags to black-tie,” said Dee-Dee. “Though, we’ve never really done brown bags, we have done a white bag, and a lot of black-ties. We never worry about whether or not the food will be good. We’ve got it down now, it just doesn’t happen. We can go out confident that everyone will be happy at the end of the day.”

A jack-of-all-food-trades, Greg offers clients the flexibility to customize menus for each event. Affordable Elegance is also a full-service catering business. Dee-Dee explains that they can provide as little or as much as the clients need.

“Some bridal clients just need us to do the food. They might have a venue that provides linens and bar service, or an Aunt Sally that makes cakes. We can help with the food,” said Dee-Dee. “Other clients may need all of those things, and we can be a one-stop shop for them.”

For six consecutive years, Affordable Elegance has been named as one of’s Best of Weddings vendors, and is included in the Best of Weddings Hall of Fame. The Knot Best of Weddings 2017 provides a “by brides, for brides” guide to the top wedding professionals across the country and is a supplier for selecting the best-of-the-best wedding resources.

“There are not very many jobs out there where almost every day, someone tells you how good you are,” said Dee-Dee. “But, that happens with us. It keeps us motivated and keeps us coming back and doing what we love to do.”

At Affordable Elegance, they pride themselves on consistency. Dee-Dee believes that is why clients return, and that is why they have maintained five-star reviews from their brides. Their business receives inquiries from people through each day.

“On-time, every time. Good food, every time,” said Dee-Dee. “If you ordered chicken spiedini this month, and a few months from now you order it again, it’s going to be the same. While consistency doesn’t sound very sexy or exciting, it is important. People will stop visiting certain restaurants because of inconsistency. It’s our job to remain the same.”

Affordable Elegance employs around a dozen full-time staff, and a number of part-timers. Nearly six years ago, the couple opened Gregory’s Sunday Brunch. Open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Sunday, the brunch offers a buffet of breakfast and lunch items, including a made-to-order omelet bar, salad bar, homemade pastries, bananas foster French toast and chocolate chip bread pudding.

“I say our brunch is the best-kept secret in Kansas City,” said Greg. “We try to give our guests a good meal at a fair price, and that’s what our catering business is modeled after, as well.”

Because of the size of the Raymore restaurant, Gregory’s can accommodate larger groups up to 200 people, and the space is also available for special events and private parties throughout the week.

“People remember food, fellowship and fun,” said Dee-Dee. “Good food and plenty of it, fellowship with those we care about and a fun environment. I tend to think whether you have long linen or short linen, a square table or a round table, none of those things is as important as food, fellowship and fun.”

Greg and Dee-Dee Stokes also have a heart for community service, and give back whenever feasible. Food leftovers that are not given to clients are donated to a local ministry to help serve a community meal. Last year, over 5,000 meals were served with food Affordable Elegance provided to that ministry.

“We are blessed to have this business, and we make giving a priority,” said Dee-Dee. “We try as hard as we can to meet budgets realistically, and we donate to auctions and other civic events.”

Affordable Elegance, located at 407 W Pine Street in Raymore, can be contacted at 816-331-4528 or at Gregory’s Sunday Brunch, at 401 W Pine Street in Raymore, can be found at

“I do this because I love what I do,” said Greg. “If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t do it. If I wanted to go dig ditches for a living, that’s what I’d go and do. But I’m here because I love doing this every day.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Grandview Firefighter Currently Under Investigation for Illegal Activity

Breaking News: The Jackson County Advocate has confirmed that a warrant was served on Friday, January 20, against a Grandview firefighter. According to the City of Grandview, the employee is on leave pending an investigation. Several weeks ago, our news office received a tip from a community member regarding some illegal activity out of Grandview Fire Station #3, located at 5501 Harry Truman Drive. Our editor immediately contacted authorities, who have been investigating the case. We are working to confirm the name of the city employee, the illegal actvities involved, as well as any impact this has had on operations and will provide updates as information becomes available.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Incident at GHS Prompts Safety Discussions Throughout District

by Mary Wilson,

Grandview High School was under lockdown for the morning hours of Wednesday, January 11, after a firearm reportedly went off in a locker room. According to a statement from the Grandview C-4 School District, at approximately 8:55 a.m., there were reports that an object was discharged accidentally in a physical education locker room. Further investigation showed that it was a gun. All students were safe a no one was injured.

Immediately after the report, students were evacuated from the area and all students in the building were held safely in their classrooms as Grandview Police were called to investigate. During that process, the school went into an external lockdown until police were able to secure the firearm.

“The safety of our students and staff is our top priority,” the statement read. “Currently an investigation is in process and student discipline will take place according to board policy and statute.”

Policy JFCJ states: The Board recognizes the importance of preserving a safe educational environment for students, employees and patrons of the district. In order to maintain the safety of the educational community, the district will strictly enforce the necessary disciplinary consequences resulting from the use or possession of weapons on school property. No student may possess a weapon on school property at any time, except as specifically authorized during a school-sponsored or school-sanctioned activity permitting weapons. In such cases, the school district will provide secured storage of student weapons if necessary.

School property is defined as: Property utilized, supervised, rented, leased, or controlled by the school district including but not limited to school playgrounds, parking lots and school buses, and any property on which any school activity takes place whether held at home or at another school campus/location.

A weapon is defined to mean one or more of the following:
1.  A firearm as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921.
2. Any device defined in § 571.010, RSMo, including a blackjack, concealable firearm, firearm, firearm silencer, explosive weapon, gas gun, knife, knuckles, machine gun, projectile weapon, rifle, shotgun, spring gun or switchblade knife.
3. A dangerous weapon as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 930(g)(2).
4. All knives and any other instrument or device used or designed to be used to threaten or assault, whether for attack or defense.
5. Any object designed to look like or imitate a device as described in 1-4.

Pursuant to the Missouri Safe Schools Act and the federal Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994, any student who brings or possesses a weapon as defined in #1 or #2 above on school property or at any school activity held at home or at another school campus/location will be suspended from school for at least one calendar year or expelled and will be referred to the appropriate legal authorities. The suspension or expulsion may be modified on a case-by-case basis upon recommendation by the superintendent to the Board of Education.

Students who bring or possess weapons as defined in #3, #4 and #5 and not otherwise included in #1 and #2, will also be subject to suspension and/or expulsion from school and may be referred to the appropriate legal authorities.

Students with disabilities who violate this policy will be disciplined in accordance with policy JGE.
This policy will be submitted annually to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education along with a report indicating any suspensions or expulsions resulting from the possession or use of a firearm as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921. The report will include the name of the school in which the incidents occurred, the number of students suspended or expelled and the types of weapons involved.

“We have crisis plans in every building,” said Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Lori DeAnda. “We have trained our administrators to deal with any kind of discipline that may come up.”

Part of that crisis plan, in an instance such as last week, is to notify law enforcement for support. 
Anytime the district receives information that there might be some sort of weapon, each instance is handled differently based on the circumstances that surround it.

“It’s more likely that we have a firework brought in, but we treat every situation as though we don’t know what the weapon is,” said DeAnda.

Each building follows protocols to notify the district’s central office administrators, who then report to offer support to building administrators. District staff then work to identify any student that may be related to the incident or provide any information to help with the investigation at the site level. Anytime an administrator feels that an incident maybe have a criminal component or a law has been violated, the police department is notified.

According to DeAnda, whenever an administrator might believe a situation to be dangerous, the district works in collaboration with the police department to contain students and staff and enforce lockdown procedures. It is a decision made between an administrator and central office or central office and law enforcement.

“It could even be just that we don’t want kids in the hallways for a little while,” said DeAnda. “It is different every time, and there are situations in which the police have to take over and we follow them. Then there are situations where they follow us.”

Staff in the building is notified through a variety of ways, depending on the situation’s urgency.

“Technically, all of our buildings are locked down every day,” said DeAnda. “The perimeter doors are always locked.”

If law enforcement is involved, the lockdown procedures are not lifted until police determine it is safe to do so. The district’s administration also double-checks to ensure the safety of everyone in the building. While an investigation may be ongoing, the priority is to be certain that the area of the incident is safe and secure.

“We always want to improve however we can, and we are constantly networking with other districts and looking at best practices when it comes to security and safety procedures,” said DeAnda.

The district began a process after a previous incident to look at how to improve practices. During these conversations, it became evident, according to DeAnda, that while kids in the district are aware of the dangers associated with weapons, they are still struggling to communicate with adults when an unsafe situation arises.

“When we investigate, we discover that kids knew about it here and kids knew it there,” said DeAnda. “If we had been told at this time or at that time, we could have responded quicker or made the situation safer.”

DeAnda added that in many cases, the students know more about the situation than administration. Ironically, when last week’s incident occurred, district administration was in the high school building in a committee meeting discussing safety and communication with students.  

“We have started that conversation,” said DeAnda. “Clearly we need to expand now and we know parents are asking the same questions.”

The district is developing a plan to contact parents when an incident occurs and include families in the conversations. The priority for parents is safety, and the district understands that concern.

“How do you make schools as safe as possible without making them feel like prisons?” DeAnda asked. “This is not a new question. For fourteen years, we’ve not had an incident. We’ve kept our kids as safe as possible.”

Research proves, according to DeAnda, that schools are not made safer with the use of metal detectors.

“The perception is horrible,” said DeAnda. “That’s not us. I don’t believe that is the educational climate that we want to cultivate here in Grandview.”

The district will continue to work on safety procedures and communication with students, families and the community. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Explosion Levels Grandview Building

Fireworks to blame; ATF charges expected soon

by Mary Wilson,

What began as a structure fire on Grandview’s southwest side of I-49 last week quickly turned into something potentially life-threatening. Just after 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 3, Grandview first responders received word of a structure fire at JW’s Lawn and Garden Equipment, located at 14010 US 71 (140th and I-49).

According to Grandview Fire Marshal Lew Austin, the first responder to the scene drove to the front of the building, and deciding to set up a command post on the north, moved his vehicle to the side of the structure. At that time, the front-side of the building exploded. The initial blast could be felt all throughout Grandview and in nearby communities.

“We are thankful that no one was hurt,” said Grandview Fire Chief Ron Graham. “The cops usually get to the scene first, and as they do, they look around and one of our officers could have easily been killed.”

Graham said his firemen were aware of the building, and has previously discussed a plan of action if it were to ever catch fire.

“They knew they weren’t going to go in there,” said Graham. “When the call came in, it was determined that if the fire was anything at all, they would not go in and they would fight it from the outside. We were prepared for that. We weren’t prepared for this.”

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) was called in to help with the investigation. What was initially believed to be ammunition exploding inside the structure turned out to be the supplies for the makings of fireworks.

Austin added that it was rumored that there was a dog inside the building at the time of the blast, and that it was known that a wood stove was used to heat the building. Some trees to the west of the property were sheered to about three or four feet off the ground. Grandview firefighters evacuated 46 people after the initial massive explosion just after 7 p.m. The fire department has also reported a total of nine homes with broken windows caused by the initial blast, and 19 apartments with damage.
The last inspection completed at JW’s Lawn and Garden Equipment was in 2012. Austin said that for a typical business still in operation, an inspection every five to seven years is the norm.

While the investigation is ongoing, ATF is working to determine whether to file state or federal charges against the business owner.