Thursday, June 15, 2017

School-age childcare in area districts loses significant state funding

by Mary Wilson

Working parents understand the need for childcare. Those who live in the Grandview, Hickman Mills and Center School Districts have the opportunity to take advantage of programming designed to partner with families to provide before and after-school childcare at no cost. The Local Investment Commission, or LINC, was created in 1992 and is primarily state-funded. LINC gained additional organizational flexibility by becoming a 501c3 nonprofit in 1994.

However, LINC, along with other agencies who rely on the State of Missouri for funding, is working through a budget shortfall after the last legislative session to the tune of $1 million. LINC’s total budget for programming is approximately $10 million. With their model of building a neighborhood-schooling atmosphere, LINC offers Caring Community programming in seven metro school districts.

“The Local Investment Commission has been doing this for several years and we are operating in school sites with high family mobility,” said Brent Schondelmeyer, Deputy Director - Community Engagement for LINC. “They’d move from Hickman to Grandview, Grandview to Kansas City, and so on. But, there would be a LINC program in each of these districts, providing some sense of familiarity to the families.”

Schondelmeyer said that LINC offers activities and learning opportunities that simply aren’t available during the normal school day’s curriculum in the classroom.

“In surrounding districts, the cost of before and after-school care is expensive,” said Schondelmeyer. “These are low-income communities and the families’ ability to afford after-school care is pretty constrained.”

LINC has found that while many of the families that use their services could apply for childcare subsidy individually, the organization then took on that task for entire communities. The State of Missouri agreed to provide funding with the idea that school-aged care being provided in the school buildings themselves would provide opportunity for student enrichment.

“This was an opportunity to serve a large number of children in a familiar place,” said Schondelmeyer.

The organization expected to receive $2 million from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Appropriation in the Missouri General Assembly. It was in the Governor’s budget, in the House version of the budget.

“It then went over to the Senate, and at some point someone made the decision rather than $2 million they think it should be $1 million,” said Schondelmeyer. “The other half needed to go someplace else.”

With half of that budget gone, LINC knew as an organization the shortfall couldn’t be absorbed. Each school district was approached by LINC to discuss what programming would look like with less funding. LINC provided options to the districts: revenue-based and expense programming, a combination of both,  or decreased programming.

Center School District, according to Schondelmeyer, is looking at ways to absorb the costs into their own budgets. LINC serves two before and after-school sites in Center, with an average daily attendance of 282 students, while 401 students were enrolled last school year.

“We are currently looking at all options to address what is estimated by LINC to be about a $60,000 shortfall in funds to Center School District,” said Center public relations director Kelly Wachel. “We are working on a plan to make sure we are continuing to take care of our students and families impacted by this decrease in funds.”

In the Grandview School District, LINC serves an average of 726 students per day at five before- and after-school sites, with 1,080 students enrolled in the program. Next school year, the district, in discussion with LINC, has determined to change the childcare program from five days per week to four. A survey has been distributed to district families to share preferences on a Monday through Thursday program or a Tuesday through Friday program.

“LINC provides quality before and after-school care for elementary school age students in a safe, fun and caring environment that supports children’s social, emotional and physical development,” the Grandview School District email to parents read. “The Grandview C-4 School District and LINC are committed to continuing to offer these services at no cost to our families.”

In Hickman Mills, LINC serves 1,453 students on a daily basis at 12 school sites, with a total of 2,326 students enrolled in the program. Next school year, LINC before and after-school programming in Hickman Mills will be changing from five days per week to four. The plan is to offer the program Monday through Thursday, with no child care provided on Friday.

“When the funding issue was presented to our administration, we opted not to charge families a fee per student each semester, but chose to reduce the program from five days to four with no cost to our families,” said Hickman Mills incoming Superintendent Dr. Yolanda Cargile. “When there are budget cuts outside of our control, we have to make those difficult decisions. As a District and in collaboration with LINC, we have a solid communication plan in place to provide our parents adequate notice so they are able to make arrangements for the upcoming school year. It is our hope the funds will be reinstated so we are able to return to a full program in the near future.”

According to Schondelmeyer, LINC approached each school district to determine the best course of action going forward. The Kansas City Public School District is looking at consolidating programs into fewer locations.

“Our approach could have been to not offer programs at every school, which puts families in a difficult place,” said Schondelmeyer. “School districts are in the practice of figuring out budget cuts because they’ve been through several.”


LINC wishes to remain a free program for district families, and Schondelmeyer says the organization will remain optimistic that the funding will be reestablished in subsequent years. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Crime-ridden motels demolished to make way for further Cerner development


by Mary Wilson 

Two motels in Kansas City were demolished by contractor JE Dunn last week as a result of the original plans for the Cerner Innovations Campus to create more jobs. The approved plan included the parcel of property on the southeast corner of 87th Street and I-435. The motels served as some of the highest crime locations in South Kansas City.

“In addition to thanking Cerner for creating 16,000 new jobs in Kansas City with one of the largest projects in the country including billions of dollars of investment in South Kansas City, the project also creates $6 million for the Hickman Mills School District,” said Sixth District At-Large Councilman Scott Taylor. “Cerner will work with the district to create the workers of tomorrow through STEM programs.”

The City will also receive $2 million in infrastructure improvements in surrounding neighborhoods because of the Cerner project. After initial approval, Cerner had intentions of expanding the project to include the property with the motels.

“These two hotels were high-crime areas and creating a lot of work for our police department,” said Taylor. “Quite frankly, they could spend their time elsewhere doing other things.”

The Cerner Innovations Campus is the largest economic development project in the State of Missouri’s history, and the motels continued to be a nuisance in the area.

“The bottom line is, these hotels needed to come down,” said Sixth District Councilman Kevin McManus. “Hopefully small businesses and homeowners will see this investment, not just in removing this blight, but the investment in infrastructure and the investment by Cerner, and will see the opportunity to make their own investment in their community.”

McManus stated that the demolition of the motels serves as a symbol of promise for the area’s future. The A1 Hotel and Capital Inn, according to Major Louis Perez, South Patrol Commander, have used a lot of police manpower over the last several years, as the location was a breeding ground for crime in the area.

“The hotels ranked high in call for service demands for the division,” said Perez. “Crimes included homicides, assaults and prostitution, making it a nuisance business.”

Some crimes spilled out into the neighboring communities and businesses, according to Perez. He added that the demolition helps free up officers to answer other emergency calls and provides the opportunity to put officers back in their assigned neighborhoods.

“The surrounding neighborhoods and businesses are much safer and thriving because of the work that’s been done,” said Perez. One area business owner reported that they have seen a decrease in trespassing, panhandling and stealing.

“South Kansas City is on the move and we are going through a renaissance here,” said Missouri State Representative DaRon McGee. “We are getting statewide recognition and notice. This is just one step in the progress we are making.”

Former Councilman John Sharp, who has lived in the community for 50 years, said that his house is less than five minutes from the Cerner campus.

“I can’t tell you how pleased I was to see these motels start coming down,” said Sharp. “I remember when this Ramada Inn was very nice at one time, but it sure wasn’t nice in recent years.”


With the Cerner development, the area has also seen a revitalization of retail, and there is potential for new residential projects as well, according to Sharp. With the reclaiming of the property for a positive, public benefit to the community, Cerner, who has already built two new buildings, is expected to expand even further on the campus over the next decade. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

City opens solicitation process to design, build and finance new KCI terminal

KCMO City Manager Troy Schulte is opening the solicitation process for qualified companies interested in designing, building and privately financing a single terminal at Kansas City International Airport.

Schulte is directing the Procurement Division to publish a Request for Qualifications/Proposals (RFQ/P) for the KCI Terminal Modernization. The proposal will include the requirements that have been the focal points of recent discussions and will reflect what the airlines agreed to a year ago.

“The winning proposer would still go through the process of developing an MOU for Council approval," Schulte said. "This RFQ/P requires delivery of all the elements we want in a new terminal – convenient, close parking, better pickup and drop-off lanes, more seating in passenger waiting areas and other conveniences.”  

The RFQ/P will ask for proposals that:
  • Design, build and privately finance a 750,000 square foot terminal
  • Provide at least 6,500 spot parking garage
  • Include 35 gates, but  can expand to 42 gates
  • Reflect the design approved by airlines a year ago
  • Reflect the financing approved by airlines
  • Utilize local construction workers
  • Pay prevailing wages
  • Meet or exceed the City's MBE/WBE goals as well as workforce development or job training for local workers
  • Ensure the City retains ownership and operation of the airport
  • Meet LEED gold certification
  • Include 1% of the cost dedicated to the arts
"This is a win for Kansas City," Mayor Sly James said. "Our airport is the most vital investment we make in order to share our city with the world. And now we know firms are ready to compete to make our airport as world-class as our city."

A privately financed airport terminal idea is believed to be the first-of-its kind in the nation. An innovative model, the airport would receive financing through private investment, paid for by airport usage fees, with no funds coming from the City’s general fund, taxes, or existing bonds. The company selected would develop the design at their own risk.

The RFQ/P is being issued Tuesday, May 30, and will be due on June 20, which is a standard, three-week period. Companies submitting proposals should be prepared for in-person presentations on June 22 with the selection committee. The best proposal will be selected after reviewing all of the proposals and presentations.

The winning proposer will still have to develop a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the City -- a process that allows both parties to continue their due diligence prior to a public vote. Even during this process, the City will conduct public meetings to provide updates and answer questions.

“We will continue to have public hearings to keep our residents engaged in this community dialogue" Councilwoman Jolie Justus said. "Throughout this process we want to keep listening to our residents and to keep answering their questions.” 

The City will continue to own and operate the airport. 

“This RFQ/P ensures an open process that delivers the best deal for the city and our residents," Councilman Jermaine Reed said. "It also continues our commitment to local and minority hiring on this important project.”

Additional information can be found at  kcmo.gov/newkci.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Community in Ruins

by Mary Wilson

What likely began as an ordinary evening on May 20 back in 1957 quickly turned deadly as an F-5 tornado tore a 71-mile path of destruction, beginning in Spring Hill, KS, and bouncing through Ottawa, KS, Grandview, Hickman Mills, Martin City, Knob Town and Ruskin Heights. 

May 20th marked the 60-year anniversary of the tornado that thrashed through the area. Ruskin High School suffered extensive damage, including the almost complete destruction of the gymnasium that was supposed to house the high school’s graduation ceremony the very next evening. All that remained on the sign for the gym was a few haunting letters: RU IN.

The 1957 tornado, deemed the Ruskin Heights Tornado, took the lives of 39 people, with more than 500 injured. Roughly 400 homes were damaged or destroyed.

In the last few years, survivors, many of whom were young children at the time, have found solace and comfort through a social media group created on Facebook. With 673 members, “1957 Ruskin Heights Tornado Survivors CAUGHT EVER AFTER” is dedicated to providing an outlet for shared memories and a bond that has lasted a lifetime.

Dave May, who would later graduate from Ruskin High School, recalled that the horrific night brought the community closer.

 “As I sit in the comfort of my living room, I can't help but think about the tornado tragedy that happened in my childhood stomping grounds 60 years ago tonight, and the lives it took and changed and the people that were scarred for life,” May said in the Facebook group over the weekend. “I wasn't in the tornado, but lived in Ruskin then, and growing up I have heard many stories that were tragic and some that were a miracle. My heart truly goes out to the victims who suffered along the 71 miles the tornado was on the ground. After the tornado, it seemed to make Ruskin a little tighter, and neighbors knew neighbors.”

Diana Leonard’s family home sat just south of the tornado path, and while her family didn’t see extensive destruction to their property, the storm left a lasting impact on their lives.

“I was not quite six years old in 1957, and I well recall the events of that day,” said Leonard. “Our home was on the east side of the Kansas City Southern railroad and south of Ruskin, and was okay, other than a 2x4 stuck in our roof like a birthday candle, and the horrible debris scattered across our yard. 20 years later, my younger sister was set to graduate from Ruskin on May 20. We shared our girlhood room the night before and she was up and down all night and nervous as a cat. She said she had heard these things happen on a 20-year cycle and she was sure we were going to have another tornado. I tried to reassure her that we would be fine, but, wouldn't you know it, the early afternoon of May 20, 1977, a straight-line wind came through and toppled our dear old elm tree in the front yard, landing it squarely on top of my car! That will teach me to laugh at old wives' tales!”

Ellen Robinson, then a newly-advanced kindergartner from Tower School, took to the Facebook group to express her gratitude to other survivors of the Ruskin Heights Tornado.

“I graduated from the Tower School kindergarten 60 years ago today, and by that night it was obliterated into dust, leaving no trace,” said Robinson. “I'm friends with a few survivors, and I feel an unspoken kinship with them unlike any other of my friends. I'm grateful for them every day, and very thankful for this Facebook group, because I know there's a wound hidden in each of us. You think all trace of its trauma is gone, then there will be a particular chartreuse or pink in the sky, a scent of earth or electricity in the air, a news story, and instantly you hurt again.”


The memories from the Ruskin Heights Tornado of 1957 are everlasting, with the impact and the loss much greater than homes being destroyed. Loved ones were lost and the lives of the survivors were forever changed. Each year, the anniversary of the tornado is commemorated with the laying of wreaths at the site of the memorial in front of Ruskin High School. For 60 years, the Ruskin community has mourned the ruin and the devastation, but despite the tornado’s impact, the survivors continue to share their stories with each other and with the next generations. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Southwest High may once again see students

by Brent Kalwei

The Uniting at Southwest group is proposing to reopen Kansas City’s Southwest High School as an autonomous public school to be under the umbrella of the Kansas City Public School district. Group representatives Mike Zeller and John Couture laid down some of their plans at the Sixth District Second Fridays meeting on May 12 at the Trailside Center.

“This is not a private school, this is a public school,” Zeller said. “Every child in that building would count as KCPS kids.”

Uniting at Southwest’s plan is to make Southwest into a diverse project-based learning school that helps students identify opportunity, conduct research, and work with others to develop solutions and essential skills in today's world.

“We don’t want to have a 1950s Southwest High. That was a racist, segregated-by-law public school,” Zeller said. “Nor do we want to create a situation like in 2015 where there was a school there, but there was not this vast neighborhood full of homes and children. We want a school that looks like the world that these children are going to graduate into and work in. That’s a school where everybody is there together; not only on racial lines, but class lines, too.”

“This is a time where we can look to be creative in how we view education,” added Couture. “I think this is such a great opportunity for the city.”

Zeller lives about three blocks from the Southwest High School building, which closed after the 2015-16 school year.

“We moved to that neighborhood so that our kids could walk to school up at Academie Lafayette,” Zeller said. “I had every intention of sending our son up the hill to Southwest High until the school closed. My oldest son made the bus trip up to Lincoln College Prep, which was on some days about a 50-minute bus ride. I remember thinking that is a long way. My son is commuting to high school. It just seemed odd at a great American city that a child would have to travel so far to go to a college-bound high school.”

According to Zeller, many people are leaving Kansas City and moving to cities such as Lee’s Summit, Raytown and Prairie Village.

“It’s just unfortunate and unnecessary,” he said. “It pushes down property values and lowers tax rolls. We have a big city with a lot of old infrastructure. We need those tax dollars, and we need those people living in city and contributing to the revitalization of the city.”

When Zeller took the innovative idea to the Kansas City Public Schools district last fall, they indicated that the school was closed because there was not enough demand for it.

“Maybe the supply wasn’t right,” Zeller said. “There’s a whole lot of people that would like to stay living in the city and even more people who would want to move into the city if they had choices that they wanted to choose.”

About 1,200 people have taken the group’s online survey.

“They have indicated that they would strongly consider sending about 1,350 children to this school,” Zeller said.

According to Zeller, quality integrated public education in the city was not a common belief by most parents about 15 years ago. But they do believe in it now.

“It’s a heavy lift to start a high school,” Zeller said. “You gotta start strong. If you trip coming out of the gate, you’re done. Reputation is destiny. You have to plan it really well. You have to hire a leader a couple years in advance.”

The Bloch, DeBruce, McDonnell and Stowers Foundations are funding the Uniting at Southwest group’s research and development efforts.

“We explained our vision to them,” Zeller said. “They said, ‘We’ll back your research and development efforts; and if you can pull it off, we will get behind all of these upfront costs it takes to start a public school.” 

Zeller listed the UMKC Dental School of Law and Penn Valley as examples of institutions that are helped out by philanthropic resources.  

“In Missouri right now, there is no funding mechanism to start schools like this,” he said. “Missouri’s just a school district model that worked great in the 1940s, 50s and 60s when cities were growing, and we were knocking down cornfields and putting an elementary school at the edge of the metro. Then people would appear and it would fill up. We have a different situation now that requires third-party assistance.”

According to Zeller, if Uniting at Southwest is unable to partner with Kansas City Public Schools, the group plans to partner with an existing charter school or create their own charter school.

“We have the funding to do that,” he said. “It would be a waste of philanthropic and public resources to have to do that, and it would break my heart. But we are prepared to do that if we need to.”

Uniting at Southwest’s plan is to begin with just freshmen during the first school year.


“I think at its peak it had about 2,500 kids at the height of the baby boom,” Zeller said. “We would never want a high school that big. They’re too anonymous. Kids don’t know each other and the teachers don’t know them. We think that the sweet spot is around 800 or 900 kids, and you would want to get to get there slowly. Every year you would want to add one grade.”

Friday, May 12, 2017

Grandview Main Street looks to bring entertainment to downtown


by Brent Kalwei


Grandview Aldermen interviewed candidates seeking to manage the Farmers Market at the board’s work session held Tuesday, May 2.

Those applying for management were Grandview Main Street and the Farmers Market’s current manager Larry French.

Grandview Main Street’s focus would be to expand upon the existing Farmers Market, with functions such as a wine walk, food trucks, family-friendly entertainment and events, Christmas in July and potential partnerships with 8th and Main and the Grandview Arts Council, to include activities such as music and sidewalk chalk art.

“We envision a lot more than just a Farmers Market. We envision activity and what would be the heartbeat of our downtown,” Grandview Main Street President Mary Wilson said. “Our main goal is to get people into our downtown and to showcase our businesses that we already have there, and hopefully garner future investment in our community in the process.”

Ward One Alderman Damon Randolph asked Grandview Main Street representatives what they thought the Farmers Market’s biggest challenge is.

“Marketing. I live here and I forget about it often,” Grandview Main Street Secretary Kim Curtis said.

Grandview Main Street added that they can provide marketing for the Grandview Farmers Market event through social media outlets, the Grandview Chamber of Commerce and the Jackson County Advocate. The Aldermen discussed marketing the Farmers Market with electronic signs.

Alderman Ward Three James Crain expressed concern about Grandview Main Street having the manpower to volunteer for events that complement the Farmers Market.

“Our business and volunteer community as a whole doesn’t seem to want to get involved unless something is happening,” Wilson said. “We haven’t really had a whole lot happening. When we hosted our original open house for Grandview Main Street, we had a list of people who showed interest, and that’s what we’ll build off of in the beginning.”

“I think if we truly want to have different results, we should give Main Street a chance,” Alderman Ward One Sandra Kessinger said. “I think they have a lot of players already here in the community who have a vested interest in the success of anything that’s going on in Grandview. I think that’s the piece that is missing.”

Ward Two Alderman Annette Turnbaugh expressed interest in French and Grandview Main Street taking partnership in leading the Farmers Market. 

“I don’t want to get too far away from what the Farmers Market is,” Turnbaugh said. “I would like to see a marriage of the two. I want to make sure that we have somebody at that Farmers Market that knows the laws, rules and regulations of the county, or we can get in trouble.”

Mayor Leonard Jones believes an operation should be run by one leader opposed to many.

“My problem with that is that you always want one throat to choke. You don’t want two throats,” Jones said. “I can tell you from a manager’s perspective, the worst thing you can do is have one, two or three heads. That’s called a freak, and that’s not good.”

French wants to keep the originality of the Farmers Market.

“One of the first things I will tell you about markets,” he said, “if you switch today, you will kill the market. Belton took their market from 30 vendors to four. Most of the big vendors come from 40-60 miles away. They are not from right here. They are not going to move out of their markets.”

Jones prefers the Farmers Market be held on a day during the week.

“I’m from the old school. I think a change of date would probably be a good idea,” he said. “The reason I say that, is because my Saturday is jam-packed. Personally I’ve got so much going on Saturday that I forget about the Farmers Market.”

Alderman Ward Three John Maloney asked French if Farmers Market attendees are seeking any particular items that current vendors do not already provide. French’s answer was certified organics.

According to Ward Two Alderman Brian Hochstein, the Farmers Markethas received very little interest from the community. Hochstein, who is sometimes a vendor at the Farmers Market, said that he had a net loss in his first year of selling.

“It takes local people selling local,” Hochstein said. “As a vendor, you never want to miss regardless of if it is raining. If you miss one time, you could break that relationship. It is a difficult game for not a lot of money.”

Hochstein has in the past heard comments about how expensive the vendors’ products are.

“I’m like, ‘compared to what?’” he said. “It’s handmade, it takes a lot of time, and our profit margins are miniscule.”

Ultimately, three aldermen voted for French to continue the management of the Farmers Market, two voted for Grandview Main Street and one voted for a partnership.

Jones stated he would like the Farmers Market to provide additional vendors.

“The more vendors, the greater possibility and excitement that you would have people utilizing the products and goods being provided,” Jones said. “The less number of providers is just the opposite.”

French has managed the market for the last several years, and also works as Grandview Farmers Market’s main vendor each week. Jones responded to the question of if French being a Farmers Market vendor and the manager is a conflict of interest.

“That will always be a question that some people could have,” he said. “You’re not going to erase that question regardless. Somebody is going to be chosen. Is it going to be somebody that is already there and has a spot or not? You’re going to have a 50/50 chance.”

Despite not receiving the nod of approval from the Board of Aldermen, Grandview Main Street plans to continue with the idea of bringing the local community back into downtown.

“While the Aldermen didn’t want us to manage the Saturday market, they didn’t say we couldn’t move on with our original Thursday plans,” said Wilson. “There is tremendous opportunity for activity in our downtown. We’d like to breathe a new life into our businesses and our public spaces, while preserving the rich history that our community sometimes seems to forget.”

Jones likes Grandview Main Street’s idea to get away from the norm, and looking for additional event opportunities.

“It’s great to see the Grandview Main Street group thinking outside of the box,” Jones said. “That’s exactly what the city of Grandview needs. I think a lot of the proprietors on Main Street will be excited to know that there is something going on Monday through Friday.”


The Grandview Farmers Market runs from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Saturday on the southwest corner of the intersection of 8th and Goode Avenue. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Following fights, several arrests made at Truman Heritage Festival

by Mary Wilson

What began as a family-friendly event last weekend quickly turned into a potentially dangerous situation, as a large fight erupted during the Truman Heritage Festival on Saturday, May 6. According to Grandview Police, a large fight involving both juveniles and adults broke out at the carnival being held in conjunction with the festival on Byars Road in Grandview, and multiple arrests were made.

“An adult female involved in the fight sprayed pepper spray indiscriminately into the crowd including on police officers trying to break it up,” said Grandview Police Captain Richard Rodgers.

A single gunshot was fired by an unknown suspect in the same area, though no one was reported to be injured. Due to the large number of individuals involved in the fight, a mutual aid request was made to neighboring law enforcement agencies to assist in clearing the crowd. Officers from the Kansas City Police Department, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, the Belton Police Department, the Lee’s Summit Police Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol responded to assist.

Chira S. Smith, 33, from Grandview, was arrested for fighting in public; Ashley M. Plunkett, 30, from Paola, KS, was arrested for assault on a police officer and failure to obey; Bryson M. Sylvain, 29, from Belton, was arrested for failure to obey; and Brittany N. Rymes, 17, from Grandview, was arrested for fighting in public. A 15-year-old juvenile male and a 16-year-old juvenile female, both from Grandview, were also taken into custody. The male was arrested for assault on a police officer and the female for fighting in public.

No injuries resulting from the disturbance were reported with the exception of those exposed to pepper spray. The City of Grandview and organizers for the Truman Heritage Festival on Sunday released a statement saying that the incidents that occurred are not indicative of the community.

“(We) are angry and disappointed by what happened last night as the Truman Heritage Festival neared its end,” the statement said. “We are thankful Grandview PD acted quickly to ensure everyone's safety by calling for mutual aid from area law enforcement agencies. Because of their quick thinking, no one was hurt.”

With the safety of everyone in the community remaining a priority, the statement added that organizers will be reviewing festival security procedures and plans, as well as security for future events.

Visitors and vendors of the festival took to social media following the incidents, expressing concern and outrage, including those there with small children.

“My kids were excited to be there,” said carnival attendee Scott Boyer. “We were only there for about ten minutes when multiple fights broke out. There was so much mace in the air, we were coughing. It was ridiculous and this will be the last time we go to the festival. It was embarrassing for the City of Grandview.”


The adults arrested were charged through Grandview Municipal Court and the juveniles will be referred to the Jackson County Family Court.

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 www.advanc-ed.org.

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.”