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.”