Community invited to share concerns about Kansas City Public Schools during April 14 public meeting

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By LESLIE COLLINS
Northeast News
April 10, 2013 

Three organizations are calling for a plan of action for Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS).

“We want to hear from parents and the community,” said Eleanor Chavez, community engagement coordinator for the Kansas City chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). “We want to get their thoughts about education in Kansas City, but more than that we want to come together and work on an action plan to help improve education in Kansas City.”

Beginning in 2002, Kansas City Public Schools operated with provisional state accreditation, but in January of 2012, the district became unaccredited following years of floundering Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) scores. In 2011, KCPS met only three of the 14 benchmarks on the state’s Annual Performance Report (APR). In comparison, Independence School District met 14 of the benchmarks and North Kansas City met 13. From 2008 to 2011 an average of 8.1 percent of KCPS fifth grade students scored in the proficient to advanced category for science compared to the state average of 47.5 percent.

In 2012, KCPS met five standards on the APR, including one bonus point, but it wasn’t enough to secure accreditation.

Although a state take-over has been discussed in the state legislature, it’s not part of the groups’ agenda, Chavez said.

“The question is going to be how can we help? We’re not here to tear down (the school district), we’re here to build up,” she said.

To garner community feedback, the AFT, Jobs with Justice and More2 are hosting a public meeting Sunday, April 14, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Southeast Community Center, 4201 E. 63rd St., Kansas City, Mo.

“It’s (meeting) just really a beginning,” said Charlene Kopeck, second grade teacher at Gladstone Elementary School and member of the recently formed Community Engagement Committee. “It’s just time to talk about things.”

The April 14 meeting was born out of the Community Engagement Committee comprised of teachers, union members and community members, Kopeck said. Instead of solely discussing ideas, they decided it was time to form an action plan and include the community’s ideas.

“We want to get everybody together and see what the common threads are,” Kopeck said. “I want people in the community to come out and parents to come out and just really feel at ease to talk about everything.”

With the push for more private and charter schools, Kopeck said it’s vital to support public education.

Kopeck stressed the meeting won’t solely focus on the negatives of the district. Attendees will be asked to list what the district is doing right, describe their ideal school, voice concerns and discuss how parents and the community can become more involved in the education system, she said.

Committee members will compile the information and host subsequent public meetings to lay out an action plan, Chavez said. From there, school district officials will be invited to hear about the action plan and the information gathered.

“Education is an issue that the community as a whole is very concerned about,” Chavez said. “I think that parents are obviously concerned, kids are concerned, students are concerned. Community members care about education and they very much want kids in Kansas City to get a quality education. I think there are a lot of folks out there ready to roll up their sleeves and help out with that.”

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