School board member jumped the gun at last month’s “Save Thacher” rally

By JOE JAROSZ
Northeast News
March 5, 2014

On Saturday, Feb. 22, Crispin Rea Jr., Kansas City school board vice chair, announced at a rally that the school district was giving the “Save Thacher, Save Our Schools”, grassroots community group an extra month to come up with a plan for the former elementary school.

The only problem was, the school board did not yet vote on the extension.

At the Feb. 26, school board meeting, school board members were confused why Rea gave the extension before a vote was held. During a discussion on Thacher, Airick L. West, chair of the school board, told board members he gave Rea permission to speak on behalf of the school board. Board member Curtis Rogers said Rea should not have spoken on behalf of the board.

“Taking down a building is always an emotional issue for everyone,” Rogers said.

Marisol Montero, school board member and a community member in favor of saving the former school, said the group has an investor but has been denied the ability to walk through the building. Rea said he came into the meeting with the understanding they would give the group a month extension.

“We’re in between giving 365 days and zero days,” Rea said. “I don’t understand why we’re pressing this issue.”

Before the board’s discussion, and eventual 4-3 vote to extend any further action until the board’s March 26 meeting, community members Bryan Stalder and Manny Abarca spoke on behalf of saving the former elementary school. Stalder, who’s also the president of the Indian Mound Neighborhood Association, said demolishing the building would be a mistake and a compromise can be reached.

“Our society has evolved into a place where slightly damaged things seem invaluable and easily discarded,” Stalder said. ” I support the Kansas City Public Schools because I see the value in it when others don’t. I have three children enrolled and have been vocally supportive of the school board because I believed you were all people who saw value in things that others would just as easily discard.”

Stalder added that for a neighborhood that is making strides in reclaiming its reputation, he believes tearing down Thacher Elementary in favor of a parking lot or an athletic field, for the soon-to-open Northeast Middle School, would be a mistake and a failure to “longtime Northeast residents, urban pioneers considering an investment in a Historic Northeast home and even to the Kansas City Public School scholars who feel they have been given up on.”

Abarca echoed many of the same sentiments as Stalder, adding the school board should work for the people, not the other way around. As a representative of the grassroots group, they will continue to fight, either in the halls of the Kansas City School District or the halls of Jefferson City, the state capitol.

“We will only grow stronger as a united community fighting for these important pieces of history in our neighborhood,” Abarca said.

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