Show Me KC Schools, a group helping families find the best fit for their students’ education, is relocating to Northeast Kansas City in a newly renovated space at 2201 Lexington Ave.
A registered 501(c)(3) that launched eight years ago, the organization serves families in eight different ways.
“Our mission is to help families make well informed decisions about their children’s educational options in Kansas City, Mo.,” said Leslie Kohlmeyer, Executive Director of Show Me KC Schools.
Kansas City, Mo., has 15 school districts, the largest being Kansas City Public School District 33 (KCPS). There are 58 campuses with kindergartens, 35 schools that welcome 7th graders, and 29 high school options – which can be an overwhelming amount of choices for parents deciding where their students can reach their fullest potential.
“Because we have school choice, we have the district schools, we have the charter schools, and then, of course, we have faith-based private schools, and independent private schools,” Kohlmeyer said. “And then even within KCPS, we have another choice of the magnet – or signature schools – or your neighborhood school.”
Setting students on an education path that’s right for them starts in kindergarten. The average kindergarten parent has 23 options for free public education. Prior to the existence of Show Me KC Schools, they had 23 different ways to fill out applications with different deadlines and timelines.
A good place for parents to start, Show Me KC Schools host an annual School Fair at the Central Library on the second Saturday in November.
“We bring all the schools together, and families can come and meet them in person,” Kohlmeyer said. “We try to have entertainment and food, so that it’s a good draw. Families can come and meet with schools in person and talk to them and just kind of understand what their options are.”
Show Me KC Schools worked with different educational institutions in the city to create a common application that includes the charters, and then the district has their own application for their signature and neighborhood schools.
“We have one-on-one navigation services, so like a concierge, somebody you can call and say, ‘I need help,’ and that person will walk you through everything you need to know in English or in Spanish,” Kohlmeyer said. “If you require additional language services, we can certainly get those for you, but we don’t really get a ton of additional language services needed. Most people have a family advocate that they work with, either through a social service agency or something of that nature, then they come to us through that advocate.”
The organization hosts workshops and school tours, as well as publishing a school guide. Resources can also be found on their website, showmekcschools.org. On their website, parents can login and search for schools, filtering by grade level, address, and more. It’s an interactive tool to narrow down the choices before diving deeper.
“Just recognizing that communication is kind of like a buffet, not everyone wants to eat the same thing,” Kohlmeyer said. “You need to get information to parents and families in a multitude of different ways because that might be the only way they absorb – they didn’t see the website, but they picked up a school guide. They don’t have a school guide, but they saw that pop-up event. So you try to reach them in a multitude of ways.”
The school guide gets dropped off at coffee shops, dentist and doctor’s offices, and many places where people are likely to come across it. They produce 24,000 copies per year to distribute throughout the city.
“The School Guide’s like a catalog, recognizing that not every single person has access to the internet, or has a computer, we wanted to do something in print as well,” Kohlmeyer said. “So this whole guide is like a pared-down version of the website that you can have in hand.”
Prior to their move to Lexington Avenue in Pendleton Heights, Show Me KC Schools was located in Westport at EduHub KC, a collective of educational institutions like EdOps, The Lean Lab, The Literacy Lab,Turn the Page KC and Start at Zero.
Westport was getting a little expensive, and their lease was up, so Kohlmeyer looked closer to home. After a long day of driving around looking for a new space, she and her son stopped in at PH Coffee for a break. That’s when they saw the space across the street. Kohlmeyer called the landlord, Lee Berman, who said she could find another tenant to fill the other half of the space.
“I had worked with Latinx [Education Collaborative] on a bunch of different occasions and their specific goal is to make Latinx student outcomes grow by providing more of a pipeline for Latinx teachers, because representation does matter, and has proven to increase outcomes for Latinx [students],” Kohlmeyer said.
From there, the partnership blossomed. Once they’re sharing the space – they began moving in the first week of January – they’d like to partner on tours, sharing resources for families, and other opportunities.
“Prior to us existing, people would want to know how a lottery works, or what it means to be on a waitlist, and they wouldn’t even know who to ask,” Kohlmeyer said. “So we do a whole class about how to do that, a whole class about how to afford private school if that’s really what you want to do but you can’t afford it, but let us show you how.”
Right now, they’re hosting virtual tours to give families an idea of what’s inside school buildings.
Show Me KC Schools also hosts community conversations. The next is “Why Representation Matters in Education” on February 15 at 10 a.m. They also host Wednesday Workshops, the next being “Preparing for High School and Beyond” on February 16 at 6 p.m. More info can be found at showmekcschools.org.