Elle Moxley

Missouri Schools Reporter

Elle joined KCUR in 2014 as a general assignment reporter. She covered the 2016 election in Kansas as part of a political reporting partnership with NPR. Today, she covers Missouri schools and politics.

Before coming to KCUR, Elle covered Indiana education policy for NPR’s StateImpact project. Her work covering Indiana’s exit from the Common Core was nationally recognized with an Edward R. Murrow award.

Elle has also reported for The Examiner in Independence, Missouri, and KBIA-FM in Columbia, Missouri. She is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

Ways to Connect

Joelouis Mattox, one of Kansas City's most prolific and recognized historians, was found dead of natural causes Tuesday morning at his home, according to friends and colleagues. He was 79.

Mattox held the title of historian for many local agencies and organizations, including Kansas City's Historic Preservation Commission and the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center. He wrote and spoke frequently about Kansas City's history, as well as local and national African-American history.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

In a city with so many school options, it isn’t always easy for parents to choose where to send their children.

Amanda Recob’s daughter, Marliemae, will start kindergarten in the fall. But Recob isn’t just choosing a school for her 5-year-old.

“I have two girls following her, so it is a lot of pressure,” Recob says. “I don’t want them going to three separate schools.”

So Recob is trying to keep the needs of her 2-year-old and 4-year-old in mind as she visits schools.

Courtesy of Daniel King

Updated, 8:20 a.m. Tuesday: Fire officials in Overland Park say “skeleton crews” are on hand Tuesday, monitoring the smoldering remains of a massive fire that destroyed an unfinished four-story apartment complex yesterday.

The fire also badly damaged another apartment building under construction and damaged at least 17 homes nearby, destroying 8 of them, according to Overland Park city officials.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Updated, 11 a.m. Monday: Concrete dust filled the air as a demolition crew began tearing down the old Royale Inn, a blighted motel at Independence Avenue and The Paseo.

Before the city acquired it last year for $1.8 million, drug dealers and prostitutes frequented the Royale. A woman was found murdered in a stairwell in 2011.

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

Mayor Sly James initially said the ordinance had failed, but after a moment of confusion he announced that the Kansas City Council has enacted a $8.50 an hour minimum wage, effective Sept. 18, 2017.

The ordinance calls for an eventual $13 minimum wage in 2023.

But it might not stand. The Council voted just hours after the Missouri House fast-tracked a bill to prevent cities from adopting a higher wage than the state minimum, which is $7.70 an hour and the current rate in Kansas City.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

It’s crunch time for Missouri school districts trying to reach state-mandated attendance goals.

The phone rings constantly in the attendance office at King Elementary, one of the Kansas City Public Schools where attendance is below the district average.

An out-of-breath Donetta Stuart describes the morning she’s had – and it’s only 9 o’clock. 

“Normally when we miss the bus stop, I take her to the next bus stop, but her daddy didn’t do that. It was crazy. We had a crazy day,” she says.

A Columbia man allegedly plotting a Presidents Day terrorist attack was charged in federal court Tuesday.

Tammy Dickerson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, says 25-year-old Robert Lorenzo Hester Jr., 25, believed he was meeting with members of ISIS who were actually undercover law enforcement agents.

Not my Presidents Day.

Though they carried different signs, that’s the message of protesters across the country who rallied Monday to oppose the policies of President Donald Trump.

In Kansas City, hundreds of people gathered at the J.C. Nichols fountain just off the Plaza.

“The sign that I have says, ‘El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido,’” says Regina Sanchez of Kansas City, Missouri. “‘The people united shall never be defeated.’ My grandparents used to march in Chile with the same sign.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Hickman Mills Supt. Dennis Carpenter wants to make something very clear: he won’t welcome charter schools in his district.

At a community meeting Wednesday night, Carpenter told Robbyn Wahby, executive director of the Missouri Charter Public School Commission, she was being disingenuous.

Wahby was in Kansas City to give a presentation to the Southern Communities Coalition.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

It’ll be August before Kansas Citians can vote on a minimum wage increase.

A Jackson County Circuit Court judge ruled Tuesday that the city should get more time to review a proposed ordinance that would raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2021.

Petitioners had hoped Judge Margene Burnett would force the city to place the measure on the April 4 ballot.

The city initially declined to put the question on the ballot in November 2015 because Missouri law forbids cities from enacting a minimum wage higher than the state minimum of $7.70 an hour.

Xaqt

Kansas City, Missouri, has started sharing data collected from interactive kiosks along the streetcar route.

A website launched Tuesday can tell visitors to downtown how traffic is flowing and if parking is available.

“If I don’t have to search for more than five minutes for a parking spot, I can better enjoy my day during play time. I can make better use of my time while I’m going to meetings,” Chief Innovation Officer Bob Bennett says.

Wikimedia Commons

Updated, 11:40 a.m. Wednesday: The U.S. Senate has confirmed Betsy DeVos for education secretary, 50-50 with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote.

Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri; Jerry Moran, R-Kansas; and Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, voted yes. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, voted no.

The original post continues below. 

The U.S. Senate is expected to confirm Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s embattled pick for education secretary, Tuesday afternoon.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Sprint employees were at Central Academy of Excellence Wednesday to pass out free wireless hotspots to low-income high school students who don’t have internet access at home.

Freshman Nia Abson was one of the first students to receive a device with a data plan.

“Like, I couldn’t get my work done, and then I’d be failing classes,” Abson says. “I’d just be like, ‘Mom, I need internet.’”

Mark Bedell says he heard from countless Kansas City Public Schools students about the lack of connectivity when he visited schools during his first 100 days as superintendent.

A judge has ordered Kansas City Power & Light to pay a journeyman more than $10 million for respiratory injuries he sustained while working at the coal-fired Montrose Station plant in Clinton, Missouri.

James Philpott has worked for KCP&L since 1987. As a journeyman mechanic, he came into routine contact with sulfuric gases.

“There were a whole series of haphazard procedures and lack of attention that KCP&L utilized when working around these sulfur and sulfur byproducts,” says Ken McClain, Philpott’s lawyer.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

In one of his final public appearances as governor, Jay Nixon stopped at Magna Seating, a small automotive parts manufacturer in Excelsior Springs.

“It’s good to visit people that are working, you know?” Nixon said. “Especially after that first year and a half where everyone was losing their jobs and the economy was tanking.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

When Kansas City Public Schools hired Mark Bedell to be the district’s next superintendent, one of the board members sent him a book to read, “Complex Justice,” about the Missouri v. Jenkins desegregation case.

In the 1980s, the courts ordered KCPS to pay teachers more and build state-of-the-art schools – at the time, what people thought it would take to bring white, suburban families back to the district.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District will pay Hickman Mills Supt. Dennis Carpenter $235,000 for the 2017-18 school year.

That’s more than Carpenter’s current $185,000 base salary, but it’s substantially less than his predecessor, David McGehee, was making. With a compensation package of $395,000, McGehee was the top paid administrator in the state of Missouri when he resigned last year.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Missouri Supreme Court says Kansas City voters deserve a chance to weigh in on a higher minimum wage.

Last fall the City Council declined to put a minimum wage hike on the ballot because it would’ve contradicted state law.

“We often try to make sure before we’re putting something on the ballot it’s something that could be legally enacted in Kansas City, Missouri, thereafter,” Councilman Quinton Lucas says.

But Lucas, a lawyer, says Tuesday’s ruling turns that thinking on its head.

Airbnb

It’s going to be easier for the state of Kansas to get its cut of profits from hosts who use the home-sharing platform Airbnb.

On Monday, Airbnb announced it would automatically collect Kansas short-term occupancy and sales taxes on bookings.

“This is something that became very clear: the hosts do not want to deal with these taxes,” Airbnb Midwest spokesman Ben Breit says. “No one wants to spend the money they’re earning on home sharing on a tax attorney.”

Canadian Blood Services / Flickr--CC

There didn’t end up being much ice this weekend, but Winter Storm Jupiter still had a big impact on one Kansas City-area nonprofit.

“It wasn’t as bad as anyone thought it was going to be, but the preparations were there,” Community Blood Center Executive Director David Graham says. “We had blood drives canceled in anticipation of travel being impacted.”

UMKC

If your body could talk to you about your health, what would it say? Today, we learn about the inner-workings of the human body. Then, we discover what yearbooks, newspapers and personal letters say about the world young women from the Kansas City area lived in, years before suffrage.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Public Schools Supt. Mark Bedell says he’s done observing – it’s time to act.

Last month, Bedell outlined his plan to move KCPS forward in a 22-page report that recapped his experiences visiting schools during his first 100 days as superintendent.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

The family of a Kansas boy who died last summer while riding a slide at Schlitterbahn has reached a settlement with the water park.

Caleb Schwab, 10, was killed Aug. 7, 2016, while riding Verrückt, an attraction Schlitterbahn billed as the world’s tallest water slide.

It was Elected Official Day at the water park – Schwab’s father is Kansas Rep. Scott Schwab, R-Olathe.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Missouri has slipped another spot in a national ranking of teacher pay.

“Missouri teachers are earning even less compared to national average as they did last year,” Aurora Meyer, spokeswoman for the Missouri State Teachers Association, says. “Overall, Missouri dropped a spot to 43rd nationwide for average classroom teacher salary.”

The ranking is based on data from the National Education Association and the National Center for Education Statistics.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Hickman Mills Supt. Dennis Carpenter will soon have a new job at the Lee's Summit R-7 School District.

“How do you live in a metropolitan area and believe yourself to be a school leader and not jump at the opportunity to serve as superintendent in one of the top places to live in this country?” Carpenter said Monday at a news conference.

The Lee's Summit Board of Education is finalizing Carpenter’s contract for the 2017-18 school year. It’s likely to be approved at the Jan. 19 board meeting.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Again and again during his time in office, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon returned to Magna Seating, an automotive parts manufacturer in Excelsior Springs.

“Well, this is a plant that’s taken a hit and kept on ticking,” Nixon said Friday during his statewide farewell tour. “It’s bigger and stronger than it was before.”

Nixon says the first time he visited the plant, workers were still making seats for the Ford Escape. But by 2012, Ford had shifted production of the Escape to Louisville, and Magna Seating was close to shutting down.

Gustavo Castillo / Wikimedia Commons

A change in state statute is unlikely to make more schoolyard fights felonies.

When Missouri lawmakers made third degree assault a Class E felony, up from a misdemeanor, two school districts in the St. Louis area issued dire warnings that the criminal code revisions could have a dramatic impact on school discipline.

Kansas City, Kansas, Police

The man who killed Kansas City, Kansas, Police Detective Brad Lancaster in May 2016 pleaded guilty Tuesday.

In addition to capital murder, Curtis Ayers pleaded guilty to nine other counts in a crime spree that began when he shot 39-year-old Lancaster outside the Hollywood Casino May 9.

Ayers still faces charges in Leavenworth County, Kansas, and Jackson County, Missouri, where he was apprehended after a long chase.

Gwen's River City Images / Flickr--CC

It’s not a trick of the light – the water flowing from Kansas City taps is faintly pink.

The culprit? Too much sodium permanganate, a chemical added during the water treatment process.

“When the Missouri River has what we call a high color content, when there are a lot of silts and clays in the river, there may be some materials that some people find unappealing,” Mike Klender, plant manager, says. “Part of our treatment process is to use sodium permanganate to combat those taste issues.”

elisfkc / Flickr--CC

An estimated 40,000 travelers will pass through Kansas City International Airport Tuesday. Airport officials expect about 12 percent more passengers this holiday season compared to 2015.

They’ve seen 31 consecutive months of growth.

“We’re really busy, not only with folks traveling home after spending the Christmas weekend with family, but also those that are ready to depart on a winter break vacation, maybe a ski trip,” airport spokesman Justin Meyer says.

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