Can an all-girls charter school with a college prep curriculum help young women of color in Kansas City’s poorest neighborhoods succeed?
Tom Krebs thinks so, though he’s admittedly an odd champion for single-gender education.
“I’m a white guy from the East Coast. Why am I the leader of this effort?” Krebs, founding CEO of Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy, said at a community meeting last week. “I’m hoping long term I won’t be.”
In fact, hiring someone to lead the charter school is “the biggest decision we’re going to make,” Krebs says.
The idea for Kansas City’s first public all-girls school didn’t come from Krebs. It came from Julie Tomasic, who’s been with the Kansas City Police Department for 28 years.
“I used to think I was making a difference one arrest at a time, but the problems are systemic,” Tomasic says. “The biggest thing I can contribute to crime prevention is education.”
Tomasic works overtime to pay for her daughters to attend St. Teresa’s Academy. She thinks all young women deserve similar opportunities. She’s been following Kansas City native Ann Tisch’s efforts to educate girls in New York City through the Young Women’s Leadership Network for years.
Now Tomasic is working with Krebs, Mayor Sly James and business woman and philanthropist Christine Kemper to bring that school model to Kansas City. If the Missouri Charter Public School Commission approves Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy’s application this spring, the school will open in fall 2019 with an inaugural class of fifth graders, growing one class each year.
“I don’t feel comfortable starting after sixth or seventh grade to guarantee college and career success,” Krebs says.
Charter school critics have long argued that the rules are different for traditional public schools, who have to take all comers and educate them, regardless of existing deficits in learning. As University of Missouri-Kansas City education professor Gus Jacob said at last week’s community meeting, “We have a lot of charter schools in this community that don’t play fair.”
Krebs and other proponents of single-gender education are trying to allay fears that Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy will be another low-performing charter by working closely with the community to design the school. Like Jacob, most of the attendees at last week’s community meeting were education professionals. Krebs led them in a brainstorming activity, asking them what they valued most in a school. In bold marker on a yellow Post-It, someone wrote, “Diverse staff.”
Others chimed in that if most of the students at Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy are to be young women of color, then the curriculum needs to reflect black, Hispanic and Muslim culture.
Another community meeting is scheduled for Thursday. You can register to attend via Eventbrite.
KCGPA Community Design Collaborative, 5:30 p.m., Thursday, March 1, Morningstar Youth and Family Life Center, 2525 E. 27th St., Kansas City, Missouri 64127.
Elle Moxley covers education for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.