Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS)

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Balloons were practically spilling out of the doors, as parents and children filed into the Central Library in downtown Kansas City for the first ever City School Fair this weekend. 

The library was buzzing throughout the day, with a steady crowd of visitors. Fifty schools were in attendance, spread out at booths on all three floors of the library. 

"It's kind of like a college fair," said library spokesperson Courtney Lewis.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The results are in, and for the first time in years, Kansas City Public received an accountability score from the state that qualifies it for full accreditation.

But it won’t be enough to convince the State Board the urban school district is back on track.

“We have been very clear that you need to show at least two years,” says Margie Vandeven, Missouri Commissioner of Education.

Still, KCPS Superintendent Mark Bedell sees cause for celebration.

Courtesy of Hollis Officer

Do you remember the man who took your tickets at the Tivoli for 17 years? With a recent photo display and theater dedication at the Tivoli, we reflect on the late Bob Smith, an international male model in his prime, who spent the end of his life in Kansas City.

But first, a check-in with the superintendent and a teacher in the Hickman Mills School District, as a part of KCUR's ongoing coverage of the district.

Guests:

woodleywonderworks — Flickr CC

Students who don't have internet access at home are at risk of falling further behind at school as more teachers assign homework that requires web access. 

That trend has been called the "homework gap," and Sprint wants to help close it.

On Tuesday, the Overland Park-based company announced a new initiative, the 1Million Project, which will put mobile devices and free wireless service into the hands of one million students across the country. 

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR 89.3

Students in the Hickman Mills School District face a lot of challenges, including poverty and a provisionally accredited district, as well as a high rate of mobility: 75 percent of students typically change classrooms, schools or districts within the course of one year.

Gustavo Castillo / Wikimedia Commons

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Kansas City Public Schools after a school resource officer handcuffed a second grader.

The incident happened in 2014, says ACLU of Missouri Executive Director Jeffrey Mittman, after 7-year-old Kalyb Wiley Primm began to cry in class.

Mittman says Primm had been bullied.

“He didn’t want to go with the officer, who was being scary,” Mittman says. “Instead of calming the child, instead of reassuring him, instead of finding out what was wrong, the officer yelled at him, told him to stop crying and then handcuffed him.”

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Mayor Sly James is exploring a new program to empower parents of school-aged children.

The Parent Leadership Training Institute is a 20-week program that helps attendees track legislation, analyze data and become involved in public policy on behalf of their kids.

James says highly engaged parents help schools function better, but knowing how to participate isn't always obvious.

Nearly everyone agrees that parental involvement is critical to kids' success in school, but knowing how to participate isn't always obvious. Kansas City Mayor Sly James supports a program aimed at giving parents the tools they need to engage with schools, and affect positive change in their children's future.

Guests:

Paul Andrews / http://paulandrewsphotography.com/

For Mark Bedell, school was a safe haven.

“It gave me an opportunity to be a kid because I had to be an adult a lot sooner than most kids should have to be an adult,” he told guest host Brian Ellison on Central Standard.

Paul Andrews / http://paulandrewsphotography.com/

He was homeless in the ninth grade. And today, he's in charge of the Kansas City Public Schools. Meet the new superintendent.

Guest:

Anna Sturla / KCUR 89.3

The Kauffman Foundation and the Hall Family foundation will donate more than $1.5 million over two years to the Kansas City Neighborhood Academy, a new charter school serving East Kansas City.

The Kauffman Foundation is donating $1 million while the Hall Family Foundation is donating $600,000.

“This is a tremendous vote of confidence for our new school,” says Urban Neighborhood Initiative Executive Director Dianne Cleaver. UNI was created by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce in order to revitalize Kansas City neighborhoods.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Today is the first official day on the job for new Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell, and he certainly has his work cut out for him. 

Bedell is looking to help the district regain full accreditation, but he is also focusing on changing negative attitudes about the district. In these first few weeks, he says he "wants to come in and just restore hope and really give these kids the best opportunities to be successful." 

KIPP KC

KIPP KC has rented space in the old Metropolitan Community College Pioneer Campus building at 18th and Prospect Avenue in Kansas City for eight years. Now, the charter middle school has bought the entire 95,000-square foot property as it embarks on a larger expansion plan. 

The school offers grades 5-8 and will add classes in kindergarten through fourth grade next year. School officials anticipate adding these grades will boost enrollment by more than 100 students, to around 380 total.

It's a question you hear a lot, especially if you have young children and live on the Missouri side of the state line: Where are you sending your kids to school?

We explore the world of charter schools — they're getting so big in KC that even the district is opening one. Who chooses charter schools and why? Are charters bringing on a new era of thriving public education in KC or taking away from struggling district schools? Are they integrating urban neighborhoods or segregating communities in new way?

Guests:

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

For Michelle Rice’s son, the problems started when he was in fourth grade at a Kansas City charter school.

“He was under the supervision of a teacher who was Caucasian,” Rice says, “and regularly, he was either in the principal’s office or sent to the computer lab.”

The more time Marquelle spent out of class, the further behind he fell, and his behavior problems escalated. Soon, he was receiving out-of-school suspensions for what Rice describes as minor infractions.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Tuesday night, around 70 students from Southwest Early College Campus (SWECC) attended the school’s final graduation ceremony at Unity Temple. They entered the room to "Pomp and Circumstance," dressed in traditional black gowns.

As they took their seats, one seat remained empty in the front row.

“Towards the end of the year, we lost one of our special students,” principal Earl Williams said in the welcome address.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

It’s graduation season for many area high schools. And for one Kansas City public high school, this year’s graduation was the last.

The Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) announced in late February that Southwest Early College Campus (SWECC) would be shutting down after the last day of classes on May 17. 

Courtesy photo / Kansas City Public Schools

More than a week after the election, the Kansas City Public Schools board is complete.

The Kansas City Election board announced Wednesday that John Fierro, Natalie Lewis and Ajia Morris won seats on the board. All three were write-in candidates and so were their only challengers, which delayed the results.

Lewis spent two decades working in the private sector before she became a teacher. She beat architect Albert Ray for the sub-district 1 seat.

Fierro is the president of the Mattie Rhodes Center. He won the in sub-district 3 against Marisol Montero.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Summer is a time that all educators dread to some degree. No matter how well students do during the school year there is generally some slippage during the summer break.

That's especially true in urban districts like the Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS).

The district has expanded its summer school offerings over the past few years and says it expects more students to enroll this summer.

Expectations are high for new Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell and the challenges, including regaining full accreditation, are great.  We visit with the new superintendent on his first visit to the district.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Two things have emerged as Mark Bedell prepares to take over as superintendent for the Kansas City Public Schools; he has plenty of support from the district and he's ready to take over the growing charter school movement in the city.

“I’m very competitive. And we are losing kids to the charter schools so they are a competitor,” Bedell said at a news conference at Paseo Academy.

While Bedell said he would foster a "cordial" relationship with the city's charter schools, he says the district must do better in attracting them to KCPS.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The deal with the new Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) superintendent has been signed and Mark Bedell will take the top job on July 1.

The future of the Kansas City School District is in the hands of write-in candidates. Three of the four races voters will decide on April 5 will be filled by write-in votes. On this edition of Up To Date, we speak with the three people vying for the 5th sub-district seat.

Guests:

Courtesy photo / Kansas City Public Schools

At first, there seemed to be nobody ready to run on the April 5 ballot for three open seats on the Kansas City Public Schools board. Now that's changed dramatically. 

A total of five people have publicly declared write-in candidacies, several coming in the past week. And now two of the races have multiple candidates, lending a sense of belated competition to a campaign that some had feared would be uncontested and, as a result, overlooked. 

A race in Sub-District 5 : Ajia Morris and Catina Taylor

Sam Zeff / KCUR

After three hours of public comment and debate, after numerous parents and teachers fought it, a divided Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) Board of Education voted to make sweeping changes for next school year.

The KCPS plan was two-and-a-half years in the making and failed to get board approval when initially offered in November.

The master plan will move many school boundaries effecting up to 15 percent of the district's students.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Natalie Lewis is eligible to be a candidate for the Kansas City Public School Board. There is no doubt, she says, after a critical deadline was deleted sometime Friday from the district's election notice online. 

"Because of that information, I almost walked away twice. But I knew in the gut of guts and in talking to people that that information was not accurate," she says. 

Courtesy photo / Kansas City Public Schools

Natalie Lewis really wants to be on the Kansas City Public School board. How much? Last week she moved into the district to an apartment just off the Plaza for the express purpose of running for the open seat in Sub-District 1, which covers much of downtown. 

"Yes, it was drastic. But that fact that we had no one on the ballot required a drastic reaction," she says.

A superintendent on the other side of the state has earned the national spotlight for figuring out "how to make school work for poor kids" (as The Washington Post puts it). What's the secret, and could it translate to Kansas City?

Guest:

Sam Zeff / KCUR

A modified master plan for Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) consolidates two east side schools and turns over one of the buildings to the district's charter school partner, a plan that packed parents from the targeted school into the board meeting Wednesday night.

The new plan still closes Southwest Early College Campus and moves its students to East High School. It also still closes Satchel Paige Elementary on east 75th Street.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Kansas City Public Schools officials announced the district's new superintendent Wednesday.

Mark Bedell has been an assistant superintendent in the Baltimore County District for the past four years. He began his career in Houston.

He beat out Ron Taylor, the superintendent in the Willingboro, New Jersey, district.

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