Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities



I know that not all of my readers are from the KC area, so let me give you a little background on this post.

Kansas City is west of I-435, Independence is east of I-435. There are boundry subtleties, but for the most part, that's the divider.


View Larger Map

For several years, Kansas City, MO and Independence, MO have been battling over 7 schools just east of I-435 and the attendant 2500 students.

The Kansas City School District is a fucking mess. Has been for decades. The district was the subject of a desegregation lawsuit filed way back in 1977. Somewhere along the way, the Kansas City School District was given control of 7 schools in western Independence.

In the following years, the Kansas City School District continued its death spiral and dragged those 7 schools along with it.

On May 1 (yes, that would be MAYDAY), 2000, the Missouri Board of Education stripped the Kansas City School District of its accreditation.

Eight years later the district remains unaccredited, while the Independence School district is not only accredited (the lowest common denominator for even being allowed to call yourself a "school district"), but they are one of the best school districts in the metro area.

The residents of western Independence and Sugar Creek have been battling for years to get their schools back from the failed Kansas City School District.

On November 6, 2007, voters in both the Kansas City and Independence school districts voted to return the disputed schools to the Independence School District.

Since that vote, the Kansas City School District has been throwing itself on the floor, kicking it's feet, and screaming like a little bitch while the district's pimps (attorneys) have been fighting tooth and nail to extract as much cash as possible out of the deal.

Fuck the kids, just fill our bank accounts and line our pockets!

Independence finally got access to the schools in June. Although even then, KCSD personnel tried to obstruct the access by calling the police and having the Independence officials kept out.

After getting full access to the schools, officials were appalled by the conditions they found. In a nutshell, the schools had been left untouched and unmaintained for 20 years. Just like Kansas City. Shit was just falling apart, paint was peeling, pipes were leaking and dead rats littered the floors.

The schools needed to be ready to open by August 18.

In contrast to the decades of neglect and indifference by the unaccredited Kansas City School District, the citizens of Independence came together as a community to fix the problems caused by its dysfunctional neighbors to the west.

They held an Extreme School Makeover.

"Lifting Hammers. Lifting Spirits.

The Independence School District wants YOU for the Extreme School Makeover weekend slated for July 26th and 27th. Our goal is to unify the community in an effort to refresh and revitalize the school buildings for students returning this fall as students of the Independence School District. This is a unique opportunity for you to make a true positive impact in the lives of our children and our community and all it takes is a few hours of your time!"


I decided to get out today and do some eye witness reporting on what a community of concerned parents can do for the sake of their children.

I paid a visit to Nowlin Middle School and Van Horn High school, just to see how many volunteers actually turned out.

I could barely find a place to park at either school.

There wasn't anywhere, in either school, that wasn't bustling with the activity of industrious, concerned citizens, struggling to restore these neglected schools to the conditions that students deserve.

I have never seen a coordinated community effort of this magnitude. It was incredible.

This is the defining difference between someplace like Kansas City and Independence.

Kansas City citizens like to stand in circles, in front of TV cameras, holding candles, doing nothing but crying, whining, complaining, blaming other people and talking about racism and white priveledge.

Independence citizens get people off their fucking asses, rally around a common cause and get shit done!

Here are a bunch of pictures of people who care about their kids, working in upperwards of 95 degree heat and swamp-like humidity, with no air conditioning, for no pay, to fix what Kansas City fucked up.

(As always, click the pic to embiggen!)























This fall, 2500 students will see the difference between a divisive urban populace that gave up on itself decades ago, and a connected suburban community that still believes that concerned and involved citizens can make a difference.

Links:

American School & University

Standoff' slows transfer of schools from KC to Independence

Benson & Associates

Money And School Performance:
Lessons from the Kansas City Desegregation Experiment


Kansas City school district loses accreditation

Independence Gives Schools an Extreme Makeover

Lifting Hammers. Lifting Spirits.

7 comments:

Spyder said...

Very cool! Good post!

Le Grand Lapin said...

Great post. I had the privilege of working on the Independence School District annual report several times, and got to see the workings of the system and teachers up close. If I had school-age kids again, I wouldn't hesitate to trust them to the Independence schools.

Nightmare said...

this has always been my argument for not wanting to live in downtown. I can never figure out why shit gets so bad and no one will fix it. Communities build affordable housing for people and they fucking wreck it. Communities build great schools for people and subsidize it so EVERYONE can go and they fucking let it crumble under their feet. And they don't even teach. I asked a group of 20 year old temps, there was about 25 of them who Winston Churchill was and only one guy knew and he was 43 years old. They all attended inner city schools.

DLC said...

Wow, that looks like a lot of hard work! Of course meth does give one quite a burst of energy...

Keith Sader said...

You know this is just a failure of imagination of the KCMO school district. I can't believe that they couldn't get the same type of turn out had they just had the audacity to ask parents to volunteer for one or two days at their kid's schools.

Suzanne Karmin said...

That is AWESOME! So good too see people in this town taking pride and ownership in their schools.

Joy! said...

This is so wonderful! And too, so sad that the schools were allowed to fall into such disrepair. Good on Independence for setting it straight. I'm in awe of your community.