Opinion: Letter to new superintendent

July 2, 2018

Dr. Charles Foust
Union County Public Schools
400 N. Church St.
Monroe, N.C. 28112

Dear Dr. Foust,

First, congratulations on your selection as the next superintendent of the Kansas City, Kansas, School District. It is an extremely important job.

I have lived in the district for nearly 50 years. One of the most important things the district does is educate students who will be ready to join the workforce. Frankly, it is falling way short in that area. The graduation rate is only about 67 percent. And, in looking at those who are awarded high school diplomas, many have to take basic reading and mathematics classes at the community college. Some of these students in remedial classes are graduates of Sumner Academy. Sumner used to be considered one of the best high schools in Kansas. Some graduates went on to earn Phi Beta Kappa honors. Some became medical doctors, engineers, lawyers and doctors of philosophy. From everything learned, it is not the school it was.

The new school board members have chosen you because they believe you are the necessary agent of change. I hope board members made the right decision. The number one concern among business owners and managers in Wyandotte County is the lack of qualified workers. Jobs such as machinists and welders, paying $40,000 a year or more, go begging. I know, this problem is nationwide. However, Dr. Foust, I live and work here. The Kansas City, Kansas, School District spends more than $12,000 a year per student. Simply stated, taxpayers don’t get their money’s worth.

Looking at the history of the district, it generally has had a history of strong leaders in the superintendent’s position. Some of the superintendents have been promoted from within; others have come from the outside. An outsider has a challenge because he or she is unknown. The past few weeks have seen strong support for an internal superintendent candidate, Dr. Jayson Strickland, the deputy superintendent. That will be something to overcome.

In talking with teachers, they are concerned about two basic issues— authority in the classroom and “social” promotions. Until those issues are resolved, I doubt that much improvement will be made.

I watched the presentation that you made when you visited here. I am concerned that you may not move your family here. That would be unfortunate. Living here would set an example in encouraging other educators and their families to live in the district.

Among urban districts, there are some positive aspects in Kansas City, Kansas. Voters recently overwhelmingly approved a capital improvement bond issue. Unlike many urban districts, our physical plants are in good shape and our enrollment is growing.

I look forward to meeting you.

Sincerely,

Murrel Bland
Executive Director
Business West

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New stores opening at Legends Outlets

The Legends Outlets will add Rack Room Shoes this summer, according to a spokesman for the center.

The new 5,700-square-foot store will be the first Rack Room Shoes in the Kansas City area, according to the spokesman. It is part of a national chain.

The store will carry footwear for men, women and children, with national bands and exclusive private labels, according to the spokesman. The shoes will range from casual, dress, comfort and athletic styles.

While there is not an exact date yet for the store opening, special sales and giveaways are planned for the opening weekend, the spokesman said.

The new Rack Room Shoes will be in Suite T-107, on the east end of the shopping center, near Eddie Bauer Outlet and Old Navy Outlet.

Michael Kors Outlet also opened recently, according to the spokesman. The only area Kate Spade Outlet and HomeGoods opened at Legends Outlets earlier this year.

The Michael Kors Outlet opened Thursday, June 28, with a designer, upscale luxury handbag and accessory line, the spokesman said.

Most of the Michael Kors Outlet items are women’s accessories and handbags, according to the spokesman. The new store is on the west end of the center, in one of the newly constructed spaces near the Kate Spade and Coach stores.

There are a lot of new sights to see at the Legends Outlets, including a new video board that is up and running near the west side of the shopping center, the spokesman said.

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Column: Businesses need qualified workers

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Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

Gov. Jeff Colyer said that as he travels the state of Kansas, the number one concern he encounters from business owners and managers is the severe lack of qualified employees.

The governor, who spoke at a luncheon meeting of the Congressional Forum Friday, June 15, at Children’s Mercy Park, said he has appointed a Governor’s Education Council to face this issue. He praised Kansas City Kansas Community College and its Technical Education Center that is training people and issuing certificates in critical skill areas. The governor said there presently are 52,000 job openings in the state.

Gov. Colyer said that to meet the challenges that businesses require, schools will have to reinvent themselves. He said this will require schools to examine many things including what and when they teach. It also will require an emphasis on soft skills such as showing up on time.

The governor said the state is at the “intersection of Kansas smart and Kansas nice.” He said the state is in the middle of the country, a strategic location that is a very definite advantage. Earlier that day, he was at an industrial park in Edgerton and told of the Kubota tractor company which has located there because of the central location.

The governor also talked about 74 opportunity zones including census tracts in the eastern part of Wyandotte County. A federal law, passed last year, allows qualified businesses to build in these areas and be exempt from capital gains taxes. He said he has talked to Mayor David Alvey and potential developers about such areas.

Gov. Colyer told about an innovative success story concerning an opportunity zone in downtown Goodland, a city in northwestern Kansas. They are training people who write software code, starting in kindergarten and continuing through community college. They have attracted software companies that pay 30-year-olds $75,000 a year.

Craig Gaffney, the chairman of the Kansas City, Kansas, Area Chamber of Commerce, thanked the governor for recently meeting with a delegation from the chamber and listening to its legislative agenda.

Colyer became governor on Jan. 31 this year when Sam Brownback resigned to become the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Colyer is a medical doctor who served in the Kansas House of Representatives and Kansas Senate. He also is a volunteer who serves with the International Medical Corps. He and his wife Ruth have three daughters.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.

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