Letter to the editor

Dear editor:

Kansas City, Kansas, public schools have a tradition of steady improvement and stability that has been honored by both the Kansas State Board of Education and National Association of School Boards.

For example, the Kansas Department of Education (KSDE) has a comprehensive measure of expectations and progress for each district in the state. It takes many socioeconomic factors into account, looks at graduation rates as well as students’ post-secondary pursuits, and arrives at a predicted effective rate which is compared to the actual five-year effective average.

In the current Postsecondary Progress Report for Kansas City, Kansas, (2013-2017), the actual five-year effective average is 5.5 points above the predicted effective rate. What is more, the graduation rates steadily rise in the same period. So in those years, the district exceeded expectations and produced steady improvement.

Furthermore, the rich history of progress has led this remarkable community to celebrate our cultures, embrace economically challenged families, and a large population of people just learning about living in the United States. We believe in public education, raised our own children in these schools and support the district in every way we can.

Regrettably, the tradition was harshly interrupted after the election of 2017. Under the direction of then board president, Valdenia Winn, the newly elected board hired a superintendent who is reluctant to live in our school district, who shows little curiosity about our community, its challenges and strengths, and whose brief tenure has resulted in low morale among employees and many resignations and retirements. The executive administration is now dominated by new hires from out of state.

At public community meetings, this superintendent dismisses our history of collaboration and collective responsibility. The KSDE measure of expectations and progress is not yet available for this new administration. Given the results under Valdenia Winn, we are grateful that the current board of education chose in August to elect Maxine Drew as its president. Ms. Drew is a lifelong resident who taught in the KCK schools for 35 years. She represents a link to our tradition of steady improvement and stability.

Now it is the voters’ turn. Many citizens of KCK are talking about the election on Nov. 5. Citizens like us are coalescing into an informal group we call Voters 4 Success. We are concerned about restoring collaboration and dedication to our schools. Of the 11 candidates on the ballot for 4 seats, we believe these are the most qualified. And we believe they will approach the board with a commitment to teamwork, both among the board members and with the staff and larger community.

Janey Humphries is a hardworking incumbent focused on graduating all students prepared for their futures. Randy Lopez is a servant leader and dedicated civic volunteer with a master’s degree in public administration who works for a local nonprofit organization. Yolanda Clark is a parent with a passion for our community, focused on the success of all students, who works in the financial industry and has as strong background in business. Monica Crowe is a community activist and parent who served on the School Bond committee that led to nearly 80 percent of the voters supporting our schools in 2016, and former Kansas state chair of the Kansas PTA.

With these four additions, the KCK board of education can get back to steady improvement and stability for the success of our students.

Sally and Ramon Murguia
Kansas City, Kansas

McKenzie Breidenthal

Letter to the editor

My fellow Kansas City, Kansas, residents,

In the recent months, I have been listening to and reflecting on the discourse in our community. The conversations serve as a reminder of the difficulties of transitions in all that we encounter in life.

“It’s not so much that we’re afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it’s that place in between we fear … It’s Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There’s nothing to hold on to.” (Marilyn Ferguson)

Perhaps these words describe where we are as a community, as a school district, somewhere in between what we know to be true, and the part we each play in our collective journey.

Recently, I stood with our community to dedicate our newest middle school to an educator, a mentor, and certainly a legend, Gloria Willis. Mrs. Willis always knew what to say and do in times of transition and change. Thinking of Gloria Willis reminded me that we have much to hold on to. Throughout her life, she modeled the importance of service before self. Her message was clear: We are all collectively responsible for the success of our students and our schools. Throughout her years of service to the district, Gloria Willis was always a fierce advocate for all children and their families.

Gloria Willis’s actions and decisions underscored that our greatest concern must be the education and welfare of all children, and that decisions must be carefully considered and in the best interests of all. She focused on the strengths of our school district, while working in partnership with board members, administrators, and the community to address acknowledged challenges. She insisted on working in collaboration with community agencies and faith-based organizations, frequently stating that we are all collectively responsible for the success of our students. Gloria Willis understood the enormous impact the Board of Education can have when it functions as a team. A team focused on the tremendous responsibility to set forth the vision and direction of the schools, allocate resources to achieve the vision, establish policies, and monitor progress. She embraced this role, serving with dignity, integrity, and grace.

In just a few weeks, we will come together as a community to elect four members to serve on our Board of Education. As we do so, let’s all take a moment to reflect on the lessons learned from Gloria Willis as we give our support to the next generation of board members. There is much to hold on to. It’s up to us to embrace our collective responsibility to the future of our children. Our community deserves it, and our kids are counting on it.


Dr. Cynthia Lane

KCK resident

American Royal hopes to break ground next spring

by Murrel Bland

If all goes well, the American Royal could break ground on its new complex in Village West during the spring of 2020.

That was the message that Glenn Alan Phillips brought to about 35 persons who attended the 34th annual meeting of Business West at the home of Nathan and Erin Reasons Wednesday, Sept. 18.

Phillips, who recently joined the American Royal Association as its president, was the keynote speaker at the meeting.

He said the Royal is a nonprofit organization that has a 120-year history of being focused on entertainment and education.

It was founded in 1899 and has always been in the West Bottoms of Kansas City, Missouri.

The move to Village West comes because of the need for new and larger quarters; that is particularly true when considering the Royal’s traditional livestock and horse show.

Phillips said the new complex will be an ideal location for a variety of food and agriculture events.

He said the Royal will create a learning experience unlike any other.

Because of its central location, the Royal will become the hub of agriculture; it will attract agriculture industry leaders, associations and entrepreneurs.

Phillips said that the American Royal Barbecue competition, being held at the Kansas Speedway, is the largest event of its type attracting nearly 500 teams.

He said it has not been determined whether the barbecue event will be moved to the new Royal complex.

Phillips said the new complex will be near 118th Street and State Avenue.

Phillips comes from San Antonio Stock and Rodeo organization where he spent 15 years; he received a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Texas A & M University and a master’s degree from Angelo State University.

Business West elected its officers and directors for the coming year. They are Donna Tilden, president; Melissa Brune Bynum, president-elect; Brent Lathrom, treasurer; Chuck Stites, past president; directors who will serve two-year terms, Tami Bartunek, Kathleen Meyers Baska, Sheryl Raglow Becker, Rusty Roberts and Pam Rowe; and those directors who will continue to serve another year, Earl Freeman, Joe Maderak, Dr. Jane Winkler Philbrook, Nathan Reasons and Linda Wolford.

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