What’s Next for Hale Cook Elementary?

As a real estate agent, I am often asked about the public school districts in the metro area.  It’s no secret that many KCMO families move to Kansas or another neighboring Missouri school district when their kids reach school age.  A recent study by the Kauffman Foundation estimates that less than 10% of the approximately 6000 elementary school aged children living in zip codes 64112, 64113 and 64114 attend a public school. But that’s what Friends of Hale Cook are trying to change. Located at 7302 Pennsylvania, this non-profit group is trying to re-open Hale Cook as a  neighborhood school managed  by  the KCMO district .

So will the school be ready for the 2013-2014 school year?  Too early to say.  Kansas City School Superintendent Steven Green and Mayor Sly James are supportive,  and the  next step is the feasibility study which will be taken to the school board in the fall. Friends of Hale Cook welcome all area residents to take the study–and it’s easy to do.  Just go to the Hale Cook website  and click on the link.  It took me less than five minutes to complete.

Although operated by the KCMO school district, Hale Cook  will feature focused  and  constant parent involvement with volunteers in every classroom. The  advisory board will push to partner with the hiring of the principal and teachers.  Even though the school is still  in the  planning stages,  many teachers who live in the area have contacted the Hale Cook volunteers, expressing  interest in working at the school.

In the meantime, Friends of Hale Cook are maintaining a very visible profile in the community.  Yard signs are visible,  there are regular meetings and events open to the public, and the group has a grant from the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce to grow food on the school grounds for the needy–drive by and see the garden!

Friends of Hale Cook is the best example of a group of parents committed to changing the reputation of the KCMO school district by bringing back this community school. It’s a true grassroots movement. So how will the school district respond? Will they support Hale Cook, cooperate with parents, push through entrenched bureaucracy to get the school open? This will be a test.  The KCMO school board is always talking, talking, talking about ‘getting the community and business leaders involved’ to improve the schools.  Here’s the  opportunity to see if they mean what they say.  Prove it, KCMO school board, by supporting Hale Cook. Embrace the  advisory board, partner with the parents and volunteers. And please voice your opinion by taking part in the survey.

New Neighborhood School? Hale Cook Elementary

It’s well-known that the Kansas City Missouri school district suffers from a poor reputation.  As a real estate agent, I am often asked, ‘what about the schools?’. Answering that one in a diplomatic yet informative way can be a challenge.  I consistently tour houses for sale where the owners want to move to enroll their children in a Kansas school district.  Still, there are options for Brookside/Waldo families…and a group of residents is trying to add another one.

Hale Cook Elementary, at 7302 Pennsylvania, is trying to re-open in the fall of 2011 as a neighborhood school.  It would be operated by the Kansas City MO public school system, with heavy parental involvement.  I believe 300 students need to sign up before the school district will proceed with the details of re-opening the building.  This is GREAT news!

The school would have a pre-K tuition based program, and the elementary classes would run through grade 6.  Boundaries for  the school enrollment: State Line to Holmes, 75th to Brush Creek.  No bussing for these students, but hopefully before and after-school programs, plus art,  music and foreign language classes.  What is so different about Hale Cook is it’s  a community based movement to re-open the school, not a school district directive.  Strong parental input and participation will be expected and required, and these parents will have a say in faculty selection and budget.  Sounds like a promising formula for success.                                                    

Hale Cook Elementary, 7302 Pennsylvania

As a personal interest, I follow education issues closely. My daughter wants to be a teacher, and at one time, I did as well.  In an urban school environment, it’s often the teachers that get the blame for a poor performing student. The pay for performance reform has some merit. I won’t  get into the tenure argument here.  But the emphasis on learning and importance of a good education must come first from the home environment–and that means parents (or guardians) who take an active interest in the child’s education.  By having these local parents band together and actually do something about re-opening a neighborhood school shows the community, and the KCMO school district, that change can happen when parents get involved.  Wouldn’t it be nice if this initiative was coming from the KCMO school district?  Sure.  But I’ll bet you things will move along much faster precisely because the active residents want to make it happen. The big question?  How much of a help — or a hinderance–will the school district be?

Everyone is invited to the Open House at Hale Cook on  Sunday, January 30 from 3-5pm. Stop by, learn more, tour the building,  get involved if you like.  This is the beginning of a story that could provide another option for children in the Brookside/Waldo area.