Many of us have tried in countless ways to reverse the decline of Kansas Citys public schools, and I admit that we have often failed. But one effort, driven by an independent group of educators, and supported in part by private donors, gives us hope.
By JAMES B. NUTTER SR.
Special to The Star
After spending years working at Operation Breakthrough, Kansas Citys heralded early education child care and social services center, volunteers Dorothy Curry and Sue Jarvis recognized that once preschoolers left the nurturing environment of Operation Breakthrough, they were too often thrown back into chaos and lost in the public education system. The idea for Gordon Parks Elementary School was born. And since its beginning 14 years ago, Gordon Parks has been doing something different and amazing for hundreds of Kansas Citys most at-risk kids.
The administrators, teachers and support staff at Gordon Parks are personally and professionally dedicated to saving kids from generational poverty, violence, crime and drugs. They are out to save kids lives literally. And they are succeeding.
At Gordon Parks, they dont just teach kids, they teach them how to learn in a safe and nurturing environment.
To appreciate the impact and positive influence Gordon Parks has on these kids, it is important to first understand who they are and where they come from.
Children arrive at Gordon Parks as witnesses to worlds of chaos. They mostly come with limited and tainted vocabularies and stunted math and social skills. About 98 percent of the students qualify for free- or reduced-price meals. Some 15 percent are special education students. Both numbers exceed those of Kansas City Public Schools.
To see and hear the stories of these childrens challenges and successes, go to SaveGordonParks.com. I dont care how tough or jaded you are, I guarantee their stories will bring tears to your eyes.
The Missouri State Board of Education recently voted against renewing the state charter for Gordon Parks. I believe this was a terribly wrong decision. Closing the school will spell hell for a generation of kids who have a chance to learn and grow and succeed at Gordon Parks.
We simply cannot allow these kids to fall back through the cracks, and back to chaos. These kids need Gordon Parks.
A final decision on whether to extend Gordon Parks charter is to be made in the coming days. State regulators need to realize that a grave mistake has been made, fix it and allow Gordon Parks to continue serving Kansas Citys most at-risk kids.
In the coming years, the dedicated staff at Gordon Parks is pledged to give these kids the best opportunities to learn that theyve ever had. I and others have committed to privately finance extra teachers and mentors so that class sizes at Gordon Park can be smaller, the teaching even more effective and the test results better.
When you look inside those kids heads a year or two from now, youre going to see something different. Youre going to see a growing bank of knowledge. Youre going to see young brains that can score higher on a test.
But more importantly, youre going to see youthful imaginations that include futures of opportunity and success.
Please, give these kids that future. Extend the life of Gordon Parks.
James B. Nutter Sr. of Kansas City is the chairman of James B. Nutter & Co..