Thursday, January 24, 2008

Airick Leonard West is IN!

Months ago, I wrote about my admiration for Airick Leonard West, the community activist behind Viable Third and other initiatives to change the face of Kansas City and improve the prospects of its poor.

Recently, I learned that he is running for the School Board of the KCMSD. He's running for an at-large seat, so all who live in the District will have the opportunity to cast a vote for him.

It takes courage - or perhaps foolhardiness - to jump into the School Board. He'll face a well-funded opponent, and, if he succeeds, he'll be part of a fractious Board in the midst of seeking yet another Superintendent. It's a tough, thankless job - and one that Airick Leonard West wants to take on for Kansas City.

I won't try to summarize all his views or paraphrase his positions. Go browse around his website and read what he has to say.

If you're like most Kansas Citians, you find it difficult to understand why the District has faced so much turmoil - you just know it's a mess, and probably always will be. Well, Airick isn't convinced it has to be that way. Wouldn't it be wonderful if he were right?

I'm thinking of hosting a blogger/community meet-up to introduce Airick to those who don't know him and allow everyone to rough him up with difficult questions. Even if you don't have children, even if you live outside the district, even if the school district gives you hives, the success of the KCMSD is vital to the success of Kansas City and its suburbs. Would you be interested in coming out and meeting Airick?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm in! I live in JoCo, but if he's the real deal, I'd at least give him a small check to make it happen. I'm tired of bad news in the paper. Let me know when and where.

1/24/2008 7:36 AM  
Blogger DLC said...

I've met Airick once and he is a very thoughtful, selfless and dedicated individual. He is certainly not the type to become jaded and disheartened by the realities of public service. He merits serious consideration from those eager for cooperation and change.

1/24/2008 8:53 AM  
Blogger Janet said...

I'm in.

1/24/2008 9:01 AM  
Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

Will there be beer, womens and those lttle cocktail weenies?

Just kidding. I'd probably come out for that. I had a few exchanges with Airick over on Mark Forsythe's blog regarding the school district. He is very passionate about wanting to fix things, I'll give him that.

1/24/2008 9:33 AM  
Anonymous Brent said...

I've had a lot of email dialogue with Airick, but met him in person for the first time at an event where he was trying to get the signatures/etc to get in the election. I was certainly thrilled with the thinking he has for the position, and the progressive nature of his thinking. Part of me thinks he's foolish for wanting to dive in, but I'd admire him for wanting to make a difference in what is, right now, Kansas City's biggest problem. He has my full fledged support, but if you host something, I'll probably be there.

1/24/2008 9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


If you could post a contact where We could sent contributions I would be thankful. Always glad to support tilting at windmills :-)

1/24/2008 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous -

Here's his contribution page.

If you prefer to send a real check, you can send it to his office:
PO Box 280076
Kansas City, MO 64128


1/24/2008 11:18 AM  
Anonymous Aleks said...

I'm in !

1/24/2008 11:24 AM  
Anonymous Ray Ray said...

Dan said:
"the success of the KCMSD is vital to the success of Kansas City and its suburbs"

So considerying what has taken place over the last 25 years I guess you could say KC is a complete and total failure

1/24/2008 1:56 PM  
Anonymous Parent of a Lincoln Grad said...

Ray Ray -

Not at all. A lot of wonderful children have been taught well by a lot of superb teachers. You are mistaken if you believe that the entire district has been a complete failure. There is a lot of good to build upon.

1/24/2008 1:58 PM  
Anonymous Ray Ray said...

Are you joking? Non-accrediated schools says alot. Sure some kids have survived by what amount the massice majority? Are you suggesting KCMO schools have fullfilled their duty in providing a quality education for a majority of its students for...lets say...the last 20 years?

1/24/2008 6:54 PM  
Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

A school district without accreditation is not a legitimate school district. It's a sham.

It's like a business without a business license.

It's like a lawyer who has been disbarred.

A doctor who has had his license to practice yanked.

A restaurant that has been shut down by the health department but still continues to serve food.

An uninsured contractor.

Parents who knowingly and willingly send their kids to an unaccredited school are doing their children a disservice.

Doesn't matter how well they do or what their grade point average is, other educational systems will look at that and say "Yeah, but that school wasn't even accredited. It lacked the rock bottom, basic qualifications to be legally considered as a place of learning. It's like getting a diploma from a pool hall or a grocery store. It means nothing."

1/24/2008 7:24 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Are you somehow laboring under the mistaken impression that Lincoln is not accredited? What school did YOU graduate from?

1/24/2008 9:06 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Ray Ray -

Did you say that the KCMSD has serious problems? Because I know I would agree with you on that point.

But that's not what you typed, is it? No, you claimed it is a complete and total failure. And my friend who sent her children to one of the very best public high schools in the state, Lincoln College Prep, showed how mistaken you are.

Now you're backpedaling . . .

1/24/2008 9:21 PM  
Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

Dan - I'm not a SME on this subject. So forgive my ignorance.

I know that the KCMSD lost it's State accreditation and has been fighting to get it back.

Are you saying that Lincoln Prep is independently accredited? Is it not part of the KCMSD? I honestly don't know. Just asking.

But if Lincoln Prep IS accredited while the KCMOSD is not, I fail to see how that is relevant to my criticism of the KCMOSD.

If Lincoln Prep is part of the KCMOSD and the KCMOSD is unaccredited, doesn't that make Lincoln Prep unaccredited?

What am I missing

1/24/2008 9:39 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

XO -

Some of the KCMSD schools are separately accredited, and doing a good job of educating kids. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people like you and Ray Ray out there who don't know much about the School District, but don't hold back from throwing out negative, ill-informed opinions. So, parents who are informed and getting their children fine educations in the KCMSD are told that they're practically committing child abuse by sending their kids there. Worse, many parents don't even bother to find out how good some of the schools are.

1/24/2008 10:06 PM  
Anonymous Ray Ray said...

OK Dan, what is the best graduation rate of any of the KCMO high schools? Please educate this poor sapp

1/24/2008 10:13 PM  
Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

Dan - "Some of the KCMSD schools are separately accredited, and doing a good job of educating kids."

I honestly did not know that.

I stand corrected.

"...but don't hold back from throwing out negative, ill-informed opinions..."

Hell, man, that's my bread and butter! LOL!

Seriously, I did not know that there were pockets of accreditation within the unaccreditated school district.

Not sure how that can even work, but I take your word for it. You are closer to the situation than me.

1/24/2008 10:20 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I'd suggest you learn to do your own research, or at least call a library.

1/24/2008 10:20 PM  
Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

Maybe I should skip the Airick Leonard meet.

I'm obviously ill-informed about the KCMOSD and since I don't have any vested interest in the matter, I couldn't possibly add any value.

Y'all have fun.

I'll just stay out here in the suburbs with a daughter enrolled in a AAA rated, fully accredited school district earning straight A's, who has won a Presidential Achievement Award for Academic Excellence, who was chosen to be a Student Ambassador for People to People, Int and spent 3 weeks in Australia, who will be travelling to Washington , DC on an 8th grade field trip this summer, and who is being solicited for the Registry of the Who's Who of Academic Excellence.

I'm such a bad parent for not using her as a social experiment in a failing school district.

I should just move to the Lykins neighborhood and force her to switch schools...ya know, to help out Kansas City and prove a point.

Shame on me.

1/24/2008 11:05 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Perennial clariification on Lincolne Prep:

Lincoln Prep is the best KCMSD public school. Actually, it's one of probably the top 50 public-run high schools in the nation if not better.

Notice I said public-run, not PUBLIC. Entrance is by applicaton only. It's public but it's not.

You see he secret to good education is two things, and they don't involve the kids: good teachers and involved parents.

They get the good teachers at Lincoln; and they get the involved parents, because who motivates and alerts their kids to lincoln and gets them to apply? Or uses their connections to get their kids into lincoln? Involved parents.

And yes my middle kid is going there. But it's not really public.

1/24/2008 11:36 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

I clicked publish instead of preview. Fairly embarrassing to have typos and mispellings on an education post. *sigh*

1/24/2008 11:38 PM  
Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

So basically, all of the involved and engaged parents in the KCMOSD pull all of the strings they have (because they are well connected, affluent, white folk) to get their kids enrolled in Lincoln Prep so that they can claim to be white, progressive, liberal members of the KCMOSD school district while insulating their children from the actual reality of the inner city, ghetto reality.


Well done.

I think I'll stick with my plan.

1/24/2008 11:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I support that joke of a district with my taxes. I'll never send my kids there. It's hard to surround your child with positive influences. I couldn't stomach having to subject my kids to the negative influence of children whose parents are absent from their lives.
Do I want the district to succeed? Absolutely. But there will be no appreciable progress until parents actually learn to play their role.

1/25/2008 2:15 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

XO -

I owe you an apology, but I wasn't quite as much of an ass as I came across last night. The "learn to do your own reasearch" comment, which showed up following your comment in which you asked a few legit questions, was meant for Ray Ray, who asked me about graduation rates among the various schools.

There's not really any shame in not knowing a lot about the KCMSD. The media portray it as a massive failure. Some parents portray it as a massive failure. Often, it IS a massive failure. There is a TON of work that needs to be done. Its accreditation is provisional for a reason.

But, the point I was trying to make, is that there are good things going on, too, and it's wrong to write if off as a complete and total failure, and think the problem is too big to tackle. There are seeds of success (not just Lincoln, either!) to water, and changes that can and should be made.

I'm glad to see 24 comments on a thread about a school board race. I hope you'll come, at least so I can buy you an apology beer. And I hope others will come and continue the conversation.

From any perspective, this is important stuff . . .

1/25/2008 7:24 AM  
Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

Dan - no apology necessary, my friend.

I happened to catch "Up To Date" with Steve Kraske yesterday. The one thing that jumped out at me was how arrogant and combative Marilyn Simmons sounded. Is she typical of the way the other school board members deal with each other and the public?

If so, that explains a lot.

1/25/2008 8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice stereotyping XO, but Lincoln Prep's students are 63% black, 21% white.

Is it that hard for you to believe that a school with a super-majority of inner city black children could perform so well?

And for someone who asked earlier, the graduation rate is about 98%. All this info is available here.

I don't live in the district anymore, but the ignorance of the population at large is astounding. There are some very good schools in the district.

1/25/2008 9:23 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Anon 9:23,

That's a good point. The first exposure I had to the school was with a brother and sister from west Africa that were attending the school.

That's what I find most attractive about the school is the diversity and acedemic excellence.

1/25/2008 9:47 AM  
Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

anon 9:23 - you missed my point entirely. I wasn't suggesting that Lincoln's performance was due to white students. I was suggesting that white parents in the district pull strings to get their kids into Lincoln because it is the best. So they aren't really exposed to the deplorable conditions in the other schools.

The fact that only 13.7% of students in the district are white, but 21% of the students at Lincoln are white would tend to back me up.

1/25/2008 10:10 AM  
Blogger KC Sponge said...

I live in Brookside. My child is in kindergarten at a charter school. I care about my community and know good schools bring about thriving neighborhoods. I want my daughter to be provided with the best education and have the same opportunity as any other kid. I work in the most affluent, successful school district in the metro area - but would never send my child there because of its lack of diversity and parent-fearing, student-coddling administration.

I don't think my daughter deserves any better than any other child out there . . . but we all deserve more than just giving up.

I would love to get the blogosphere together to talk about education - but really to get to know Airick Leonard West. Dan - I would love to help put something together (I'll give up my dreams of a karaoke get together, at least for a little while!) Let me know!!

1/25/2008 11:15 AM  
Anonymous 9:23 Anon, again said...

XO, if that's your point, it sucks. Many, many more black parents "pull strings" to get their kids into Lincoln Prep. So what?

1/25/2008 11:33 AM  
Anonymous Joe Smith said...

I was suggesting that white parents in the district pull strings to get their kids into Lincoln because it is the best.

That is fairly close to the truth. The schools in the district vary widely. Some schools how better principals, teachers, buildings, etc.

It is like 3 out of 4 KCMO district schools are bad. So parents try like hell to get their kid in that 1 out of 4 school.

Lincoln is one of the better schools.

Then you have the charter schools which are not run by the district, so the district wants to kill them at all costs (ie, tons of lawsuits against the state). Having school board members that are not hostile to the charter schools would be nice.

1/25/2008 11:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'll just stay out here in the suburbs with a daughter enrolled in a AAA rated, fully accredited school district earning straight A's, who has won a Presidential Achievement Award for Academic Excellence, who was chosen to be a Student Ambassador for People to People, Int and spent 3 weeks in Australia, who will be travelling to Washington , DC on an 8th grade field trip this summer, and who is being solicited for the Registry of the Who's Who of Academic Excellence.

I'll stick here in KC with a fully accredited school.

That has the highest Missouri Aptitude test scores in the state (in top five in 6 of the areas tested).

That teaches the students to speak a foreign language at a native level.

That has teachers from 5 continents.

That sends their kids to France for spring break.

and has diversified student body.

1/26/2008 12:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done.
I think I'll stick with my plan.

XO. Most white parents DO stick to your plan. Most white parents either move to the suburbs or send their kids to private school.

1/26/2008 12:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you see the cartoon about Tony in the Pitch. I think 2nd page bottom, left side.

1/26/2008 12:37 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Hey everybody.

This is important, and Dan, I'm going to air my complete frustration.

My complete and total frustration.

I'm quite familiar with Mr. West so I don't need a lecture on him from anybody. I'm on board with him and think he would be an excellent Board member.

But he just happens to be running against Bill Eddy, one of the only, if not the only Board member worth anything.

Bill Eddy is actually good.

So we have uncontested seats and seats that are relegated to write-ins, in every other subdistrict and in this one we have two good eggs running against each other.

We really need both of these guys, and now we're forced to choose one.

1/26/2008 9:36 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Tell you what, Dan.

If you want to REALLY help the school board issues, let's do two things:

(1) all potential candidates should be educated on basic campaign tactics, like DON'T GO DOOR TO DOOR FOR SIGNATURES ESPECIALLY IN THE WINTER. Stand in front of grocery stores and other locales in areas where there's a high frequency of registered voters. (In Brookside, Meiners is the location of choice, and people are used to being bugged by signature seekers, and the ownership is supportive) I read that article today about candidate Wilson complaining about going door to door and the trouble of getting signatures. Geesh.

Signtaures are a pain, but anybody can easily get 250 or 500 or whatever if they know how.

(2) Form citizens committees to recruit candidates.

1/26/2008 9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find Airick's web site to be very pretty but little substance and NO information about education, occupation, etc.

1/30/2008 5:54 PM  
Anonymous Student at Lincoln prep said...

Lincoln is one of the very best schools in this district and my parents did NOT have to "pull strings" to get me in. So what if there aren't many white kids like me at my school? It's still got the highest scores for state-wide tests. Also in the Brookside area there is the best elementary school EVER! Ever heard of Border Star Montessori? Well I went there it has some of the BEST teachers, I should know I went there from P3(3-yr-old)to 6th grade. Be nice to my schools!

2/29/2008 8:48 PM  

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