There is a change coming to the education space in Kansas City, MO. For those of you unfamiliar, Kansas City, MO is a city that boasts not only a robust public school district but a robust public charter school system as well. These two have existed side by side within the same boundaries for nearly twenty years. As a parent, while I appreciate the benefit of so many school choices, the education space can seem a bit crowded to me. What I want most is something different. I am not necessarily interested in newer shinier school offerings so much as I am interested in finding a school that presents me with what I can only call “school as it should be.” I want a school that is easy to navigate, challenges my daughter to be her best self, and welcomes my daughter and our family.
Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy is that something different and I am so happy to have heard about it. It will be the first public all girls charter school in Kansas City, MO and it is opening Fall 2019. Not only is the school unique because of its same sex focus, it is unique because from the very beginning the staff has worked to embed themselves into the community the school plans to serve. Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy is a part of a national school system that was actually conceptualized by a Kansas City native. Mrs. Ann Rubenstein Tisch is the founder of the Young Women’s Leadership Network and was born right here in our city. Her bio on the organization website reads in part,
“Ann’s vision was to provide students growing up in low-income communities with a high-quality college preparatory education modeled upon the finest private schools.”
The foundation of Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy is built on equity and access for girls that might otherwise be overlooked or “pushed out” to borrow a term from Dr. Monique Morris’ work. Mrs. Rubenstein Tisch opened the first school in East Harlem decades ago and now the Young Women’s Leadership Network has blossomed to more than a dozen schools across the country. The purpose of each of these schools is the same. Girls are held to high expectations, given input on school culture/climate, and supported with wraparound services and challenging curriculum as they make their way to college. Their results have been OUTstanding. These women’s leadership schools aren’t just for advantaged girls, they are for every girl and that is the secret to their sauce. This network creates a support system that works hand in hand with families. The schools aren’t just a resource for girls, they are in some cases a lifeline for families and an integrated member of communities.
Listen to their stories here:
In Kansas City, Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy has upheld the standard set by its sister schools. KCGPA staff have worked to organize a series of community listening tours and actively work to solicit feedback from EVERYONE. I have attended several of these meetings (see my write up here) and can attest to the fact that parents, community members, and business professionals are all showing up to give their thoughts on what a girls school might look like in this city. Not only that, they are talking about what an inclusive discipline policy should look like, what role parents could play in daily operation, how the community can help to support the school with its goals and even more topics that are NOT typically up for public discussion during the planning stages of a new school. The support for the idea has been overwhelming.
I can only attribute the positive buzz and productive community meetings to the fact that feedback is taken seriously, stakeholders are followed up with personally, and where possible suggestions are incorporated directly into school plans immediately.
KCGPA is still in the planning stages, so I will have to keep watching and see what becomes of them. Ultimately, the tone they are setting is one that I anticipate will carry to their opening and on through their school existence. They are a breath of fresh air. It isn’t often that a new school offers such a sharp instructional focus, is intentional about engaging communities, and is honestly open for feedback. If you want to check them out, they have another community listening event happening soon!
RSVP here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/kcgpa-community-forum-input-on-facility-options-tickets-46908633987
If you are looking to start doing some intentional community work of your own or just doing some culture change work with your staff. Consider using this future protocol that KCGPA used. It is a great tool and easy to understand.
Remember to lead is to constantly learn, and while others may not tell you the truth, I always will. Parents have more options that ever before. To cut through the noise, listen hard, communicate consistently, and welcome the community that welcomes you. -Dr. Kia
**NOTE** for more pictures of my travels, follow me on INSTAGRAM @drkiacoaches if you would like me to come and write about what you are doing in education, email me your event details at email@example.com