KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City charter school is fighting for survival in front of a state judge today.The hearing was supposed to last a day, but will go into Friday. Supporters are hoping the judge will allow the school to regain its charter and reopen the school this fall.
The State Board of Education rejected Gordon Parks Elementary School’s charter in the spring citing poor test scores. But supporters of the school say it shouldn’t be judged on test scores alone. Now one of the school’s vocal supporters isn’t a teacher or parent, just a concerned citizen. A well-known concerned citizen.
James B. Nutter is a big name in the mortgage world in Kansas City, but Nutter Senior is also passionate about educating kids. He’s been a Gordon Parks school supporter for years.
“To think that their charter was taken away from them is almost a crime,” he said.
Nutter says at first he was disappointed when test scores didn’t immediately improve, but he’s come to see the struggle at Gordon Parks as a marathon, not a sprint.
“They’re asking us to fix it in a few years, it can’t be done,” he said, “when you went home you went to a safe place, that’s what home was to you. When they go to their home, their place, many times it’s hell.”
Nutter have saved a collection of poems from Gordon Parks kids, and says they help illustrate the uphill struggle these kids face. Poems like this one:
Daddy died, I was 5
Momma went to jail, I was 5
Poppa went to jail, I was 5
Uncle went to jail, I was 5
Being 5 was not perfect for me. I was sad and my world was black.
Nutter says he talked to bus drivers for kids at the school and found out that the kids are always happy and excited when they go to school everyday. But when they go home, they’re sad and sullen, because many of them are returning to difficult situations.
“A boyfriend threw this kids mother out the window, threw her out the window! And fortunately she wasn’t killed but think what it did to him when he went to school the next morning,” Nutter said.
Nutter has been to the school and saw first hand how the kids at Gordon Parks thrive while in the safety of the school walls. He says he’s just one of many big names in Kansas City who have now joined in the fight to help save the school.
“Your grades didn’t improve so we’ll get rid of ya, it’s like getting rid of the kid,” said Nutter.
In Thursdays court hearing, Gordon Parks’ attorney claims the state board’s vote to withdraw the charter was “unlawful” and never took into account the school’s mission of serving the most at-risk students. The hearing will continue Friday and the judge could make a ruling then.