Parents meet with consultant group about school changes

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- CEE-Trust, the organization hired by the state of Missouri to help reform the education system in Kansas City, met with parents on Tuesday morning. Discussions were held about the proposal to transform Kansas City Public Schools and replace it with a system of independent, non-profit school operators.

"I'm worried about what's to come because I have a kindergartener!" said Liane Gary, one of many parents concerned about her children's future.

"Some schools are falling behind, while other schools are moving ahead," Liane added, "Some kids are falling through the cracks. They're so worried about getting accredited that they're not taking care of the kids that aren't up to speed."

CEE-Trust said it met with parents throughout its research process to better identify the conditions necessary for creating school excellence in Kansas City.

"We've decided to reconvene the focus group to go through the draft of our plan that was reached yesterday, and get their feedback so we can make it even better for the final presentation," said Ethan Gray, the founder of CEE-Trust. "It's been very important for us to get the perspectives of parents, educators, community stakeholders, and others on the ground who really know the schools and know the children well," Gray added.

He feels some of the elements of the CEE-Trust plan will appeal to many.

"We heard there was a strong desire for schools to be able to provide wrap-around services for children who are growing up in poverty, so we've given much more budgetary authority to schools to enable them to use the resources as they see fit," he said, "We heard over and over again a desire to be able to have access to high quality preschool, so we've been able to allocate 28 million dollars to be able to provide every three and four-year-old in the city with high quality preschool."

Statistics show 70% of children in KCMO are below proficiency in reading and math.

"When children aren't being given the opportunities they need to thrive, I think the community has an obligation to come together to explore as many ideas as they can," said Gray.

Although the CEE-Trust plan is experimental, parents are hopeful that it helps turn things around in the education system.

"Every great program has to start somewhere!" said Liane.

There will be more public community meetings in the upcoming weeks, so community members can comment on these plans and all other plans the state is considering for intervention.

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