Greeted by mixed reception, Secy. of Education Betsy DeVos visits metro as part of nationwide tour

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is visiting the Kansas City area. It's part of a nationwide tour looking at how some schools are rethinking education. Her visit is being both welcomed and protested.

A group with Indivisible KC protested Thursday afternoon as Betsy DeVos met with leaders at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park. While DeVos' stances on education are controversial, schools hosting her visits are hoping to be a positive influence.

There's not much about Kansas City Academy that looks and feels like an average school.

"It's like home to me, and we're one big family. Everybody supports one another and it's very art oriented so we can all express ourselves," said KCA student Jamie Tadlock.

The small private school is tucked away in a Waldo neighborhood. It's been around more than 30 years, and is the only independent school in Kansas City offering expeditionary learning.

"Here, everything is connected. Art is connected to math and English and science," said Tadlock.

The school's culinary program is a good example.

"We like to say we're changing the world," said Mark Zukaitis the school's head chef.

Kids learn not just how to plan a meal and cook lunches for the whole school, in the kitchen they're also incorporating math, science, history and even foreign languages.

"Public schools can't figure out how to take time out of each of those classes to have culinary arts. I think that's why we're seeing a visitor tomorrow that wants to see how nutrition can fit into every classroom and be part of everyone's day," said Zukaitis.

That visitor is US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. She will tour the arts and culinary programs at KCA Friday.

"I'm excited for her to come and I think it'll be a great experience," said Tadlock.

Other students have concerns.

"My gut reaction was one of distaste. I couldn't really wrap my head around why we'd let her in in the first place," said student Case Williams.

But Williams now sees the DeVos visit as an opportunity.

"I let the inspiration find me," said Williams, describing some artwork.

Williams is hoping DeVos, who reversed Obama era policies for transgender students, will see KCA's environment and realize it is one that can offer highly effective education.

"I think an issue we have in our public school system is that we try to repress that in students. There's only one way to do things. There's only one way to learn. And I think from being here, I would hope she'd learn there's a whole lot of different ways students learn and there's a lot that goes into how they learn," Williams said.

Some students at Kansas City Academy are still planning a peaceful protest Friday morning before Secretary DeVos arrives. Host schools just hope what the Secretary sees and learns will allow her to go back to DC better prepared to tackle issues facing the nation's schools.

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