Saturday, September 22, 2007

School District Shifting

School District Shifting

I grew up in Independence, Missouri. Even though our home was about as far east as you could get, our family was always connected with the western part of town. Part of this was because we attended church in western Independence, just north of Van Horn High School. From the time my Aunt moved off the Independence Square, she lived in Fairmount and then near Hill Park. My family's pharmacy was BB Super Drug in Maywood. My doctor's office was in Englewood, as was my dentist's office. You really aren't aware of such things when you're growing up, but I did notice several things. First, my family and one other was the only family at our church with young children. And, more to the point, my family didn't live near the church. I also noticed the stores in Fairmount, Maywood and Englewood lost long-time tenants like the Chevy dealer, the bowling alley, and even Jerry's Restaurant. What I didn't realize when I was growing up was that I was seeing the economic impact of home-owner's perception of the Kansas City School District.

So, am I surprised that the people of Sugar Creek, Maywood, Englewood, and people all up and down the Sterling Road corridor are fighting to leave the Kansas City School District? Absolutely not. I'd guess the majority of the people living in this area didn't live there when the community was vital. They likely didn't live there before busing changed the dynamics of the neighborhood. I think many people who support the move understand that Independence School District students performs much, much better than Kansas City students. Although it is a simple and false argument for some to say "Independence schools should be in Independence." If people really though that was the true point, then Independence needs to get to work and deannex parts of the Blue Springs, Fort Osage and Raytown school districts. That's not the point at all. These other school districts that serve Independence graduate students who perform.

I think the combination of poor school and student performance, poor home resale values, imploding commercial districts, and finally, the Hancock circuit breaker assured this issue would come to the forefront. The Hancock Amendment requires all other taxing districts to roll back tax levies so that revenues don't grow faster than inflation. The KC Desegregation case said that the District was exempt from Hancock roll backs, unlike the Independence, Raytown or Fort Osage school districts. This means that the tax rate in the Kansas City School District increases faster than inflation. This isn't about keeping all Independence in one school district. It is about everything else.

What I'd suggest is that the KC School District should be concerned about south Kansas City and the areas bounding the Raytown, Grandview and Center school districts. I see the start of the same types of declines that I saw as a boy around my church. If Independence is successful, I think the Kansas City School District could become much smaller on all sides. And, frankly that's exactly what may be needed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello, Steve:

When a five-year-old in Independence in 1960, my personal physician was one "Dr. Gard," a general practitioner whose office was located at the northeast quadrant of the intersection of Truman Road and Sterling Avenue. Gard was a Pearl Harbor survivor, and one heck of a nice guy and a good, sound physician. My dentist from 1959-1964, one James Callahan--a carrot-topped Irishman with strong smoker's breath--kept office just west of Gard's location on Truman Road, in Englewood. For a short and unhappily turbulent period in 1991, I worked for "Jerry's Restaurant" (Fairmount) as a bartender, while attending graduate school. The area you've mentioned here was once quite prosperous, and photographs of it are liberally published throughout the yellowed pages of my father's and mother's WWII-era William Chrisman High School yearbooks ("The Gleam"). A thirty-year resident of the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks, I'm a bit distressed to hear that the Fairmount-Englewood area is declining. My mother for decades loved to tell stories of the "rich kids" who lived in the Englewood neighborhood, as well her tale of her first visit to an air-conditioned Fairmount indoor theater during the Depression, an occasion on which she and friends enjoyed Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein monster in James Whale's legendary 1931 classic. In my boyhood our family frequently consumed $6 lobster tails at nearby "Morgan's Restaurant" (just east of the Maywood Bowl, and left on the road running parallel with Missouri Pacific railroad tracks) and bowled in league play at Maywood (1959-1962).

--Mark Leibold, Fayetteville, Arkansas