Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gimme a K, Gimme a C, Gimme an MSD!!

Elections are games. They have winners, they have losers. They have brutal plays that leave players injured and the better-trained and naturally-talented are usually the victors. With only the press and community as the referees, some really dirty games get played. Depending on which team you are cheering for, you are either dejected or elated as victory is declared. But in the upcoming April 6th election for the Kansas City Missouri School Board, because the kids in the stands deserve the best, because this game has a few more viewers as a result of some busted brackets of its own, and because the future of my city and the future of my own kids' education depends on it, I want to make absolutely sure that I am rooting for the right team.

Like all games, some players are playing for the love of the sport, some are playing because it gets them through school, some are playing because they want to go pro, and some are playing for the endorsements and fame. They all get fans in their own way. Elections are different than regular games in that their fan base determines their success. So, I'm going to cheer from the sidelines and hope like hell I can get the stands to call back . . .

The most important race going on is the one for the 2 at large seats. Its a cage match between the Black United Front School Board Slate with Cokethea Hall and Kenneth Hughlon and Freedom, Inc - endorsed Kyleen Carroll and Crispin Rea. Carroll and Rea have also been endorsed by KCU4EA (Kansas Citians United for Educational Achievement). The other 2 people running for the seats are Rose Marie Bell and Robert (Bob) Peterson.

Like the full court press brought out 6 minutes too late in the KU/UNI game, things are getting heated and fouls are a-flying with the election just a couple weeks away.

I got wind of an email circulating around parents from my daughter's school, Academie Lafayette. AL is a charter school that is busting at the seams and the parents there want to make sure the schools that the district is going to lose because of the Right Sizing plan will be available for purchase by the 'competitor' schools in the district (i.e. charter and private schools). At a forum held in the school's auditorium last month, 4 of the at-large candidates were there (The Black Front was United in its absence). The big question was if elected to the board, would they vote to sell unused school buildings to charter schools . . . I was keeping time for the forum and paying close attention to my stop watch, but I got the gist of what was said, and the impressions that each answer gave.

The 5 candidates and one board member on the panel that night pretty much agreed - in their own language and bound by their own campaign message - that the school board would have to sell their buildings. Some, out of naivety or maybe keen political sense, were a little more enthusiastic to the crowd of mostly charter parents. But, there was nothing said or implied (that I was aware of) that would have urged someone to send out a message with this quote:

"If you want Académie Lafayette to have a new building (possibly buy one of the unused KCMSD buildings) then it would be advised not to vote for either Kyleen or Crispin. They do not want to sell buildings to charter schools.
At the recent forum that was held at the school, 2 of the at-large candidates in attendance did support selling KCMO school buildings to charter schools.
Those two candidates are Rose Marie Bell and Robert Peterson."

So, therefore, there are 3 options for sources of this email:

1. Strong supporter of either Rose Bell of Bob Peterson. Both are very great candidates and wonderful people that would be great on the board. If I knew either personally, I would believe that they could do great things for the school district. I would send out an email to all of my friends to get them to vote for them, especially when the big endorsements are headed in other directions.

2. A pro-charter parent who thinks that their child's education is the most important issue when it comes to the school board. A parent that wanted to hear 'yes, duh, of course we'll sell you whatever building you'd like' without thinking about the repercussions on the community or the impact it has on the district as a whole, or even the feasibility of the proposition. A parent to whom 'right now' is not quick enough.

3. Someone who wants to split the vote. Not being a fan of running the clock, or intentional fouling - just play the game, folks! - I hope this is not the case. But I can not help but suspect that this is a keen political move on the Black United Front's part to take a big, voting constituent - the politically-active Brookside choice-school parents - and split the vote between the 4 opponents to their candidates.

I personally support Kyleen and Crispin, two totally different candidates, but both strong enough and flexible enough to be great team players. Please spend some time looking into the candidates yourself, because this is one game we can't afford to lose!

Email lists for the candidates and campaign managers.

Pitch article on Kyleen Carroll

Pitch article on Crispin Rea

Pitch article on Ross Bell... I like Rose Bell.

Pitch article on Robert Peterson

Pitch article on Cokethea and Kenneth These two candidates highlight what the Kansas City school district can turn out when they get the job right. They have already accomplished great things in life and will go on to do even better. Their alignment with the Slate and resistance to the superintendent gives me great reluctance to support them in this election.

Tony's post on Freedom, Inc's endorsements

Dan Ryan's post at KCFreepress on the 6 at-large candidates

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Trust Me.

I trust people. A little too much, but I do. I like the freedom it affords me. I like being able to leave my house and not worry that all the windows are locked. I like not having to gather all my belongings when I go to the bathroom at the library. I like being able to look at and listen to people without cynicism. I have been burned a couple of times, and it hurts like hell, but it has honed my Street Smarts and I can be a little more cautious, yet remain steadfast in my carefree, trusting ways.

So, this past summer, when I was pulling into the Wendy's to get some late night snacks before a marathon of t-shirt making, and a lady in the parking lot flagged me down - I stopped. It changed my life forever.

Her name was Sandy, just like mine but spelled differently. She had three kids and just wanted to get back to them. She didn't want money, she just wanted a ride.

It didn't feel right, and anyone else would have just continued to the drive thru with a "Sorry" and a "Good Luck". But her name was Sandy. She was middle-aged and overweight. I was pretty sure I could take her in a fight - I definitely could have won a Indian Leg Wrestling match (I size everybody up for a good ILWM). She had sad eyes and I thought I could give her something that would make that go temporarily away.

I should have known when I smelled the alcohol as soon as she took the front seat, but she was homeless and I was taking her back to the shelter, so that would be unfair. I should have known when the look of relief that I was expecting just continued as a look of despair, but who wouldn't be desperate when forced to rely on strangers? I should have known when my stomach lurched as I drove onto the unlit highway, but that would've let fear control me. So, I drove on to a shelter I knew existed with a woman who needed my help - whose kids would go to bed hungry, but they'd at least have their mom to tuck them in.

It was about a 15-20 minute drive to The Anthony House. I tried to fill the time with chatty banter that I have never been good with. I was picking Elle up at the airport the next day so I was telling her that I couldn't wait to see my baby. My other baby.

"Oh, you have more kids?" Sandy asked.

"Yeah, my 3 month old is in the backseat."

She started crying.

It was the scariest moment of my life. I knew then that I had been scammed. Wasn't sure how, but I needed to take control of this situation.

I asked her about her kids. She told me she was a bad mom and didn't know how she was going to go on. I told her that I would give her my 6 dollars that I had so that she could put gas in her car and take them to Orlando the next day. There was a shelter there that would help her. We all have hard times that challenge us, but we humans are strong and us moms are even stronger.

She told me she couldn't take my money, then what would I use to eat with. I told her I had friends and family in town and they would take care of me. It was late, I could just go to bed. Didn't I have a debit card, she asked.

I started crying. She asked me why I was crying. I told her it was because I couldn't do anything more to help her. But I was crying because I was the bad mom. I put my baby in danger. I was scared as hell.

I took my phone out and pretended to look at my map. I wanted to call for help. I wanted to type out a note to Elle and my mom and my sisters and my husband. I wanted to push the Ejector Seat button and get this lady out of my life. We were 2 minutes away.

I kept calling her by her name and telling her a story which was far from my reality, but probably much closer to hers. I told her I had come from a bad place and had finally started my ascent from the deepest hole - the one where you don't think you can escape from. But I had done it - and she could, too. I talked about a God I hadn't much thought about in 10 or more years.

We got to the shelter. There was a house right before it where her kids were sleeping, and the car she described as being the one that was out of gas. As I was pulling into the open parking lot, I remembered a bag of food that I had left over from our road trip from Kansas City just a few days before. I handed it to her and told her that her kids didn't have to go to bed hungry after all.

She thanked me and got out of my car.

The wave of relief that started with the slamming of the door was frozen solid as I watched her walk towards, not the house with her supposed kids, but a large man in the middle of the darkened street. She was waving him off, which distracted him enough to allow me to squeal out and back on to the open highway - with just a glance of her hitting him in the chest in my rearview mirror.

I sobbed the whole way back. I sobbed because I was stupid. I sobbed because I was sad. I sobbed because I was angry. I sobbed because I was scared. Because I'm not sure if I wouldn't do it again. What if it was all like she said? What if my fear was just born out of other people's insecurities? What would I do if I was truly a mom who couldn't feed her kids? What would I be willing to do?

I'm just thankful today that I'm not faced with those decisions. I'm also thankful to have yet another reason to avoid Wendy's.

I'm taking in all the happenings in Kansas City and saving you all the trouble . . . I'll let you know whether to soak it up or squeeze it out!!