I knew something was afoot the other evening when Kansas City's superintendent of schools, Stephen Green, walked into the room at the start of our meeting of the Southwest Early College Campus (SWECC) Faith-based Coalition, a collection of eight churches providing volunteers to work in that school. (SWECC is pictured here.)
Green was there to tell us that two SWECC students have been arrested in connection with the alleged sexual assault of a special-needs student at the school and that several members of the SWECC staff have been put on administrative leave pending completion of an investigation into what happened.
Among those placed on leave was Ed Richardson, SWECC's prinicipal, with whom our coalition has worked closely and who has done a great deal to improve the troubled school in recent years.
It was a sobering, painful moment as we thought about the victim, about other SWECC students who may be traumatized by this (the second such sexual assault charge at SWECC this school year) and about teachers there with whom we work to help guide these students.
In the end, however, it was for me a moment of renewed anger at our Kansas City community for its failure to mobilize to create excellent public schools so that young lives are not wasted. The list of what has gone wrong in the Kansas City School District is long and there aren't many heroes in the story.
But in the end we citizens are responsible. We Kansas Citians seem willing to invest to rebuild expensive sports stadiums, foot the bill to help renew our struggling downtown, support dozens of shopping malls and pay a steep ecological, economic and social price for urban sprawl. But somehow we can't seem to come together to provide a consistently high-quality education for students in the KC Public Schools.
It's a moral scandal.
I'm glad to be working with members of my congregation to help as we join with the coalition of area churches also helping at SWECC. But it's not enough. We need the whole community for all our public schools. But the whole community seems to be complacent and focused on lesser priorities. Come on, Kansas City, we can do better than we're doing. And, by the way, although more and better security is needed, that's far from the whole answer.
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WHAT'S A BISHOP WORTH?
Ever wonder how much Catholic bishops make and what kind of retirement benefits they get? The National Catholic Reporter, in the wake of disturbing stories of big spending on housing for certain bishops, looked into all that and came up with this revealing but complicated story.
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P.S.: Here's a school project you might help with -- the 2014 Margolis Memorial Essay Contest. The prize is $2,000 and it's open to students who are graduating from the KC-area high school this spring and who plan to start college this fall. For the announcement about the contest, click on this link: Download Margolis-announcement and for the application, click on this link: Download Margolis-app. The subject this year: "The Importance of Good Relations Between Christians and Jews -- and How to Achieve Them." To read last year's winner, click here.