What a year it has been for Friends of Hale Cook! Since the shocking announcement last August that former Superintendent Covington would be resigning from the District, we have really taken a look at our vision and goals to create a neighborhood school for Waldo-Brookside. Ultimately, we decided that there was always the possibility that administrations would change, that elected officials would move on – but we, the community, will always be here. If we are going to make public education a success in Kansas City, it is up to us to make it happen. So, we reorganized and come up with a few fantastic ideas to keep our community-driven momentum moving forward!

The Past Twelve Months: Our Goals (and successes)

Even with the changes at the District, we had fantastic volunteers at the table and even more joining our effort. It appeared that we had struck a nerve with many of our neighbors – we were inspired to keep pursuing our vision of reopening Hale Cook Elementary. To do so, we established these main objectives:

  • Identify a more practical target for the first year of enrollment. The original numbers proposed by the District were based on the capacity of the building and not what it would take to organically grow a school – starting with the youngest children and expanding grades each year. We needed to identify a threshold that would work for the District but be practical for the school as well. I will address this in the next section!
  • Pursue partnerships with other organizations with skills, resources, and experience that we simply don’t have as a newer group. We continually seek to leverage the incredible assets our city has to offer and foster relationships to provide sustained support for our neighborhood public school. We have been awarded a grant that will bring the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Centurions Leadership Program, representing more than 70 companies and organizations from across the metropolitan area, to our campus. We have actively engaged homeowners’ associations, business associations, and other community groups to raise awareness and build support for our effort.
  • Engage community members on campus and create a presence at Hale Cook Elementary. We recognize this building and grounds to be an extraordinary yet underutilized community asset which we hope to improve and enliven. If you haven’t been by the campus recently, take a quick look at the butterfly maze – it’s blooming and beautiful! Volunteers meet-up on campus monthly to spruce up the campus, hang out, and talk about the future of the school. We’re there to make sure this site isn’t left idle and are lucky to have so many people come out to lend a hand.
  • Move our effort beyond a grassroots campaign to a formal, more lasting organization that can not only supporting the initial enrollment efforts to open the school but providing ongoing resources and volunteers once Hale Cook Elementary opens its doors again. We incorporated with the State of Missouri last Fall 2011 and are awaiting our tax exemption status from the IRS. We have formed a Board of Directors with some very loyal, talented volunteers and are moving forward with a strategic plan to make this happen!

Today’s Meeting

Earlier this morning, Friends of Hale Cook met with our District’s Superintendent for the first time. While we have remained in contact with the District throughout our effort, this was a significant milestone in our campaign. Today, we asked the Superintendent directly: what do we need to do to make this happen?

Superintendent Green was honest and direct – we would have to make a case that reopening Hale Cook Elementary was what this neighborhood (and City) need and he would take this up with the School Board on our behalf if it makes sense. Ultimately, the Superintendent was supportive of our vision and appreciated our mission. In turn, we support of the District’s effort to foster academic excellence and reaccreditation as the top two priorities.

So, what does this mean for Friends of Hale Cook?

We are outlining what it will take to do a true feasibility study for the school. Next week, the Board will meet to discuss what this might entail, the resources we might need to execute a study, and a timeline for delivery. We will present this to the District who will let us know whether the outline will work. AND THEN WE GET TO WORK to demonstrate we have the support we need to reopen the school.

So, what does this mean for me?

Now, more than ever, we need your help. No matter what skills you bring to the table, we need your help in getting the word out, collecting data, understanding the neighborhood, etc. We will be hosting a meeting in August 2012 to discuss next steps and form a couple subcommittees – we hope to see you then!

If not now, when?

We are committed to reopening Hale Cook. If we can get a feasibility study done this Fall, Superintendent Green will take it to the Board in January 2013. If we can make a case for opening the school, we could open the doors of Hale Cook Elementary in Fall 2013. We need your help to make this vision a reality. Please email ashleyzhand@gmail.com to volunteer!