Articles tagged with The Leading Source

Hope and hardship in Maplewood, Mo. — in the 1930s and today

Editor’s note: The following piece was sent to NSBA staff by Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy, whose mother passed away on Sept. 12. A native Missourian, she was a graduate of Maplewood High School, near St. Louis.

My mother, Eleanor Collins Hardy, was born in 1916 in Kansas City but spent most of her early life in St. Louis. Her father, a civil engineer, died of tuberculosis when she was 3, and as a result, my grandmother had to struggle to support her and her older brother. Not able to afford their own place, they lived with my great grandmother and other relatives in what must have been a crowded apartment over a drug store in Maplewood, a close-in, working class suburb of St. Louis. My grandmother worked at the drug store with the pharmacist, another relative.   

While others certainly had it worse during the Great Depression — witness the homeless families living in “Hoovervilles,” the makeshift campsites that sprung up downtown along the Mississippi River — my Mom had to forgo a lot of material things. She loved music, but had to quit piano lessons when my grandmother could no longer afford them. When walking to school, she was instructed by my grandmother to walk on the grass, not on the sidewalk, so the soles of her shoes would last longer. When she graduated from high school in the early 1930s and my grandmother started talking about college, one indignant relative would respond: “Eleanor can’t go to college!” (presumably, because there was no money). And my grandmother, a wonderful, kind, and deeply religious woman, would say in a strong voice, “Eleanor’s going to college.”

She did go to college, too, earning an associate’s degree from William Woods College in Fulton, Mo.  In later years, my Mom would tire of my grandmother repeating that story, but its lesson meant so much to her — that with hard work and the support of others, they could find a way.

This summer, for a story on community Involvement for September’s ASBJ, I interviewed Linda Henke, the recently retired superintendent of the Maplewood Richmond-Heights (Mo.) School District. Maplewood, as you recall, was a Grand Prize Winner of this year’s Magna Awards for districts under 5,000 enrollment. They won for a most unusual initiative. Struck by the number of homeless boys in their small district – boys who tended to show up in Henke’s office after school (perhaps because of the crackers, peanut butter, and frozen dinners she kept there) – Henke and the school board decided not to wait for the city, or the state, or someone else to face the problem of homelessness in their community: they bought a house themselves, formed a coalition, and turned the house into a homeless shelter for teenage boys.

Henke, a truly buoyant personality, told me of how she was walking around Maplewood one day and saw the big yellow Victorian with the “For Sale” sign in front.

“I thought, ‘Wow,’ she recalled. “That must be the house we’re supposed to buy.’”

It was an audacious move that took courage, hard work, and quite a bit of faith. As of this summer, of the 14 boys enrolled in the program 13 have graduated or are on the graduation track. College, once out of the question, is no longer a fantasy.

I told Henke I that had a connection to St. Louis, to her still-working class town, and to the castle-like fortress, not far from her office, that is Maplewood High School.

“I grew up in St. Louis,” I said, “and my Mom graduated from Maplewood High.”

Lawrence Hardy|September 27th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Dropout Prevention, Homeless People|Tags: , , , |

Joplin’s ‘amazing’ year

You never know who you’re going to bump into at the NSBA Annual Conference. But after a couple of days, I usually have a pretty good idea.

Each year, I meet a board member or superintendent early on, either on the shuttle bus or in line at the hotel. And over the course of the next several days, I seem to see that person everywhere.

Last year, that person was Randy Steele.

Randy is a school board member in Joplin, Mo., and justifiably, he was proud of the Magna Award grand prize that his district was receiving for a program called “Bright Futures.” Over the course of the three-day meeting, I saw him everywhere—in the hallway, in sessions, at the Magna luncheon. By the end of the week, it had become something of a running joke.

What happened in Joplin just six weeks later was no joke.

An EF-5 tornado cut a three-quarter mile path through the middle of this Missouri community, ultimately claiming 161 lives, causing $3 billion in damage, and destroying several of Joplin’s school buildings. Immediately, ASBJ’s staff reached out—via Facebook—to Steele and Superintendent C.J. Huff, asking if there was anything we could do.

This month’s cover story is the result.

Over the past year, we have followed a remarkable tale of resilience and recovery, of looking ahead when it is more tempting to look back. It’s a fascinating study of how tireless leaders—board members and administrators—turn crisis into opportunity as they work to protect students and staff and prevent them from having a lost year.

The first few paragraphs of this essay were taken from my editor’s note that appears in the print edition. Since we wrapped up the issue, which was distributed at this year’s annual conference, there are a number of things to update:

• Just after the issue went to press, voters narrowly passed a $62 million bond issue that will help in the district’s rebuilding effort. Joplin High School is the centerpiece of that effort; all of the pictures in the print edition are from the devastated building that is still being razed. (You also can find more pictures from the high school and the Joplin community that I took last year on ASBJ’s Facebook page — www.facebook.com/AmericanSchoolBoard.)

• A week after the construction referendum, former board chair Ashley Micklethwaite announced that she has accepted a job with Mercy Health Center in St. Louis and will leave Joplin later this year.

• The district has started working on plans for President Obama’s commencement speech on May 21 — the day before the first anniversary. The next day, ceremonial groundbreaking ceremonies will be held for the new schools.

C.J. Huff, who has done yeoman’s work in leading the district’s recovery efforts, told the Joplin Globe that he and other administrators know that May 22 will be a tough and emotional day for the community’s residents.

“Everybody is in a different place,” Huff said. “Those days will bring a lot of celebration and a lot of reflection. As we reflect on the past, we have to think about the future. It’s just another step in the healing process.”

The year has not been without its glitches. In fact, Joplin is facing a lawsuit from the out-of-state contractor hired to demolish the high school. People who remain unsettled by the storm were upset that their taxes would go up and voted against the referendum, which passed by a 57-43 margin.

But none of that should put a damper on the remarkable story that school leaders — anyone in a position of leadership really — can read in this month’s issue.

Just before the issue went to press, I asked Randy if I would see him at this year’s conference. The new board president said he wasn’t sure, and ultimately he did not go. The reason: The meeting conflicted with Joplin’s prom.

Two weeks ago, in Boston, I got onto a packed shuttle and headed toward the back. This time, I bumped into Ashley Mickelthwaite. She had been remarkably candid in our talks last November and again in March, talking about the loss of her home, the struggles of her community, the changes in her job — Joplin’s Mercy Hospital was destroyed in the storm — and the hard work going on in the district.

As we rode toward the convention center, she told me about her decision to resign from the board and leave her hometown (“It’s tough, but it’s time,” she said.) She also talked of the resilience — and the grind — that everyone continues to face.

“It’s been an amazing year,” she said.

Indeed.

— Glenn Cook, Editor-in-Chief

To read the story, go to http://www.asbj.com/MainMenuCategory/Archive/2012/May/Restoring-Joplins-Future.html

Glenn Cook|May 2nd, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Crisis Management, Leadership, NSBA Annual Conference 2012|Tags: , , |

New online at ASBJ.com: Dealing with adult bullying

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for the American School Board Journal on bullying. It was a belated follow-up to a decade-old article I wrote in the wake of the 1999 Columbine shootings. The education world changed after Columbine, particularly in the area of student safety and security. I was pleased to find out in my research that school leaders, administrators, and educators were taking bullying and student aggression much more seriously than before the tragedy. 

I interviewed counselor and author Stan Davis for my article, and I’ll never forget what he had to say about bullying prevention.

All schools have an overt culture and a hidden one, he said. “Kids are paying attention to the hidden one. They will see if we welcome new staff, and if we will listen to hate speech.”

If adults are permitted to bully and mistreat each other, or their students, no program, assembly, or curriculum will have much impact.

I had his words in mind when I assigned Senior Editor Naomi Dillon ASBJ’s October cover story, “Adults Behaving Badly,” now online on ASBJ.com. Dillon looks at the phenomenon of work place bullying. Lean budget times, school layoffs, and high-stakes testing pressure have created a toxic environment in some districts. In some cases, the toxicity is fueled by social networking sites. If not addressed, bullying among adults will spread to students. As educators and parents all know, children are watching your actions more than paying attention to your words.

Also as part of our school climate coverage, Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy writes about how some districts are working to reduce racial, ethnic and cultural tensions while creating an environment where children can thrive. “How’s Your Climate?” is also available at www.asbj.com.

Take a look at what we have online this month and please feel free to comment.

Kathleen Vail|October 12th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Bullying, NSBA Publications, School Climate, School Security, Social Networking|Tags: , , , , , , |
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