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Hickman Mills Superintendent Criticizes Charter School Plan

Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3
Hickman Mills Supt. Dennis Carpenter, center, listens to a question at a Southern Communities Coalition meeting Wednesday evening. The presenter was Robbyn Wahby, right, executive director of the Missouri Charter Public School Commission.

Hickman Mills Supt. Dennis Carpenter wants to make something very clear: he won’t welcome charter schools in his district.

At a community meeting Wednesday night, Carpenter told Robbyn Wahby, executive director of the Missouri Charter Public School Commission, she was being disingenuous.

Wahby was in Kansas City to give a presentation to the Southern Communities Coalition.

“Here’s the bottom line,” Carpenter said. “We’re making blueberry ice cream. But when the bus comes and brings the blueberries, you get to pick the blueberries. That’s why yours is the best.”

Wahby replied that children are not blueberries.

“To say charter schools are cherry picking is absolutely a falsehood,” Wahby said.

Advocates for district schools have for years accused charters of taking the best and brightest students and leaving them to educate the rest. Charter supporters say families deserve to pick where their kids go to school, especially if it means a better education.

Missouri has allowed charter schools within the boundaries of the Kansas City and St. Louis school districts since the late ’90s. But state law changed two years ago to allow charter to open in unaccredited and provisionally accredited districts, too.

“What I’m afraid for for the Hickman Mills community is that we might have a group come in and siphon those higher performing students off our district,” Carpenter said after the meeting.

He says traditional public schools are at a disadvantage because they have to take all comers. Hickman Mills has one of the highest student mobility rates in the metros.

Charter schools, by contrast, don’t have to accept students mid-year.

“When a charter gets to close its door to that, then they eventually have a leg up,” Carpenter said.

KCPS Supt. Mark Bedell has said he welcomes competition from charters. But Carpenter says in the much smaller Hickman Mills district, opening a charter school would have a devastating impact. 

There’s another meeting to discuss the 3-Trails School Initiative next week, 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23 at the Greater Works Family Worship Center, 5902 Bannister Rd., Kansas City, Missouri.

Elle Moxley covers Missouri schools and politics for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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