Elle Moxley | KCUR

Elle Moxley

Education Reporter

Elle covers education for KCUR. The best part of her job is talking to students. Before coming to KCUR in 2014, Elle covered Indiana education policy for NPR’s StateImpact project. Her work covering Indiana’s exit from the Common Core was nationally recognized with an Edward R. Murrow award. Her work at KCUR has been recognized by the Missouri Broadcasters Association and the Kansas City Press Club. She is a graduate of the University Of Missouri School Of Journalism. Elle regularly tweets photos of her dog, Kingsley. There is a wounded Dr. Ian Malcolm bobblehead on her desk.

Ways to Connect

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

In a terse meeting that lasted just five minutes on Wednesday evening, the Lee’s Summit R-7 Board of Education approved a contract for staff diversity training.

It’s the same contract the same board rejected a month ago as racial tensions in the affluent suburb reached fever pitch. Three board members – Julie Doane, Kim Fritchie and Mike Allen – switched their no votes to yes after the district brought in a mediator from the Missouri School Boards Association. Only Judy Hedrick voted against the plan.

Symphony in The Flint Hills

Leaders of Symphony in the Flint Hills, an organization whose main event is an annual outdoor concert by the Kansas City Symphony that draws as many as 7,000 people, canceled the event this weekend after storms damaged the site of the performance.

“As all of us know who live in the Midwest, the environment determines the terms of our culture, and boy did that happen today,” said Leslie VonHolten, executive director of the Symphony in the Flint Hills, in a short video posted to Facebook on Saturday.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Student plaintiffs from a National School Walkout lawsuit have received their letters of apology from the Shawnee Mission School District.

The letters were part of the settlement the students reached with the district earlier this year, said Lauren Bonds, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Mayor Sly James made education a top priority when he took office eight years ago.

He succeeded in getting the business and philanthropic community to rally around third grade reading, but he couldn’t convince voters to pass a pre-K sales tax.

Now Kansas City is about to pick a new mayor.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

For more than 100 years, Eudora had a weekly newspaper.

“We were able to have a sports reporter, somebody that would come out when we had a structure fire and report on it,” said Mayor Tim Reazin, who moved to Eudora in 1997. “We had somebody that sat through the city commission meetings with us.”

But since 2004, more than 1,800 newspapers have folded, a third of them in rural communities. Eudora residents lost their paper in 2008. Reazin says the result is citizens are less informed – and starved for coverage.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Thirty-two seniors from DeLaSalle Education Center received their diplomas Friday, marking the first time the charter high school has graduated every student who started the year as a twelfth grader.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Lee’s Summit school board remains deeply divided over issues of race and equity, a week after voting down a plan to bring in consultants for diversity training.

At a tense work session Wednesday night, newly elected board member Mike Allen accused the district’s first black superintendent, Dennis Carpenter, of only caring about black students.

Carpenter responded, “I will not let you do this. Tell me when I said I was here for the black kids only.”

Ray Weikal / Kansas City Public Schools

Both traditional public schools and charters in Kansas City are increasingly segregated, expensive to run and losing high school students, according to a new report from the Kansas City Public Schools.

KCPS is calling it a “system” analysis because it looks at charter schools as well. (Charter schools are public schools that operate independently of KCPS.) Think of it as a snapshot of 20 years of education choice in Kansas City.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Parents in the Shawnee Mission School District say students are spending too much time on their iPads, and they don’t think administrators are taking their concerns seriously.

“We asked for a comprehensive review,” said Gretchen Shanahan, one of the parents who's serving on the district's digital learning task force. “We asked for data, and the response we got from administrators was that would be a step backward when we need to move forward.”

Burns and McDonnell

A $30 million investment at Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas, will mean more classroom space and state-of-the-art technology for students.

“What we’re doing now is creating the first-rate education that our students are getting because we’ve always been in hand me downs,” Donnelly College President Monsignor Stuart Swetland said.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Deniese Fahnbulleh was already taking honors classes at Winnetonka High School when she decided to challenge herself with three Advanced Placement courses.

“It was the next step,” said Fahnbulleh, a junior who participates in cheer, golf and student council. “My friend and I enrolled together because we thought it would be a great opportunity to get the feeling of college classes.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

When Kansas City Neighborhood Academy opened in 2016 with the district as its sponsor, it was supposed to start a new era of cooperation between the Kansas City Public Schools and charter schools.

Since 1999, they’d been in a fierce competition for students and resources. Now KCPS was sponsoring a charter. With support from the Chamber of Commerce, Kansas City Neighborhood Academy would be a model for what urban education could be.

But the charter ended up a neighborhood school without a neighborhood.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell has signed another three-year contract.

Approving the contract was the last act of the outgoing, nine-member school board, which met in closed executive session before Wednesday’s board meeting when the new, seven-member board was sworn in.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3 file photo

Kansas City voters have rejected Mayor Sly James’ plan to pay for universal pre-K for 4-year-olds with a three-eighth-cent sales tax.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Lee’s Summit voters will pick two new school board members Tuesday in an election that could be a referendum of the district’s equity and inclusion work.

The seven-member school board unanimously approved an equity plan in February, and last month they offered Superintendent Dennis Carpenter a one-year contract extension.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Paying for pre-K is a huge burden for families with young children, even for parents with good jobs.

Tiffany Price has one of those. She works with teen moms in the Hickman Mills School District, and she’s a mom herself. She has four boys, and the two youngest aren’t in school yet.

So every week she writes a check for $270 to Ronnie’s Childcare.

Kansas City Neighborhood Academy

Kansas City Neighborhood Academy, the only charter school sponsored by the Kansas City Public Schools, will close at the end of the school year, leaving 140 students and their families to find seats at other schools.

Parent Elizabeth Behrens said there were no warning signs that the school was in trouble until this week, when a letter went home saying that the board would vote Wednesday on the future of the school.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Updated, 2:53 p.m. Thursday: Missouri Gov. Mike Parson declared a state of emergency Thursday, following flooding along the Missouri River.

Thursday morning the river breached a levee near Winthrop, Missouri, across from Atchison, Kansas. 

Ray Weikal / Kansas City Public Schools

The Kansas City Public Schools have made some big gains under the leadership of Superintendent Mark Bedell.

Now it’ll be up to the school board voters elect next month to sustain that progress.

Show Me KC Schools

Families of prospective charter school students who used a common application have received their offers and will have until March 22 to pick their top choice on School App KC.

Sixteen of Kansas City’s 22 charter schools agreed to use a common application for the first time this year. Families submitted 4,300 applications for 2,500 students, said Leslie Kohlmeyer, the director of programs for Show Me KC Schools.

Kohlmeyer said families who applied to more than one charter in previous years would have to keep calling different schools to find out their status.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Students in Kansas City Public Schools will ride to school next year on new propane-fueled buses, part of a three-year, $60.6 million transportation contract with Student Transportation of America.

“We’re very excited about that,” said Linda Quinley, chief financial officer for the district, after the school board voted to approve the contract Wednesday night.

Courtesy Blue Valley School District

Blue Valley will promote deputy superintendent Tonya Merrigan into its top job.

But Merrigan won’t move into her new position right away. She’ll spend the next 17 months learning from outgoing superintendent Todd White.

“I’ll get to really understand the legislative process,” Merrigan said. “I get to spend time analyzing and working on the budget – areas I haven’t had as much opportunity to work with.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City’s tangled school boundaries will make the mayor’s pre-K plan difficult to administer, opponents argued Monday at a news conference in the Northland.

“North Kansas City as a whole has 14 different municipalities, causing huge concern for our board of education and our community that only one of our 14 municipalities would be eligible for resources within the mayor’s plan,” said North Kansas City Superintendent Dan Clemens.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The push to enroll more students in classes that will prepare them for college and careers could create new opportunities for young people with special needs.

Jackson Barber has an intellectual disability. He started working at Antioch Urban Growers while enrolled in the work experience program through North Kansas City Schools.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Career and technical education is having a moment, but not in all schools. Most charters still focus almost exclusively on college preparedness.

“University Academy seeks to prepare students for higher education and to be leaders in society,” said superintendent Tony Kline. “The vision is to be the best college prep school in the country.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Back when she was in eighth grade at California Trail in the Olathe Public Schools, Lilly Beckwith loved making amateur videos with Windows Movie Maker and posting them to her YouTube channel.

So Beckwith was excited when it came time to enroll for high school and she learned she could hone her filmmaking skills in the e-Communication program, she was excited. But there was a catch. Beckwith, who was supposed to go to Olathe East, would have to transfer to Olathe Northwest.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

There were some groans back in August when Laura Lavallee told sixth graders at Tomahawk Elementary they’d be talking about their career prospects this year.

“Some of them were a little reluctant,” said Lavallee, the STEM teacher at the Shawnee Mission school. “‘This is silly! I’m in sixth grade! My career is so far away! Why do I need to think about it now?’”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Seventeen-year-old Jasmine Bailey is learning how to install electrical boxes and frame windows, but what she really wants to do is study sharks as a marine biologist.

“I know, it sounds crazy, and it’s the total opposite way, but I’ve always wanted to become that,” said Bailey, a junior at Oak Park High School, “and sometimes you have to build your own equipment, your own shark tanks, your own tracking equipment. If you know how to wire it, it takes the middleman out of it.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The long wait for accreditation may soon be over for Kansas City Public Schools.

KCPS scored solidly in the range for full accreditation for the second time in three years. The district received 99.5 points out of 120 possible – 82.9 percent – on its 2018 Annual Performance Report. APR is basically a report card for public schools in Missouri.

Center School District

Center and Hickman Mills school districts in south Kansas City are launching a new initiative to help stabilize homeless students and their families.

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