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

Missouri has postponed April municipal elections until June, a decision that could have a long-term impact on metro school districts asking voters to approve bonds for construction projects.

North Kansas City Schools, the state’s third largest school district, needs to replace two elementary schools, build an early childhood center and add on to Staley High School. There’s also a backlog of deferred maintenance at the district’s oldest school buildings. 

Ray Weikal / Kansas City Public Schools

With schools around the metro closed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, food service directors in Kansas and Missouri have taken on a daunting logistical challenge: how to feed hungry kids until it’s safe for them to go back to class.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Updated, 9:30 a.m. Thursday, March 19

The number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus being diagnosed in Kansas and Missouri is going up, and one elderly man in Wyandotte County has died from the disease.

Claudio Schwarz / Unsplash

Updated: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 18

Kansas City, Missouri, announced its first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday afternoon.

At a news conference broadcast by KCTV-5, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said people should continue practicing social distancing.

“In some ways, we were a bit surprised by the amount of time it took to officially arrive but we certainly recognize that we are at a point now where I think folks need to even double down further … following those good hygiene practices,” Lucas said.

LuAnn Hunt / Unsplash

COVID-19 quarantines are creating an unprecedented blood shortage across the U.S., and it's unlike anything blood centers in the Kansas City region have seen before.

“An unintended consequence of people taking shelter at home, of people not coming into work, is that they're also not coming to the blood drives. They're not coming to our donor centers,” said Chelsey Smith, spokeswoman for the Community Blood Center in Kansas City. “And that's resulting in a completely separate public health emergency.”

Feliphe Schiarolli
Unsplash

Updated, 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 17

Gov. Laura Kelly has closed every school in Kansas for the remainder of the school year in an effort to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

“We understand that canceling classes and moving to a continuous learning platform cannot replicate” what happens in Kansas schools, Kelly said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

A day earlier, most Kansas City area school districts announced they would close until at least April 5.

Feliphe Schiarolli
Unsplash

Not sure how to talk to your kids about the novel coronavirus?

You’re not alone, says Christina Low Kapalu, a pediatric psychologist at Children’s Mercy. “It comes up with a lot of things that we’ve encountered, like mass shootings and terrorism events. Anytime there’s a big media event that causes a lot of worry, parents ask about how they can talk to their kids in developmentally appropriate ways.”

Courtesy Harvesters

Anticipating that coronavirus quarantines will strain the social safety net, Kansas City food pantries, soup kitchens and schools are coming up with contingency plans.

Lee's Summit R-7 Schools

Educators who’ve taught in Lee’s Summit for a long time are frustrated that repeated salary freezes mean they’re making less than colleagues who are new to the district. 

Jessica Hill, a Lee’s Summit West history teacher, says she makes $3,500 less than her husband, also a teacher in the district, even though they both have master’s degrees and nine years of experience.

Photo illustration by Elle Moxley

After several tumultuous years during which the school district’s first black superintendent abruptly resigned, Lee’s Summit voters will again be electing new school board members this April. 

Alex Smith / KCUR

Update: 2:30 p.m. Monday 

Kansas’ single confirmed coronavirus patient has been admitted to the University of Kansas Health Systems hospital.

The Johnson County woman, who was announced to have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus on Saturday, was admitted to the Kansas City, Kansas, hospital after self-isolating at home.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Shawnee Mission School District has reached an agreement with the teachers union to move all teachers to the same contract for the current school year.

The agreement was reached Thursday and came after a bitter, months-long dispute over teacher pay and workload that ended with the state stepping in.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

A bitter contract dispute has driven a wedge between the Shawnee Mission teachers’ union and some of the school board members the union has helped get elected in recent years.

After the Kansas Department of Labor intervened last month, tossing out the final two years of a three-year contract the school board approved over the union’s objections, the two sides are trying to come together to negotiate a contract for next school year.

Courtesy of Belton School District

Kansas and Missouri are at low risk for the coronavirus, but schools in the Kansas City metro are having “robust conversations” about how to protect students in case an outbreak occurs in the U.S. 

Their solutions include teleschool, a way to disinfect a whole classroom at a time and the old standby: If you’re sick, stay home.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas Department of Labor has sided with the teachers union in an ongoing contract dispute with the Shawnee Mission School District.

The Department of Labor found that the district committed a “prohibited labor practice” when it imposed a three-year unilateral contract on teachers late last month.

The labor board’s ruling came just minutes before a 4 p.m. deadline for teachers to sign that contract. Only one teacher had tendered her resignation as of mid-afternoon Friday, according to a district spokesman. Most teachers had already signed the three-year contract.

Hickman Mills C-1 Schools

Updated, 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11: Hickman Mills Superintendent Yolanda Cargile is leaving her post to take the top job in the neighboring Center School District. 

Cargile announced her resignation in a letter sent to Hickman Mills parents last week.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The fourth grader in Amanda Whiting’s chair had never been to the dentist, so she was a little nervous to be seen at the clinic at her school, J.A. Rogers Elementary.

“We don't use scary terms when we are treating a kiddo,” said Whiting, the dental director at Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center, which runs the clinic for Kansas City Public Schools.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City will be a sea of red as Chiefs fans get a chance to celebrate the team’s victory with a parade and rally on Wednesday. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Hundreds of students at Shawnee Mission East High School walked out of school Friday to show support for teachers after the school board imposed a three-year, unilateral contract on Thursday.

Teachers began the school year without a contract, and negotiations have been at an impasse for months. A five-hour bargaining session on Tuesday ended with a lawyer representing the school district walking away from the table.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Kansas schools had 800 vacant positions last year, and the lack of certified teachers has some districts trying to get people who want to change careers into the classroom.

Breanna Lovett got her bachelor’s degree in forensic biology, but she didn’t love working overnight in a lab. So when she learned the Kansas City, Kansas, Public, Schools had a fellowship program that would let her teach while she earned a master’s degree, she decided to apply.

After six weeks of training, she was in her own classroom at Washington High School.

Lee's Summit R-7 Schools

Updated, 3:51 p.m. Tuesday – The Lee’s Summit school board has hired a new superintendent, David Buck.

Buck has served as superintendent for the Wright City schools, a tiny district about 40 miles west of St. Louis, since 2015. He’ll start in Lee’s Summit on July 1.

Dennis Carpenter, the district’s first black superintendent, resigned in July amid ongoing tension over diversity training for teachers and staff.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Negotiators for the Shawnee Mission School District and the teachers union are at an impasse and will now present their cases to a neutral party.

On one side are teachers who feel overworked and underpaid. On the other side are school administrators who say the union’s demands will ultimately put the district in the red. It’s a dispute with deep roots in the Great Recession and all the years Kansas seriously underfunded schools, happening amidst a national conversation on teacher pay.

Elle Moxley / 89.3

The KCUR news staff presents the State of Kansas City series as a look ahead to 2020 on topics of importance to the region. Find the State of Kansas City report on other topics in the series as they are published each weekday, Jan. 6–Jan. 20. Follow coverage on these topics at KCUR.org and on 89.3 FM throughout the year.

Kansas City’s complex racial history is still defining how kids are educated in 2020. That includes factors far outside of classrooms, where housing instability, violence in communities and childhood trauma all have profound effects on schools and students.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Earlier this year Kansas City voters rejected a plan to improve pre-K access and quality with public dollars, but that hasn't stopped a child care center at 59th Street and Swope Parkway from trying to get better on its own.

The Upper Room, an education equity non-profit, has run a licensed child care center for about 15 years but only recently began to pursue state accreditation as an early learning center.

Courtesy Victoria Hammond

States can get a substantial return on investment if they help single mothers in college access child care, support services and financial aid, according to a new study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

But even though about 10% of all undergraduates in Kansas and Missouri are single mothers, neither state makes significant investments in helping them persist to graduation. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

School’s out for winter break, and Kansas City Public Schools fourth grader Miranda Hernandez can’t wait to have arroz con leche with her family on Christmas.

“It’s rice with milk,” she explained. “We have it every time when it’s cold, like in winter.”

Sharing food with friends and family is an important part of Miranda’s culture, which is why she likes the new mural at Carver Dual Language School so much. 

Elle Moxley / 89.3

Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell concedes he’s not sure what it’s going to take to improve attendance.

Missouri uses what’s known as the 90/90 rule. Districts need to get 90% of students to school 90% of the time to get all of the attendance points on their Annual Performance Report (APR). KCPS didn’t get any attendance points for the 2018-19 school year because only 73% of students were at school 90% of the time.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

For the first time, Missouri is reporting how much is spent per child at every school in the state.

It’s a requirement of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that’s supposed to help ensure equitable access and opportunity for all children.

There are many reasons why per-pupil spending levels vary within a district, though.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Missouri students spending more money to earn degrees want to know they’re making a sound investment in their future. That’s why college administrators have started steering them toward in-demand professions like education and nursing, where they’re all but guaranteed jobs. 

It’s a pathway to get students to and through college with less debt when they graduate. But some students and professors say Missouri’s colleges and universities still have an obligation to provide a well-rounded liberal arts education, and are tired of having to defend their majors every time state lawmakers propose another round of cuts.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Middle schoolers in the Kansas City area are paying close attention to Greta Thunberg and other youth climate activists making waves across the world. They’re also proposing their own solutions for global warming.

“I like to see kids taking action about what might happen in the future,” said Liam McKinley, an eighth grader at Chisholm Trail Middle School in Olathe. “I like to come up with random ideas about how we can fix that, even though it might not be achievable in the next few years.”

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