Kansas City’s first single-gender charter school has found its founding principal.
Tara Haskins will lead Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy, which will serve predominantly young women of color in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
“The main thing I would love to do with families is just listen,” says Haskins, currently an assistant principal at KIPP Voyage Academy in Houston, Texas. “I understand that I am a guest in your community, and I am honored that you chose me to teach your children. I think when anyone trusts you with their children, it’s one of the most honorable things someone can give you.”
Haskins, who was in town this weekend, will start this summer, though the school won't open until 2019.
KCGPA has faced some backlash for having a majority-white board. CEO Tom Krebs, Kansas City Police Department Officer Julie Tomasic and businesswoman Christine Kemper are all white, as is Julie Holland, Mayor Sly James’ education advisor, who has been representing him in conversations about the charter school.
The school has pledged to be inclusive and feminist, working with students and their families to create a community that reflects their cultures and values.
Haskins, who grew up attending military schools where the teachers didn’t look like her, is prepared to lead that effort. Her father is African American, and her mother’s family emigrated from Honduras. She uses that experience to help her students understand the world they’re growing up in.
“As women of color, you have to understand the role that you’ve played in this country,” Haskins says she tells her students. “While they don’t always teach it to you, you have been there every step of the way. You are a part of this history in our country.”
Haskins says she loves working with middle school students because they’re at an age where they’re curious about everything. They ask a lot of questions
“This is the age where they learn about choices. I teach my girls all the time, this age, you have to teach them it’s OK to make a bad choice. It’s what you do the next step that’s important. So as far as every time they make a choice, what’s one thing you would have changed?” she says. “What’s one thing you would have done differently?”
Elle Moxley covers education for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.