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Amplify: The Summit

The History of Education in Kansas City

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Since 2017, the Amplify conference has brought together 300+ educators and administrators of color to connect and learn from each other. Event registration fills up quickly every year, and the excitement for the event is unmatched. 

After each conference, a resounding consensus remains: Attendees repeatedly request for more opportunities for engagement through the Amplify event survey. As a result, Amplify: The Summit was born.  

On April 27, Dr. Cokethea Hill and Spark Bookhart shared data outlining Kansas City’s history of education from the 17th Century trends to the stats we see today.  

After that, keynote speaker Curtis Valentine brought it home with a charge for KC educators to wake up to be firestarters in the education system and added a reminder of our power to influence through community.  

Valentine also moderated a panel discussion, during which the panelists shared their perspectives on the future of Kansas City education as educators, students, parents, and education leaders.  

Amplify: The Summit will set the stage for the full Amplify conference in the fall. 

Keynote Speaker — Curtis Valentine

Curtis Valentine

Curtis Valentine founded Real Men Teach, a national campaign to recruit and retain male educators of color through reimagining and reinvestment in the profession. Valentine has over 20 years of experience in local, state, federal, and international education policy. He is co-director of the Progressive Policy Institute’s Reinventing America’s Schools Project and as adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Previously, he served as an at-large member of the Prince George’s County (MD) Board of Education, America’s 20th largest school district, where he created the Male Educator Network of PGCPS.  

A graduate of Morehouse College and Harvard University, Valentine was recently elected to the position of at-large vice president of the Morehouse College National Alumni Association. 

Presenter — Spark Bookhart

Spark Bookhart

Spark Bookhart is a transformative leader whose entire life experience involves organizing communities and amplifying the voice of the seemingly voiceless. During his long and varied professional career, which has included student organizing, law enforcement, community economic development, professional organizing, youth development, and entrepreneurship, Bookhart has consistently tapped into the power of what he calls “average, everyday ordinary people” to utilize their inherent power to transform their lives.

Bookhart convenes the Parent Power Lab, an immersive public school parent organization, to positively impact educational outcomes. Bookhart serves on the faculty of Innovate Public Schools’ Community Organizer Training Program and is a professional coach with clients such as the Obama Foundation, YouthBuild USA, and public schools nationwide.

Bookhart resides in Kansas City, Missouri, with his wife and three young children. International travel is Bookhart’s most joyful pastime, and he can be found sneaking to Central America, South America, or Africa.

Presenter — Dr. Cokethea Hill

Cokethea Hill

Dr. Cokethea Hill is the CEO and founder of BLAQUE KC (Black Leaders Advancing Quality Urban Education), a nonprofit committed to improving the academic and life outcomes of African-American children in public schools.  

Hailing from Kansas City, Dr. Hill received her undergraduate degree from Central Missouri State University, a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Avila University, and a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Kansas. Her professional journey includes leading housing redevelopment, energy efficiency, and public infrastructure projects at the Mid-America Regional Council’s Green Impact Zone. Additionally, she served as a researcher and leadership development coach at the University of Kansas’ SWIFT Educational Center, aiding school leaders in improving student outcomes. 

Dr. Hill has held significant positions on local boards and commissions, including the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, the Kansas City Planning Commission, and The Civic Council’s Kansas City Tomorrow Leadership fellowship. Dr. Hill’s leadership is driven by a commitment to servant leadership and a passion for advancing education and community conditions within the urban core. 

Panelist — Crystal Everett

Crystal Everett

Crystal Everett, born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, has over a decade of experience in education spaces. She serves as the real world learning manager for Kansas City Public Schools and a Parent Leadership Training Institute facilitator.

Everett earned degrees in public relations and sociology from Drake University in 2010 and a Master of Education in human relations from Northern Arizona University in 2012.

She is the author of Mari and Mommy Move It!, a children’s book inspired by her daughter’s love for music and dance. Navigating the role of a parent isn’t always easy, but she can do it with grace alongside her husband, Marquis.

Panelist — Chris Homiak

Chris Homiak

Chris Homiak is co-chair of North Kansas City Schools’ equity leadership team and career facilitator at the High School Alternative Program. He designs and leads leadership and staff training and manages innovative equity projects. Over the last decade, Homiak has worked as an ELL teacher, instructional coach, and adjunct professor. He consults educational leaders as the founder of IntersectEd Strategies Consulting, LLC.

Homiak holds an Ed Specialist in Educational Leadership from Arkansas State and a Master of Arts in education from Mizzou. He is a trained restorative practices facilitator, completing a Gender Diversity certificate through Lewis and Clark.  

Panelist — Julian Johnson-Marshall

J Marshall

Julian Johnson-Marshall is an educator born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. He has a vibrant passion for developing the next generation of readers and leaders. Johnson-Marshall has a Bachelor of Science in political science from Loyola University Chicago and a Master of Arts in education from Ottawa University. Throughout his career, he has led and supported several initiatives to include hip-hop culture, social-emotional learning, and social equity in the learning process. 

As a Black male educator, Johnson-Marshall believes his presence in the learning community positively impacts the potential and opportunity of every student he meets. He serves as an English teacher and Humanities Department Chair at DeLaSalle High School. He also serves as the building programs coordinator for Brothers Liberating Our Community (BLOC KC), an organization dedicated to increasing the number of Black male educators in Kansas City. Johnson-Marshall is guided by his faith and family, as he is a licensed Baptist minister and committed father to his daughter, Shiloh. 

Panelist — Reed Pearson

Reed Pearson

Reed Pearson is an outgoing senior at North Kansas City High School. At graduation, she will be receiving the Gold Medallion Honors diploma. Pearson currently holds the position of student body president at Northtown.

She is heavily involved in her school and community, serving on the Diversity Council, Student Council, Principles Advisory Council, Women’s Empowerment, National Honor Society, choir, and many other organizations. Pearson plans to attend Kansas State University in the fall for a bachelor’s degree in business management. She is thrilled to be a part of Amplify.  

Panelist — Kathleen Smith

Kathleen Smith

Kathleen Smith, the director of Culture & Belonging for Olathe Public Schools, champions all who uplift and unify students, staff, and community. She centers her work on inclusion and belonging. She meets unique needs by providing equitable opportunities, pre-K through 12, that develop understanding and respect of differences, preparing all to live in an inclusive global community and world.

Smith serves on the Johnson County Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coalition and leads the Olathe Public Schools Diversity Engagement Advisory Council. Smith was the Olathe Public School Kansas Teacher of the Year – Secondary 2023. Smith earned a Master’s of Science in educational administration and a Master’s of Science in educational leadership from Fort Hays State University, a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Kansas, and an Associate of Arts from Johnson County Community College.