Pastors, rabbis, imams and other faith leaders have joined the effort to focus on improving education in Kansas City. The initiative, detailed by Flatland, KCPT’s digital magazine, started when Kauffman Foundation Program Officer Murray Woodard attended a conference in Baltimore and heard about religious leaders there getting involved in troubled schools.
“Authentic community engagement is providing a seat at the table for people to not only think about those root problems in education, but to help them talk about solutions to those problems,” Woodard said. Representatives from local faith organizations have travelled the country along with Woodard and a cross-section of Kansas City citizens to see high-performing schools first hand.
“We wanted to have a diverse mix of participants, so we cast a wide net and invited them on these Great Schools Visits,” Woodard said. “The goal was to look at a mix of schools. We wanted to see district and charter school models that serve the same population of kids that we serve.”
Rev. Cassandra Wainwright, president of Concerned Clergy Coalition of Kansas City, participated in a Great Schools Visit and played a key role in helping to shape SchoolSmartKC, a nonprofit organization devoted to improving academic achievement among public school students in the city.
“The real story is we want to try to do everything we possibly can to get education right in Kansas City,” Rev. Wainwright said. “What can we do now that is going to address this to put our children in a better place? Position them so that they can all receive a quality education regardless of their stand in life, their family dynamics, regardless of their economic status and their race. How can we ensure that all children receive a quality education?”