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Matt Beem
President and COO
Kinetic Fundraising, Inc.

Independence schools must maintain focus

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Independence, MO – I returned home yesterday from the Boy Scouts of America’s national meeting in Dallas.

It was a historic week for the world’s largest youth-serving organization. On Thursday, voting delegates decided to change BSA’s position on homosexuality and welcome boys who are gay.

As the organization struggled with the important decision, I was reminded how much Scouting has shaped my life. The lessons I learned in Blue Elk District Troop 223 from scoutmasters Marvin Talcott and Ken Zelk guide me even more today than they did when I became an Eagle Scout 28 years ago.

This week’s vote won’t change that.

So it goes with most things of lasting value. Even as their complexion evolves, their impact endures.

Which is why the Independence School District’s apparent prioritizing of teachers’ ability to coach winning athletic teams over its record creating successful students is so disturbing. Being a winning coach never was and never will be more important than being an effective educator.

I learned yesterday of the latest example of the district’s misplaced priorities. It seems a William Chrisman High School teacher, who through this academic year served as a committed and effective coach, will be moved to a different school next year because he’s no longer guiding an athletic team.

Maybe I missed something. Was he hired to coach or teach?

Don’t get me wrong. My kids are all jocks, and Kate and I attend as many of their games as any two parents.

In fact, the decision to move the teacher to a different school is even more upsetting because – to a person – every coach our two high schoolers play for understands athletics’ place in their overall development. They work with our kids when marching band, Scholar Bowl or Boy Scouts conflicts with practice. They help them balance all they’re trying to accomplish.

So who has the problem here? Clearly not the teachers who coach.

No Chrisman educator has had a greater impact on our older son’s life than the one who will be moved to a different school next year. And to be clear, Joe never played for him. He teaches his Focus class, which only meets once a week.

I’ll tell you what I think’s going on. I think the Independence School District has lost sight of its greatest asset.

Let’s face the facts: The district may never be an athletic powerhouse. Many students lack the resources to play competitively and develop athletic advantages early in life. And Bears Tomorrow – which helps kids before high school, when the greatest athletic strides can occur – has done a remarkable job improving our boys’ and girls’ basketball teams.

The Independence School District’s socioeconomic diversity is its true distinction. It’s an invaluable resource for preparing global citizens to lead the world they live in.
Yet it appears those driving district staffing decisions are blind to its uniqueness.

And that’s too bad, because it hasn’t always been the case. Previous administrators understood our distinction and created Parents as Teachers, before- and after-school care and other innovations.

I think it’s time to focus again on what truly distinguishes the Independence School District. Toward that end, I’d welcome the opportunity to visit personally with district administrators about reshaping our priorities.

Most of all, though, I’m interested in what you think. Send your comments to

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