The race for State Representative in the 25th District has drawn its second candidate: Jennifer Robinson of Westwood. Robinson is a Democrat and currently the vice-chair of the Johnson County Democratic Party. The seat is currently held by Republican Melissa Rooker of Fairway who has filed for re-election.Jennifer RobinsonRobinson was born in Wichita, grew up in Colorado and has lived in Westwood for 11 years. She has more than 20 years of music and arts administration experience and has worked in Westwood as a consultant with A Renewal Enterprise, based in Chicago, where she has co-authored several books on leadership.She and her husband, Jack, have two daughters who attend Westwood View Elementary. “We came to Johnson County for a job, but stayed even after the job changed.”Robinson said the turning point for her decision to run for state representative came during this year’s legislative session. “I was in the House gallery the night our teachers were stripped of their due-process rights. And, I was appalled that after using bully tactics for two days and intimidating their opponents, the leadership rammed through the final bill with virtually no discussion. I came home that night and decided enough was enough. I can no longer stand by quietly while our state is being driven over a cliff.”Robinson was first drawn to politics in 2008 when she volunteered with the Obama campaign. She has a longer political lineage, though. She is a direct descendant of the first Connecticut governor, Robert Treat. His great-grandson and one of her ancestral uncles, Robert Treat Paine, signed the Declaration of Independence.Robinson has laid out her positions on several issues on her campaign site, including school funding. She criticizes the Brownback administration and the Kansas Legislature for weakening public schools.Robinson describes herself as an avid cook and skis competitively with her daughters in the winter. This year they represented Kansas in the NASTAR National Championships in Snowmass. She has bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington and a master’s with honors from the University of New Mexico.
Senior Akshay Dinakar hosted the seventh annual Poetry Slam in the SM East library Friday.SM East gets poetic with seventh annual “Slam.” Approximately 300 students used their lunch period to get a little culture at SM East Friday at the seventh annual Poetry Slam, where students read original works. Three winners in the event, which took place in the SM East library, received gift certificates to Chick Fil A.SM East, SM North students to attend robotics world championships. NEJC high school students will accompany the SM West robotics team to the FIRST Robotics Championship in St. Louis starting April 22. In addition to the seven-person Viking Robotics team that came in second at the FIRST Kansas City Robotics Competition last month, one student from SM East and two students from SM North will attend the competition after having helped the Vikings get their machine ready.Rose previews Senate plan to balance Kansas budget. The Kansas City Star’s Steve Rose used his Saturday column to lay out Senate Ways and Means Committee Vice Chair Jim Denning’s thoughts about how to stem the state’s $600 million budget hole. Denning says plugging the loophole that exempts small business owners from paying taxes on their own wages could help save $110 million. [How to find $600 million for the Kansas budget — Kansas City Star]Roeland Park reception for council members – old and new – tonight. Roeland Park will hold a reception for its three new incoming members and three outgoing members of the city council tonight at 6 p.m. in city hall. The reception will welcome new councilors Erin Thompson, Michael Poppa and Tim Janssen. It also will thank Megan England, Jennifer Gunby and Mrek Gliniecki for their years of service on the council. A council meeting will follow at 7 p.m.Emerald Ash Borer presentation Wednesday. Learn about the presence of EAB in the area and what can be done about your ash trees. Dennis Patton, horticulture agent of the Johnson County K-State Research and Extension office will be the presenter at the session held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Sylvester Powell Community Center.SM North yearbook wins award. The National Scholastic Press Association has named the SM North yearbook, The Indian, a winner of a Pacemaker Award at the Spring National High School Journalism Convention held this weekend in Denver. The 2013-2014 yearbook editors were Andrew Neyins, Savannah Rottanavong, and Kathy Hammer. Becky Tate is the faculty advisor.The Northeast Johnson County morning roundup is brought to you by Twisted Sisters Coffee Shop on Johnson Drive. For updates on the latest blends and specialty drinks available, follow them on Facebook.
Members of the KC Angels at the sportsmanship banquet. Photo provided.Angels baseball team honored for sportsmanship. The 3&2 Baseball Club of Johnson County chooses five teams each year that exhibit the type of sportsmanship that the organization tries to instill in all of their players, coaches and families. The KC Angels, coached by Prairie Village resident Paul Bertrand, was chosen from among 49 other 7th and 8th grade teams to receive this award. The team was formed four years ago with fifth graders from St Ann Catholic School. Head coach Bertrand said in his remarks, “I’m so proud of these boys for playing the game the right way; they are a joy to coach.” The team received the award at the annual sportsmanship banquet.Mission Coffee with a Cop Tuesday. The Mission Coffee with a Cop series will be held Tuesday (Sept. 27) at the Chick-fil-A at Mission Crossing. The session will run from 8 to 9:30 a.m.Merriam police say no criminal intent in suspicious activity. The Merriam Police Department Saturday evening had issued a notice that a 12-year-old girl coming out of the Walgreens on Johnson Drive had been approached by a while male, 50 to 60 years old, who had told the girl he would give her a ride home. The girl went back inside and called her mother. Police asked for help in identifying the man. Sunday afternoon police said the person of interest was identified and there was no criminal intent in the case.St. Luke’s to operate Overland Park hospital. St. Luke’s Health System has been revealed as the operator of the micro hospital planned for 75th and Marty in Overland Park. St. Luke’s did not confirm any other similar facilities it might operate. Micro hospitals also are planned in Roeland Park and Leawood. [St. Luke’s enters the micro hospital business – The Kansas City Star ]Sidie gets help from national committee. Democrat Jay Sidie has been named a candidate who will get help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Sidie is included in the Red to Blue program which gives financial, communications and grassroots support to candidates who it believes have a chance at picking up a seat in the November election. Sidie is facing incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder.Roeland Park calls special meeting. The Roeland Park City Council will hold a special called meeting at 7 p.m. tonight to discuss a funding agreement with the Johnson County Parks and Recreation District regarding the dome and equipment at the aquatic center. The meeting was announced Friday.Northeast Johnson County morning roundup is brought to you by Twisted Sisters Coffee Shop on Johnson Drive. For updates on the latest blends and specialty drinks available, follow them on Facebook.
Rendering of the new gallery space planned for the InterUrban Arthouse.The InterUrban ArtHouse, a cultural anchor in downtown Overland Park for five years, has bought the post office building across the street to allow a major expansion of its arts programs and studio space.Angie Hejduk, chief operating officer for the ArtHouse, said the acquisition of the 10,000 square-foot post office building at 8010 Conser St. was completed with the help of a $160,000 grant from the City of Overland Park.Other funding for the purchase: Anonymous, $100,000; Regnier Foundation, $75,000; Howard Jacobson, $20,000; Hal Shapiro, $10,000, and Sunderland Foundation, $100,000.Plans call for the U.S. Post Office to downsize its current operation and continue to operate a 1,000 square-foot retail facility in the building.Rendering of the community porch planned for the new InterUrban Arthouse.The remainder will be converted to a dozen studios, classroom and exhibition space, and a coffee shop. The loading dock will become a “community porch.” The move also will allow InterUrban to meet the needs of people with disabilities.Hejduk estimated the cost of the renovation at about $500,000. A fundraising effort is underway. The InterUrban ArtHouse purchased the post office building debt-free and wants to complete the renovations without debt as well. The organization currently is in rented space across the street at 8001 Conser.Owning its own space and avoiding the uncertainty of rent increases was one of the goals when Nicole Emanuel founded the ArtHouse. “She came to Kansas City with her family and found that there were only a few artist spaces in this area,” Hejduk said. “She reached out to the community and over 100 artists showed up…by owning the building, we can control our rent.”Hejduk said the InterUrban ArtHouse has been a contributor to the renaissance currently occurring in downtown Overland Park. The retail district is thriving and developments totaling more than 500 apartments are in the pipeline.“We’ve been here for several years and feel we’ve been a key component of the cultural landscape,” she said. “That’s why people are developing and creating more living options.”Hejduk also praised the City of Overland Park for its help acquiring the post office building.“The city made a substantial endorsement of arts programming in this community,” she said.The ArtHouse will continue utilizing its former rented space at 8001 Conser. A new middle school for the arts is in the works there as well, and students at the school are expected to take classes at InterUrban ArtHouse.The first event planned for the new space will be a TEDxOverland Park grand opening on the theme of Systems. It will be March 2, 2017 at 2 p.m.The InterUrban ArtHouse has acquired the post office building at 8010 Conser St. in downtown Overland Park.
By Roxie HammillOverland Park police may get more body cameras and a replacement for its bomb truck in the next five years. But a plan to build a firing range and ordnance disposal site in Shawnee has been shelved for the time being because stray bullets could reach nearby neighborhoods.The range would have been built on land owned by Overland Park near the Deffenbaugh landfill. It would have included an outdoor firing range and a place to dispose of explosive ordnance as well as seized marijuana and other substances, said police department spokesman John Lacy. Last year, the city budgeted $800,000 for the project.The Overland Park and Shawnee police departments partnered a couple of years ago to do a study of the site. Officials were initially excited about what looked like a promisingly remote area, said Shawnee Police Chief Rob Moser.That excitement faded when the study results showed the range for ricochets and wide shots, with some shots possibly making it into neighborhoods, Moser said.“We couldn’t and wouldn’t put the community in danger,” he said.Police departments have been looking for a way to have their own firing range for years. Shawnee police explored the topic with the city council as long ago as 2013 and have looked at a number of locations. “So far everything we’ve worked through has hit a snag,” Moser said.Officers need range time to practice so they can fulfill certification requirements, Lacy said. Overland Park and Shawnee currently rent time from several private firing ranges.But demands for range time are high and departments must compete with private citizens learning their own weapons. Using private ranges also is expensive, not only for the rental time but also for time spent traveling to ranges as much as a half hour away, Moser said.Having a police firing range would save money over the long run, he said.The partnership was based on the location of the prospective site, Moser said. Now both police departments will begin to look for other options.Overland Park’s long-range budget planner, the capital improvements program, did have some notable new spending on other police department items, however.For instance, the city is planning a big increase in spending on police body cameras to be purchased in 2019 and 2020.The city put body cameras on its budget for the first time last year, planning on $150,000 to pay for 100 in 2018, with more planned in subsequent years.This year’s proposed budget adds 150 more cameras but moves the purchase back to 2019 and 2020. The total projected cost, however, is increased to $750,000. Most of the cost increase – about $450,000 – pays for long- and short-range storage of data from the cameras.Also new on the police long-range budget this year is replacement of a “bomb truck” for $450,000. The city’s current bomb truck holds tactical operations equipment and is 15 years old. Replacement is planned for 2020.The capital improvements program is a five-year projection of upcoming expenditures, and not a final budget. The total CIP is for $180.8 million from 2019-2023.The plan will come before the city council for action on April 2, but even then it’s still only a plan. Final decisions on actual spending for next year happen when the city budget is approved.
Santa comes to Shawnee Indian Mission. Photo credit: City of FairwayDare I say things are already starting to wind down for the holiday break? Also – is anyone else just learning that candy cane hunts are now a thing?Say it ain’t so! The Grinch is planning on stealing all of the candy canes from Beverly Park in Mission on Thursday night – they must be found during the Grinch Candy Cane Hunt before it’s too late. Those who accomplish their mission can enjoy some hot cocoa and a viewing of How the Grinch Stole Christmas at Sylvester Powell Community Center.For (presumably) less screaming, check out the Overland Park Civic Band Holiday Concert at the Bell Cultural Events Center in Olathe, also on Thursday evening. Now in its 81st season this free and relaxing concert is filled with holiday favorites.On Friday night it’s Canes, Cocoa and a Claus at the Shawnee Indian Mission in Fairway. Bring your flashlight on Friday to participate in a candy cane hunt in the Christmas Tree Forest. Afterwards children can make an ornament and meet Santa and Mrs. Claus.Also on Friday night, watch dreams come true when the Polar Express comes to Baldwin City. Tickets include entertainment, cocoa, an ornament and more than a little Christmas magic.
A few of the first responders involved in the rescue of a family from a burning building two years ago. From left, Kyle Segraves, Andrew Freisner, Dustin Moore, Lynn Wedel and Maria Moreno.The 911 calls just kept coming in. An apartment in Lenexa was engulfed in flames.Maria Moreno, a dispatcher for the Johnson County Emergency Communications Center, was fresh out of training. She had already fielded multiple calls that day in April 2017 when the woman called. She was trapped inside a second-story apartment unit with two small children she was looking after.“My main concern was just to keep her calm and reassure her that help was on the way and that my firefighters were doing everything they could to gain access to her,” Moreno said. “It was all kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing. I was shocked myself. But I knew I had to remain calm for her.”Meanwhile, the Lenexa Fire Department and mutual aid first responders raced to the apartment at 85th Street and Pflumm Road. As they were pulling up, they saw the whole building was engulfed. They saw the family banging on the windows and Moreno, the dispatcher, had told them exactly where they were trapped.Lenexa Fire Captain Dustin Moore and Firefighter Paramedic Andrew Freisner climbed the ladder, grabbed the children — a 2- or 3-year-old toddler and an 18-month-old — and helped them down the ladder.Once they climbed the ladder, there was near-zero visibility but, luckily, no direct fire yet. Moore and Freisner entered from the balcony and then forced entry into the bedroom. The kids were lethargic from the smoke and heat. Their aunt could still walk, so she waited until they came back for her and her pets.“It was a situation where we knew what to do and it sounds kinda counterintuitive, but the less you think about stuff in that situation, the better you are,” Freisner said. “You really want to work off instinct.”The family went to the hospital for emergency care, but they turned out fine. Moore estimated the chain of events that afternoon occurred in about 12 minutes.“At the time, it hit me so quick I don’t know that it really hit me what had just happened,” Moore said.A collaboration of first respondersPresident Donald Trump awards Freisner and Moore with the Medal of Valor. Photo courtesy of city of LenexaMoore and Freisner got the assignment to rescue, but the two heavily credit the collaboration of their fire department and mutual aid first responders — the Overland Park and Shawnee fire departments, Johnson County Med-Act and Lenexa Police Department — for the successful rescue. They kept the flames at bay during the rescue and ensured the family had what they needed once they got out.Kyle Segraves, Kevin Sellers and Danny Clark with the Lenexa Fire Department also gave support on the ladder. Segraves and rescued the black labrador dog after the family was rescued.“This specific incident had a culmination of all of those agencies working together, and working together really well, and that’s when you get positive outcomes,” said Lynn Wedel, Lenexa fire battalion chief, adding that he was “tremendously” proud of his firefighters.Last week, Moore and Freisner received the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor, the highest national award for valor presented to a public safety officer. President Donald Trump presented them with the medal during a White House ceremony on May 22.The Medal of Valor is awarded to public safety officers who have exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect others from harm.“It’s one of my proudest moments, but I think what it represents is more important,” Freisner said. “It was a countywide effort. I actually felt pretty bad having just us two there seeing the effort. Everybody worked together; it really represents how well we do work with each other.”Moreno stayed on the call with the woman until Lenexa firefighters reached her and the kids. Helping them made her feel accomplished.“They’re more than likely having the worst day of their life when they’re calling 911,” Moreno said. “They know that you’re there to help them and at the end of the day, that’s what matters to me, is that I’m able to help somebody.”
More than 50 people Wednesday presented heartfelt pleas to Overland Park leaders to approve an ordinance with legal protections from discrimination for the LGBTQ+ community, despite a grim assessment from the city’s legal department about its enforceability.The crowd at the council’s community development committee discussion was largely in favor of passage of a non-discrimination ordinance, saying Overland Park should do what nine other Johnson County municipalities have already done.Committee chair Curt Skoog invited the public to discuss the issue as the city decides how to move forward. In February, the council passed a resolution in support of LGBTQ+ rights, but left it to state legislators to write a law granting legal protection. Since that has not happened, the council is revisiting the issue.Several speakers last night told the committee Overland Park should step forward because the statehouse leadership is unlikely to make the necessary changes, and there have been issues in the area. One speaker told the committee she had experienced discrimination based on gender identity.“I’ve been a victim of anti transgender discrimination right here in Overland Park,” said Una Nowling, an intersex and transgender woman who is president of the KKFI 90.1 board of directors. “I’ve been thrown out of a business, I’ve been refused service, I’ve had hate speech used against me by staff and local business…Yes it is happening and no we can’t delay on this.”Numerous speakers asked the city to adopt an ordinance, saying it’s the right thing to do and it would send a message to lawmakers.“This is a local issue. Throwing up your hands and saying that this is something that can only be done at the state or federal level does not absolve you from responsibility,” said Taryn Jones. File photo from city council candidate forum.“This is a local issue. Throwing up your hands and saying that this is something that can only be done at the state or federal level does not absolve you from responsibility,” said Taryn Jones, a gay woman who was among the candidates in the primary field for a Ward 1 seat on the city council.State Rep. Jared Ousley, one of several legislators who attended the meeting, said having cities pass ordinances would help the argument at the state level.However, Overland Park legal staff told the committee they had concerns about the enforceability of such city level measures. The Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act severely limits enforcement of non-discrimination laws if a person cites religious beliefs, said Michael Koss, senior assistant city attorney. The city’s legal staff has asked for an attorney general’s opinion on how to enforce such ordinances.Some of the speakers pushed back on that point, saying that a city ordinance has at least some chance at being enforced, while the resolution already on the books remains just a resolution.Other speakers invoked the goals of Forward OP that stressed making the city a welcoming place for all people. “It is impossible to feel welcome in a place where you can be denied housing because of who you love,” said Melissa Cheatham. “Quite frankly I think that having to endure hours of public debate about whether or not you are entitled to full human and civil rights probably doesn’t feel very welcoming.”Still others said the lack of ongoing legal protection would cost Overland Park talented young workers who want to live in a diverse place.Beatrice Turley, a sophomore at Shawnee Mission West, said she wants to live in a place where the law protects her. “A non-discrimination ordinance is a very simple way to invite people different from you and make Overland Park an even better community to be a part of.”Hope Fritton, a sophomore at Shawnee Mission South, said, “This ordinance is our opportunity to be neighbors and to make our city a place that is a little (more) free of hate.”Jacob Moyer, a student at Johnson County Community College, remembered asking his high school teacher at Shawnee Mission North about the safety pin she was wearing. She told him it was because she was a safe person to talk to if he was bullied or had other issues, he said. Then one day, she told him she couldn’t wear it anymore because she’d risk being fired.“She’s not even gay but she could still be fired for supporting LGBTQ rights, which tells you that this is an important ordinance to pass,” Moyer said.Only four people spoke against the ordinance. Some said they didn’t want to rush into a law that would be complex and difficult to enforce.“The definitions of sexual orientation and gender identity are so spread out and so different and so rapidly changing that just from a bystander’s perspective how in the world is someone supposed to keep up with that,” said Kathy Laverick. She also said she thought normalizing transgender issues would be detrimental to children.Patricia Brown was concerned that the city continues to respect the rights of those with religious convictions. “I’m concerned that an ordinance that would promote the rights of one would then violate the rights of the other,” she said.The discussion lasted about two and a half hours. Skoog said he will discuss with Mayor Carl Gerlach how to proceed.
A growing number of workers can’t find affordable housing in the state’s wealthiest county. With cheaper housing disappearing, pricier options proliferating and rents rising, Johnson County residents working modest-paying jobs in offices, public safety and even public schools, among others, face the prospect of increasingly missing out on the suburban good life there. But while nonprofit activism is increasing awareness of the problem, there’s little clarity about how city government — and local candidates vying for your vote this fall — might contribute to addressing it. This week, we’re running Priced Out, a series on housing affordability issues in Johnson County and beyond reported by The Journal, a publication of the Kansas Leadership Center.What exactly is it that a city can do to create more affordable housing?There are plenty of alternatives being tried. Some think tiny-home villages – like a highly successful and touted veterans community in Kansas City, Missouri – might be the answer. But tenant advocates say while it’s a great option, it’s hardly the ideal for many.Other metropolitan areas have considered allowing existing homeowners to build accessory dwelling units – dubbed granny units – where it makes sense. Designers have suggested houses made from 3-D printed parts as another possibility.But none of those options is expected to gain much traction in the Kansas City metro area. Right now, the region is instead in diagnosis mode.The Urban Land Institute defines “workforce or affordable housing” as housing that is affordable to households earning 60% to 120% of an area’s median income. In Johnson County, those incomes would range from $48,720 a year to $97,440 a year. Workforce housing could help anyone from a senior citizen on a fixed income to a recent graduate or lower income worker who don’t qualify for Section 8 housing.The National League of Cities has taken a keen interest in the Kansas City region this year after the First Suburbs Coalition and the Mid-America Regional Council won a grant to help study the housing issue. The league hired a consultant to study workforce housing. The study is still underway, but an initial data assessment indicated that Kansas and Missouri suburbs need to rethink their approaches.Some of the work confirms what local officials already knew: that older housing stock can face hefty maintenance expenses that puts it out of reach for many lower-wage employees. In Johnson County’s wealthiest suburbs, the study confirmed that many of the basic community helpers are not able to live among the residents they serve.Among the options summit strategists have suggested city officials consider:Create a regional workforce housing awareness campaign to lessen the public stigma.Better utilize tax abatements for new and existing homes and homebuyer assistance programs.The consultant also recommended that local officials actively encourage the development of workforce housing by reducing regulations involving setbacks and density requirements while easing or waiving some fees and layering financial incentives.In Johnson County, some small steps have been taken. Overland Park and Lenexa included affordable housing as priorities for future growth. The Overland Park City Council also approved a controversial development plan to build smaller, affordable homes – priced at about $250,000 – in an older section of the city where a few lots went undeveloped for decades.Neighbors argued that a developer wanted to put too many houses on small plats. City Council members disagreed, saying the homes were financially attainable. Meanwhile, time-worn patterns of development in Johnson County – from building McMansions to trendy teardowns – continue.Officials continue to compile more information about affordable housing. As the National League of Cities continues its work, Johnson County will begin its own housing study. United Community Services teamed up with the county and several cities this fall to conduct a housing study.Julie Brewer, executive director of United Community Services, thinks its findings will shape the discussion, although a Johnson County Community Development Office housing market needs and analysis released in 2004 identified many of the issues being discussed presently but did little to move the needle.Maybe it’s an income problem?Not everybody who studies the affordable housing issue is convinced that building more housing is the solution.Some, like Kirk McClure, professor of urban planning at the University of Kansas School of Public Affairs and Administration, think affordable housing is at adequate levels for Johnson County unlike, say, Seattle and Los Angeles. Why simply build more housing, which will also eventually be marked up? The real solution, he believes, is improved wages, increased minimum wage and wage assistance.“They need rents below $500,” he says. The problem is that the price of land doesn’t allow for that without subsidies.“Nobody can afford to purchase, maintain, pay taxes on housing that you rent out for, say, $350 a month,” he says.Although McClure thinks the best way to fix the problem is by encouraging federal officials to help with more targeted subsidies, he says there is room for better city and state cooperation. Kansas has a little used program called mortgage revenue bonds that allow the state to offer loans to moderate-income, first-time homebuyers.McClure also says the state is still heavily influenced by real estate agents, builders and developers, who have long shaped the housing narrative in Kansas.“We need to be guided more in serving our needs,” he says. “We’ve got to start having the Johnson County delegation show some backbone and testify against the homebuilders.”Real estate groups have long been successful in Topeka, most recently pushing the Legislature to pass a law banning cities from forcing developers to set aside a portion of new construction for affordable units because it infringed on the rights of property owners and violated free market principles.Affordable housing advocates argue that the law makes no sense, especially when developers sometimes receive taxpayer-funded subsidies to finance luxury construction at the expense of schools, libraries and others.However, builders and developers point out that putting the onus on homebuilders to increase the amount of affordable housing penalizes their industry, which is already heavily regulated.“You’re basically just taking money out of one pocket and handing it to another,” says Shawn Woods, the president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City.Instead he’d like to see cities working with the building industry to come up with solutions.“It can be done, but it’s going to take some thinking outside the box. I don’t think the way to do that is to penalize a developer for building a bigger house,” Woods says.McClure thinks local officials need to get out their toolboxes and start being creative. Play the game, McClure says, by doing things like increasing water connection fees with a caveat: “We’ll reduce them if you set aside 20%” of the units for workforce housing.“There are creative ways to do this,” he says. “You’ve got to connect to a water system in order to have water.”A place to work and live?As she mulls her housing situation, Judy Intfen, the counseling secretary at Mill Valley High School (read more about her in Part 1) wishes cities would think about someone like her.She doesn’t want a tiny house or a single-family home. She’s content to rent. Intfen once had an ownership share in the well-known Paddy O’Quigley’s Pub & Grille. For more than 21 years, the Irish pub was mainstay at 119th Street and Roe Avenue in Leawood.Back then, Intfen did everything from managing, hiring and training staff to payroll and more. She spent 60-plus hours a week at her small business. She didn’t have time to attend to home ownership. One year she went without a salary as the business weathered the recession. Making a down payment and paying a mortgage was one thing. Confronting the inevitable home repair emergency was another.“I don’t want my furnace to go out. I don’t want my roof to leak. There’s no way I could afford to get those things fixed,” she says.Intfen just wants something affordable in a safe environment. “I want a bedroom, a kitchen, living room, storage. I want the basics,” she says.Back at Mill Valley High School, students and school staff seem to enjoy having Intfen around the building.She likens her job to a flight controller at times. She will likely get to know every student. She’ll try to learn their names, and often a lot more, before sending them off to meet with the right counselor. The students have noticed. They dedicated a full page to her in the 2018 yearbook.“I love it,” she says of her job. “I love the kids, love the administration. I really do enjoy every aspect.”There’s certainly a place for her to work, but the question policymakers in Johnson County will face in the years to come is whether something needs to be done to ensure she and others in her situation also have a place to live.This is part three of a three-part series about affordable housing in Johnson County being published by the Shawnee Mission Post. The stories are adapted from The Journal, a magazine published in print and online at klcjournal.com by the Kansas Leadership Center, and are being used with permission.
Students at Clear Creek Elementary in USD 232. Photo courtesy of USD 232Three elementary schools in Johnson County were named Blue Ribbon Schools this year as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s recognition of school excellence.Clear Creek Elementary in USD 232, Corinth Elementary in the Shawnee Mission School District and Lakewood Elementary in the Blue Valley School District were recognized as Exemplary High Performing Schools. Exemplary High Performing Schools have their state’s highest high school graduation rates and the highest achieving students — the top 15% — in English and mathematics, measured by state assessments. The three elementary schools are among six schools in Kansas to receive the Blue Ribbon recognition this year.Located in Shawnee, Clear Creek Elementary serves about 570 students from kindergarten through fifth grade.Kelley Begley-McCall, principal of Clear Creek Elementary, said she believes that the third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students consistently scoring well on test scores brought the attention of the state for the nomination.“Their scores are very good — I’ve been in other districts where we’re creating goals based around those state assessment scores, and honestly, we’re at that point where we’re doing so well that we have to look at other ways to make goals to help improve our instruction,” Begley-McCall said.Begley-McCall said other factors have driven the school to receive the Blue Ribbon award this year, including an involved parent community, a veteran faculty with each teacher having at least 10 years of experience, and a “very strong” culture at Clear Creek that brings the school community together.“We really believe in maximizing every child’s potential, and we feel that our mission is to prepare all students for their future,” she added. “There’s a dedicated and passionate staff, and they want to provide a safe and secure environment for our students.”Corinth Elementary students have also had consistently high test scores. Photo courtesy of Shawnee Mission School DistrictCorinth Elementary serves about 555 students from kindergarten through sixth grade who live in the area of Prairie Village and Leawood.Chris Lowe, principal of Corinth Elementary, said the school’s designation as a Blue Ribbon School is based off the students’ consistently high state assessment scores over the past several years. However, it’s the team culture of working together that really drove the school to receive the award.“We’re just very blessed to have such a great, supportive, amazing community, and our staff,” Lowe said. “We’re very proud of the kids and the teachers and the community for this award, just proud to represent Shawnee Mission in a positive way.”Lowe said Corinth Elementary has earned the blue ribbon just one other time — in 2001.“It’s just a reflection of our kids, our teachers, our community, our parent involvement,” Lowe said. “It’s something to be very proud of.”