A History of Gordon Parks Elementary School
1997: While volunteering at Operation Breakthrough, co-Founders Sue Jarvis, and Dorothy Curry were inspired to establish a school that could support at-risk students and help them reach their potential.
1998: The State of Missouri adopts the Missouri Charter School law. With the help of legal, financial, administrative, and education consultants, Dorothy and Sue began to design a school that would meet the needs of children who might be left behind in a traditional school setting.
1999: The University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg (UCM) agreed to sponsor the new charter school. Mr. Gordon Parks, the famed African-American writer, photographer, composer, poet, painter, and filmmaker, gave his name to the school. Missouri's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) grants permission for the charter school to operate. Gordon Parks Elementary School opens in the Fall in the education wing of All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church with 53 kindergarten and first grade students, four classrooms, a $631,450 annual budget and a $273,000 fundraising goal.
2000: Gordon Parks Elementary moves to its present location in the Volker Neighborhood. The school begins to utilize the Balanced Literary instructional program, which uses children's literature as its teaching tool, rather than text books.
2001 - 2002: Several additions were made to the teaching staff, including two Special Education teachers, a Speech/Language Pathologist, and a Behavior Intervention Specialist.
2003: Gordon Parks Elementary expands to fifth grade and has nearly 200 students enrolled.
2005: A new Vision Skills program is added to the Special Needs team.
2006: Gordon Parks Elementary received accreditation by the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCACASI). In response to growing development needs, Gordon Parks Elementary hosted its first annual Fall Fundraiser at a private home in Kansas City, MO. The Special Needs team introduced the Tomatis Listening Therapy program, now referred to as the Integrated Listening System.
2008: A Supplemental Reading Teacher position is created to provide one-on-one and small group learning opportunities to students and professional development support to teachers.
2010: The Eat, Exercise, Excel program is implemented at Gordon Parks Elementary, a healthy lifestyle initiative that features a structured recess program and students eating lunches in their classrooms. Additionally, a new Supplemental Math Teacher is hired to support teachers with the new Investigations math curriculum and to provide one-on-one and small group tutoring to students.
2011: The PACE program, a transitional kindergarten classroom, is established to support students who are kindergarten-age but developmentally delayed. This program gives students one year of additional academic support before promoting to the traditional kindergarten program. Additionally, a new Science Teacher position is created to provide a renewed focus on STEM education.
2012: Gordon Parks Elementary implements the Co-Teaching philsophy, a model in which multiple teachers work together in the same classroom to bring special needs instruction to students in the natural classroom setting.
Background on School Building
Originally called Van Horn, the building was dedicated on September 1st, 1913. Colonel Robert T. Van Horn, a prominent Kansas Citian who served as mayor, state senator, U.S. congressman and publisher of the Kansas City Journal, was 89 years old when he gave a dedicatory speech, declaring that the building would remain standing for another 200 years.
After World War II, Van Horn School was built at Winner and Van Horn Roads. Since the city did not need two Van Horn schools, the elementary school was renamed William Volker School in 1948 to honor a modest philanthropist who refused to accept any honors during his lifetime. Volker had been a member of the Kansas City School Board at the time the Whitehead estate donated four acres to the school district for the building of the school. Volker and the Whitehead family were neighbors in the Roanoke neighborhood. Volker's legacy continues to live on in education.