REESE EDUCATIONAL CENTER
I had my first tour in one of our facilities today – Reese Educational Center, and I got to visit with a wonderful woman doing an amazing job. Reese’s Director, Ms. Leslie Brown, took some time out of what I know is a very busy schedule to show me around her facility, and I am very grateful for her hospitality. If you haven’t been out there, you should check it out. This small building houses 4 very important programs: AIM (for OSS), Solutions (for SpEd kids with some pretty serious emotional and behavioral issues), and Gateway for those teenagers who are not thriving in the regular high school environment. Parents as Teachers (PaT) and the Gifted program also have offices in this building, and PaT has a very colorful, toy-filled room for their use. The staff at Reese, 1 Director (Ms. Brown), 1 secretary, 2 teachers, and 1 para for the Gateway program;1 teacher and 1 para for the Solutions program, and and 1 custodian for the building, spend their days caring for and educating as many as 34 students (28 Gateway students and 6 Solutions students) from all over our region – not just our Warrensburg rVI district!
During our tour, I saw a group of people working very hard with what they had – outdated computers, a dated, unused kitchen (which is put to classroom use because there is no kitchen staff budget – meals are bused over from Warrensburg Middle School, showing some wonderful intra-district collaboration), a safe room that still needs padding, and a shortage of teachers, to bring positive influences and opportunities to a number of young people who really need it, whether they appreciate it or not. This team has taken this old building and turned it into a safe place for these very important members of our student population, and the fact that individuals as far away as Blue Springs are sending their kids to Ms. Brown speaks volumes for what they do.
I listened as Ms. Brown told me what was coming: renovations to the safe room, new security measures, and how she planned to make the Diner (the lunch/recreation area) into a cyber-diner using existing computers. She shared what she had done herself – remodeling an existing shower and paying for Senior pictures, and what she would like to see, a 3rd teacher, kitchen staff, cable for educational TV, and 5 more computers for the AIM (OSS) room. Very early on in my visit, she had shared her dream of bringing at-risk elementary and middle school kids into the fold – a goal I must say I can support given what I have seen of what she has done and the need I know exists at those levels. There are many other things I saw that would benefit this school as well, but Ms. Brown’s hopes are realistic. She knows she can’t “have it all,” but she is certainly hoping for some of it, and rightfully so!
I have to admit, I knew very little about Reese before my visit today, and I’m sorry that was the case. This is the kind of place I can get behind. That’s not to say in any way that the “mainstream” schools do not deserve our attention, or that the students in those schools don’t have some of the same needs. Nor am I insinuating that Reese has been neglected. I was strongly and repeatedly reassured that was not the case. The District and the other schools do seem to look out for Reese Educational Center, but there is always more that needs to be done in these situations. As Ms. Brown emphatically pointed out, these kids are smart – they are capable – they are just really beat up, and need someone to show them that they CAN succeed. Does it always work? No – it absolutely does not. But if there weren’t the Ms. Browns-and-Company in the world, and School Districts with Boards like our to back them up, these kids wouldn’t even have the chance.
I not only welcome the chance to advocate for these kids, I ask for it!!