Educating Children Beyond the Classroom

Harrison Neal, Sr. (right)
Principal at Benjamin Banneker Elementary School in Kansas City, Missouri

We are approaching the 400-year anniversary of the first documented slaves arriving in the United States of America in August of 1619. The late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “We may have arrived on different ships but, we are all in the same boat now.” This quote as leader causes a self-reflection of the different partnerships making an impact on our children’s academic outcomes at Benjamin Banneker Elementary School in Kansas City, MO. Communities In Schools (CIS) of Mid-America has provided an opportunity to reach and meet students’ needs in providing wrap-around services to support children, families, and the community.

Mr. Stanley Taylor is our CIS Site Coordinator for Benjamin Banneker Elementary School. It has been a pleasure to collaborate and work along-side Mr. Taylor who began his tenure at Banneker at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. Since arriving at Banneker, our school has ensured that community partners are a part of our leadership team. It is critical in schools that stakeholders are not treated as outsiders, but integral parts of the school in aligning with the school’s vision and supporting collective decisions to best meet the needs of all children. Our school has recently received recognition for academic improvements on the Missouri state assessments in ELA and Math as measured by the MAP Performance Index (MPI). Further, discipline rates for the 2018-2019 school year are on track to decrease by at least 60% or more based on the previous 2017-2018 school year data. These academic accomplishments were met despite enrollment and community challenges.

The student population of Benjamin Banneker is 90.2% African-American, 5.7% Hispanic, 2.2% Caucasian, 1.7% multi-racial, and 0.3% Asian. In addition, Banneker is identified as a part of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). CEP provides the option to offer free meals to all students in eligible high poverty Local Education Agencies (LEA) and schools without collecting household applicants. All students reported in these buildings receive free lunch. Exceptional Education students account for 14% of the student population. The students considered homeless account for 11% of the student population. Less than 1% of students at Banneker are ELL. Our school has a 60% student mobility rate as well which, proposes a challenge regarding student enrollment consistency year to year. 

On multiple occasions, we have been asked what we attribute our recent success to. As an administrator, we must attribute CIS as one of the leading factors of our improvements. Mr. Taylor has provided several tiered layers of support for our children. Tier 2 supports included group activities, classroom incentives and behavior incentives reaching 678 students. Tier 3 supports included individual activities, 1 to 1 tutoring, and behavior check-ins servicing 490 students. In addition to the tiered supports, CIS has provided basic needs for a large amount of children including clothing, hygiene kits, back snacks and school supplies. Further, CIS has brought in over 20 community partnerships to aid in providing the social and emotional supports for our school.

“Education is the key opportunity in our society, and the equality of educational opportunity must be the birthright of every citizen.”

Lyndon B. Johnson

Meeting the needs of students’ social and emotional supports is a big proponent of CIS. Mr. Taylor has done a phenomenal job of building relationships with children and going the extra mile to ensure every child’s needs are met. As an administrator, having CIS in our building has been a great opportunity to ensure we are meeting the needs of children beyond the classroom and supporting every child’s opportunity to improve their own academic outcomes. The 36th President of the United States of America Lyndon B. Johnson states, “Education is the key opportunity in our society, and the equality of educational opportunity must be the birthright of every citizen.” To that end, I want to thank CIS for supporting our children by providing an opportunity for every child through a lens of equity.


Principal of Benjamin Banneker Elementary School 

Kansas City Public Schools