School Board Honors Students, Staff and Volunteer

Scholar Superstars, Terrific Teammates and Community Champions


Kansas City, June 15, 2017: The Kansas City Public Schools Board of Directors recognized extraordinary students, staff and volunteer during a workshop meeting on Wednesday, June 14 at Longfellow Elementary School.

Scholar Superstars

KCPS Board of Directors Chair Melissa Robinson, Gladstone Elementary School student Tziyona Harris and Superintendent Mark Bedell

Tzioyna Harris will be a fifth grader in the KCPS Pylons Gifted Program at Gladstone Elementary School this fall. Her teacher is Darla Hopper.

Ms. Harris is an aspiring author and artist. At 10 years old, she is already sending her original work to publishers on a regular basis. This past winter, she had an original art piece to be published on the Scholastic website in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the U.S. National Parks Service.

Harris possesses a special type of persistence, a trait that keeps her working to improve her writing and art work to the level of  being published. Tzionya also believes in volunteering her time to help students in need.  She is always willing to help younger students with their reading and math, according to Principal Dana Carter.

During her remarks to the Board, Pylons Director Anna Blancarte predicted that Harris would accomplish great things.

“I am confident that we will see her name and picture on a book jacket some day, maybe as soon as next year,” Ms. Blancarte said. “I know that she will be a published author and/or artist in the future.”

Macy Littlejohn was also named a Scholar Superstar. Ms. Littlejohn is a Pylons student who will be a fifth grader at Border Star Montessori School this fall. She was unable to be at the Board meeting to accept the award.

In addition to her high academic performance, Littlejohn possesses a heart of gold, according to Blancarte. She is a caring individual who has compassion for those less fortunate than herself.

As an active member of her girl scout troop, Littlejohn served as a leader on the planning committee to honor a troop member who had recently passed away. The committee planned a Bench ceremony in honor and memory of their fellow troop member.

Littlejohn also volunteers many hours on her troops annual blanket drive to help people keep warm in winter months.  This work has inspired her to learn how to crochet. Her goal is to crochet blankets that she can donate to families in need. She has volunteered in the KC Pet Project by loving, walking, feeding, and playing with dogs that have no families.

Littlejohnb also believes in keeping herself healthy and active. She practices and competes in gymnastics through Waldo Gymnastic Club and she plays softball with the Police Athletic League.

Terrific Teammates

The first Terrific Teammate of the evening was KCPS Patrol Officer Felix Khatthaname. On Feb. 28, Officer Khatthaname was assisting with end-of-day dismissal at Central Middle School. He and other officers spotted some teenagers fighting near the school at Central Park. The group refused to obey a directive to stop fighting, and bottle was thrown at Officer Khatthaname’s patrol car. He went into the park to stop the fight, but was confronted aggressively by a young man with a knife. Officer Khatthaname maintained his composure and calmly convinced the teen to drop the knife and get on the ground. Amid a lot of chaos and threatened violence, he did not overreact. Instead, Officer Khatthaname displayed extraordinary courage and discipline. This is a great example of the value of hiring great individuals who are committed to training and dedicated to serving students.

Our other classified-staff Terrific Teammate was Sgt. Jerry Mansell. Sgt. Mansell leads the security team at Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts and Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School. He chose to bring his talents and dedication to KCPS after many years in law enforcement, including service with the Drug Enforcement Agency. Parents and students at Paseo Academy have widespread praise for Sgt. Mansell. They describe him as a positive male role model, a skilled professional and a caring and well-respected member of the school’s team. He understands that every employee needs to be focused on customer service. Recently, Sgt. Mansell spent a considerable amount of time helping a parent locate his wallet after a school performance. In a letter to Dr. Bedell, Paseo Academy parent and SAC member Daisy Price writes that, “Sgt. Mansell has proven that he’s not only an excellent security administrator, but committed to the development of the children in the building.”

The certified-staff Terrific Teammate was Ulrike Schneider. Ms. Schneider is a support teacher for English Language Learner students at Gladstone Elementary School. She was nominated for her initiative by Gladstone teacher Elizabeth Eslami. Ms. Schneider is flexible, and truly cares about children and their ability to grow and shine. She finds the best in all students and strives to help them see it in themselves. Not only has she taken on different roles for her students over the last two years, she helps the 5th and 6th grade teachers make support schedules that allow them to departmentalize, which has helped drive steady academic growth for their students. She is also very goal oriented. Her time after school is often spent with a group of students in a club that she started at Gladstone called Black Light, where she helps students find their purpose.

Community Champion

The School Board was very excited to honor David Darmitzel as a KCPS Community Champion. Mr. Darmitzel is is the very proud father of Otto, a student at Hale Cook Elementary School. Otto will be entering first grade this fall.

Darmitzel and his wife have been actively engaged as parents and community members in KCPS even before their child was enrolled. They were both founding members of the Friends of Hale Cook organization, which spearheaded the successful effort to relaunch Hale Cook Elementary School. Since the school opened, Darmitzel has become an integral member of the Hale Cook team. He has stepped into a leadership role as the president of the school’s PTA. He is a champion of the school, regularly and skillfully promoting the great work, dedicated staff and talented staff at Hale Cook.

Darmitzel saw a need to get more fathers engaged, so he launched the Dads At Lunch program at Hale Cook. Participants enjoy lunch with their kids and then stick around to help in classrooms. Most recently, Darmitzel helped write a successful application for a grant from Lowe’s to pay for supplies to build a shade structure over the Hale Cook playground.

Darmitzel’s advocacy goes beyond just Hale Cook. He has become an advocate for the entire school system. He organized staff, students and parents from all of the schools in the Southeast High School feeder zone to march together in the 2017 Brookside St. Patrick’s Day parade. Last month, he helped bring all those schools together for a Southside Field Day at the Southwest High School campus. Darmitzel is also helping lead the effort to promote swimming skills and water safety in our neighborhoods.

Mr. Darmitzel is an extraordinary example of parent engagement. He is passionate about making sure that ALL children in the Hale Cook neighborhood and KCPS have access to a high-quality education. He is a visionary who will take an idea and run with it. When he sees a need, he jumps to find a solution.