Spark Bookhart

Spark Bookhart

Convener, Parent Power Lab



How are you involved in education in Kansas City?I’m a parent. I have an adult child who graduated from Kansas City schools and three children (pre-K to 2nd grade) who will be traversing the educational landscape here in Kansas City for years to come. I’m also a veteran community organizer and have used it in the past as a tool to organize parents to impact school policy for the benefit of their children. Right now, I’m the Convener of the Parent Power Lab. With the help of SchoolSmartKC and the Kauffman Foundation, I created the Parent Power Lab so that average, ordinary, hard-working parents (like myself) would have a vessel to take a deep dive into all education matters. It’s akin to an Executive MBA in Parent Power – and designed to be an intensified, multi-sensory series of half-day learning gatherings that moves the soul and builds parent agency to take ownership of public education. We’ll have three cohorts of the Parent Power Lab between now and the fall and each cohort will take a Learning Journey to another city to observe a parent power organization in action. 


Why are you involved? What compels you to be invested in this work?

Public education in Kansas City has some of the most compelling and intriguing history in the entire country. I became fascinated with this history as a young parent and it informed my entire approach to schools, school administration, educational policy and elected school board representation. The challenge is that three to four generations of parents lack this historical context regarding public education in Kansas City, so our collective decision making as parents is weak and fails to make a significant impact on the educational outcomes for our children.


The most powerful resource at our disposal for totally transforming the educational landscape from sub-mediocrity to world class, are our parents. Conversely, our parents are the most forgotten, overlooked, marginalized and ignored voice in the conversation regarding transforming public education. I am deeply committed to correcting this woefully skewed playing field and organizing parents to realize their true collective power.



What do you believe will change or improve education in KC?

I truly believe the most important missing ingredient to improving education in Kansas City is the collective power of parents. In nearly two decades of working with parents, I have never heard a parent say, “I simply want a mediocre, sub-par education for my child.”


When the conversations around improving education occur, parents are an afterthought at best. As a result, their collective benefit is never considered and a massive resource goes unused, similar to a library card for a holder that never uses it. We will never transform education in this city absent the critical expertise and massive assets that organized parents bring to the table.



A word of advice for others engaged in education in KC?

Commit to serious study of the history of public education in Kansas City since 1954. You will be severely misguided by attempting to merely overlay the national story of public education (post Brown v. Board of Education Topeka) neatly over Kansas City public education. If you are going to be engaged in education here, understanding the unique history is a most important prerequisite. If you’re looking for resources to learn more about KC education, considering joining us for the Parent Power Lab.



This content was originally published by SchoolSmartKC on 05/09/2019

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