Students, teachers and administration at Guadalupe Centers Schools are excited after learning that the Missouri State Board of Education renewed their charter school for 5 more years.

Beto Lopez, Guadalupe Centers’ CEO, thanks the Missouri State Public School Commission – the school system’s charter sponsor – for its unwavering support. “We


By Joe Arce and Corey Crable Guadalupe Centers Schools has received a five-year renewal of its charter from Missouri’s State Board of Education.

Joe Palmer, the school system’s superintendent, praised the Missouri State Board Education decision, adding that Guadalupe Centers Schools is already looking to the future and its next renewal cycle.

“It certainly is a sign of confidence from the state’s Board of Education, and it’s a sign of stability – we’re going to be here. We’re not going anywhere,” Palmer says. “In the next renewal cycle, we’re going to have the opportunity to apply for a 10-year renewal.”

Palmer says the school system has accomplished much since its last renewal, working in sync with the Guadalupe Centers’ social services side of its operation in order to ensure the students and families who utilize its services – mostly Hispanic and more than 95 percent of whom are English language learners – are supported with a holistic approach.

That means not only metaphorically feeding the students’ need for knowledge, but feeding them literally, with services such as the centers’ food pantry and rent and utility assistance programs available to ensure they can focus on their studies and not have to worry about having their basic needs met. Palmer says it takes plenty of staff members to ensure those services are always available.

“If kids aren’t healthy emotionally and physically, they’re going to have a hard time learning,” he says. “I have to thank our teachers, counselors and parent liaisons for the work they’re doing with our children. … (The state knows) we’re focusing on literacy skills for our English language learners, and they know we’re working with the center to help our students academically and with their quality of life.”

Both Palmer and Beto Lopez, Guadalupe Centers’ CEO, say the COVID-19 pandemic has created a strain on the centers and its schools – the schools had to make the switch over to virtual learning and blended schedules. And the need for social services that the centers provide haven’t slowed down just because a pandemic has swept throughout the Kansas City metro area.

“We offer services year-round,” Lopez says, “but due to the pandemic, that need is amplified.”

However, Lopez says, the relationship between the centers and its schools never wavered, and they have only helped each other throughout times of struggle.

“The fact that we’re all working together is how we’re able to get through this period,” Lopez says. “It’s working for us so far, but there are challenges every day.”

Palmer says that tough times continue, but that school instructors, administrators, students and families have come together for the good of the organization.

“Teachers have been sick or have had to stay home, but everyone is keeping the mission of the schools in mind,” Palmer says. “At the end of the day, after the bumps and bruises, we feel good about how we’re doing.”

Local families have taken notice of Guadalupe Centers’ success as well, with the schools’ waiting list growing each year. One goal for the schools in the coming years is to be able to accept more students into its classrooms. In addition, though Kansas’ state Board of Education recently modified its standards to accept substitute teachers with only a high school diploma, Guadalupe Centers will continue to require all teachers to have at least 60 college credits under their belt.

“We are working on an expansion program that will help us increase our enrollment. …

We only have so many enrollment slots we can fill, and we’re working on increasing our size,” Palmer notes. “We have a waiting list of 300-400 students who want to come to our schools every year, so that’s a good sign.”

Lopez thanks the Missouri State Public School Commission – the school system’s charter sponsor – for its unwavering support.

“We take it as a vote of confidence,” he says. “It makes us energized, and we’re very optimistic about our future.”

News of Guadalupe Centers Schools’ five-year renewal comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that Kansas City Public Schools has earned full accreditation once again after 20 years. Both achievements are good news not only for the students and families they serve, but for Kansas City itself, according to Palmer.

“It’s good for the city that Kansas City Public Schools got their accreditation back,” Palmer says. “It’s going to help their schools, their city, their economy, so we want to give kudos to KCPS as well. Our hats are off to them.”

As for the future, Lopez says the schools are fortunate that the people who work both with students and behind the scenes are working toward the same goals.

“I think our school leadership all the way down to every instructor is all aligned with the board of directors for the school system,” he says. “We’re definitely aligned. That’s how you’re able to get through these challenges. … The fact that we’re all working together is how we’re able to get through this period.”

Palmer says that even though the school system is focused on growth before its next renewal cycle arrives, its core commitments to students and their families will always remain in place.

“We want to make sure we’re helping to improve the literacy skills of our English language learners, and also make sure we’re supporting the mission of the Guadalupe Centers to improve the quality of life for those in the Latino community,” Palmer says. “Those are our two goals, and that will never change.”

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