About Center School District

Center Pic

We are Center Yellowjackets and we can do hard things .... together!

Teaching and learning is hard in this era of rapidly changing technologies, social pressures, and a multitude of distractions for kids and teachers alike. 

The Center School District, a small independent public school district located in the heart of South Kansas City, embraces that hard work with a philosophy of helping our students, and ourselves, learn how to do hard things. All of us at Center are lifelong learners and we know that any pursuit in life that is meaningful will never be “easy”, but will require effort, persistence, and resiliency. Those are qualities that we strive to master as part of the family that we call the Center School District.  

Here are some examples of how we learn to do hard things -

Teaching is hard - Teaching is an emotionally, physically, and mentally challenging profession. Center provides a supportive structure where teachers can thrive and enjoy the rewards of helping young people learn, while having a family of support to work through the challenges. Many Center teachers are alumni of the district and many choose to live within the district boundaries, sending their own children to Center schools. The attitude of our teachers is summed up by this quote from a recent staff survey - “I believe in the power of community. This is my community. I belong here. I have a shared responsibility to make sure every child feels they belong here too.”

Math is hard - Math is an essential skill in our technology driven world and one that US schools struggle to teach effectively. Center uses creative teaching strategies such as Greg Tang Math to help students master math skills. Center also provides targeted support for students who are having difficulty learning specific skills to ensure that they are ready for success in advanced math skills, including Advanced Placement and college credit courses, that are offered at Center High School.

“Making it” in the “Real World” is hard - regardless of the profession that our students choose to pursue, they will have to master the skills of understanding their customers, finding solutions that meet their needs, and delivering those solutions in an effective manner. Center provides many Real World Learning opportunities for our students to learn those skills. Nearly 50% of the graduating class of 2022 earned Market Value Assets such as college credits, industry recognized credentials, completed client connected projects, or participation in internships. Our goal is that by 2030, 100% of graduates will earn Market Value Assets. Examples include:

  • Broadcast Journalism - the award winning HiveTV channel on YouTube gives students chances to learn video production skills as they create live broadcasts, ads for local businesses, and videos for school groups. 

  • Computer technology is ever present. Center students can learn workstation support, network management, programming (including virtual reality),and other industry certifications

  • Graphic Design - students work with state of the art technology to create stunning graphics that can be used in a variety of settings

  • Entrepreneurship - students learn the fundamentals of business, including sales, accounting, project management, and client service and support

Working in a world of diversity is hard - our world is increasingly diverse by race, gender, age, socio-economic background and every other way. Center’s student population reflects that diversity and our community views that as one of our greatest assets. Our students leave Center with a strong understanding of the value of diversity in their community and workforce.

Using Community Resources effectively is hard – many organizations and individuals in our community want to help our students and schools achieve success. Utilizing those resources in a way that maximizes impact is hard. Center works with organizations and programs like Center Friends, Caring for Kids Network, Lead to Read KC and Communities the Care to ensure that community resources are used in a way that is satisfying to our volunteers and impactful for our staff and students. 

Using technology is hard - our world is increasingly dependent on the effective use of technology. Center helps students learn those skills by providing them with individual computers from kindergarten through graduation. The computers are an integral part of instruction provided by our teachers who also receive intensive support from our world-class technology team. In addition, Center students have access to programs like Project Lead the Way and First Robotics to hone their technology skills in real world settings. 

Managing time is hard - as adults we are all familiar with the challenges of balancing multiple priorities. As a district with only 2,700 students which offers over 40 different extracurricular activities, Center kids learn those skills through active participation in a multitude of activities. Unlike larger schools where students have to select one or two activities on which to focus, Center’s small size allows students to participate in a wide variety of athletics and activities. It is not uncommon for students to be on one or more sports teams while also participating in music, theater, and debate at the same time. 

Achieving Racial Equity is hard -  Center knows first hand how difficult it is to ensure equity for all students, staff, and family members as we have transitioned over the last 30 years from a largely White, suburban community to a diverse community with over 80% of our students being Black or Brown. Center is committed to improving racial equity and we are going through an intensive, multi-year learning process led by Educational Equity Consultants. We are grateful for financial support for this process from our Board of Education, the Kauffman Foundation, and North American Savings Bank.

Keeping schools safe is hard - We live in an uncertain world and stories of violence in our schools and community are all too common. The safety and security plan involves multiple layers of protection for our students and staff. The plan starts and ends with building strong relationships within each school. Studies show that people who feel connected to people in their school will almost never commit violent acts in the school. Building a sense of family within the school and ensuring that every student has a relationship with a caring adult in the building is one of our highest priorities. The layers in between include secure access at each building, screening procedures for everyone who enters the building, extensive video surveillance, presence of security officers at each secondary building, strong relationships with the law enforcement agencies, and automatic notifications of any doors that are left unlocked during school hours. 

Overcoming childhood trauma is hard - some of our students have experienced trauma in their lives that makes learning difficult. Center staff are all trained using the Trauma Smart methodology pioneered here in Kansas City by the team at St. Lukes Crittenton Center. We recognize the impacts of trauma and provide skills to overcome its effect on our students and our staff. 


  • Student population: 2,700 students

  • Graduation rate: over 90%

  • 20:1 student to teacher ratio

  • 70% African American

  • 25% white

  • 5% other

  • 87.5 % qualify for free and reduced-price meals


  • Average more than 12 years experience

  • 65% have master’s degrees or other advanced degrees (state average is 58%)


  • Annual budget of $38 million

  • Per pupil expenditure: $13,300

  • Daily student attendance: more than 94%

  • Fully Accredited: Annual Performance Report (APR): more than 80%