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Smith ignored the warning, and her English class continued reading the novel that she'd chosen for them. In mid-October, she was threatened with disciplinary measures if she didn't start teaching the America's Choice curriculum the next school day.
Smith went to Scraggs. It would be difficult to maintain authority, trust and consistency in her classroom if she told her students to drop everything they'd been working on. A scripted curriculum was not Scraggs' vision for Southwest. But the principal's hands were tied.
Later that day, Scraggs resigned.
Scraggs' replacement, Doug Bolden, lasted two months before he quit.
Southwest's third principal this school year, Ben Boothe, started in January 2011. He has already announced that he won't be back next fall.
The outgoing principals explained that their resignations had nothing to do with the kids or the faculty at Southwest.
That leaves only the administration to blame.
Brian Hand, president of Armour Fields Homes Association, has a blunt assessment of Covington's administration.
"I wouldn't trust them to poop if I found them a box of laxatives," he says.
By December 2010, the Armour Fields Facebook page had turned into a clearinghouse for reports of students cutting class, sleeping on porches, smoking weed in public, and peeing in gardens. Someone chucked a glass jar of applesauce at an 80-year-old woman who was walking her dog. Hand says one neighbor walked outside one morning to discover two Southwest students having sex on the hood of a parked car.
Back in 2009, Marsha Ramsey knew that the community could help Southwest thrive, and she'd done what she could to support the effort. When the district failed to remove Southwest's ancient, rusting bleachers, for example, she hired workers to haul them away.
Southwest's parking lot wasn't striped and wasn't big enough to accommodate staff and students' vehicles. The members of We Are Southwest secured permission from the nearby St. Andrew's Episcopal Church to allow faculty to park in the 70 parking spaces in its lot, off 64th Street. The fire hydrants servicing Southwest didn't work, so the volunteers lobbied the city to fix them. They asked their City Council representative, Jan Marcason, to write an ordinance lowering the speed limit in front of the school. There are freshly painted crosswalk lines and new road signs with flashing lights, thanks to We Are Southwest.
On the first day of this school year, a 30-foot sign was hung over the front doors. It read: "The community welcomes Southwest." More than 100 neighbors lined the school's front walkway and greeted students as their buses arrived. Parishioners of Wornall Road Baptist Church had arranged for an appearance by KC Wolf, the Kansas City Chiefs mascot. Church members handed out free Krispy Kreme doughnuts. The previous night, Ramsey and two other volunteers had walked the grounds, collecting trash.
"The elected board and the teachers and faculty said they'd never been at a school where so many people in the community were willing to help and work," Ramsey says.
The volunteers spent time inside the school, too, helping organize boxes of haphazardly packed books and filing paperwork in the front office.
"We found out that there was a massive number of boxes of school records that had never been filed," Ramsey says. "Students' records, in boxes, sent from all the other schools. They didn't have the manpower to sort through it, so they were going to have the volunteers do it. To this day, they may not have been filed."