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Erasing the Red Lines

Are our schools embracing the future or embodying the past?
6:30 PM 8:00 PM
Kansas City Library | Plaza Branch: 4801 Main Street, Kansas City, MO

Erasing the Red Lines

6:30 PM 8:00 PM
Kansas City Library | Plaza Branch: 4801 Main Street, Kansas City, MO

Many community members believe no area is more urgently in need of change than education. The socio-economic impact and varied access to resources directly affects students based on the demographics of their student bodies. As we move forward, we are challenged with how to make long-lasting change and whether education is indeed a pathway to a more equal and equitable society.

American Public Square at Jewell and its Student Ambassadors hosted a conversation about education reform on April 28, 2022. Our panel discussed whether our schools are designed to prepare students for success in the 21st Century, and highlighted what role diversity plays in students’ vision of the ideal school.

The program was moderated by: Mará Rose Williams, Writer- The Kansas City Star Editorial Board.

Roving Reporter: Toriano Porter, Opinion Writer – The Kansas City Star

Distinguished panelists included:

    • Zak Akagi-Bustin, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools
    • Representative Chuck Basye, Missouri State Representative (District 47), Elementary and Secondary Education Committee Chairman
    • Jason Roberts, Executive Board Member – Kansas City Federation of Teachers & School-Related Personnel
    • Canise Salina-Willich, Executive Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools
    • Andy Wells, Missouri Chapter President – No Left Turn in Education

APS is especially excited to present this program, which is produced and supported by students participating in the 2021-22 Civics Education Initiative. Learn more.

Program Panelists

Zak Akagi-Bustin grew up in the beautiful state of Hawaii, where he was surrounded by a diverse landscape of ethnicities, cultures, religions, thought, and values. Those experiences have helped to shape him into the teacher and leader that he is today.

With a demonstrated history of serving in the primary, secondary, and higher education school settings, Zak is an experienced education professional in curriculum and instruction; assessment, evaluation, and statistics; additionally, working with diverse learners, faculty, and staff.

During his tenure in education, Zak has served as a classroom teacher, university researcher in assessment and evaluation, adjunct professor, and district administrator. Committed to learning and growing, Zak holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Biology and Secondary Education from Creighton University, a Master of Science in Education Degree in Educational Administration from Northwest Missouri State University, Master of Science in Education Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Kansas, and a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree focused on Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Kansas.

Representative Chuck Basye, a Republican, is the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee Chairman in the Missouri House of Representatives. His district includes parts of Boone, Howard, Cooper and Randolph Counties (District 47). He was elected to his first two-year term in November 2014.

In addition to his legislative duties, Rep. Basye is retired from the Federal Aviation Administration. He served as an air traffic controller in Kansas City and Columbia, MO from 1984-2014. Rep. Basye served in the United States Marine Corps from 1976-1980. Rep. Basye was appointed to the Missouri Veterans Commission On January 6, 2021.

Rep. Basye attended St. Charles High School in St. Charles, MO. In 1991 he received his bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

In 2012, Rep. Basye was elected to serve as the President of the Columbia Pachyderm Club. He is also a member of the Mizzou Alumni Association, Farm Bureau, and Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Marine Corps League, Detachment 828.

Born June 11, 1958 in Kansas City, Rep. Basye currently resides in Rocheport with his wife, Rhonda. They have three children, Randy, Robert, and Tim; and six grandchildren.

Jason Roberts is the newly elected President of the Kansas City Federation of Teachers and School-Related Personnel, Local 691. Originally from Ohio he came to Kansas City Public Schools in August of 2011. While in Ohio he taught for two years. He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Science Education from Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois. He received his Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Olivet Nazarene University.

He taught various courses in 7th through 12th grade Social Studies from 2011 until 2019.

From 2019-2021 he was the Coordinator of the Missouri Option alternative diploma program for KCPS. He represented the Union on committees in KCPS from Negotiations, Teacher Evaluation, Employee Benefits to the Superintendent’s Advisory Board. He represented Local 691 in Jefferson City on DESE Committees on Professional Development, Career and Technology Standards and also served on the Special Governor’s Commission for Education and the Legislative Special Committee on Career and Technical Pathways in High Schools.  He was elected to the KCFT & SRP Executive Board as Vice President of Membership in 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2019. In 2021 he ran for President to succeed Andrea Flinders. He won with 96% of the vote from the membership. He is the youngest President in the Locals history and enjoys spending time with Democratic and Republican offices in Jefferson City.

Canise Salinas-Willich is the Executive Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools. Her interest in cultural education dates to her years in high school, bringing groups together to champion diversity within organizations and campus activities. Throughout her high school career, she was involved in multiple opportunities that allowed her to build academic and social skills as she was an active member of the School Leadership Committee, Drama Club, Music Scholars, and a graduate of the Inroads Business Program.

Canise Salinas-Willich began her career by receiving her BA in Education. When Canise began her undergraduate studies at Ottawa University, she was exposed to a full range of educational courses, which reinforced and solidified her intense interest in teaching. She taught elementary education, focusing on early literacy, comprehension, and fluency. In addition, she had the opportunity to study subjects in the social sciences, which were both enjoyable and enlightening, providing her with a new and different perspective on the world we live in.

A few years later, she obtained her master’s in counseling, working successfully as an elementary counselor until receiving her Education Specialist in School Leadership. Canise has held a building leadership role for fourteen years. Four of the fifteen years spent at the high school level, which she states were a tremendous experience, followed by ten enthusiastic years as an elementary principal. She is currently in the strategic planning of her new district role and pursuing her doctorate from William Woods University.

Mrs. Salinas-Willich has developed a particular interest in education, school leadership, social justice, and 21st-century technology skills. She has sat on many boards and committees whose purpose spans from organizational planning to visionary leadership. Upon completing her doctoral degree, Canise plans to continue her research of preparing and retaining teachers in the urban core by providing them the necessary education and professional development to succeed.

Andrew (Andy) Wells is the Missouri Chapter President of No Left Turn in Education a national grassroots movement of common-sense parents and community members from diverse backgrounds, building generational integrity through education free from indoctrination. They believe that K-12 education should not focus on social justice, sexualization, or sexual confusion of children and that the parents are best to decide what social issues their children should learn about.

He is a father of five, two adult biracial sons from a previous marriage and three adopted daughters with his current wife. He retired from the U.S. Army after 23 years of service and moved back to Houston, Missouri, 11 years ago for small-town life. During his time in the military, he became an Equal Opportunity Representative in the U.S. Army and then the first white male to become an Equal Opportunity Advisor in U.S. Army Aviation. He also spent almost 8 years as a military instructor and was the first active-duty soldier in U.S. Army Aviation to achieve both master instructor and senior evaluator certifications. He developed learning standards, curriculum, and wrote or revised over twenty-five hundred hours of instruction.

After he retired the military, he spent another 9 years working as an overseas government contractor fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda by educating allied militaries in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance equipment and procedures.

Mr. Wells is a MENSA member and has multiple college degrees in various subjects from welding to paramedicine to theology.

Program Moderator and Roving Reporter


Mará Rose Williams is a native of Long Island, N.Y. and a 1981 graduate of the Ohio University E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Currently she is a member of The Kansas City Star Editorial Board.

Previously Mará (pronounced Ma-ray) was the education writer for The Star where she has worked for 23 years. During that time she has won several awards for her coverage of education both at the elementary education level and the higher education level.

In 2020, she conceived and wrote several stories for The Star’s award-winning project, “The Truth in Black and White: An Apology From The Kansas City Star.” That project led to her appearance with several national news operations including MSNBC and National Public Radio. It was named a finalist in 2021 for the prestigious Anthony Shadid Award for Ethics in Journalism awarded by the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

She was awarded the 2021 Eleanor McClatchey award for vision, leadership skills and transformation in journalism.

In 2015, she and co-writer Mike Hendricks won the distinguished Gerald Loeb Award for “Misleading March to the Top,” an investigative piece that questioned University of Missouri-Kansas City rankings. As an Alfred Friendly Foundation Fellow Mará did a month-long stint teaching journalism and free press at the Nation Media Group in Nairobi, Kenya. And was a guest lecturer at Moi University in Kenya.

Mará has worked as a reporter  for several major news organizations including Newsday in New York and the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

She was married for 21 years to Ceaser M. Williams (deceased), who’d been a long-time editor, author, editing and writing consultant and educator. She has two sons, 25 and 30. The oldest, Ceaser M. Williams III, “Trey” is currently race and equity editor at The Kansas City Star.

Roving Reporter:

Toriano Porter is a national award-winning opinion writer for the Kansas City Star Editorial Board.

A native of St. Louis, Toriano has called Kansas City home since 2007. He is a three-time author, distinguished motivational speaker and dedicated mentor to young people in the metropolitan area.

Program Sponsors

Coffee Lunch Coffee

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Tricia & Josh Maxfield

McDonnell Family Foundation

Ogletree Deakins


Seidler Family Foundation

Sherman Family Foundation

Marny and John Sherman

Lauren C. Weinhold

William Jewell College

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