Category Archives: Schools

Tidwell: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

John Tidwell, left, talks with Bill Pollack following the Kansas Humanities Council Presentation Thursday at the Gordon Parks Museum at Fort Scott Community College. At right, Melody Leavitt waits to speak to Tidwell.

Kansas University Professor John Edgar Tidwell spoke to a room full of people Thursday during the Kansas Humanities Series Lunch and Learn at Fort Scott Community College’s Gordon Park Museum.

The event was in celebration of Black History Month.

Tidwell gave some history on how President Abraham Lincon, with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and Dr. Martin Luther King, in the March On Washington in 1963 helped to change America.

“They led the way to freedom,” Tidwell said.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation, it captured the hearts and imagination of millions of Americans and fundamentally transformed the character of the war. After January 1, 1863, every advance of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom. Moreover, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators. By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom, according to

“There were creed and practice differences,” Tidwell said of American history.

During the March On Washington For Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, Dr. King gave a powerful speech that helped the progress of the Civil Rights Movement.

The most memorable part of the speech was after Mahalia Jackson, the black Gospel singer, shouted out “Tell them about the dream!” Tidwell said.

King then set aside his written speech and spoke spontaneously to the approximately 250,000 people gathered that day.

Jackson was on the platform that day of the march, as a singer.

Here is a clip of that speech:

Black women were at the forefront of the movement, he said, but “they were marginalized and doubly oppressed by racism and sexism”.

Tidwell encouraged the audience to “try to find ways to sustain mutual respect” in the current era of American history.

“Find one thing you see right and work towards that,” he said.

“What can we learn from Lincoln’s struggle with slavery and Dr. King’s efforts to set forth a dream rooted in the American Dream?” Tidwell asked.

“History can be a great teacher.  One lesson we can learn is that we are only as free as the respect we show others.  In my view, the world we now live in is best described as uncertain.

“No, it is not the world of Dr. King’s separate drinking fountains, segregated classrooms, the real estate practice of red-lining, and other acts of racial discrimination.

“As made clear by the recent outcome of the presidential campaign, our world is beset with an enervating discourse rooted in divisiveness, intolerance, and discord.  The moral imperatives of civility, mutual respect, and common sense have been sacrificed to political cant and ethnocentrism.

“The politics of insincerity and expediency have become poor substitutes for compassion and statesmanship.”

“I want people to understand that once they have sympathy and empathy for others, that will translate into an improved engagement with our history, our traditions and all those things that make us, us,” Tidwell said in a later interview. “I want this speech to inspire a little bit for how they can work together on a goal that will enhance everybody’s situation, not just their own”.

The audience eats lunch and converses before John Tidwell speaks for the Kansas Humanities Council Series presentation at Fort Scott Community College.



A New Art Gallery Displays FSHS Student’s Artwork

Fort Scott High School Art Instructor Ellen Kendrick explains the process of the setting up the components necessary to display art in the new gallery at the school. Senior Art Student Berkley Chavis is at right.

Walking the halls of Fort Scott High School, visitors notice the glassed-in area with art displays near the entrance to the school.

In the recent building renovation, the planners designated a gallery space for student artwork, FSHS Art Instructor Ellen Kendrick said.

Kendrick said all the components for displaying student artwork came together just before Christmas.

“To have this space is amazing,” Kendrick said.

The January exhibit was photography and ceramic art by students.

Berkley Chavis shows her two photography projects, one of a horse and one a dog.
Kayley Reyes shows her two pieces. The one at left is entitled “Broken”, the other is unnamed, she said.

Seniors who have their photos displayed in the gallery currently: Ethan Burrel, Grace Keating, Kaley Reyes, and Berkley Chavis.

Senior Emily Hill shows her ceramic artwork in the gallery Tuesday morning.

Art students who have pottery in the gallery are Emily Hill, Berkley Chavis, Kharsyn Dwyer, Blaice Hopkins, Denton Fritter, Madison Cook, Kelsie Nelson, Andy Bryant, Kaidon Shelton, and Ashton Nolan.

Kendrick said the gallery display will change each month.

The February exhibit will be more ceramics and drawings, instead of photographs.

She said her family helped with the gallery lighting and display furniture.

“Jack and I set the lights in place,” she said. “Jack and Sam made the pedestals.”

Jack and Sam are her sons.

“John (her husband) helped with the lighting system as well. I couldn’t have done it without them,” she said.



Steinway Piano Restoration Project Has A Mystery

Submitted photos. Fort School High School Choral Director Meredith Reid leads a choir rehearsal Tuesday, accompanied by Pat Harry on the Steinway piano.

Fort Scott High School Choral Director Meredith Reid began a fundraising project to restore the school’s 1925 Model L Heirloom  Steinway piano last summer.

The cost of the restoration is $30,000, and Reid’s fundraising has secured $15,000 so far.

“We could get rid of this and get another piano of lesser value,” Reid said. “But this is such a gem.”

The piano is not stuck away in a corner somewhere.

“We use it every day,” Reid said. “We have over 100 high school kids in the choir and we have choir every day. These students are who it is impacting.”

“Pat Harry is our accompanist, she is the best of the best,” Reid said. “Really she is more than that. She is a collaborator both musically and educationally. It’s appropriate to give her the best.”

The high school orchestra class also uses the piano and students use it for practice after school, especially at this time of the year, music contest season.

“It’s a testament to our community and our program to have a Steinway,” Reid said.

The Steinway piano has been in the school district for over 40 years.

There is a mystery surrounding the origins of the piano because no one knows who donated it to the school.

“I talked to Allan Drake (the school’s former business manager) to see if he had any file on it,” Reid said. “I then asked the school board office, they couldn’t find any documentation since there is no purchase history.”

“We talked to former music teachers Charlotte and Larry Swaim,” she said. “Larry knew it had been donated when he first started teaching in the 1970s.”

Whatever the origins may be, the importance to the school’s music program is invaluable.

“It’s an acoustic piano, which means it hits the strings inside the instrument which creates the sound,” Reid said.

It’s a “far superior sound” than a digital sound on an electric keyboard, she said. “The (piano)soundboard is solid spruce. You can’t recreate that in something that’s digitalized.”

“There is a lot more nuance for the accompanist,” Reid said.

The school Steinway is American made, with each part being handmade, she said.

“Each (piano) has a serial number,” she said. “They can tell you all the details. Steinway still keeps records of it.”

A piano technician visited the school Friday.

“He said the Steinway brand is created in such a way as to be rebuilt,” she said. “Not all pianos were made that way. The lesser pianos don’t last that long.”

“It seems like we are putting a lot of money into it, but if we buy a lesser brand, we’ll have to replace it because I won’t last as long,” she said.

“We have received grants from the Bourbon County Arts Council, Fort Scott Area Community Foundation, and the City of Fort Scott, she noted. “Currently, we are looking for more support from organizations, businesses or individuals to donate in any amount to the project.  The full project will cost $30,000. We now have $15,000 raised and need $15,000 more.”

Reid’s goal is to raise the funds to send the piano to be restored at the end of the school year in May, and “potentially get it back by next Christmas,” she said.

The fine arts are at the heart of our community in Fort Scott,  and restoring the Steinway grand piano will continue this legacy for decades to come in both the community and the school, she noted.

A brand new Steinway of this size would cost $78,400, she said.

“We need $30,000 to completely restore our Steinway. It will be playable for another 50 years at least.”

Reid’s phone number is 620.238.0673 or email her at