Journey of a Superintendent: Are You Faster Than a Fifth Grader?

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Cynthia Lane with the top 15 finishers in the race.

Despite the unseasonably cold temperatures, hundreds gathered beneath a large American flag, hanging from two ladder trucks (provided by the KCK Fire Department) to celebrate, support, and challenge each other to a two-mile race, titled “Are You Faster Than a Fifth Grader?” Four hundred and fifty 5th graders, and 100 teachers, staff, and administrators, supported by about 200 volunteers, got into position with excitement building, as our Board President, Mrs. Gloria Willis, shouted, “On Your Mark, Get Set”… then the fire truck horns blared. We were off!

It was amazing to see hundreds of eleven-year-old kids running at top speed down the streets, over rolling hills and through the neighborhoods, ending at Washington High School’s stadium. Crowds of spectators lined the streets and hundreds more gathered at the stadium, cheering on the young, and not so young, who pushed themselves beyond their limits. For most of these kids, if not all, this was their first experience participating in a large-scale competition, one that challenged their minds, bodies and spirits. For others of us, well, the challenge was the same, except that WD40 would have helped our rusting joints and stiff muscles!!

I was so proud of our students, who spent months preparing to be a part of the race. Proud as they pushed themselves to overcome thoughts of doubt about what they could accomplish. Proud that, even as they ran, they encouraged each other, and the grownups, along the way. Proud of all the grownups who dared to ask, “are you faster than a fifth grader?” and ran with the similar determination as our youth. Proud of our kids as they chanted just prior to the start of a two-mile race, “I can be anything I choose. Focus and effort is what I must do.” Certainly, if the focus and effort to prepare for and engage in this event is any indication, each and every student there will do just that – be successful at anything they choose.

Once in the stadium, teams competed in a 4 x 100-meter relay. This was no ordinary relay, as competitors had to answer questions from the fifth grade curriculum in order to run the 100-meter stretch and hand off the baton to their teammate. Our kids answered the academic questions with ease. As for the adults, well, I hear there was a lot of guessing going on.

What a great day for the community, school staff and parents coming together in support of our kids! Thank you to Mayor-Elect Holland and Chief of Police Armstrong for participating in the race. Thank you to the community and the hundreds of volunteers from the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools who organized and made this event possible. Thanks to the media who showcased our kids’ focus and efforts.

What’s the answer to the question, “Are you faster than a fifth grader?” For me the answer is . . . some of them. And what does it take to focus on and achieve a challenging goal? I know more than 400 5th graders who can show you the way. It’s Up to Us.

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