Ellery Clark and Tiffany Anderson
Ellery Clark and Tiffany Anderson at the Rodney McAllister memorial
Rodney McAllister would have been 25 years old this year, if he had lived beyond 2001.
Fifteen years ago, when I was principal at Clark Accelerated Academy, my staff and I faced one of the most difficult tragedies I have ever faced in my 22-year career in schools. Rodney's 4th grade teacher, Ellery Clark, and I learned Rodney had died tragically.
On March 6, 2001, through our absentee list – and Rodney's homework assignment in his pocket from the night before that had his name on it – his 10-year-old mangled and mutilated body was identified after he was killed by a pack of stray dogs overnight.
Rodney cried all night, neighbors heard, but no one opened their doors. His mother was jailed for neglect and later released. Memorials were held. The public was outraged that this could even happen in our city.
Following his death, a memorial was built and Mr. Clark and I led his classmates to the park. The students carefully wrote the message that is reflected on the memorial today, and our handprints and names are captured forever within the concrete at the memorial site.
The tree that was planted is now tall, and each summer is filled with leaves. It's a sight to see when it's full. Seeing life grow each year through the tree in that spot surrounded by a gloomy picture of what should be a beautiful park gives another message to us all.
In 2001, Rodney's classmates wrote to the city asking for a stray dog law, which was passed. The mayor signed it at our school, and all in the community pledged to make the city safer and to better care for our children.
Today the memorial is not cared for by the city that helped place it. The park is in need of repairs. Even on the day Rodney died, Mr. Clark and I are left to clean the memorial each year ourselves.
The lives of all children are important, and we show it in our consistent actions. How we care for the most vulnerable makes a strong statement about who we are and what kind of city and county we want to become.
Having grown up in St. Louis, I am encouraging all in public office to do more for our children who are depending on us all. In Rodney's memory, let’s all strive to be a city known for how we nurture and help the most vulnerable, our children. On March 6 and all year long, we remember beautiful Rodney McAllister.
Tiffany Anderson, superintendent of Jennings School District, has accepted the position of superintendent of Topeka Public Schools.