Report On Annual Meeting and Dialogue: Ensuring Our Future

We had approximately 20 engaged community members attend the dialogue co-hosted by Columbia Parents for Public Schools and the Cradle to Career Alliance on June 20, 2015.  The focus of the dialogue was “Ensuring the Future: What Should Communities Do To Help Children Succeed?”, and we used the community dialogue guide of that same name developed by PPS in conjunction with the Kettering Foundation to help structure the discussions.  Pam Conway, Executive Director of the Cradle to Career Alliance led off with a summary of what has been done in the last year, particularly with regard to early childhood education, and she and Sarah Read, President of CPPS, also discussed early adolescence as a critical time for intervention and shared some statistics on challenges in Boone County.  Did you know that the refugee population in Columbia alone has doubled from 600 to 1200 in the last year? Or that children in Boone County currently have a lower chance of upward social mobility than children living anywhere else in Missouri?  Neither did many of those present.
The small group discussions were energized and productive – you can download and read a full set of moderator notes here.  Some of the key themes that emerged were:
  • Community – the schools aren’t responsible for raising our youth, although they play an important role.  Families and community are.  Yet as many participants noted, there is no clear, consistent, and coherent “community voice” in Columbia or the county indicating what we expect of our families or youth.
  • Collaboration – many organizations address educational and youth issues, and these often compete for scarce funds and operate in silos.  The Cradle to Career Alliance exists in part to help improve collaboration among identified organizations.  A key question to ask though is, how do we more consistently collaborate as citizens in our community to develop the structures, messages, and other guidance our youth need?
  • Confronting Reality – if we are going to move forward we need to acknowledge and frankly talk about systemic issues like bias and poverty, as well as facts like dysfunction in families, inappropriate conduct in youth, apathy in significant segments of the community, and a focus on politically acceptable “band-aid” solutions that displace other approaches that could result in more appreciable change.  There need to be safe places for this type of dialogue, meaning places where we can learn from each other without harsh judgment and finger-pointing.
  • Accountability –  Families, students, schools, and community members need to be accountable for their role in helping our children grow up to be responsible, productive, citizens.  But what are we accountable for?  A key gap identified in the dialogue was a common understanding of what “success”, or “high expectations” should be.  Despite this gap, some common responsibilities were identified: being aware of the needs, and being involved in finding ways to do things better.  We will be having more dialogue about expectations, raising awareness, and increasing involvement. We hope you will join us, either by adding comments below or by sending an e-mail to columbiaparents4publicschools@gmail.com and being added to our list-serv for future events.

Our discussion also generated a number of good ideas that we will be continuing to discuss, such as becoming “an early child-hood informed community”; extending the “buddy pack” program to pre-schoolers; providing mandatory mental health education in middle school, and increasing the awareness of drug and alcohol abuse and its effects for those in high school.  Many participants focused on the need for mentoring and internships that teach soft skills and build social capital.  There have been and are mentoring programs in Columbia, but again they are not community wide and often operate in silos. Resources and efforts we could evaluate include the Minnesota Mentoring Partnership, the Washington DC Tutoring and Mentoring Initiative, or the new American Institute for Innovative Apprenticeship.  Again, if you are interested in joining future dialogues, contact us columbiaparents4publicschools@gmail.com.

At the end of the dialogues, CPPS members confirmed the board for this year:  Sarah Read, President; Elizabeth Peterson, Vice President; Angie Cunningham, Secretary and Treasurer; Steve Calloway, Joe Toepke, Terra Schultz, and Tyree Byndom.  Feel free to contact any member of the board with your ideas and suggestions.

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3 thoughts on “Report On Annual Meeting and Dialogue: Ensuring Our Future

  1. Pingback: Back on Track | The Blog for Building Dialogue

  2. Pingback: Join Us For Dialogue Saturday September 26 at the ARC, 9 to 11 am | Columbia, MO PPS Blog

  3. Pingback: Updates and Upcoming Events | Columbia, MO PPS Blog

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