- CPPS Criteria and Role on Board
The six criteria used to evaluate school board candidates are excellent ones, and extremely relevant in today’s world. However, in my opinion, they are all webbed together in various ways; and no one criteria is more important than the other.
Strong Advocate for Public Education:
Over the past 9 years my passion and desire for strong public education in Columbia is evident in what the Board has accomplished. Just prior to 2009, the Board and District had lost key support from it’s stakeholders. Through my work in reaching out to members of the community, creating relationships and rebuilding the trust, we have made great strides. In 2010 we held the first Word Café and the topic was how poverty impacts education. From that first meeting, eventually came the Cradle to Career Alliance.
Being an advocate for Public Education means we need to be extremely good stewards of tax payer dollars. Our budgeting process both for operational needs including teacher/employee salaries but also long-range planning is outstanding. My leadership on the board as Board President and Vice President as well as Chair of both Finance and Long-Range Facilities Committees demonstrates that fiscal responsibility. In addition, since we report to the community, it is important to listen to what the community wants in Public Education. Of course, that debate now is highly contested. It is so important for us to strive to raise the bar, so our community never loses site of what a great public-school system we have with CPS.
Community Builder and Leader:
This looks different to everyone, and at various times in a leader’s life, especially on a Board. For me, my over 20 years’ experience at State Farm (mostly in a leadership position), and my over 14 years combined experience on an educational board helps form who I am as a leader. To serve on a multi person board who supervises one person, I am acutely aware of my elected responsibilities: to hire and evaluate the superintendent; govern the district with sound policy; and create and approve an annual budget. However, with those three, it is important for board members to be accessible, create relationships and be able to share our story – as it relates to those three areas.
Over the past 9 years, my accessibility to anyone is outstanding. Whether it is an employee who needs something, to a community member not understanding why we do what we do, a business leader who wants to know more, or our local media. Daily there are emails and calls reaching out to me – and I am there for anyone. This is the fun and exciting part of my “job” as a Board Member, and I absolutely love listening to anyone and hearing what is on their mind.
It is imperative the Board holds itself accountable to each other – that can be challenging at times as no one Board member has any more power than anyone else, and we are all elected. However, this Board, and myself does an excellent job of really talking through situations and relies on data when appropriate to help guide our decision making. We speak in one voice to the Superintendent and create a clear message of our expectations. My experience as Board Chair for 4 of the 5 years I served on the Columbia Montessori Board really helped prepare me for this role.
Building relations in the community for me started before 2009. At State Farm, I was the Partners in Education Committee chair for 5 years. This gave me my first in depth look at how strong CPS is in our community, and the need for strong relationships. Serving on the Columbia Youth Basketball Board – while coaching both children for many years was another avenue of building relationships. CYBA uses our schools every week and weekend for games, so securing this partnership was extremely helpful to me. Additionally, I have served on the Education Committee for the United Way, Assistance League, numerous PTA’s and other fundraising events within the schools.
Finally, my two positions currently help reach out to others in the community. I am a Licensed Sales Assistant to Nikki Kuchta at ReMax. The calls and emails I answer regarding re-districting, building of schools and information regarding where new families may obtain information about schools has been extremely helpful and again, proves my accessibility. Additionally, I am a Customer Service Specialist at TIGAdvisors (The Insurance Group). There, I work with a wide variety of people in the community, many who are coming to TIG for their financial and insurance needs. It is amazing to me how many people who will know me as soon as we meet.
One Who Seeks Excellence in Education:
As stated earlier, all these attributes are highly intertwined – and without repeating what was already said, the other arm of this is the ability to learn what is going on in our district. We can’t improve if we don’t understand where we are and what we currently do. For the past 9 years, I really look to find out what and why we do what we do, and what are ways to improve. In my time on the Board, we have really looked at all our programs to find out what works for students and how to improve. When we hired Dr. Stiepleman, one our areas of focus for him was to create and implement strategic professional development for our classroom educators. To have the best, we need to hire and retain the best educators. Our partnerships with MU, Columbia College, Stephens and others is only the beginning of us being able to hire the best, train them continuously throughout their time at CPS, and retain them a long time!
One Who Brings Needed Skills and Experience to the Board and works well and collaborates with all:
My leadership work at State Farm, over 14 years’ experience on a multi person Board supervising one person, additional committee/fundraising work, and my two positions currently in the community have given me the tools to do the job of a Board Member. I take my elected position very seriously and love every minute of it – even the challenges and obstacles that come with any position.
My time on the Board has proven my ability to work with everyone – the Board, Administration, Employees, Community Stakeholders (which includes just about everyone), and other elected officials. I have created strong relationships because of my honesty, follow through, and ability to have difficult conversations. Although individuals may not like a direction we are taking or an answer I have for them, but I know they walk away from a conversation knowing why we do what we do, and are willing to have input on how to do things better.
Since moving to Columbia in 1999, diversity in the work place and schools have been extremely important to me professionally and personally. It is important for our schools to represent the population we serve, and the ever changing population of our nation. We are more intentional as a school district about recruitment of employees (teachers, assistants, administrators) with a diverse background. Additionally, our district is extremely immersed in Equity Training, and I am proud to support the Board’s mission to participate in this training as well.
Conclusion: Our community is very involved and knowledgeable as it relates to their elected officials, and to Columbia Public Schools. Our community and all the stakeholders want a Board who will ask the difficult questions, be open and transparent with all information, is accessible to all stakeholders and who will manage the budget with fiscal integrity. For the past 9 years, and 3 more years, I am that Board Member. I work well with all groups or individuals, take the time to listen to what is on the mind of others, am accessible to all, committed to doing the job right, and continuously works to tell OUR STORY. Our Story is a great one; we have the best educators who work tirelessly to educate the children of CPS. Our Children come to us from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life, and we meet them in the path of their journey. Our community is extremely supportive of public education, and I am extremely honored to serve and provide the community what they expect – the best school district in Missouri.
Key Challenges facing CPS:
With all public education, the main challenge facing CPS is how do we lessen the achievement disparity from the lowest performers to the highest. Knowing there will always be a high and a low position of achievement, how do we reach all children to ensure all are achieving 1) beyond their potential and/or 2) at least above what is believed to be proficient/expected. We know socioeconomic status is a huge driver in how well a child comes prepared for school. In Columbia, over 45% of our students come from poverty and 80% of our African American Students come from poverty, and most of our poverty is systemic and generational.
Given some of these statistics, it is not just a CPS problem, but a Columbia community problem because we want all students to 1) graduate from High School and 2) become productive citizens of the community (whether that be college, Jr. College, VoTec, working,). In 2010 we began the conversation with our World Café on the Achievement Gap, and over time, the Cradle to Career Alliance was formed – but all due to the out reaching work of the CPS Board and Admin team. Together, we knew if we all channeled our efforts, resources and goals in the same direction, we can make an impact.
We also know through research, the most crucial time in a child’s life for brain development is birth to age 5. It is in our best interest to support services and groups in our community who can help provide the best in Parent Education, and early childhood development. CPS has Parents as Teachers and a robust and every growing early childhood development program. We have consolidated those services in our Early Childhood Learning Center and thus far, results on collaboration, planning, and becoming more effective are paying off.
In addition to the Achievement Disparity, school safety and the safety of our staff and students are at the forefront this very moment. In our Board Meeting for March 12, 2018, we are having a discussion on school security, In my opinion, we need to be more intentional when hiring our front office staff employees to ensure they have the skills and desire to be our first line of security- buzzing people in the building! We need to ensure training and constant support is available for these individuals. CPS has done an excellent job in security features on the building and our drills our done with great regularity. Finally, discussions with CPD need to continue to ensure make adequate officers are positioned at our buildings, when we need them. Will be glad to update this after tonight’s meeting.
What does CPS well and how to sustain:
As the only incumbent running, I honestly feel we do many things great at CPS. However, since 2009, my peers and I have worked tirelessly at building the trust that for a brief time was lost with our community. We have great support at the local level not only with tax dollars, but overall community and business support in a strong public school system. The Board of Education is extremely open, transparent and accessible to all. Personally, I take immense pride in what myself and our Board has accomplished in this area. Additionally, our financial strength, due to our budgeting process and the committee members who have served over the years, are the best in the state. Other districts are in awe of what we are able to accomplish. Finally, our ability to manage an ever growing population of students with unique and diverse needs, and remain on budget despite abysmal state budget outlook, is something to be applauded.
I look forward to another 3 years on the Board of Education to carry out the main reasons why I set out to run 9 years ago and which are still true today:
Continue healthy and open dialogue at all levels with the district,
Continue to allow parents to have a say and engage fully with the district,
Continue to hire and train the best teachers and administration to ensure a powerful voice in curriculum,
Continue our transparent budgeting process – Aa1 Bond Rating,
Support our Mission, Vision and Values at CPS!