Susan Blackburn is the most recent candidate to respond to our questions which were posed to all the candidates. Her answers are below. Susan, Tyler, and Christine all attended our forum on Teen Mental Health during the meet and greet segment next week. Teresa Maledy has also responded to our questions.
1. CPPS Criteria and role on the board:
A strong school board member exhibits the ability to work well with others, values diversity, demonstrates leadership skills, seeks excellence in education, supports and promotes the community, and advocates for public education. As an educator and literacy advocate who worked for the Columbia Public Schools for 29 years, I have had the opportunity to develop skills in each of these key areas. The ability to build consensus among stakeholders who hold differing views is essential for accomplishing goals and objectives that support educational programming for students. Understanding diversity requires leaders to value multiple perspectives and engage in reflective conversations that support culturally competent educational practices. Good leaders inspire others, share the credit for accomplishments, and invite innovative thinking that focuses on collaboration rather than competition. Excellence in education requires school board members to be open to new ideas, be informed by research, and actively engage with CPS stakeholders, teachers, and the community. Advocating for public education and promoting a strong community are a central part of a board member’s work. This includes the prudent management of district funds and developing legislative priorities that focus on appropriate funding for public schools.
2. What do you consider to be key challenges facing CPS and how will you contribute to meeting that challenge?
Unfortunately, and tragically, school safety has become the educational issue of our time and is our most critical challenge. We have come a long way with school safety and security since I first worked in the school district. We now have security cameras, electronic key entry, buzz-in systems, protective film on windows and doors, and are exploring facial recognition software. However, we must remain vigilant. I am proposing a School Safety Task Force that includes city and county officials, law enforcement, the Boone County Mental Health Coalition, CPS stakeholders and employees, and community members. We must have a comprehensive approach to school safety and security.
A second challenge is ensuring the best possible educational opportunities for all students. My background is in working with students at risk for literacy failure, and I want to ensure opportunities for these students, but I also want to ensure the best opportunities for all students—those who fall in the average range and those who are academically talented. CPS has many programs that support student achievement: Title I Preschool, Parents as Teachers, Reading Recovery, Advancement Through Individual Determination (AVID), Multicultural Achievement Committee (MAC) Scholars, and the Center for Gifted Education, among others. We also have the Columbia Area Career Center, which is considered a premier program of its kind throughout Missouri. I support these programs and look forward to exploring other innovative programs that maximize educational outcomes for all of our students.
3. What do you think CPS does particularly well, and how do we sustain that?
CPS has worked hard to develop and support programs that reach students from diverse backgrounds, and I applaud these efforts. We sustain this work by making equity in education a priority for our district. This would include examining achievement data and pedagogical practices, along with talking with our community members. Programs like Title I Preschool, ELL (English Language Learners), Parents as Teachers, Reading Recovery, Advancement Through Individual Determination (AVID), and Multicultural Achievement Committee (MAC) Scholars, among others, promote student learning and achievement. I look forward to hearing from our community about other programs that reach all students and meet our goal of providing an excellent education to all students.