Teen Mental Health: What Parents Need to Know

We  will be holding a forum for parents on teen mental health, next Tuesday, March 13, 5:30 pm at the Family Impact Center, 105 E. Ash, 2nd Floor.  We will start with a short reception for hosts and board candidates from 5:30 to 5:45 pm, our program will run from 5:45 to 6:15 pm and then there will be an opportunity for questions and discussion. We hope to see you there!


More Dialogue! This Saturday Jan 30.

Join us for another dialogue session using the Ensuring Our Future guide this Saturday January 30.  Download the guide and read about past dialogues here.   We hope you can join us!  Children are welcome.

More Questions Than Answers

Two weeks ago CPPS facilitated the community dialogue at following the film “Once Upon A Time, When Childcare for All Wasn’t Just A Fairy Tale, sponsored by the Cradle to Career Alliance.  The film centered around President Nixon’s veto of the Comprehensive Child Development Act in 1971, and how the bipartisan support for childcare evaporated as partisanship over “family values” rose to the fore.  It also highlighted the high quality childcare programs we currently provide for military families and asked how other families might benefit by access to such programs.

Many in attendance we unaware of this  history, and were surprised by other facts shared, including that dog kennels are in some places more regulated than child care, and that day care workers can in other places earn less that parking lot attendants.  You can download a discussion guide and transcript of the film here.

As one politician stated in the film, “fear in politics often trumps hope”.  Audience members observed that when this occurs, we often lose touch with what the research says, fall into “us v. them” thinking, and fail to work together to find the solutions that could help us move forward together in ways that could benefit us all.

Audience members also discussed what quality child-centered care can look like, referring to our school district’s Title 1 preschool programs, and asked why we as the “richest country in the world” can invest in banks, the auto industry, and other commercial venues, but dismiss similar investments for families and kids as unaffordable, even as the research demonstrates that the returns on such investments are significant (one participants cited a statistic of 700% in returns for each dollar invested in early childcare) and sustainable. One participant wrote:

Our way of life is reliant on government, like it or not; some provision needs to be made.

Others observed that change never happens overnight, — that it is incremental change that drives larger change –, that even when change occurs little progress is often made in equity for minority communities, and that for the political system to work for good, that good needs to intersect with more opportunistic benefits for one or more interest groups. Participants also expressed hope that as more families are in need of quality care, and more of our children fall into poverty, the political will to invest in quality daycare, particularly for our kids in greatest need, may build.

One point noted in the film, which was echoed in the audience discussion, was that how we talk about an issue has a significant effect on the way we work together and what we as a community are willing to support. The Raising of America website contains tips and an excellent “action toolkit” that you can download.  These resources will help you think about what words to use if you want to encourage greater investment in our kids, and to address the arguments that have prevented that investment in the past.



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.


Join Us For Annual Meeting and For Dialogue – SAT June 20, 9 am

Columbia Parents for Public Schools and the Cradle to Career Alliance are co-hosting a dialogue on June 20, 2015, 9 am to 11 am at the Family Impact Center, 105 East Ash.  The focus of the dialogue is “Ensuring the Future: What Should Communities Do To Help Children Succeed?”  We will be using a community dialogue guide of that same name developed by PPS in conjunction with the Kettering Foundation to help structure the discussions. You can download the guide here. Pam Conway, Executive Director of the Cradle to Career Alliance will lead off with a summary of what has been done in the last year.  You are invited to join us, although space is limited!  Please RSVP to columbiaparents4publicschools@gmail.com .

Immediately following the dialogue we will have our annual members meeting, from 11 to 11:30.

We welcome your involvement and hope to see you there!


Our Public Schools: Diverse, Democratic, and Uniquely American

At our rally last October, guest speaker Rep. Stephen Webber described our public schools as a key part of what makes us “Americans”. This got us talking about all of the ways our public schools work to support ideals that are uniquely American – something that is easy to forget with the regular onslaught of negative news about schools. What makes public schools so American? They are where people go to find opportunity. They reflect the creative energy that diversity generates – an energy that has led to many of our country’s historic advances in a range of fields, including science, music and literature, and to our country’s economic successes. Public schools are also a place that help build a sense of community, particularly among citizens who move often or come from different countries and backgrounds.

PPS has long recognized diversity as a key strength and benefit of our public schools. Here our children learn who they are and how to work with others. Being in a diverse population can help our children learn compassion, to articulate what they believe and why, and to value and learn from experiences and viewpoints different from their own. Public schools are also a place where students (and parents) are challenged by diversity and forced to confront behaviors and values that they don’t accept or agree with, and meet others that they may fear. How we as parents help them navigate that challenge makes a difference in how they view their own place in the community and in our country.

One way we help our children learn to navigate the larger world is through telling stories. The US Department of Arts and Culture, this year hosted “story circles” in conjunction with the President’s State of the Union address. The purpose of these circles was to generate stories that could be woven into a “Peoples State of the Union, 2015 Poetic Address to the Nation” to be delivered on February 1 by a diverse group of poets from across the US. Local nonprofit Jabberwocky Studios, Inc. hosted one of the 150+ Story Circles that registered nationwide with the USDAC. Participants in the story circles were asked to respond to one of three invitations: Tell a story about a moment you felt true belonging – or the opposite — in this country or your community; Describe an experience that showed you something new or important about the state of our community; or Share about a time you stood together with people in your community.”

Using a similar theme of “Harmonious Voices in A Diverse Community”, this year’s Columbia Values Diversity Celebration, invited students to share their thoughts on diversity and community. The student writings were featured as part of the celebration. The thoughts shared by the students were challenging and hopeful.

Inspired by these events we want to invite you – both parents and students – to share your stories and thoughts on the theme of public schools and community. Although our invitation is not limited to the following, we offer the following three invitations to help you get started.

  • Tell us about a time that your public schools helped you feel a sense of belonging – or the opposite – to a community or to your country.

  • Describe an experience within your public schools that led you to new awareness of and sense of unity with others in our community, or gave you new insight into challenges faced by others.

  • Tell us about a time when you spoke-up for your community’s public schools.

We look forward to your stories!  Share them in the comment section below or send to columbiaparents4publicschools@gmail.com and we will post them for you!


Saying Yes To Public Schools!

Back in October we had a rally in support of  our public schools.  That included a series of speeches made during the rally.  You can watch those, along with one Dr. Peter Stiepleman before the rally here.

Dr. Michael Schooley outlined many of the positive benefits of our public schools in his PowerPoint which we invite you to view here.

On our rally message boards, attendees recorded these thoughts:

My public education has helped me to….
• Learn to manage time
• I met my best friend there
• Inspired me to become a teacher and a coach
• Be awesome
• Become more open-minded
• To become a teacher
• See countless opportunities
• Understand who I am
• Be a creative leader
• Creative
• Become a successful teacher
• To be a better manager
• Have an amazing future
I love my public school because…
• It opened my eyes to different cultures
• It made me feel special and capable
• Because the teachers are great
• Playing field
• It feeds kids mind and body
• I have a blast
• RBE feels like home
• More minority core classroom teachers

Say thanks to a teacher!
• Thank you Mrs. Main for showing me the love of math
• Thanks Mrs. Coats for believing in me
• Thanks Mrs. Barksdale for always having my back
• Thank you to all my teachers
• Thanks for helping me be the best me
• Thanks Ms. McClintic for all your work inside and outside of schools

Tell us what you like about our public schools in the comment section below.