Make Your Vote An Informed One

We had a lively forum with all five candidates for school board  attending on March 15 at United Community Builders.  You can watch videos of all 5 candidates on the Columbia Tribune’s website. Shelli Adams, CPS Director of School Improvement and a member of the Superintendent’s leadership team also provided an overview of the bond issue and tax levy that will also be on the ballot.  For further information on the tax levy you can also read through the on-line dialogue between representatives of the Tribune and CPS.

Our parents had a wide range of questions to ask the candidates. We promised to post all of the questions submitted here and invite further responses.  We will post the responses received, so continue to check back!  And vote on April 5!

  • Should supporting preschool education be a priority for CPS?  Why or why not?
  • What would you do to boost teacher pay?
  • With the ever expanding population of Columbia how would you have community members invest (time or money) in the school district?
  • Parents are concerned about the length of the lunch period.  Children are not able to get thru the line & eat the lunches in such short amounts of time.  What can the district do about this problem?
  • How can bullying be addressed at schools?
  • What about safety concerns @ school crossing areas where CPD states it is not responsible for traffic?
  • How important do you feel it is to work together with board members? and give an example of a successful collaboration you’ve been a part of.
  • I recently saw a poll where Columbia has one of the best school districts in Missouri – #12. CPS received an A+ in the area of student culture and diversity.  What do you see as contributors to such a stellar grade?
  • Increasing parent involvement – removing barriers/restorative justice program – what about parents with a record?
  • How would you address the achievement gap in CPS?
  • How do you propose closing the achievement gap during the middle years?
  • Columbia is segregated by neighborhoods and as a result, schools tend to look like those neighborhoods, ie often NOT very diverse.  How should the district address this, if at all?
  • Does diversity matter?!
  • Black students in CPS are 5.1 times more likely to be suspended as compared to all other groups.  How would you use your seat to address this issue?
  • How would you promote women and minorities in leadership positions in the Administration and schools throughout the district?
  • What are we doing to bring more teachers in for all the current schools and new schools?
  • How many students are currently enrolled in CPS? (18,015)
  • How do you plan to improve parental engagement in the education process?
  • What is your #1 priority as a potential board member?
  • If you could change one thing about our schools, what would it be?
  • What is an issue you know of or have heard of that you would say is NOT a top priority for CPS? and why?
  • What is the most important issue facing the Columbia Public Schools?

Thanks to all who participated and to the CCPTA and the MSTA who co-sponsored the forum!

 

 

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Updates and Upcoming Events

I had the privilege Thursday night of attending the Columbia Public School’s Hall of Leaders event which honored 2 outstanding volunteers – one of them being CPPS board member Steve Calloway-, 5 retired teachers and 5 outstanding alumni.  It was easy to feel proud of our schools and the education they offer when listening to high school musicians play beautifully, eating food prepared and served by students in the high school culinary arts program, and watching the excitement and pride on the students’ faces as they were complimented and supported by the community members who attended.  Listening to the honorees speak was also inspiring. The alumni each talked about how the educational foundation they built at CPS contributed to their success, and each mentioned specific teachers as well as feeling the support of the community. Those who had left Columbia talked about how they wish their kids had access to a similar system.  The teachers each talked about how much they loved teaching, and how rewarding it was to help our children and see them grow.  The volunteers reminded us how the schools can’t do it alone — that ultimately our public schools are community schools and they thrive when the community invests its time and energy.  Steve talked about the achievement gap and expressed his belief that Columbia has everything it needs to close it  — we just need the commitment to do so, which requires that we believe and invest in all of our kids.

The importance of community support of and involvement in our schools was also a key theme at the second dialogue session we hosted using the Ensuring Our Future dialogue guide. This session was held at the ARC on September 26, 2015.  Although we had a smaller group than at our first dialogue, they were thoughtful and energized! Compared to the support discussed by CPS alumni at the HAll of Leaders event, the sense of the dialogue participants was that that support had eroded as Columbia has grown and needs to be strengthened. We can do that by being honest about the issues; all of us (parents + teachers + students + community) working to support, understand and care for each other; and  focusing on the real needs of our community.  This too requires a sustained commitment, and a willingness to focus on the common good.  Read the notes here.

There will be more opportunities in the months to come to learn about the needs of our children and families, to talk with one another, and to take action together to strengthen our community.  We will be working with the Cradle to Career Network to promote and facilitate dialogues around the documentary series The Raising of America which premieres on November 17.  You can watch on PBS or at watch parties around town.  Stay tuned for the schedule of follow-up dialogues and documentary segments.  Details will be posted here.

Join Us For Dialogue Saturday September 26 at the ARC, 9 to 11 am

Coffee at, 8:45 am, dialogue at 9! Shop at the Farmers Market before or after! Please join us this next Saturday, September 26 at the ARC, 1701 W. Ash St. for our second dialogue using the Ensuring Our Future: What Communities Can Do To Help All Kids Succeed. You can read about our last dialogue here.  Our children and our schools need your voice!  Hope to see you there.

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!

2015 Candidate Forum – Questions from The Audience

Once again we had an engaged group of citizens at our forum earlier today. At our forum, parents and other community members submit questions that the candidates draw from a grab bag and answer. We thank both Christine King and Darin Pries for attending and for their thoughtful and candid responses. We also appreciated that they stayed past the forum time to talk further with those present.  Listed below are the questions the audience submitted arranged by category. A third candidate, Derek Wade, was out of town and did not attend. All of the candidates have been invited to send additional remarks.  And readers are also invited to comment below.

Here are the questions:

Supporting Our Teachers

  •  The most important “product” of CPS is the student.  The most vital “tool” in the system is the teacher.  Please comment on your view about +negotiating with teachers and that effect on morale, +the reality that a teacher new to the system, yet with experience may be paid more than a teacher with the same experience, but who has given the same number of years to CPS, +the board’s role in leading the community to properly and adequately fund public education.
  • How can you support our teachers even if there are not enough $$?  Why not protect planning time?
  • If the public asked for a dedicated tax increase to compensate our teachers would you support it?  Is that possible?

Common Core

  • “Common Core” has at least 3 components: (i) standards; (ii) testing/assessment, and (iii) application.  Issues with assessment and application are being confused with the standards and are undermining them.  What can you do to support the standards and still address the issues?
  • What is your opinion on Common Core for CPS?

Equity

  • Bright Futures is great and so are mentoring programs like those at Douglass in helping match kids to resources.  What recommendations do you have for community to work with schools to close the equity gaps?
  • What strategy is in place to recruit a more diverse pool of teachers?
  • Redistricting:  How can we make the percentage of subgroups more similar between schools?
  • Some of the overcrowding issues being experienced by schools are due to public perception of certain schools being “better” than others based on their physical location.  How can the board assist in educating the public about the quality education to all of our students?
  • Describe what EQUITY means to you and how BOARD policy impacts equity for students in CPS.

Other

  • What are your plans to alleviate overcrowding in the classroom?
  • Do you believe that intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution in public schools?  Why or why not?
  • PARENTS and PARENT ENGAGEMENT have traditionally gotten lip service from CPS administration.  What does REAL, meaningful parent engagement look like to you and how does the board drive it?
  • What is CPS doing to support its local control in Jeff City?
  • What is CPS doing to implement the nutrition standards?  Are there any changes coming?

Although our forum wasn’t taped (you had to be there!) you can read more about the candidates in the Columbia Tribune.  You can also watch this tape on the CMNEA forum.