Bullying and The Presidential Election

As you prepare your kids for school, be aware that what they may be watching on t.v. or on the internet about our national politics may not be teaching the lessons we would have them learn.  Review this report from the Southern Policy Law Center about the “Trump effect” and what it means for bullying.  Whatever your political leanings, talk to your kids about how to treat others and what to do when meeting a bully.

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.

 

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.

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!