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.

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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.

 

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!