You can join us March 16 at 6:15 for our annual parent friendly school board candidate forum. What makes our forum parent friendly? You get to ask your own questions, actually talk to the candidates, and both food and childcare are available. Can’t stay for the entire forum or need to arrive late? Not a problem! With our format it is easy to come and go. We understand the difficulties you have juggling your family schedule and will welcome you for the time you have to share. So please come! Forum will last approximately an hour. As last year, the forum will be held at United Community Builders, 617 North Providence. Our forum is co-sponsored with the CMSTA.
You can actually join us BEFORE the forum for a workshop on the new bullying law and related district policy. That begins at 5:30 pm. As a parent you need to know how the changes could affect your child, and what to do if your child is bullied or accused of bullying. You can find many good resources related to bullying here.
If you are a parent or other community member concerned about maintaining and strengthening our public school system so that ALL kids have a fair opportunity to succeed we welcome you to come meet us, share your concerns, and join in our work!
5:30 pm Workshop – What Parents Need To Know About Bullying
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we will post them for you!
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
• 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.