Our Questions – Christine King Responds

Christine King has responded to our questions asked last week. Her answers are below. Christine will also be at our forum on Teen Mental Health during the meet and greet segment next week.

  1. CPPS Criteria and Role on Board

The six criteria used to evaluate school board candidates are excellent ones, and extremely relevant in today’s world. However, in my opinion, they are all webbed together in various ways; and no one criteria is more important than the other.

Strong Advocate for Public Education:

Over the past 9 years my passion and desire for strong public education in Columbia is evident in what the Board has accomplished. Just prior to 2009, the Board and District had lost key support from it’s stakeholders. Through my work in reaching out to members of the community, creating relationships and rebuilding the trust, we have made great strides. In 2010 we held the first Word Café and the topic was how poverty impacts education. From that first meeting, eventually came the Cradle to Career Alliance.

Being an advocate for Public Education means we need to be extremely good stewards of tax payer dollars. Our budgeting process both for operational needs including teacher/employee salaries but also long-range planning is outstanding. My leadership on the board as Board President and Vice President as well as Chair of both Finance and Long-Range Facilities Committees demonstrates that fiscal responsibility. In addition, since we report to the community, it is important to listen to what the community wants in Public Education. Of course, that debate now is highly contested. It is so important for us to strive to raise the bar, so our community never loses site of what a great public-school system we have with CPS.

Community Builder and Leader:

This looks different to everyone, and at various times in a leader’s life, especially on a Board. For me, my over 20 years’ experience at State Farm (mostly in a leadership position), and my over 14 years combined experience on an educational board helps form who I am as a leader. To serve on a multi person board who supervises one person, I am acutely aware of my elected responsibilities: to hire and evaluate the superintendent; govern the district with sound policy; and create and approve an annual budget. However, with those three, it is important for board members to be accessible, create relationships and be able to share our story – as it relates to those three areas.

Over the past 9 years, my accessibility to anyone is outstanding. Whether it is an employee who needs something, to a community member not understanding why we do what we do, a business leader who wants to know more, or our local media. Daily there are emails and calls reaching out to me – and I am there for anyone. This is the fun and exciting part of my “job” as a Board Member, and I absolutely love listening to anyone and hearing what is on their mind.

It is imperative the Board holds itself accountable to each other – that can be challenging at times as no one Board member has any more power than anyone else, and we are all elected. However, this Board, and myself does an excellent job of really talking through situations and relies on data when appropriate to help guide our decision making. We speak in one voice to the Superintendent and create a clear message of our expectations. My experience as Board Chair for 4 of the 5 years I served on the Columbia Montessori Board really helped prepare me for this role.

Building relations in the community for me started before 2009. At State Farm, I was the Partners in Education Committee chair for 5 years. This gave me my first in depth look at how strong CPS is in our community, and the need for strong relationships. Serving on the Columbia Youth Basketball Board – while coaching both children for many years was another avenue of building relationships. CYBA uses our schools every week and weekend for games, so securing this partnership was extremely helpful to me. Additionally, I have served on the Education Committee for the United Way, Assistance League, numerous PTA’s and other fundraising events within the schools.

Finally, my two positions currently help reach out to others in the community. I am a Licensed Sales Assistant to Nikki Kuchta at ReMax. The calls and emails I answer regarding re-districting, building of schools and information regarding where new families may obtain information about schools has been extremely helpful and again, proves my accessibility. Additionally, I am a Customer Service Specialist at TIGAdvisors (The Insurance Group). There, I work with a wide variety of people in the community, many who are coming to TIG for their financial and insurance needs. It is amazing to me how many people who will know me as soon as we meet.

One Who Seeks Excellence in Education:

As stated earlier, all these attributes are highly intertwined – and without repeating what was already said, the other arm of this is the ability to learn what is going on in our district. We can’t improve if we don’t understand where we are and what we currently do. For the past 9 years, I really look to find out what and why we do what we do, and what are ways to improve. In my time on the Board, we have really looked at all our programs to find out what works for students and how to improve. When we hired Dr. Stiepleman, one our areas of focus for him was to create and implement strategic professional development for our classroom educators. To have the best, we need to hire and retain the best educators. Our partnerships with MU, Columbia College, Stephens and others is only the beginning of us being able to hire the best, train them continuously throughout their time at CPS, and retain them a long time!

One Who Brings Needed Skills and Experience to the Board and works well and collaborates with all:

My leadership work at State Farm, over 14 years’ experience on a multi person Board supervising one person, additional committee/fundraising work, and my two positions currently in the community have given me the tools to do the job of a Board Member. I take my elected position very seriously and love every minute of it – even the challenges and obstacles that come with any position.

My time on the Board has proven my ability to work with everyone – the Board, Administration, Employees, Community Stakeholders (which includes just about everyone), and other elected officials. I have created strong relationships because of my honesty, follow through, and ability to have difficult conversations. Although individuals may not like a direction we are taking or an answer I have for them, but I know they walk away from a conversation knowing why we do what we do, and are willing to have input on how to do things better.

Values Diversity:

Since moving to Columbia in 1999, diversity in the work place and schools have been extremely important to me professionally and personally. It is important for our schools to represent the population we serve, and the ever changing population of our nation. We are more intentional as a school district about recruitment of employees (teachers, assistants, administrators) with a diverse background. Additionally, our district is extremely immersed in Equity Training, and I am proud to support the Board’s mission to participate in this training as well.

Conclusion: Our community is very involved and knowledgeable as it relates to their elected officials, and to Columbia Public Schools. Our community and all the stakeholders want a Board who will ask the difficult questions, be open and transparent with all information, is accessible to all stakeholders and who will manage the budget with fiscal integrity. For the past 9 years, and 3 more years, I am that Board Member. I work well with all groups or individuals, take the time to listen to what is on the mind of others, am accessible to all, committed to doing the job right, and continuously works to tell OUR STORY. Our Story is a great one; we have the best educators who work tirelessly to educate the children of CPS. Our Children come to us from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life, and we meet them in the path of their journey. Our community is extremely supportive of public education, and I am extremely honored to serve and provide the community what they expect – the best school district in Missouri.

  1. Key Challenges facing CPS:

With all public education, the main challenge facing CPS is how do we lessen the achievement disparity from the lowest performers to the highest. Knowing there will always be a high and a low position of achievement, how do we reach all children to ensure all are achieving 1) beyond their potential and/or 2) at least above what is believed to be proficient/expected. We know socioeconomic status is a huge driver in how well a child comes prepared for school. In Columbia, over 45% of our students come from poverty and 80% of our African American Students come from poverty, and most of our poverty is systemic and generational.

Given some of these statistics, it is not just a CPS problem, but a Columbia community problem because we want all students to 1) graduate from High School and 2) become productive citizens of the community (whether that be college, Jr. College, VoTec, working,). In 2010 we began the conversation with our World Café on the Achievement Gap, and over time, the Cradle to Career Alliance was formed – but all due to the out reaching work of the CPS Board and Admin team. Together, we knew if we all channeled our efforts, resources and goals in the same direction, we can make an impact.

We also know through research, the most crucial time in a child’s life for brain development is birth to age 5. It is in our best interest to support services and groups in our community who can help provide the best in Parent Education, and early childhood development. CPS has Parents as Teachers and a robust and every growing early childhood development program. We have consolidated those services in our Early Childhood Learning Center and thus far, results on collaboration, planning, and becoming more effective are paying off.

In addition to the Achievement Disparity, school safety and the safety of our staff and students are at the forefront this very moment. In our Board Meeting for March 12, 2018, we are having a discussion on school security, In my opinion, we need to be more intentional when hiring our front office staff employees to ensure they have the skills and desire to be our first line of security- buzzing people in the building! We need to ensure training and constant support is available for these individuals. CPS has done an excellent job in security features on the building and our drills our done with great regularity. Finally, discussions with CPD need to continue to ensure make adequate officers are positioned at our buildings, when we need them. Will be glad to update this after tonight’s meeting.

  1. What does CPS well and how to sustain:


As the only incumbent running, I honestly feel we do many things great at CPS. However, since 2009, my peers and I have worked tirelessly at building the trust that for a brief time was lost with our community. We have great support at the local level not only with tax dollars, but overall community and business support in a strong public school system. The Board of Education is extremely open, transparent and accessible to all. Personally, I take immense pride in what myself and our Board has accomplished in this area. Additionally, our financial strength, due to our budgeting process and the committee members who have served over the years, are the best in the state. Other districts are in awe of what we are able to accomplish. Finally, our ability to manage an ever growing population of students with unique and diverse needs, and remain on budget despite abysmal state budget outlook, is something to be applauded.

I look forward to another 3 years on the Board of Education to carry out the main reasons why I set out to run 9 years ago and which are still true today:

  • Continue healthy and open dialogue at all levels with the district,

  • Continue to allow parents to have a say and engage fully with the district,

  • Continue to hire and train the best teachers and administration to ensure a powerful voice in curriculum,

  • Continue our transparent budgeting process – Aa1 Bond Rating,

  • Support the work with Equity Training, Restorative Practice and recruitment of a diverse work force to meet the needs of ALL students, and

  • Support our Mission, Vision and Values at CPS!


Our Questions – Tyler Lero Responds

Tyler Lero has also responded to our questions asked last week. His answers are below.  Tyler will also be at our forum on Teen Mental Health during the meet and greet segment next week.

1.    CPPS Criteria and role on the board:

Ability to Work Effectively With Others/Exhibits Needed Skills and Experience:

Throughout my life I have built a reputation for being someone who people went to with their problems. One of my strengths is being approachable and being trusted to see problems through to completion. Although I may not always have an answer immediately, I take pride in my determination to learn and find a solution.

Values Diversity

I believe that it is critical to make steps towards increasing diversity in our community. There is so much that we can learn from each other and I believe it is vital for our youth to see people in leadership positions that they can see themselves in. Personally, I have found a passion in learning and taking steps in spreading the word about what can be done in our community. Worley Street Roundtable is an example of a locally grown organization that is focused on the betterment of our community. I am extremely excited to take part in that organization and to see it grow.

Organizational, Fiscal, and Leadership Skills

I take pride in being fiscally responsible, and I would like to see the school board continue on being diligent in their future planning with taxpayer dollars. This is a responsibility I would not take lightly as a member of the board. With the uncertainty of funding from state and federal levels it is especially important to be transparent with the taxes that our community has been graciously giving over the years.

At work, I am in a lead technologist position where I have a direct role, under my supervisor, in making decisions that are best for the laboratory. I am in charge of day to day operations of the laboratory and ensuring necessary quality assurance testing is performed and filed correctly. I have been awarded the “Role Model” and “Yes” awards for my hard work and dedication at University of Missouri Hospitals.

Seeks Excellence In Education

My wife and I are lucky in that we’re about to celebrate our first year in our new home. We are happy to put down roots in the community and do whatever we can to see it improved. I believe this starts with a strong foundation of public education. I have a strong desire to see a population of educated individuals be able to succeed. Being able to provide a quality education to any child, regardless of their circumstance will have a profoundly positive impact on our community.

Community Builder and Leader

I am vice chair of the Mayor’s Council of Physical Fitness and Health. We are tasked with improving the physical fitness and health in all citizens of Columbia and Boone County, as well as enhancing their quality of life. We are currently in the process of restructuring the council, where I am excited to have an active role in improving the efficiency and initiatives of the council.

I proudly support the Missouri Rural Crisis Center and phone bank with them regularly. They are an amazing organization which support family farmers and rural communities, promotes safe, affordable, and high-quality food for communities, protecting the environment, creating economic opportunity for rural Missouri, and engaging Missourians in the democratic process.

Strong Advocate For Public Education

I have so much enjoyed getting out and talking to people face to face by knocking on hundreds of doors over the last weeks. I believe it is vital to actually be plugged into the community if you’re going to say you represent them and that people like school board members that are accessible to them, especially outside of traditional meeting hours. When people feel comfortable and connected, we open honest, transparent lines of communication, and these informal conversations are often where the most valuable information is gathered. I have spoken to teachers, principals, homeowners, and parents and have a heard a wide variety of issues that are important to them. I want everyone here to know that you are supporting a person who hears those issues and wants to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to have their voice heard. Now, I certainly won’t agree with everyone on everything, but you can trust that I’ll stand strong on my values and beliefs, and I can promise I will listen respectfully and make sure I understand where people are coming from.

2. What do you consider to be key challenges facing CPS and how will you contribute to meeting that challenge?

Of the many issues facing the board, maintaining and recruiting top tier teachers and staff, as well as showing continued support for current teachers, is a top priority with a large impact on student success. I would like to schedule meetings with teachers in their environment and let them know that they have a friend on the school board and their voices are being heard. This means putting in face time, and not only relying on them to be able to fit into their busy schedules time to attend the public comment period of the board meetings. When teachers feel valued, appreciated, and have their needs met, then students will benefit from the active engagement our teachers will have.

I am also concerned with the budget. With continued uncertainty coming from state and federal funding, it is more important than ever to seek efficiency and streamline processes to be able to get as much value out of every taxpayer dollar that is received. I also agree with the board’s current trend of keeping an 18-20% reserve and would like to see the budget handled in a fiscally responsible and transparent way.

Safety is also primary concern of mine. I believe it is the position of the board to ensure that an adequate and safe environment is addressed in all Columbia schools. I would like to see this done by working to build a trusting culture in our community and schools.

3. What do you think CPS does particularly well, and how do we sustain that?

I believe the board has done a good job with the budget thus far but there is always room for improvement in public feedback and transparency. With continued state funding shortages, the need to make every dollar count is more important than ever. Also, taxpayers want to know where and how their money is being used, so I believe that transparency and openness of the decisions being made should be a top priority of the board. I have had training in process improvement techniques that I would be able to bring as a unique strength to the board.


Our Questions – Teresa Maledy Responds

Teresa Maledy is the first 2018 school board candidate to respond to the questions we sent out last week. Here are her answers:

1. How Meet CPPS Criteria and Role on the Board:

Ability to Work Effectively With Others/Exhibits Needed Skills and Experience:

I believe my experience will serve me well on the CPS Board. I have over 30 years’ experience leading a variety of teams within Commerce Bank. I’ve developed a reputation for being a pragmatic problem solver, for collaborating, and for asking the right questions to guide the organization towards success. Over the years I’ve served on numerous nonprofit boards and a corporate board. These experiences further reinforced my belief in the importance of strong and balanced board leadership.

These same guiding principles apply to the Columbia School Board position:

  • The CPS board is responsible for hiring and retaining a qualified CEO/Superintendent. It is important for the board to appropriately delegate authority to the Superintendent and then monitor performance related to goals.
  • The CPS board works with the Superintendent to define and articulate the school district’s vision. That vision needs to represent and balance the goals of the stakeholders: 1) the students, 2) the teachers and staff, 3) the parents, and  4) all tax payers/community members.
  • The CPS board must actively represent and continuously seek engagement with the community. I know I can impact this effort.

I see the ideal school board as representing different aspects of the community, perhaps with different constituencies and unique perspectives on ways to improve the district. It doesn’t necessarily take a consensus, but it does take everyone pushing forward to make the district the best it can be.

Values Diversity

On a day-to-day basis I proactively and visibly embrace the importance of valuing diversity in the workplace and our community.

In addition to forming an active Inclusion and Diversity Council for our own employees in the Central Missouri Region, as the regional CEO for Commerce Bank, I chose for our bank to be one of the founding members of the Diversity Awareness Partnership (DAP), created in Columbia to support local diversity and inclusion efforts.

I am a founding member of the Cradle to Career Alliance and one of our top priorities is to close the achievement gap across all demographics.

I was also proud and honored to receive the NAACP Roy Wilkins Award for Community Service.

Seeks Excellence In Education

As a board member of the Alliance for Childhood Education, a founding member of the Cradle to Career Alliance, and former member of the Coordinating Board for Early Childhood Education, my interest in education is long-term. I am committed to supporting education and Columbia Schools in whatever capacity I can best serve, should that be as board member or beyond. If I am successful in this election it will be an opportunity for me to more publicly serve our students and our community.

Community Builder and Leader

Community service is very important to me and I have been involved in several community organizations. I currently serve on the University of Missouri Health System Advisory Board and the Board of Curators Health Affairs Committee, the Stephens College Board of Trustees, the Stephens College Endowment Foundation Board, the REDI Board and the Columbia Insurance Group Board of Directors. I am also affiliated with the Alliance for Childhood Education and one of the founding members of the Cradle to Career Alliance in Columbia.

I have served as Chair of the board of the Greater Missouri Leadership Foundation and was the founding Chair of the Community Foundation for Central Missouri. I am Past Chair for the Columbia Chamber of Commerce and Past President of Columbia South Rotary Board of Directors. I served on the board of Central Missouri Food Bank, the United Way Board, and the Boone County Coordinating Board for Early Childhood Education.

I was the recipient of the Stephens College Alumna Achievement Award, the Columbia Public School Foundation Distinguished Alumna Award, the Columbia of Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Award, the Athena Award through the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, the NAACP Roy Wilkins Award for Community Service, the Stephens College Alumna Service Award, the 2014 Greater Missouri Leadership Woman of the Year Award, the 2017 Association of Fundraisers Spirit of Philanthropy Award and was recognized in of the 2017 Inaugural Class of CoMo 100.

Strong Advocate For Public Education

I’ve been actively engaged with educational issues for many years and believe a strong Columbia Public School System is an important factor in the quality of life we enjoy here in Central Missouri.  Since moving back to Columbia 20 years ago, I’ve personally put my support of the district into action by serving on several election committees supporting CPS bond issues and tax levies. As a member of the Alliance for Childhood Education I have testified in front of our legislators in Jefferson City on the importance of quality early childhood education. I’ve continued this proactive support of education through the board of Cradle to Career Alliance.

2. What do you consider to be key challenges facing CPS and how will you contribute to meeting that challenge?

As with all school districts in Missouri, a primary challenge for CPS is its vulnerability tied to any reduction in state funding. This funding unpredictability requires CPS to continually seek efficiencies and innovative solutions, and we must be prepared to re-evaluate programs and practices considering fiscal realities and community expectations.

Like many cities, achieving educational equity is a big challenge for Columbia, and it is critically important we identify successful strategies we can implement now and in the future, as our school district continues to grow. I believe the solution is not just the responsibility of the administration or educators in Columbia Public Schools. It is up to each one of us to ensure educational equity across our student body. This is one of the reasons I chose to support the Cradle to Career Alliance when it was founded here in Columbia.

Our approach is based on the successful “Strive Model” whereby we intentionally and strategically bring people together from across the community to work on common goals that put our children on a path to success. We use data to identify disparities across key educational milestones and then collaborate with Boone County school districts, businesses and other community organizations to find solutions. The members of Cradle to Career believe that if we share and communicate a common vision of our goals, we can work more effectively together. I understand that each student is unique and deserves equal opportunities to thrive. I also know that it takes each of us to forge a dedicated partnership between school and community. I believe I can contribute meaningfully to this important goal.

3. What do you think CPS does particularly well, and how do we sustain that?
The Columbia Public School System has many assets including strong community engagement and a history of financial support from the voters. I believe the school board, the administration, educators and staff are all focused on student success and they are willing to explore innovative ways, supported by relevant data, to meet the needs of our rapidly growing student base. Long-range planning has been particularly wise in linking new building plans and trailer retirement with successive, no-tax-increase bond issues.

One of my top priorities as a CPS board member would be to ensure that the district continues to earn the community’s confidence, trust, and consistent financial support.

Your Questions – Jan Mees Responds

We posted the list of questions that parents and other community members generated from our forum and asked the candidates to respond. Jan Mees did, and her responses are below.  Thank you Jan!

Should supporting preschool education be a priority for CPS?  Why or why not?
Yes, CPS supports and encourages preschool education. CPS recognizes the need for quality pre-school education, which helps students who are not ready to enter kindergarten acquire academic, social and emotional skills. Ideally, all students who enter CPS should have quality early childhood education.   Approximately 800 students are currently enrolled in CPS’s pre-school programs.  CPS is constructing a new Early Childhood Learning Center to centralize all programs aimed at early childhood education:  Parents as Teachers, Early Childhood Special Education and Title I preschool classrooms.  The state does not provide any money for early childhood education.  CPS directs funds from our operating budget to these programs which confirms the Board’s commitment to early childhood education.
What would you do to boost teacher pay?
Approximately 80% of the CPS budget is allocated for staff salary and benefits.  If the state had adequately funded the foundation formula, CPS would have an additional $12 million. Because this has not occurred, the tax levy proposal is now before our voters, of which 30 cents would help with salary for all staff.  To boost teacher and staff pay, a sustainable and reliable revenue stream must be established.
With the ever expanding population of Columbia how would you have community members invest (time or money) in the school district?
Involvement of adults in the community is a win-win for students.  Working through civic clubs, church groups, PTAs, being mentored by a current active parent volunteer and having a one on one connection to the district would enable more community members to be involved.  The current Partner in Education program is a very successful and viable program, in which local businesses share their resources, not necessarily monetary resources, for the betterment of our 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?
The state requires 1044 hours in school each year.  Each district sets their calendar.  Each school then sets their own building schedule, balancing core academic time, lunch, recess and other scheduled activities during the school day.  This is often challenging.  Bigger schools face more problems due to the mass number of lunches to be served in a shorter amount of time.  School administrators have been creative in addressing this issue, however, sometimes no matter what is tried, some kids eat faster than others, some want to linger and socialize more and eat less.   In order to provide longer lunch times, other activities must be re-scheduled and/or the school day could be lengthened. A longer school day, although preferable, would result in increased costs for staffing.  I have eaten lunch with grandsons and with a high school student on a continual basis, and yes, we do have to eat faster than I prefer.
How can bullying be addressed at schools?
Bullying, by definition is an imbalance of power which is repetitive in nature.  District policies addressing bullying are in place.  Staff must receive professional development to recognize bullying.  Schools should (and do) have curricular units on bullying.  Counselors and school staff should have parent nights to discuss the signs, implications and strategies for dealing with bullying. Parents need to observe and talk to their children about this issue and recognize if a change in behavior might be the result of bullying.   Students must be taught how destructive bullying can be and feel comfortable to report any incidents if they or their friends are the victims of bullying.
What about safety concerns @ school crossing areas where CPD states it is not responsible for traffic?
Safety of all students is critical.  If CPD does not agree with a parent’s concern, it is suggested talking with the school administration and/or forming a task force of parents.  If that does not yield success or compromise, talk to an assistant superintendent and/or the director of safety and security.
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.
Every election year potentially brings a change to the sitting board.  It is imperative that board members work for the common goal of excellence in CPS.  Virtually every meeting of the board and the work of the board committees bring board members in to situations when collaboration is essential.  Collaboration does not necessarily mean agreement, but it does signify the acknowledgment of others’ points of view and decisions.
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?
The vision of CPS is to be the best school district in the state.  Each school has a unique culture established by the building leadership team and the staff.  Each survey has different criteria. Not knowing which poll this was, I cannot give a clear answer.
Increasing parent involvement – removing barriers/restorative justice program – what about parents with a record?
Parents need to feel welcomed.  If there is no legal restriction upon visitation or any other offense that prevents a person from being on school grounds, there should be no limitations.
How would you address the achievement gap in CPS?
Providing quality preschool education; providing teacher and staff professional development on ways to reach our most at-risk students; programs such as Reading Recovery and RTI (Response to Intervention); mentoring programs, community wide acknowledgement of the achievement gap and involvement in programs to support students such as the Cradle to Career initiative, Minority Men’s network, Worley Street Roundtable, Boys and Girls club.
How do you propose closing the achievement gap during the middle years?
Middle years are extremely challenging for many students who are struggling with identity as they move from child to independent young adult.  Schools need to offer support in a variety of ways to keep kids engaged in academics while finding a niche and comfort zone with activities. Have a relationship with a caring adult who is ready to listen and advise students, partnered with a rigorous advisory curriculum addressing social and emotional issues of middle schoolers will help students recognize and acknowledge their feelings are not unusual.
Columbia is segregated by neighborhoods and as a result, schools tend to look like those neighborhoods, i.e. often NOT very diverse.  How should the district address this, if at all?
Every effort is made to reflect the true diverse face of the Columbia community when school attendance boundaries are drawn.  School diversity numbers can change over a period of time, due to a shift in demographics and/or new schools being built.  However, sometimes balancing demographics perfectly is not ideal due to the location of a school in a particular area of the community which might have a higher concentration of a particular racial or ethnic group.
Does diversity matter?!
As our community and our nation become move diverse, yes, diversity matters and CPS recognizes and celebrates the diversity in our schools and our community.
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?
As a current board of education member, our new superintendent has, at the board’s request, included this metric as one that is targeted for improvement.  The number of suspensions of black students has decreased dramatically.  The board budget reflects our commitment to providing increased training for our educators on cultural differences such as equity training, restorative justice training, effects of poverty and how better to handle a behavior situation before escalation.  The board has also entered into a Memo of Understanding between the CPD, Boone County Sheriff’s Department and the juvenile system to work to keep kids out of the juvenile system and the prison pipeline.
How would you promote women and minorities in leadership positions in the Administration and schools throughout the district?
Women and minorities in leadership positions should reflect the diversity of our community and our schools.  This is difficult if the applicant pool is not reflective of the needs to attract women and minorities.  This parallels with the efforts to hire more minority educators.  In-district training programs should be offered to “grow our own” as well as providing mentoring for outstanding candidates who may not be in the current teaching pool but might consider a career change to join the education team.
What are we doing to bring more teachers in for all the current schools and new schools?
When a new school is opened, there is a shift in teachers primarily in the schools affected by the new attendance boundaries.  About a year prior to opening, the principal is chosen and teachers in the district who are interested can apply.  Even though students are moved from their previous schools, not all teachers who apply are also transferred, in order to keep continuity at both the new and the old school.  In addition to teachers, office staff, media center staff, nurse, custodial positions are new positions, often filled from with the current CPS staff.
CPS recruits at job fairs throughout Missouri, at colleges and through various means of educational placement journals.  According to our Human Resources Department, CPS received over 1600 applications for various jobs in the district (not necessarily all teaching positions) Columbia Public Schools is a very attractive district and teachers who apply here do so, in large part, because of our reputation.  Having three institutions of higher education in Columbia also attracts not only College of Education graduates, but also spouses of university grad students or staff members who come to Columbia who would be qualified to teach in CPS.
How many students are currently enrolled in CPS?
(18,015) (this includes approximately 800 pre-K students
How do you plan to improve parental engagement in the education process?
Parental involvement is a key factor in a student’s success as evidenced by extensive research.
Make parents feel welcome – from the front office personnel to the classroom teacher to school administrators.  Many parents had negative experiences when they were students and have brought that forward in their role as parents.  Every parent, every guardian is important!  No one should feel marginalized.  Parents work to help their child in whatever way is doable in their personal lives.
Ensure communication is available in many different formats – and remember that communication is a two way street.  Electronic means of communication is the norm. The personal one on one contact is more critical than any website or email.
Teachers need to reach out to families – a simple phone call, a chat in the hallway during pick up or drop off time, or an invitation to have lunch with the teacher and the student.  Yes, time consuming for the educator, but pays off dividends in the long run to the success of the child.  Recognize that not all parents have the luxury of an 8-5 job with long lunch hours. Arrange parent teacher conferences at various times during the day or evening, or even weekends.  If parents do not speak English, arrange for translators.
Work with other community agencies or churches with whom there is a crossover of services.
Seek input from parents instead of always giving input – listen to their concerns, because they know their child the best.
What is your #1 priority as a potential board member?
My number one priority as a board member is to make decisions that are the best for the stakeholders – our students and our community.
If you could change one thing about our schools, what would it be?
Increase the involvement of parents and community members in our schools.
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?
The most important issue for CPS is the same as our mission:  To provide an excellent education for ALL students.  With that being said, the basic need for adequate and sustained funding to deliver quality education to CPS students because without adequate funding, it is impossible to retain and recruit high quality employees, to build and maintain our facilities, and to provide the best educational programming.

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!



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?


  • 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.


  • 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.

Join Us This Saturday March 14!

We will co-host our annual candidate forum with the CMSTA and CCPTA this Saturday, March 14, at 8:30 AM at the ARC!  This will be our usual family friendly format and we are trying to make it even more family-friendly by scheduling on a Saturday morning.  We hope to see you there!  In addition to showcasing the candidates we will have message boards and opportunities for parent to parent conversation.  Come and ask your questions!  Not sure what to look for in a candidate?  Here are characteristics that we look for:

1. Ability to work effectively with others. Ask – does this candidate have effective listening and speaking skills? Has this candidate demonstrated an ability to build consensus and achieve collaborative outcomes?  Will this candidate listen to the concerns and thoughts of parents, students, and faculty with an open-mind?

2. Values diversity. Ask -does this candidate engage and show rapport with different segments of the public?  Have they demonstrated an understanding of the need to involve the entire community in the decisions of how we educate our children?

3. Organization, Fiscal and Leadership Skills.  Ask – what experience does this candidate bring to the table?  Do they understand and respect the differences between policy- making and administration?  Can they work with a budget?

4. Seeks Excellence in Education. Ask – is this candidate open to new ideas? Is the candidate committed to quality through innovation and professional development? Do they have high expectations for achievement for all students?

5. Community Builder and Leader.  Ask – what other organizations, boards, or activities has this candidate been involved in?  Will they be a positive role model for our youth?

6. Strong Advocate for Public Education!

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