COLUMBIA — To Rosie Tippin, being around children isn’t just something she enjoys — it’s her life.
“It’s kind of in my blood,” said Tippin, who is campaigning for the first time for one of three open seats on the Columbia School Board.
Although Tippin’s mother had only a seventh-grade education and her father had a ninth-grade education, Tippin recalls education being important to her family. Her father was a member of the PTA, which could be one reason she developed her passion for children and education.
Her late husband worked at a university; her daughter operated a preschool; and Tippin has worked with every age group except middle school students.
Tippin has been welcoming children into her home — simply watching a little television with them or making them dinner — for years. One day when she picked up a young man from school, he leaned over to his friend and said, “That’s my Aunt Rosie. If you need anybody, you call her. She’ll come.” To Tippin, that is the greatest compliment she has ever received.
“For a youngster to feel that strongly about your caring I guess is what makes it all worthwhile,” she said.
Tippin said she gets just as much out of the relationship as the children do.
“Anybody who opens their door to young people will appreciate them,” she said. “I think you get so much more than you give. I’ve made lifelong friendships with the youngsters that come through our door.”
Tippin’s career in Columbia began as a reading specialist at West Boulevard Elementary School. After that, she ran her own preschool. Then she became a part-time assistant principal at Russell Boulevard Elementary School. When there was an opening at West Boulevard for principal, Tippin said she jumped at the chance.
West Boulevard kindergarten teacher Bekah Jouret remembers when Tippin hired her.
“It was my first year teaching,” she said, “and I was just grateful for someone to give me a chance.”
Jouret said Tippin always made what was best for the students her main priority.
“Mrs. Tippin had a big heart for our school and our kids,” Jouret said. “She implemented a four-day-a-week after-school tutoring program that allowed teachers to tutor their students after school. She was constantly looking for new ways and new money to make things happen to help our students achieve.”
Retired schools administrator Eliot Battle has known Tippin since she moved to Columbia.
“I think with her experiences as a parent and grandparent and professional experience as a teacher and principal, she would bring quite a few advantages to the school board,” Battle said.
After serving as the principal at West Boulevard for 10 years, health problems and family responsibilities became a burden. Tippin worked through having breast cancer as well as the responsibility of caring for her elderly parents and her husband, Keener Tippin. Although she hated to leave the children, Rosie Tippin decided to end her career at West Boulevard.
“I think had my health not failed, they would probably be dragging me out of school right now — because children is what I do,” Tippin said.
If elected, Tippin would have four main goals: improve the quality of education in Columbia Public Schools; make sure the available funds are being spent wisely; emphasize closing the achievement gap among students; and improve communication between the district and its patrons.
At a recent League of Women Voters forum, Tippin emphasized the importance of giving all students a chance, no matter what their background is.
“We don’t have to accept children of low income not succeeding, because they can,” she said.
Marie Scruggs, retired assistant principal at West Boulevard, has known Tippin since the late 1970s.
“She’s absolutely passionate about children and how essential it is for all children to get an education, especially those who don’t start out on an equal playing field for whatever reasons,” Scruggs said.
Asked at a different time about the district’s request for a 54-cent property tax increase, Tippin said she is keeping an open mind.
“I can’t say we need it or don’t need it at this point,” she said. “I want to be able to look at what will happen if we don’t get it and what we can do if we do get it.”
In essence, Tippin is campaigning on her unflagging enthusiasm for children as well as her background in Columbia’s public schools.
“I think my experience as an educator, my desire to see Columbia excel in every way educationally possible and wanting what’s best for kids in Columbia gives me an advantage,” she said.
Scruggs said the fact that Tippin is retired could be an advantage.
“She knows there’s a lot of demands placed on school board members, and she’ll be willing to do all of that,” Scruggs said.
Tippin said she thinks the district is successful in many ways.
“We have an excellent system,” she said. “That’s not to say there aren’t things we can do different or better. I don’t think anyone cannot agree that we do a pretty good job of educating here.”
Click here to read Rosie Tippin's response to a questionnaire from the Columbia Community Teachers Association.