Open school board forum reveals need for discussion

Tuesday, May 20, 2008 | 11:19 p.m. CDT; updated 12:05 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — Ten people, including school board members Karla DeSpain, Jan Mees and Tom Rose, and members of the community, gathered to share concerns and make suggestions for improvement Tuesday night at an open school board forum.

Rose said afterward that while he wished there had been more people in attendance, he still felt there had been “a nice, open conversation with a lot of good ideas about communication.”

Communication was the issue receiving the most attention from the group, which included a Rock Bridge High School teacher and a middle school science teacher. Everyone agreed there had been many misunderstandings during the past year.

Discussions throughout the evening about other topics frequently moved back to the issue of communication, with the general consensus being there was plenty of room for improvement in the way information is shared between the school board and the other members of the educational community.

There were nods of agreement around the room when an attendee said, “The people who are footing the bill want what they say to be heard.”

The second most common concern raised was about the budget crisis, which will be addressed in greater depth at a school board meeting 7:30 a.m. Thursday. Attendees addressed cuts such as changing the bus service to Ridgeway Elementary School and, more generally, reducing teacher salaries. Some recent projects undertaken by the school board that, in the minds of a few of those in attendance, simply further the problem were also discussed.

Other topics of discussion included the function and importance of literacy coaches and a debate about budget cuts.

Everyone at the meeting reiterated what is most important is doing what is best for students.

Emotions ran high when the parents in the room addressed their personal situations and struggles involving their children. One woman cried while telling board members how certain budget cuts may affect her son. Those at the meeting reflected on how changes in school board spending habits could both help and hurt these hardships.

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pat fowler May 21, 2008 | 3:15 p.m.

How did I miss the advance notice of this meeting? I read about it yesterday afternoon in the Tribune.

Can we have wider distribution of the dates and times for these meetings?

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