Do the math
Every six years, the Columbia Board of Education has the chance to review existing strategies for math. The curriculum under question is reviewed and honed for areas that need improvement. It’s a benchmark for progress or a chance for those teachers and parents who have been complaining about outdated strategies to get the change they’ve pleaded for.
After looking into the “investigations” math program used by Columbia Public Schools, the board decided to abandon the existing curriculum and move back to traditional math. Interim Superintendent Jim Ritter said in a story published by the Missourian that the district’s math issues had divided the community.
With more than 60 people in attendance at last week’s board meeting arguing about the proposed changes to the math program, Ritter obviously wasn't making an overstatement.
At the core of the argument, however, is this: What is the best approach to teaching math to elementary school students?
“Investigations” is an elementary-level math program that uses multiple strategies and real-world analogies to solve math problems, according to the Missourian. Traditional math uses algorithms such as multiplication tables and long division.
What approach to math works best for you or your children?
Cozy First Ward designs
Cottage. The word evokes a trip to grandma’s comfortable, cute home nestled in the woods — not a trip to many of the decrepit and crumbling First Ward residences. But one man has dared to suggest making small, innovative cottages the norm in a ward that has become disfigured by aging homes and unkempt properties.
Amir Ziv’s vision includes developing three 870-square-foot cottages on two lots in the Ridgeway neighborhood. Despite praise from city officials, the Planning and Zoning Commission has not approved a rezoning permit for Ziv’s dream. Commissioners and neighbors spoke out against the plan, which would include garages that faced the street and three homes on two lots.
With a difficult housing market and tough economic times, here is a man who actually wants to rebuild the First Ward’s image, but the city is being uncooperative. According to the Missourian last week, the city said if the garages were moved, the design might be approved. Nevertheless, neighbors voiced their concerns that the unusual design would not fit in with the other homes in the neighborhood.
What is the best plan for rehabbing run-down houses in the First Ward?
A signature doesn’t mean anything
Why wait? Some bicycle enthusiasts have asked this question of the proposed I-70 overpass that will allow bicyclists to safely cross the interstate into Cosmopolitan Park.
The project would take $1 million of GetAbout Columbia’s $13 million reserves. Last week, council members delayed the project, hoping that highway funding would cover some of the costs.
The GetAbout fund isn’t money to waste on frivolous projects, but the I-70 overpass was highlighted as a vital improvement for bicyclists around Columbia. GetAbout officials gave it their highest rating, a "signature" label.
With $13 million in the bank, the funds are available to begin construction, but the project will now be delayed for a few years as the city waits for what may be phantom money to appear from other sources.
Council members said the project was important but “did not rise to the top with limited funds.”
Should the city foot the bill for the overpass or wait for additional funding?
Troubled loan agency
MOHELA is taking one hit after another. A credit market crisis made its loans harder to sell, a law passed in 2007 made the student loan program less appealing for student lenders, and a Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative ripped $320 million out of its pocket to pay for new university buildings in September 2007.
An initiative by Gov. Matt Blunt calls for $5 million in quarterly payments from Missouri’s student loan agency for the university construction program for the next six years. Certain regulations are in place to stem the flow of money if it affects the agency’s ability to serve students or its existence is threatened by the financial burden.
After the MOHELA board of directors voted to pay $100,000 toward June’s late payment, the amount they still owe the state remains $3.6 million and will increase to more than $8 million when it misses another payment at the end of September.
Missed payments will delay new building construction but also may place MOHELA in danger. Student loan agencies like MOHELA are in place in several other states and are feeling the effects of a troubled credit market nationally, but they don’t have the proposed $350 million initiative working against them.
Given the current credit crunch, should the General Assembly revisit the legislation for the Lewis and Clark Initiative?
Lights out, good dreams
On Thursday night, among fire twirlers, one-man band troupes on the street corner and face painting in the park, there was a feeling of loss as thousands of community members said farewell to the Twilight Festival.
The Missourian has heralded the end to the 19 year festival for months, citing people in town who blamed the crime among teenagers and a lack of business that lead to closing down a festival meant to bring the community together.
After fights broke out during a number of festivals, the Columbia Police Department requested more officers for Twilight events and downtown businesses brought more employees to help watch for shoplifting.
The problems prevailed, and Twilight Festival ended Thursday. Is this the case of one bad apple ruining it for the rest?
In 2004, businesses earned $2 million from festival sales. In 2007, attendance at Twilight peaked at 12,000.
With more people, there is likely to be more trouble. But for community members who have enjoyed the festival for more than a decade, the reasons for attending were often based on nostalgia.
Yet the end to one thing could mean the beginning of a new and better event.
The funds that supported the Twilight Festival could be put toward different community endeavors for the future.
What events would you like to see in the city?