School board OKs changes to the math objectives

Tuesday, October 14, 2008 | 2:18 p.m. CDT; updated 4:47 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 14, 2008

COLUMBIA — Columbia Public Schools now have new math curriculum objectives.

At a meeting Monday night, Columbia School Board members approved the math curriculum documents for kindergarten through fifth grade and sixth through eighth grades. All members voted to approve the documents except for board member Ines Segert.

Changes to the curriculum objective documents included additional emphasis on procedural fluency and the addition of the term "standard algorithm" for clarity, said Sally Beth Lyon, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

During board discussion, board member Rosie Tippin said it's now important that the curriculum include suggestions for how parents can help teach math at home.

Segert asked if it were possible to expand or open to the public the current curriculum committees for kindergarten through fifth grade and grades six through eight. Lyon said it was possible to include more people on those groups, which will select the specific curriculum used at the elementary and middle-school levels before the next school year.

Parent Michelle Pruitt addressed the board about the committees that created and revised the math objective documents.

"I came here to ask you: Do you know what the process is for getting the documents to you?" she said.

She asked board members if they trusted the process for the future.

Segert spoke to the board before the vote and said that the past months have given her hope for the district. She said, despite improvements to the documents, she voted not to approve them because she didn't feel the option on the table was the one Columbia needed. She had hoped that Columbia could implement an "authentic, modern math curriculum."

Board president Michelle Gadbois thanked the public for engaging in the district's discussion of its math curriculum — "a rough dialogue that is sometimes scary to have."

Superintendent search

Also at the meeting, Bob Watkins of the superintendent search firm for the Missouri School Boards' Association spoke to the board about how he would help select candidates for the district's next superintendent. Watkins explained a plan similar to the one Gadbois outlined at the board's Sept. 8 meeting.

Watkins has helped boards in the Francis Howell, Joplin and Fort Osage districts in their superintendent searches. He will personally handle Columbia's search, and the process will start when he posts the superintendent opening, which he said would happen right away. He will then meet with board members to determine the criteria most important to the board and the district, such as experience, personality or specific expertise.

The position listing will be open for seven or eight weeks, and Watkins said applications could come from within Missouri and from other states such as Kansas, Texas, Tennessee and Illinois. In the meantime, Watkins plans to bring other members of the search firm with him to Columbia to hold community forums to give residents the chance "to tell us what they think is important in the leadership of this district."

When the search ends, the board will see all received applications, and Watkins will recommend the top candidates, based on the profile the district illustrates. He stressed that his role is to help the board select from the best pool of candidates, not help applicants get hired.

"I'm your agent," Watkins told the board. "I feel very strongly about that point."

Other business

Also at the meeting, the board approved a plan to invest some district money in certificates of deposit.

The board also unanimously approved student transportation routes, which are three fewer than last year. Three bus routes to Ridgeway Elementary were eliminated as part of the district's budget cuts.

During the board president report, Gadbois said residents interested in helping select the name of the district's new elementary school can submit an application to join the naming committee. Information about applying to serve on the committee and about submitting naming suggestions can be found on the district's Web site and should be submitted by Oct. 22.

The naming committee will present a name or name options at the board's Nov. 10 meeting.

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