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School board may have to replace president and vice president

Sunday, December 14, 2008 | 6:11 p.m. CST; updated 9:27 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, March 10, 2009

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Public School Board will have one seat open — if not two — come April. President Michelle Gadbois said she won't run again, and Vice President Steve Calloway wonders if he'll have time to serve as president in her absence, so he's weighing the decision of another campaign.

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Both Gadbois and Calloway are finishing their first terms on the board. Calloway is still deciding whether he'll run in the April election. He said closing the achievement gap — one of the board's three stated goals — is critical. Some say parents have to assume responsibility for students' success. Calloway said the board must focus on what it can do to drive achievement, including curriculum and extra help for kids who need it.

"The board and the district have to be accountable for when the kids are with us," he said.

He said developing relationships with kids is another piece of the puzzle. He recalls a popular teachers' expression: "Kids don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Possible board candidates should consider their ability to work as a team, too, according to Calloway.

"We don't want to have everybody thinking the same way, to rubber stamp everything the administration does," Calloway said. "But (the board has) to know how to work together."

Even when board members agree with one another, they might have different reasons to support their position. Board member Karla DeSpain said a newcomer has to be ready to hear multiple perspectives, make up his or her mind and realize that others might not agree.

Calloway said many parents are passionate about their own children's education, but it takes more than that to be a good candidate.

"A board member is an advocate for all kids," he said. "Yes, we're responsible to the parents and the folks who vote, who elect us and who pay taxes, but it ought to be about what's best for all kids."

The board often elects previous vice presidents to the president position. With Gadbois gone, Calloway's re-election could mean a new post and a bigger time commitment.

Board member Ines Segert, who was elected in April, said anyone considering a seat on the board should prepare for a big responsibility.

"The whole point is to get involved, to really understand the issues you'll be asked to vote on," she said.

What's more, Segert said board membership isn't for someone who wants to approve everything that is placed before him or her.

In light of the district's recent audit, she said new members should prioritize administrative oversight. She said the district's financial situation is due in part to concerns raised by past auditors that were not publicly discussed.

"(It takes) a willingness to ask questions publicly, dig in to all the details, make sure board policies are being followed by everyone and listen to the public," Segert said.

She said Gadbois' seat will be a tough one to fill.

"Michelle throws herself into everything," Segert said. "She's listening to all different constituencies (of the public) to come to a consensus that's helpful to everyone in Columbia Public Schools."

DeSpain said Gadbois brings "an idea of digging into things very deeply," and her attention to detail is an asset to the board.

Michelle Pruitt, who formed Columbia Parents for Real Math, said she has decided whether or not to run in April, but she's not ready to share that decision with the public yet.

She has considered running since board member Don Ludwig's resignation in 2007 left an opening on the board that nine candidates applied to fill. Only two of those candidates ran for seats on the board in the following election. Board member Tom Rose, who replaced Ludwig, kept that spot in the April 2008 election, and Segert was elected to her first term in the same election.

In addition to the time commitment of board service, Pruitt said the energy that goes into a campaign deters many from running. Still, she's considering it because transparent decision making should be a board priority.

"Making sure the public can see what's happening inside the Columbia district — that's something that really needs to be done," Pruitt said.

Candidates for April's election can begin filing Tuesday. To apply, a candidate must be a Columbia taxpayer, a U.S. citizen and at least 24 years old. Those interested must file in person at the administration building, 1818 W. Worley St., before Jan. 20.


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Comments

Ray Shapiro December 15, 2008 | 11:44 p.m.

Mr. Calloway said the board must focus on what it can do to drive achievement, including curriculum and extra help for kids who need it.
"The board and the district have to be accountable for when the kids are with us."
(I prefer teachers who see themselves as helpful and responsible more than accountable. However, I get the gist of his statement.)
His words are commendable, however they are a small part of the big picture and will never be achieved if other factors are not addressed and incorporated into the lives of our children.
Good commentary in Trib Talk that goes along with this article...
http://www.columbiatribune.com/2008/Dec/...

"I’ll be the first to admit young black parents could do better by their children. The black family unit as a traditional family of both parents and children is rare, and many times it’s not even the parents raising the children but the grandparents or other family members. But instead of complaining about it, let’s look for solutions. I don’t have the answer. Does anybody have any ideas? What can we do to the school system to accommodate this type of demographic so they can excel like their fellow students despite the handicap they have of lack of parenting?"

Grandparents or "other family members" can become the "newer" accountable "parent." The degree of "dysfunctionality" of these adults will also impact the child's interpersonal abilities and maturity. We still need to address the "family adults" in this "child's" life and hold "blood" or "adopted blood" accountable.

Looking for ways for the "public school system" to accommodate this "demographic" and address the "handicap" of lack of parenting, once again takes the focus away from developing "good adults," in the child's life, that he/she needs and depends on when away from the public school environment.

The child is the legal responsibility of at least one adult guardian/parent.
Take "good" care of this child. If you can't, you should get help, but don't shift responsibility or accountability to any government run organization, such as the public schools, to do your job. If you can't "do your job," of being a good adult role model/guardian/parent, legally pass your child on to some one who can and hope for the best. (Why continue to do more damage to your child's development while waiting for "child protection services" to step in?) With some luck, they may stay out of trouble, mental institutions and prison. They may even succeed in school.

If you want to improve the public school system, which already "accommodates" handicaps of all kinds, from every walk of life and demographic, then get involved with the school board, committees and develop a good PTA with parents, teachers and include the kids. PTA's can work well. Unfortunately they disappear as our kids get older. We allow this to happen. Not the kids.

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