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Second candidate enters school board race

Thursday, January 1, 2009 | 5:00 p.m. CST; updated 9:25 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, March 10, 2009

COLUMBIA — Michelle Pruitt never cared for public speaking, but her frustration with how math was being taught in Columbia’s public schools compelled her to comment at a school board meeting in early 2007.

She had no idea the stir her comments would create.

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Other parents unhappy with the math curriculum quickly contacted Pruitt and asked how they could help in her efforts. A meeting at the Columbia Public Library resulted in the formation of Columbia Parents for Real Math, a group led by Pruitt to encourage bringing traditional math instruction back into the classroom.

The group’s work paid off, and in fall 2009 elementary students in Columbia Public Schools will be taught traditional math.

Hoping to build on her success, the 43-year-old, whose two children attend Columbia public schools, filed Wednesday to run for one of two open spots on the board.

Pruitt said she hopes to make use of the lessons she learned while campaigning to change the math curriculum.

"The more I learned, the more I felt like I could contribute something,” she said.

Math won’t be her only priority. She said she hopes to build a stronger bridge between the school board and parents.

“I’d like to see the procedures be more clear for parents that want to be involved,” she said. “When parents get turned down, they lose faith in the process.”

Pruitt said she thinks that if the board had reached out to the community and parents in 2008, the tax levy that failed in April might have passed.

If elected, she said her top priority would be the academic well-being of schools.

Pruitt works in the information technology department for the in-house research wing of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She said she decided to run for the board earlier last year, but as a federal employee, she had to get permission before turning in her paperwork.

Once her job gave the OK, she put filing as a board candidate on her holiday to-do list.

“I’m excited," Pruitt said. "I'm really a huge supporter of public schools.”

Pruitt is the second candidate to file for the school board election. Jeannine H. Craig submitted her application Monday for the April election.

Applicants have until 5 p.m. Jan. 20 to file in person at the district's administration building, 1818 W. Worley St., and must be Columbia taxpayers, at least 24 years old and a U.S. citizen.


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