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Who are the candidates for Columbia School Board?

Saturday, March 21, 2009 | 8:32 p.m. CDT; updated 7:47 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The eight candidates (seven shown) for the upcoming Columbia Board of Education election on April 7 answer questions posed by the Columbia chapter of the National Education Association at an open forum at the School District Administration Building in Columbia on Monday.

Candidate Bill Merideth's last name was incorrectly spelled in an earlier version of this article.

TWO SEATS

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Nine candidates are competing for two seats on the seven-member Columbia School Board being vacated by current board president Michelle Gadbois and vice president Steve Calloway. The election is April 7.

NINE CANDIDATES

Michelle Pruitt made her voice known as founder of "Columbia Parents for Real Math," a group that advocated a return to a traditional step by step, or algorithmic, math curriculum.

Dan Holt is a former consultant in educational finance, and his wife, Lisa, is the head of math curriculum at Rock Bridge High School.

Jeannine Craig is a great-grandmother with experience as president of a school board in Cary, Ill. She hopes to improve communication with the community by eliminating jargon.

Adam Sorg is a single father advocating equal opportunity in education for all students.

Greg Flippin is a corporate facilities and fleet manager at Missouri Employers Mutual Insurance and father of two children in Columbia Public Schools. He hopes to improve parent involvement in the district.

Christine King worked on the board of directors for Columbia Montessori School and recently left her job at State Farm Insurance Co. She thinks she has the time and experience in education to move the district forward.

Marc Bledsoe has a master's degree in mathematics from MU; his interest in new forms of math education played a part in his decision to run.

Sam Phillips is an attorney who wants to bring leadership to the school board to regain what he sees as a loss of public trust.

Bill Merideth works as an information technology consultant at Mid-City Lumber.

DISTRICT HIGHLIGHTS OVER THE PAST YEAR:

In April, voters rejected a 54-cent property tax levy increase. Board Vice President Steve Calloway said at the time that the board should have been more positive in selling the tax increase. In January, the board decided against putting an increase before voters this spring.

In August, Phyllis Chase retired after five years as superintendent. Former Superintendent Jim Ritter has served as interim.

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HIGHLIGHTS 0f 2009

In February, Chris Belcher, head of the Kearney R-1 School District, was named the new Columbia superintendent. He will start in July.

In February, Ritter proposed a plan to the board that would change the payment for bricks-and-mortar projects in the district such as the new high school. It would ask voters to approve a $120 million bond issue in the spring of 2010, rather than two $60 million bond issues in 2011 and 2013 ($60 million was approved in 2007). Ritter said approving the amount at one time would result in millions in savings and would get the new high school fully operational sooner.

In March, the Columbia School Board approved $4.4 million in cuts primarily through reductions to positions and redistribution of employees throughout the district.

ISSUES THAT HAVE COME UP DURING THE CAMPAIGN

  • Budget deficit: $3.2 million.

Linda Quinley, director of business services for Columbia Public Schools, said there is no one reason for this shortfall, and it is simply that the projected expenditures exceed the revenue available to the school district.

  • Salary schedule: increases teachers' pay in accordance with years worked within the district and their education.

The district did not operate a salary schedule for the 2008-09 school year and must decide whether to reinstate the salary schedule for the next school year.

  • Communication: perceived lack of communication between the community and the board.
  • Achievement gap: describes the disparity in academic success among students in the district. At issue is finding ways to lessen the gap while resources decline.
  • New high school: new proposal delays construction to 2010. 

Under the proposal, the school would be occupied in 2013. Construction is contingent upon enough money being available, and the $20 million left from the $60 million secured from the April 2007 bond approval will not be issued until voters approve further funds next year.

  • Public trust: ties to communication and stems from a sense that the board has eroded of longstanding community support in decisions about the budget and where to put the next high school.

REMAINING FORUMS

Noon, Friday , The Upper Crust, Elm Street Ballroom, 904 Elm St., presented by Muleskinners

6 to 8 p.m. March 30, Rock Bridge High School cafeteria, 4303 S. Providence Road, presented by the Rock Bridge High School Young Democrats

TODAY

We feature profiles of Jeannine Craig and Adam Sorg. Profiles of the remaining board candidates will run Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.


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Comments

Kelly Durante April 3, 2009 | 11:12 a.m.

Pruitt is dedicated to our children's education and has a history of serving our district. She's smart, involved, and has the greatest understanding of our district's most critical issues. She is ready to hit the ground running.

I can't wait to vote for Michelle Pruitt on Tuesday!

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