Columbia School Board to swear in new members

Sunday, April 12, 2009 | 12:01 p.m. CDT; updated 12:08 a.m. CDT, Monday, April 13, 2009

COLUMBIA — The Columbia School Board is scheduled to swear in two new members, Michelle Pruitt and Christine King, at Monday’s meeting.

With the exit of President Michelle Gadbois and Vice President Steve Calloway, the board will also have to elect members to those positions at the meeting.

With these changes are likely to come new challenges and concerns for the board. Communication between the board and community was a hot issue in the recent election. A grant proposal aimed at increasing community-board conversation is now up for review.

Lynn Barnett, assistant superintendent for student support service at Columbia Public Schools, is set to present a proposal for the Public Communications Resource Funding Grant at the meeting. The project, called CPS Streaming, is an initiative to broadcast the board's meetings on the Internet.

“Currently, the school board broadcast is only available to people on Mediacom and Centurytel," said Michelle Baumstark, the school and community programs and communications coordinator for the district and the main contact for the project. "We have no ability to reach people who have dish or on the Internet. This will allow us to present an alternative option to reach our community and increase transparency between them and the school board."

The grant proposal states the goal of the program would be to “increase public engagement and community involvement by increasing transparency and availability of information regarding Columbia Public Schools and its Board of Education.”

If approved, the district would give the project $20,000 for training staff and purchasing equipment necessary to make the transition to the Internet.

“If we are awarded the funding, it will be received in January," Baumstark said. "Then we will need to train our staff, so it may be several months after the funds are awarded before the program will be up and running.”

Communication is not the only issue that has been hotly debated this year. Budget cuts have suspended many traditional practices in an effort to save money.

Mary Laffey, assistant superintendent for human resources at Columbia Public Schools, is set to discuss the salary schedule — a system that rewards district faculty for education and years worked — and a proposal to offer faculty members their administrative contracts without enacting the schedule now. The proposal leaves the salary schedule as an option that could be operated in the future.

Also up for discussion are more amendments to the budget. Linda Quinley, director of business services for Columbia Public Schools, will present amendments to the 2008-09 budget. The current budget calls for $4.4 million dollars in reductions and was already amended earlier this year.

The board meeting is open to the public and will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at 1818 W. Worley St. A portion of the meeting during which community members can voice their opinions is also planned.

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