Columbia Public School discusses planning to improve district

Friday, December 4, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Parents and community members gathered Thursday to discuss Columbia Public Schools’ five-year plan for the district. The World Cafe was held in conjunction with the district’s strategy to create a Comprehensive School Improvement Plan.

“This is not based on food,” Superintendent Chris Belcher said. “The idea is to get you around the tables to discuss and share your opinion.”

The board provided participants with a draft for the 2010-15 plan, which centered on the vision of being the best school district in the state or nation.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a time when we’ve brought everyone together in this way,” board President Jan Mees said. “For you to give up your time, it speaks volumes for our community involvement.”

  • Facilities, Instructional Resources and Support Services

According to the plan draft, the goal of this sub-committee is to “provide and maintain appropriate instructional resources, support services and safe facilities.”

Chris Pudenz, a third-grade teacher at Cedar Ridge Elementary, teaches in a mobile classroom. And though she enjoys teaching in her “own little world,” she said mobile classrooms aren’t preferable.

“They are energy inefficient,” Pudenz said. “I feel like I’ve stepped into the Dark Ages.”

  • Governance

With its plans, the district wishes to provide leadership and representation that will benefit the students, staff and community members in the district.

One point the drafted plan made was to increase the number of voters in the district.

“I just feel that there are other things that school board can focus on other than gaining more voters,” said Joanne Nelson, a parent and representative for the Missouri Child Care Resource and Referral Network. “Their efforts need to focus on their vision they’ve defined.”

  • Highly Qualified Staff

In an effort to recruit and retain staff members, the district plans to draw a focus on the standards and qualifications it requires.

The point largely talked about on this topic was the salary schedule the district has in place.

“It’s a collapsing salary schedule,” said Laurie Spate-Smith, a freshmen English teacher at Jefferson Junior High. “The board needs to compress the steps it takes for a teacher to reach a top salary level.”

  • Parent and Community Involvement

The district’s plan indicates a desire to “enhance parent, student and community involvement in district educational programs.”

Jason Wallace, a playground supervisor at West Boulevard Elementary, suggested bringing in a coach or another prominent adult to speak with the students.

“They can promote higher learning by getting out there and talking about what students are interested in,” he said.

  • Student Performance

Quality educational programs, with improvement stimulated by the district, plan to enable students to meet goals on numerous levels.

Those goals raised the question of alienating students who are not characterized by the traditional learning process definition; namely special education and behavioral deficient students.

“It would be nice for me not to have a job,” said Melinda Gee, an employee at Job Point, which works as a Partner in Education with Douglass High School.

Gee said the district needs to help students who have been kicked out of school to continue improving their lives.

The board will take all the comments, suggestions and concerns into account in its revisions before a final presentation is made for the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan.

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