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Columbia Missourian

Sessions brings tech background, young perspective to School Board race

By Alix Wiggins
March 30, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA – When Jonathan Sessions’ friends and family heard about him running for Columbia School Board, they asked him why he would want to do that at his age.

“That’s why I want to do this — because no other 27-year-old is,” he said. “I'm always looking for something to be challenging because it's time for members of our generation to step up to the educational challenges facing our community."

Jonathan Sessions

209 Melbourne St.

PERSONAL:

27. He is single.

OCCUPATION:

Owner of Tech 2 Consulting, a local technology consulting company in its seventh year of operation.

EDUCATION:

Attended MU and received a bachelor's degree in music and elementary education.

BACKGROUND:

Enjoys music, technology and local events.

He is also a member of the Chamber of Commerce Early Childhood Education Committee, the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan's Student Performance Committee and the Comprehensive Plan Task Force

ON THE WEB:

sessionsforschoolboard.com


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Sessions, owner of a technology consulting company, Tech 2, is running against Phil Peters to fill the year remaining in the late Rosie Tippin's term. The election is April 6.

Sessions thinks he has an advantage because he attended Columbia Public Schools: Russell Elementary, Smithton Middle, West Junior High and Hickman High, from which he graduated in 2001. He graduated from MU with a bachelor's degree in music and elementary education, which included student-teaching first through fifth grades at Midway, Field and West Boulevard elementary schools. 

He said that while student-teaching, he tried to create fun and interesting ways to educate students. “Working with that age is always exciting," he said. "You have to be agile.”

Sessions is known around Columbia through his involvement in several organizations. He is a youth group leader at Calvary Episcopal Church, a technology columnist for the Columbia Business Times and a board member for the mid-Missouri chapter of the American Advertising Federation, Columbia’s Internet Citizen’s Advisory Group and Columbia’s Comprehensive Plan Task Force.

A member of the Chamber of Commerce, he serves on its Early Childhood Education Committee. He is a member of the district's Student Performance Committee, part of a five-year Comprehensive School Improvement Plan.

Sessions is also involved in Teen Relationship Education and Empowerment, which is supported by the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and the MU's Women's Center. The organization emphasizes the importance of healthy relationships.

"Children are very often the unintended victims of domestic abuse," he said. "It is important that we as a school district promote teacher awareness of such issues in our community."

Jack Clark, who serves with Sessions on the Comprehensive Plan Task Force Committee, part of the city's planning and development team, attended Sessions' campaign kickoff. “It’s wonderful to have a young person involved in making Columbia a better place, especially for the kids,” said Clark, who has a grandchild who will start school in the district in a couple of years.

Sessions is proud to call himself a product of Columbia Public Schools and says he owes his success at MU to his experience at Hickman. “It’s a challenging school,” he said. “It prepared me well."

At MU, Sessions worked with education professor Eryca Neville on a children's museum at West Boulevard Elementary School, a project that was part of her Elementary Social Studies Methods course. She noticed his ability to relate to the students, dedication to going above and beyond what was expected, and commitment to incorporating technology into schools when it was relevant.

“He’s very dedicated," Neville said. "For that project, he actually spent more time volunteering than was required for the course.”

Sessions didn't go on to become a teacher, but education was a passion he couldn't ignore, he said. Through his schooling and student-teaching, Sessions says he understands today’s students well. He supports making high schools start at ninth grade — something the district is moving toward — to help set a tone of maturity and reduce the number of school transitions students experience, something that can often disrupt learning, he said.

“I see kids mature so quickly once they move to high school," he explained. “I’d like to see this happen at the ninth-grade level when credits begin to count."

Sessions thinks his skills as a technology consultant helps him stay on the cutting edge so he can evaluate what will work and what won’t for the district. He would like to see more education on technology than experience with it in classrooms.  As a board member, he said he would look into virtual learning and new strategies of learning that cater toward a more technologically sound generation of students.

Sessions is concerned that teachers get opportunities for professional development. He used smart boards as an example. “As a teacher, you’re going to be in a classroom with a smart board: Do you know how to use it? Wouldn’t it be nice to know?” he asked. “There are all of these cool things that you can do with technology.”

Delores Hemphill, first a Tech 2 customer and now a friend of Sessions, jumped at the chance to help with the campaign. “I went out to buy dog food this morning and I was campaigning in the store,” she said, laughing.

Hemphill, who taught* at Kansas State University and William Woods University, met Sessions eight years ago and was immediately impressed by his professional demeanor. When the two got to discussing their love for education, Hemphill was hooked. “We just clicked,” she said. “He’s one in a million, that’s for sure.”

She was the first to speak at Sessions’ campaign kickoff in February and seemed to take Sessions' words right out of his mouth. Both see his age as putting him in a "unique position.”

“He can stretch the mind, and I think that is an excellent quality," Hemphill said. "We can get in ruts in the way we think.”

Sessions’ girlfriend, Tracy Lane, whose name might be familiar for her involvement in the True/False Film Festival and other community events, agrees. She and Sessions met more than two years ago working at the Roots 'n' Blues 'n' BBQ Festival.

“He knows he wants to be in Columbia and in the education system,” she said. “If he wins this election, I think he will be able to prove himself to the city."

Sessions is running for the one-year term because it was a vacancy that needed to be filled and provided an opportunity for him to put his skills, knowledge and expertise to use. If he doesn't win this year, he says his name will be on next year's ballot.