Share your perspective on Columbia's high schools

Tuesday, November 8, 2011 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:59 p.m. CST, Friday, December 16, 2011

UPDATE: Scroll to the bottom of this article to see responses offered publicly, along with a sample of the anonymous responses we received from readers. We are no longer seeking answers using the form below. Thanks to all who participated.

Columbia Public Schools are considering new school boundary proposals; some students are looking at three high schools plans that would each send them to a different school.


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The Missourian is gathering community input about the reputations and perceptions of Columbia's existing high schools. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts in this questionnaire.

We will also be publishing reflections on high school choices. Consider answering this question: How does your high school experience define you? Send your reflection, in text or video form, to


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Joy Mayer November 10, 2011 | 2:03 p.m.

Here's a response we received today: "Hickman USED to be THE school to attend in Columbia (back in the 80's) for sports - now it seems everyone wants to be at Rockbridge >;("

Here are some other excerpts from descriptions of the schools we've received so far:

HICKMAN: Good, strict, overcrowded, diverse, high academics, traditional, discipline problems, lower socioeconomic class, rowdy, high test scores

ROCK BRIDGE: Affluent, supportive parents, high socioeconomic class, massive, elitist, flexible, preppy, college bound students

What's your perception?

— Joy Mayer,
Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
Sally Willis November 10, 2011 | 2:24 p.m.

Joy you forgot the third high school. What about Fredrick Douglass High?

(Report Comment)
Joy Mayer November 14, 2011 | 11:24 a.m.

Hi, Sally. We did leave Douglass off. Our thinking was that, in discussions of new boundaries, it didn't fit into the mix of schools students might be assigned to attend based on geography.
— Joy Mayer
Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
Sally Willis November 14, 2011 | 11:45 a.m.

Okay, it just seems like that school is forgotten or excluded a lot. Just curious as to weather that would affect that school also or where they fell in all this?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro November 14, 2011 | 12:19 p.m.

I spoke to a few women who work at Douglass High School during the most recent "World Cafe" gathering to address Achievement Gap concerns and over the weekend I spoke to several retired school teachers and a few active volunteers in our community.
All, but one, agreed with my observation that when a town reaches its fourth high school building, it should have at least two, if not all, high schools administratively designed as "Magnet" highs.
Considering that each of the four high school buildings will have their own unique culture and perceptions, why not avoid the current situation we have with a redistricting committee focusing on integrating schools based on free lunch eligibilities and yellow school busing and instead implement a program where graduating intermediate school 8th graders are given a chance to sit with their parent(s) and a guidance counselor to decide on which high school fits with the student's demonstrated talents, strengths, grades, interests, motivations, aspirations, desires and capabilities.
For instance, Rockbridge could work with the Columbia area Career Center and also be the feeder high for students placing themselves on a technical/vocational track in the line of agriculture, mechanics, construction, IT, etc.
Grads of that high school would certainly be significant candidates for Linn Tech, two year schools of higher education and apprenticeships.
Battle High could be developed to be a magnet school for the arts, music, sports, theater, journalism, photography, etc.
Hickman could be more focused on the more academic, four year college aspiring student and provide assistance to the "at-risk" student population at nearby Douglass High.
Instead, the redistricting committee has created property value concerns, racial/poverty concerns and avoiding the idea of having high school students using the city bus instead of yellow school buses for transportation.
No wonder many parents will look to protect their own interests by opting for a redistricting plan which attempts to keep their children within a group of friends from K-High School.
It's their reaction to this new kind of integration.
Whatever happened to having a system which is best for the individual uniqueness of each developing child as we respond to their road of self-identification, self-realization and self-actualization?
Perhaps our southeast country club loving Columbian leaders are just not ready to do what's best for ALL our kids.
Poverty can’t be school district’s excuse to fail:
Money And School Performance:
Lessons from the Kansas City Desegregation Experiment

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield November 14, 2011 | 12:42 p.m.

What happens if you hit 11th grade and realize that you're no longer interested in the path you chose as an 8th grader?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro November 14, 2011 | 12:56 p.m.

People change paths all the time.
Internal transfers can always be done through a good guidance counselor system.
First, our leaders need to see value in a Magnet High School system and not continue redistricting based on yellow school buses and free lunch eligibilities.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin November 14, 2011 | 12:56 p.m.

1) What words would you use to describe Hickman High School?

Long history of academic excellence; urban -- and urbane; economically, racially, and socially diverse; culturally, a big sister to Grant Elementary; glad to see Old Southwest being returned there in some of these redistricting plans.

2) What words would you use to describe Rock Bridge High School?

Long history of academic excellence; suburban; less diverse than Hickman; culturally, a big sister to Mill Creek Elementary; happy to have child at RB, but like Hickman just a bit better.

3) What words would you use to describe Battle High School?

Too soon to tell, but hard not to love a new school, with all the new technologies and that great new paint/carpet smell. Glad it was named after Muriel.

4) Do you have an affiliation with one school in particular? If so, what is it based on?

No affiliations.

5) What is your perception of the differences in academics between Hickman and Rock Bridge?

Haven't seen a great deal of difference. Have long read about the Presidential and National Merit scholars from Hickman, but I know Rock Bridge has its share as well.

6) What is your perception of the differences in athletics between Hickman and Rock Bridge?

No perception. Given the longstanding Bruin/Kewpie rivalry, I figure they're pretty evenly matched.

7) What is your perception of the differences in other extra curricular opportunities between Hickman and Rock Bridge?

I perceive no differences, though our daughter has attended many more musical and performance events at Hickman.

8) What is your perception of the differences in the social scene between Hickman and Rock Bridge?

Kids are pretty savvy in whatever social environment at this age, and if adults are willing to trust and support them within reasonable limits, they will usually be just fine.

Sex, drugs, and rock & roll are on both campuses obviously, but smart kids with guiding parents will know how to encounter all this intelligently.

Basically, though, the same consideration rules that has always ruled: young people trying to make their ways in a complicated adult world, with plenty of bumps along the road. If the adults are engaged -- at home and at school -- those young people -- Kewpie or Bruin -- will also be engaged, and that's the basis of lifetime success, social and otherwise.

(Report Comment)
Joy Mayer November 14, 2011 | 2:20 p.m.

Wow — thanks, guys, for the perspectives. Mike, you're the first person to answer the questions publicly!

Sally, I'm going to let our primary schools reporter tackle your Douglass question. I don't want to get it wrong. He's off an interview right now, but I'll draw his attention to it when he's back in the newsroom.

Joy Mayer,
Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
Sally Willis November 14, 2011 | 2:45 p.m.

@ Ray Shapiro the problem with the magnet school idea is the kids who truly excel are typically involved and show interest in many or all of the areas you listed above. So what are the kids supposed to do who have interest in many activities and or have no idea where their future is taking them. There are so many even in college who have no clue what they are going to do. One reason these programs are offered at all the schools is so the kids can dabble in it and see if there is an interest.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro November 14, 2011 | 3:03 p.m.

Trackless kids are clueless kids.
If CPS was set up with magnet high schools, their Intermediate Schools down to their kindergarten would have a guidance counselor system in place to incorporate parent(s) and student involvement throughout specific "check-in" points based on child development hurdles.
Let's say after third grade, fifth grade and 8th grade.
Just some food for thought to develop a school system where the high school you attend is not based on where you live or your income/poverty line.

(Report Comment)
Sally Willis November 14, 2011 | 3:04 p.m.

@ Ray I also see that the magnet school idea could be financially wise because if you would only have to invest money into one area for each school instead of putting all of the same equipment into each of the schools. I still don't see it being a benefit for the students and that's really who should benefit here. If we're not willing to invest in our future kids what future will our kids have?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro November 14, 2011 | 3:39 p.m.

Magnet High Schools would still have similar equipment, just different general interest focus assigned to each high school.
For instance, many of the "magnet" traits of Lee Elementary School could be applied to an Arts and Music magnet high school.
Ridgeway is a "magnet" elementary and could be seen as an example of individually gifted academic oriented students for MU or other academic four year colleges.
Likewise, students graduating 8th grade after reviewing their achievements, talents, aspirations and interests might choose to attend a Vocational/Technical High School and have options to apply to a two year college, four year college, apprenticeship or other opportunities beyond 12th grade.
And Douglass High could expand its expertise in working with "At-Risk" teens and their family support system.
Just an idea to make each high school a little bit more special than just its sports mascot.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield November 14, 2011 | 4:08 p.m.

"If CPS was set up with magnet high schools, their Intermediate Schools down to their kindergarten would have a guidance counselor system in place to incorporate parent(s) and student involvement throughout specific 'check-in' points based on child development hurdles."

Like other districts, CPS has a tough time encouraging, let alone requiring, involvement among the large number of parents and students for whom education isn't a priority, let alone a top one. In those cases, counselors can't do much.

(Report Comment)
Brendan Gibbons November 14, 2011 | 4:32 p.m.

I've been covering the boundary issue for the Missourian for the past few months, and I'd like to answer Sally's question about Douglass.

Douglass High School functions as an alternative high school for students whose needs aren't met by traditional classroom settings. Students have to apply and be accepted to Douglass and aren't districted into it the way they are at the other three schools. As such, their enrollment is not directly affected by the boundary shifts.

However, these changes may have indirect effects. One thing I have learned while covering education in Columbia Public Schools is that all the issues the district addresses are somehow connected.

—Brendan Gibbons, Reporter

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro November 14, 2011 | 4:45 p.m.

Then "they" should stop complaining about the achievement gap. .
Also, it wouldn't hurt if school superintendents included in the job description of school principals their success in maintaining a meaningful viable Parents/Teachers/Student Association within each school from elementary-to intermediate and even at the high school level.
At least the increased involvement of parents would spill over to some neighboring parents/families and might impact the "culture."
(Of course the PTSA would be different at each school level.
I suspect that many high school aged children don't want their parents overly communicating with their teachers. Perhaps high school level or intermediate school PTSAs need more leadership from the student population to get parents interested and involved.)
Just an idea to make the life of the guidance counselor a little bit easier and more meaningful in the growth of the student and not just stagnate and caught up in the corrections department.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield November 14, 2011 | 6:42 p.m.

Ray, I doubt that anyone in CPS administration has the guts to say publicly that the problem isn't insufficient funding; it's parents and students who don't value education enough to make it a personal priority.

Once in a while, you see an administrator or politician willing to provide a reality check. At the national level, Obama chastised parents for not shutting off the TV and helping their kids with their homework, but he didn't propose any consequences for those who don't. And a few years ago, a CPS principal proposed withholding Buddy Packs from students whose parents would don't bare-minimum things such as show up for parent-teacher conferences. That went nowhere.

(Report Comment)
Charles Mason November 14, 2011 | 7:18 p.m.

They should reinstate corporal punishment and flog the underachieving parents!

(Report Comment)

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