Columbia School Board approves small autonomous school, swears in members

Monday, April 9, 2012 | 10:26 p.m. CDT; updated 10:42 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 9, 2012

COLUMBIA — The Columbia School Board voted to allow Ridgeway Elementary School to move forward with a new academic plan, approved a number of salary recommendations and swore in two recently-elected members at its meeting Monday night.

Items voted on include:

  • The board voted unanimously to authorize a five-year grant to allow Ridgeway to begin operating as a small, autonomous school with yearly evaluations by the board. A small, autonomous school designation allows the school more flexibility in staffing, budgeting, curriculum material and assessment, government and the school calendar, according to previous Missourian reports. During the board's discussion of this issue, Christine King emphasized the need to clarify the bylaws of the Ridgeway plan as it moves forward. This would allow the school to have a plan in the event of any longer-term issues. 
  • The board voted unanimously to approve salary recommendations for various district employees. The recommendations include adopting salary schedules for custodial services, paraprofessionals and nutrition services and adopting a salary schedule for curriculum coordinators. All salary schedules will operate for the 2012-13 school year, and employees not on a salary schedule will receive a raise equivalent to the average teacher salary raise percentage. Adjustments will be made for support professionals to offer more competitive wages.
  • The board unanimously approved policy amendments about employee criminal background checks, employee suspension and prohibitions on discrimination, harassment and retaliation. The policies were amended in response to changes in legislation.

What else happened:

  • King and Paul Cushing were sworn in to serve a three-year term on the board. Voters elected the two April 3. King has served on the school board since 2009. This is Cushing's first time on the school board.
  • The board re-elected Tom Rose as its president and King as its vice president.
  • Superintendent Chris Belcher presented an update for the district's proposed 2012-13 budget. The budget would include increases that could be made after the 40-cent tax levy increase passed April 3, as well as other increases. Some increases included additional staff, additions to the school supply budget, a youth development program at Douglass High School and expenditures for the Battle High School operating budget.
  • Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education Peter Stiepleman made a presentation to the board about a partnership among Columbia Public Schools, Rollins Reading, the Columbia Housing Authority, First Chance for Children and Columbia Community Montessori that would create a preschool program at Grant Elementary School. Stiepleman said the program would be a 10-month, full-school day program that would include 10 scholarship students and 10 tuition-paying students. It would follow a Montessori curriculum, and its teachers would be employees of Rollins Reading. The program would be open to students in the Grant zone.

What's next:

The next meeting of the board will be its work session at 7:30 a.m. April 19, at West Junior High School.

Missourian reporter Abigail Geiger contributed to this report.

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