Study shows schools’ strengths

Tuesday, September 9, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:32 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

When Phyllis Chase arrived in July to lead the Columbia Public School District as superintendent, she turned to citizens to find out how public education plays out in Columbia.

On Monday night, Chase told the Columbia Board of Education what she learned through a survey of about 80 people, including parents, staff, community and business members.

Chase said the survey gave her an opportunity to do an “environmental scan” of Columbia’s community leaders, who offered their first bits of feedback to the new superintendent. The results also deepened her understanding of the community’s view of local schools, Chase said, and of the challenges facing education in Columbia.

Chase’s report says that 75 percent of the people interviewed think the school district’s greatest strength is it’s staff. Next was the district’s reputation in the community.

In the eyes of those interviewed, those two strengths — good reputation and high-quality staff — went hand-in-hand.

Support from the community, commitment to excellence by the district and the “quality of persons on the Board of Education” were other strong points cited by the public.

However, along with strengths come challenges. Funding and revenue was found to be the biggest challenge facing the public schools, the report states.

Other potential barriers to success are gaps in achievement, adequate attention available to support the needs of “average” and special students and the retention and recruitment of staff, those interviewed said.

Most people responded that in the next five to 10 years they would like to see the schools keep on the road to excellence. Continuing improvement of student achievement and breaking down barriers among and between groups of students are a few expectations from those interviewed.

When Chase asked what people expected from her as a superintendent, leadership was a key response.

“Respondents were clear that they expected this office to provide leadership necessary to accomplish the vision of the Board of Education and community for its students,” the report said.

Chase said she intends to use the survey to aid improvement planning within the school district and also plans on utilizing the data at the school board’s upcoming retreat.

Missourian reporter David Yunker contributed to this report.

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