Five candidates competing for two school board positions in the April 6 election began campaign conversations about student achievement and improvement in a forum Monday night at Hickman High School.
The Columbia Community Teachers Association and the Columbia Council of Parents and Teachers Association held the forum to introduce the candidates to the public. Here are their ideas:
Arch Brooks, who ran for school board unsuccessfully last year, sees the position as being the “eyes and ears for taxpayers.”
Brooks is opposed to the federal No Child Left Behind Act and thinks improved student achievement can be attained through new technology and new teaching methods.
He thinks students would learn more if the old “kill and drill” method of teaching were dropped and if provided computers and facilities were used to the district’s advantage.
Brooks said eliminating administration positions unrelated to the education of students would be the best option to overcome the budget crunch.
“This district needs to flatten the empire at 1818 Worley St.,” he said, referring to the district administration building.
Karla DeSpain is running for a second term on the board and is running again because of her firm belief in the importance of public education.
She agrees with the concept of No Child Left Behind in terms of eliminating disparities and thinks the key to better achievement is through teachers.
Her experience on the school board has shown her that no easy solutions exist in terms of the budget shortfalls, but cutting things like course offerings at the secondary level may be one option.
“There are so many great programs, but that may be a place where we have to narrow down a little,” she said.
Chuck Headley is seeking his third term on the school board and thinks experience is going to count for a lot.
He said the ideas behind No Child Left Behind and student achievement are goals the district already has in place.
“No Child Left Behind is a largely unfunded mandate,” he said. He cited the district’s Achievement Task Force as helping to reduce the achievement disparities and believes better assessments of progress are needed.
One idea to help the budget crisis is eliminating “things that are nice but aren’t really crucial.”
Henry Lane, who has run six times before, wants improvements in the way the school district is run and the way the board interacts with the administration and the public.
He thinks student improvement will come through greater concentration on basic skills and better working conditions for teachers rather than more money.
“I think we’ll get more improvement if we increase the overall achievement level of all our students, because every one of them can do better,” he said.
He doesn’t support the $22.5 million dollar bond on the ballot and thinks budget problems can be helped by considering different solutions.
Martina Pounds is running for school board for the first time and thinks the school board is the meeting place for everyone involved in education’s concerns.
Her idea for helping close the achievement gap is to work with higher education in Columbia to get more college education majors involved in the classroom, along with parents.
“The main thing is parental involvement — that is the key to trying to overcome the achievement gap,” she said.
She thinks some of the answers to the budget crisis may lie in consolidation, re-evaluating contractors or working with city developers.