Board candidates square off

A forum addresses the recruiting process for new teachers.
Tuesday, March 30, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:59 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

When education majors at MU had the opportunity Monday to discuss questions and concerns with school board candidates, students wanted to know what each candidate would do to help the recruiting process for hiring quality first-year teachers.

Local businessman Arch Brooks, who is also running for mayor, said the first thing he would do is “stop fronting.” He explained that Columbia Public Schools have talked about programs for recruiting minorities, but he has found no programs that go to campuses to recruit quality teachers.

“There are many things that can be done. First of all you have to care,” Brooks said. “If you’re happy with the way things are, and you don’t want things to change, then you run it as the current administration runs it and not look for a way to improve.”

Henry Lane, who has run unsuccessfully for the board six times, wants to stop comparing Columbia schools with other districts and focus on attracting first-year teachers by providing better working conditions.

“We need to get disruptive students out of the classrooms, and we need to lower teachers’ administrative paperwork,” Lane said.

The rebuttal

But incumbent Chuck Headley, who is running for his third term, said the reason Columbia has quality teachers is that the district does offer good working conditions, and paperwork is not any different than other school systems.

“The advantage other districts have is money,” he said.

Martina Pounds, a local real estate agent making her first run for a board seat, said when making comparisons with other districts, it is important to keep in mind that although those teachers are receiving higher pay, they might not have the stability Columbia teachers do. Pounds also emphasized teachers’ need for support.

“First-year teachers need to know that they have a board and superintendents that are behind them,” Pounds said.

Current board member Karla DeSpain, who is seeking her second term, spoke highly of the benefit program offered by the district and also addressed the salary concern as a balancing act between cutting staff and adding to salaries.

She did, however, recognize the advantage of being located in a college town.

“We are blessed because we have a pool of wonderful teachers-to-be,” DeSpain said.

No matter who is elected next week, MU education major Bart Pogue, who originally posed the question to the candidates, said he would be happy to work in the Columbia School District after spending time in a high school classroom with his teaching mentor.

“I’d like to teach at Hickman,” Pogue said.

Voters will have the opportunity to elect two of the five candidates to the school board on April 6.

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