School board plans review of Newton

The private company’s controversial summer school program is up
for discussion at tonight’s meeting.
Monday, September 13, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:18 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 7, 2008

Summer school might be over, but talking about it is not.

The Columbia Board of Education will evaluate the district’s summer program at its regular meeting tonight. The program has been a controversial topic of discussion for the past few months, board President J.C. Headley said.

Columbia Public Schools had its largest summer enrollment to date this year and hired Newton Learning, a private company, to coordinate part of its summer school program.

It was the first time the district turned to a private company for help with summer school. The district was still responsible for for running its own enrichment summer program.

One unique aspect of the Newton program was its rewards for good attendance — gift certificates ranging from $50 to $100. Other issues over the summer included bus route confusion during the first week of school and concern among other area summer programs, such as those at the city’s Activity and Recreation Center, over decreases in enrollment.

Cheryl Cozette, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, will present a report outlining the summer programs and Newton’s involvement.

“The bottom line will be how much of a benefit it was to the students, but we won’t have a good handle on that until after we see how they performed,” said Karla DeSpain, the board’s vice president.

She said that while the data from Newton is promising, the board needs to look beyond the company report to the teachers and students themselves.

“We’re just getting information about it and making decisions on where we go from here,” Headley said.

Tonight’s meeting also is scheduled to include a report on the start of the school year, discussions on part-time employee benefits and an acknowledgement of teaching awards.

“The meeting will primarily involve catching up from things over the summer, hearing bids that were approved, learning of things we need to be aware of and making items official,” DeSpain said.

Though official data won’t be available until later this month, enrollment in the district is expected to top last year’s. Unofficial enrollment on the first day of school was 16,404, an increase of 193 students over 2003.

The school board will meet at 7 p.m. tonight at the Columbia Administration Building, 1818 W. Worley St. The meeting is open to the public. Copies of the agenda are available at the Columbia Public Schools Web site.

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