Communication crucial, science journalist says

School Board candidate: Mike Martin
Wednesday, March 23, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:47 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Correction: This story (published Wednesday) about Columbia School Board candidate Mike Martin misstated which organizations helped his family financially. The Foster Grandparents Program provided Martin’s family with the same foster grandmother for nearly 15 years.

When Columbia School Board candidate Mike Martin’s mother attended school to get her paralegal’s certificate and private investigator’s license, Martin helped care for his sister, Stephanie, who had muscular dystrophy.

The family’s income was a “cobblestone course” of different avenues: the Supplemental Security Income and Supplemental Security Disability Income helped, as did his father’s child support, his mom’s income, the money Martin earned mowing lawns and taking odd jobs. The Section 8 housing program paid a large portion of his family’s rent for 10 years, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Foster Grandparent Program also gave them financial help.

Martin said his mother used to tell him education was the way to a better life. She instilled those values within her son, who strived to get an education and do well in school despite living in the middle of a financially difficult environment.

Now, Martin is seeking a seat on the Columbia School Board, where he hopes to affect children’s lives the way his mother affected his.

Martin’s top priority when it comes to Columbia’s public schools is communication. Martin — who has a 2-year-old son and a daughter who attends Grant Elementary School — thinks parents, teachers and principals need to have a clear understanding of not only the district’s goals, but also how to achieve them.

“I want to improve the communication among parents and the public on various complex issues that the schools deal with,” he said. “We need to communicate where we’ve been, what we want, and where we’re going as a school community.”

One of Martin’s concerns is the clarity of the federal No Child Left Behind Act’s, passed in 2001. The act’s goal is to ensure a 100 percent success rate among students in the United States by 2008 measured through standardized test scores.

Martin said the act has laudable goals, but many people don’t understand how to reach them. There is an immense division among parents, administrators and teachers about how to transition from being an “unsuccessful” child to a “successful” child, he said.

To communicate these goals effectively, Martin said he would like to create videos and pamphlets for parents that explain the federal act. They would include skills and strategies for parents and their children on how to successfully achieve its goals.

“If I’m chosen for the school board, I will be a good lobbyist because I can communicate with parents and legislators in social, political and community events,” Martin said.

Martin is also concerned with early-childhood education in Columbia. He said education should start earlier for students of all ethnic and income groups.

“We’re dealing with a more complex society; we’re growing and changing and creating more knowledge,” Martin said. “I want students starting school earlier so they are prepared for all of this and so they expand their knowledge at an earlier age.”

Martin said the achievement gap among students isn’t a minority issue, but an economic one. To reduce the gap, parental involvement is key, he said.

“It’s a ‘have or have not issue,’ ” he said. “The gap is more about what children are getting from their home. Do they live in a safe neighborhood? Are they being given good food, emotional support, clean clothes and security? Anybody who has those kinds of things going for them will do well.”

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