Rhonda Garland is running for the Columbia School Board to let her daughter know that “she has boundless opportunities.”
She wants her daughter to know she can be whatever she wants to be, the impossible can happen, and she can make a difference.
“Just for her to be exposed to different situations that she can learn and grow from, I think is really good,” Garland said.
In 2003, while Garland was living in California, she was a vice president of the National Council of Negro Women.
“That taught me that I can do things, and I can really make a difference with the leadership skills that I was blessed to have,” Garland said.
Since Garland moved to Columbia 13 months ago, she has been working towards gaining exposure and becoming an active member of the community.
In 2004, Garland put her skills to work volunteering on the campaign of Rep. Judy Baker, D-Columbia. She helped organize an event called “Meet the Candidate” at Lou’s Lounge. Garland said the event is what spearheaded Baker to succeed and earned the trust and vote of Columbia’s minorities.
“Rhonda became immediately active when she moved here a year ago,” Baker said. “She has an interest in educational issues, and she wants the community to support children who are relocating. She has got a lot of energy and she’s very smart.”
Garland has been a friend of the Rev. Marie Anderson of Sugar Grove Baptist Church for about eight months.
“Rhonda makes a wonderful candidate for the school board,” Anderson said. “She is very well spoken. Sometimes she may get to talking a little bit too much because if she sees something that is not right, she’ll voice her opinion. But she won’t just talk about doing it, she’ll do it.”
Garland’s main focus is on educating parents and the community on the No Child Left Behind Act. She wants to work towards closing the gap in the Missouri Achievement Program’s test scores.
According to the 2004 highlights section of the Columbia Public Schools’ special report on testing, African American students in grades 10 and 11 were said to have work remaining.
“I am sad about this educational gap in the MAP scores of the African American youth,” Garland said. “I want to expose the African American parents to the No Child Left Behind law and hopefully that can bring about a change in the gap.”
Garland’s second focus is to set up tutoring before and after school.
Under the federal act, tutoring is required for the schools that do not meet the adequate yearly progress standards for three consecutive years. However, Garland wants tutoring to be available now. She wants an alternative to the before and after school child care program called Adventure Club because she said that not all parents can afford fee-based care. She said she feels that with having three college campuses in town there should be enough university students, who are studying to become educators, to have them work as aids in the schools.
“At Blue Ridge, you actually see kids standing at the door waiting to get in. There should have been a program already,” Garland said. “I believe that the kids should go into the library with a teacher or an aid. There would be no talking. They would just open a book. What is wrong with that option?”
Garland’s third focus is childhood obesity. She wants to have a health screening for every child at the beginning of every school year.
The nurse, the teacher, the physical education teacher and the parent should come together and work out a plan, she said.
“My daughter is five and she weighs over 100 pounds,” Garland said. “I know that it takes parents’ responsibility, but I am a single parent. Maybe rewarding her with food is not the option. We do have a membership to the ARC but they don’t really have programs other than swimming for kids that age.”
Garland said there should be more physical education classes. Children should sometimes be required to take certain healthy side dishes with their lunches, she said.
Early childhood development is not an issue for Garland, due to the ample child care opportunities she saw when she moved to Columbia. She said that early childhood development only became an issue because a small group of parents pushed for it.
Garland said she would be a good candidate because she is a leader and not a follower. She wants to bring innovative ideas to the school board.
“I want to not just be a member on the board but actually stand out on the board,” Garland said.