Voters guide: SCHOOL BOARD

Columbia residents will elect three new board members to the seven-member Board of Education. Board members serve three-year terms. Here’s a brief description of each of the candidates:
Sunday, April 3, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:20 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008


Legistlative assistant and CEO of Joyous Journey, 40

Rhonda Garland has a degree in administration of justice from El Camino College in Torrence, Calif. Garland has a daughter, Reenua, 5, and has been a Columbia resident since 2004.

Garland’s main focus is on educating parents and the community about the No Child Left Behind Act in an effort to work toward closing the gap in the Missouri Achievement Program’s test scores.

Garland’s second focus is to set up before- and after-school tutoring. She said she thinks that students should be able to read or work on homework in the library before and after school.

Garland would also like to focus on childhood obesity.

“I want to have a health screening for every child at the beginning of every school year so that the nurse, the teacher, the physical education teacher and the parent can come together to work out a plan,” Garland said.


Pastor at Log Providence Missionary Baptist Church, 56

David Ballenger attended Northeast Missouri State (now Truman State), Moody Bible College and Western Bible Seminary. He and his wife, Sandra, have a daughter, Andrea, and a son, Kelley.

Ballenger has served on the Columbia school board for 10 years. During the coming term, he wants to manage the school board’s resources while addressing the needs of all the schools. He also wants to ensure that teachers’ salaries stay competitive so the Columbia Public School District can continue “hiring the best and brightest.”

If re-elected, Ballenger said he would take on the role of a support arm for parents and teachers and try to touch every level of the community because he said he thinks education starts at home.

Ballenger said teachers take budget and funding issues too personally. He said, “Teachers should be able to spread their wings (in the classroom) and use their creativity” instead of worrying about funding and issues that the board should be handling.


Retired, 66

Don Ludwig, retired after 28 years of executive experience in marketing and product development with IBM Corp., has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Ursinus College in 1962. Ludwig and his wife, Sally Beth Lyon, have two sons, James and John. They have been Columbia residents since 1992.

Ludwig’s community service consists of reading to first- and second-graders as well as working with Ronald McDonald House and Columbia Metro Rotary Club.

One of Ludwig’s campaign priorities is the creation of an early-childhood education program within the district. Through the creation of an early-childhood education program, Ludwig said, children would be better prepared for school success when they enter kindergarten. He thinks this program would be a cost trade-off from tutoring and other remediation methods needed for children struggling with reading by spending the money earlier.

Ludwig’s other priorities include smaller class sizes, after-school tutoring programs and competitive salaries for teachers.


Owner of Brooks Computing Systems, 53

Arch Brooks will run this year for the Columbia School Board for the third time.

Brooks’ priority is minority issues. Brooks said he thinks increasing the number of minority staff members, in addition to implementing diversity-training programs, would help reduce the achievement gap between blacks and whites.

At a recent candidate’s forum, he verbally challenged the event’s sponsoring organization, the Missouri National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and threatened to file a lawsuit for seeking a full accounting of the group and its activities.

Brooks said he wants to establish trust between the board and the community. He declined to comment on his educational and community service background, both of which were challenged by local media in the 2004 elections. Brooks’ claims about his education, professional work history and community service are unsubstantiated.


Science journalist, 43

Mike Martin has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Gonzaga University, a Master of Science in physics and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Washington.

Martin and his wife, Allison, have two children, Josie, 8, and Jack, 2.

Martin’s priority when it comes to Columbia’s public schools is communication. Martin said he thinks that parents, teachers and principals need to have a clear understanding of not only the district’s goals but also how to achieve them.

One of Martin’s concerns is the clarity of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Martin said the act has laudable goals but that many people don’t understand how to reach them. Martin plans on creating videos and pamphlets for parents that explain the act.

Martin is also concerned with early-childhood education. He said education should start early for students of all ethnic and income groups and that the achievement gap is not a minority issue but an economic one.


Director of the Missouri Head Start Collaboration Office

Darin Preis has a bachelor’s degree in English from Southwest Missouri State University from 1994 and expects to graduate from MU this May with a master’s degree in public administration.

Preis and his wife, Stacey, field experiences coordinator for MU’s College of Education, have a 3-year-old son, Hayden. Preis’ community service consists of State Interagency Coordinating Council, Association for the Education of Young Children Missouri Governance Committee.

Preis said he thinks the board could use his expertise to bring a new perspective to early-childhood education and to further work to close the achievement gap. Preis said being the director of the Missouri Head Start State Collaboration Office has prepared him to deal with important school board issues.

When it comes to the No Child Left Behind Act, Preis said flexibility and support are necessary to effectively deal with standards set by the federal law.

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