Columbia residents expressed concern over the future of the home-school communicator program last night in a candidate forum held Monday night at St. Luke United Methodist Church.
Residents said they felt the program was not performing its intended role of easing the transition of minority students into desegregated schools. They said they were worried that communicators are fast becoming mere teachers’ aides in the classroom as opposed to mediators familiar with the community in which students live.
Steve Calloway and Michael Tan, who were the only candidates of the five running for two vacants spots on the Columbia School Board, attended.
“I think there is a tremendous community need for this program,” Tan said.
Calloway said he sees home-school communicators as a only a piece of the puzzle in ensuring that children are succeeding in the classroom.
“I’m concerned about having just someone whose job it is to communicate because that’s everybody’s job,” Calloway said.
Calloway cited programs like the Stand By Me program at West Junior High School where some teachers meet with parents in the homes of students as examples of what could be done to make sure all parties are involved in making sure a child is getting a proper education.
“I firmly believe that teachers should be interacting with children every day, and should also be in constant contact with parents,” Calloway said. “That’s not to say I’m against communicators, but as just a piece of the larger whole.”
The candidates also faced questions about whether or not the teaching of intelligent design should occur in the city’s classrooms.
Both Tan and Calloway said they felt the system, which holds that life on earth contains some features so complex they only way they could have come about is through a thoughtful design, has not been adequately researched and tested enough to be considered a valid enough theory to be included as part of the district’s science curriculum.
“Evolution is a theory and should be taught as a theory,” Tan said. “There’s enough evidence given to offer an explanation for the origin of life that holds it up as that.”
Calloway said that while intelligent design is lacking in scientific evidence, that did not prevent it from being discussed in classrooms as a philosophical view for how life came to be. He also said the motivations behind the teaching of the theory were not wholly related to science.
“Intelligent design is synonymous with creationism, and is a disguise for teaching a biblical explanation for how the universe is created,” Calloway said.
Before Calloway and Tan began fielding questions there was a brief forum involving Sixth Ward candidate Barbara Hoppe and current Second Ward Councilman Chris Janku. Janku made a brief opening statement addressing the importance of a continued community visioning process and his past experience in dealing with matters involving central Columbia. However, Janku did not stay to field questions, and his opponent, Brian Toohey, was out of town and could not attend the forum.
Hoppe was then left alone to field questions from those in attendance as her fellow candidate, Valerie Barnes, did not attend the forum. Still, Hoppe fielded questions about how her experience with community groups would aid her while sitting on the council and about how planning decisions are made in the city.
She said she hopes that her presence on the council will ensure that citizens are involved throughout the planning process and not merely at the back end of the process when the matter comes before the council.
“I’m going to take the things I hear about at commission meetings and take them to residents of the Sixth Ward and say, ‘This is something you should know about,’” Hoppe said.