Approval of 2019-20 capital improvement projects headlined the Columbia School Board meeting Monday. Two newcomers took their places on the seven-member board in the wake of last week's election, and a new president was elected.
The anticipated projects total more than $59 million. Although approved so they can begin as soon as possible, the "final authority to proceed" will come when Columbia Public Schools’ budget is approved in June. Projects include security updates, boiler replacements and construction for expansion projects at various schools, including $20 million for the new middle school going up in southwest Columbia.
The meeting included unanimous passage of five policies that touched on district retirees, student fundraising and the promotion, acceleration and retention of students.
The board also approved an update to the district’s background check policy for current and former employees, as well as some volunteers.
The newly updated policy brings the district into compliance with state law. This requires the district to notify the state retirement system if current or former employees commit certain crimes in relation to those employees’ position with the district, according to the official policy update explanation.
Before the board’s regular meeting began, Helen Wade was elected president, Jonathan Sessions as vice president, Heather McArthur as treasurer and Tracy Davenport as secretary in unanimous votes. Teresa Maledy and Susan Blackburn were elected as the two delegates for the Missouri School Boards’ Association with Blake Willoughby serving as alternate.
Superintendent Peter Stiepleman swore in new board members Della Streaty-Wilhoit and Blake Willoughby, who won in the April 2 election.
Streaty-Wilhoit and Willoughby fill positions vacated by Jan Mees and James Whitt, who announced earlier this year they would not seek re-election.
Mees has served on the board since 2007 and as president for the past year. Whitt has served since 2009. Both have served previously as president and vice president.
Both addressed the public Monday.
"If there is one thing that has remained constant ... each and every member of our organization and the entire community of Columbia embraces and understands the importance of our public schools, and for that I am grateful to have been a part," Mees said.
Whitt echoed her feelings of gratitude and pride.
"We’ve done a lot of work over the 10 years that I’ve been here that I’m really proud of, and it’s a sad day that I’m leaving," Whitt said. "But I think we’re in good hands."
Stiepleman noted Mees’ accessibility and Whitt’s role as a coach, especially in thinking about different identities. He noted their legacies and said he will miss their honesty.
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