Foreign language courses for younger students and the school district’s support for equity policies were topics broached at Friday’s Muleskinners meeting, which featured Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Peter Stiepleman as a guest speaker.

After a presentation about the district’s goals and recent accomplishments, attendees asked the superintendent more about the district’s programs.

Stiepleman discussed the district’s equity policies and the role of Carla London, the district’s chief equity officer. When asked about calls for her resignation from Race Matters, Friends, he said he supported London and that he wanted to expand her position to include looking at districtwide policies and ensuring they are uniform between schools.

“The work that (Carla London) does is amazing,” Stiepleman said. “And she has my full support in terms of the work that she does. If it weren’t for her, I don’t know where we would be as a school district.”

Stiepleman was also asked about whether foreign language courses could be taught in younger grades. Alyce Turner, a member of the Muleskinners, said she felt that the district would benefit from programs similar to those in magnet schools.

“I think offering Spanish in the younger grades would be such an advancement in our school systems,” Turner said. “Having really good schools is an attraction for Columbia. People want to come here, people know our schools are strong. Why not try a magnet program?”

Stiepleman said the district gets very little support for additional language programs from the state and encouraged members to write to their state representatives about their concerns. But he said students still learn about different cultures and festivals.

Before answering questions, Stiepleman gave a presentation that focused on the district’s goal of ensuring every student is prepared for life after graduation, whether that means going to a four-year college, entering the military or getting a job.

“What we’re trying to do as a public school system is really kind of think about how do we create pathways for children to be successful in their lives,” Stiepleman said. “And that isn’t just a college education.”

Stiepleman also highlighted enrichment activities that are specific to each grade level, such as all first-graders taking a field trip to the planetarium and paying for every eleventh-grader’s ACT exam.

Stiepleman also discussed the various programs that students are participating in. This includes a proposed program that will send six students to Columbia’s sister city of Hakusan, Japan, next summer to engage in STEM-related studies.

Supervising editor is Tynan Stewart.

  • State Government reporter, fall 2019. I am a first year graduate student studying international journalism. You can reach me at or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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