School Board

Columbia Public Schools' Superintendent Chris Belcher, left, listens in as contractors bid for construction rights on the new high school estimated to cost $75 million. The district receives more than 400 bids for the project, which will be compiled and presented at the school board meeting on July 15.

CPS <3 IBM??

As most Columbia residents have heard by now, IBM is planning to move to Columbia. This is big news for most people in the city. It is expected to bring new jobs, new salaries, new diversity of businesses.

It could also mean new revenue for the Columbia Public Schools. Here is an article I wrote about what $4.3 million over 10 years could mean for the school district.

Read it here or (http://www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/2010/05/24/ibm-could-bring-43-million-school-district-slow-cuts/).

What do you think IBM’s possible presence in Columbia could mean for CPS?


Dear loyal readers,

This is Molly, your friendly Missourian education assistant city editor and editor of this blog. Due to the summer intersession, there will be fewer posts on this blog for a while. I hope that we will occasionally be able to update, but it won’t be with regularity.


Paddles are being used to punish students who break school rules. Photo courtesy of Google Image.

Growing up in a Catholic family, I had always heard horror stories about how nuns used to slap my parents knuckles with a ruler when they were in trouble. The idea that physical abuse was still being used as punishment in schools never even crossed my mind.  Surely its not legal, I thought. An article stating 223,190 kids were legally beaten in U.S. schools during the 2006-2007 school year proved my thought wrong.

According to the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, 5,129 Missouri students were paddled during the 2006-2007 school year. That is roughly about 0.6% of the overall student population in Missouri.

Paddling is being used as a type of “discipline” in schools, and it is not just in elementary schools. According to the article, this type of discipline is being used in kindergarten classrooms, all the way up to high schools. Students can be paddled for minor infractions of school rules, including violating a dress code, being late for school, talking in class, etc. There are dozens of schools in Missouri who have punishments like spanking in their rule books.

In a few weeks, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) will be presenting a bill to Congress instituting a federal ban on corporal punishment in all U.S. schools. Do you think this bill will pass?

In McCarthy’s opening statement, corporal punishment is still legal in 20 states, including Missouri. Using violence toward students teaches them that violence is acceptable, McCarthy states.

Corporal punishment was made legal after the 1977 U.S. Supreme Court case Ingraham v. Wright ruled schools may use corporal punishment. According to Missouri law Code Section 160.261, “Spanking, when administered by certificated personnel of a school district in a reasonable manner in accordance with the local board of education’s written policy of discipline, is not abuse within the meaning of chapter 210, RSMo.”

Do we want our children to grow up thinking violence is okay? How does this effect violence in schools among the students themselves? What about school shootings? Is it not a bit contradicting to say violence is okay when a teacher is punishing a student, yet not when you bring a gun to school? Or being a school bully?  I am interested in hearing your thoughts readers. Is discipline of this nature okay with you? If your child was spanked with a paddle at school without your permission, would you be okay with it? What ever happened to just getting detention?

It may be finals week here at Univ. of Missouri, but there is news from the Columbia Public Schools web site that I want to put up. These guys are headed to Washington D.C. in June – one for recognition as a Presidential Scholar, and two will compete in the National History Day Competition.


Alan Hatfield, Rock Bridge High senior, was named on May 3 by U.S. secretary of education Arne Duncan as a 2010 Presidential Scholar along with 140 other high school students nationwide.

Recipients of the award may ask their “most inspiring and challenging teacher” to accompany them to Washington D.C. for the recognition ceremonies. Alan invited Marilyn Toalson, education coordinator of the Rock Bridge gifted students program to receive a Teacher Recognition award from the U.S. Department of Education.

Alan will be recognized along with all other Presidential Scholars in Washington D.C. from June 19-22.


Two CPS students will represent Missouri at the National History Day competition in Washington D.C. in June. Nidhi Khurana, 9th grader at Jeff Jr.High School and Oliver Worthington, 6th grader at Smithton Middle School. They won a statewide competition in April to advance to the national competition in Washington D.C.

Growing up in Oklahoma, I heard reports of surveys ranking the state near the bottom in school expenditures. The implication was clear – the small budget allocated to education showed the state didn’t place much priority on that sector.

Seems like there has been a change of thinking, with Oklahoma’s state government responding to a plethora (n: “a bunch”) of studies which indicate early childhood education is not just a good idea, it’s a life-changing benefit for children who have access to it.

A study released this week by Rutger University’s National Institute for Early Education Research ranked the state first in the nation for availability of public pre-K education.

According to a Drum Major Institute for Public Policy report,  Oklahoma’s education department began research into public preschool education in 1980. A 1983 education report prompted then Gov. Henry Bellmon to seriously investigate universal pre-K availability.

In 1990, voters approved a doubling of funds for state K-12 education, and in 1998 the bill, “Early Childhood Four-Year-Old Program,” mandating universal access to public pre-K.

A New York Times article, “Bridging Gaps Early On in Oklahoma,” was written about the pre-K program in a Tulsa school in early 2007. Here is an excerpt which describes the literacy-promoting potential of pre-K attendance:

At McClure Elementary School here, where 97 percent of families are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, one whole class of kindergarteners started writing full sentences last month. Before the preschool program existed, teachers would celebrate if every student knew the alphabet by the end of kindergarten.

Three years after that NYT article, and 18 months into a recession, the question is how long the state can keep funding the program as state revenue decreases.

Still, its an encouraging step the state and its voters have taken for education. As Missouri cuts funding for similar programs, how will communities step into the gaps?

No cookies allowed

Back in February, Kelly’s post, Junk Food No More?, talked about a possible ban on junk food in schools. I took this as an overhaul of vending machines and school lunches, but apparently the issue of junk food in schools is stretching beyond school grounds in some places.

A recent Washington Post blog linked to an article about an elementary school that imposes some “food rules” on what students can and cannot bring in their lunches.

Children’s Success Academy in Tuscan, Ariz. is a public charter school founded and run by Nanci Aiken, a doctor of physiology and a healthy foods enthusiast. She set up some rules concerning the content of her students’ lunch boxes. Permitted foods include fresh fruits and veggies, natural cheeses and 100 percent whole grains. White bread, lunch meat and food containing white sugar make the “not allowed” list. The school provides no lunches, so students must bring their own.

Now, I’m not suggesting that public schools everywhere are going to start adopting this system anytime soon, but it’s interesting to see how far some schools are going to promote a healthy lifestyle. It’s one thing to cut down on the number of candy bars students have access to at school, but this seems to be affecting parents too. They are the ones, afterall, who must bypass the convenient fruit cups, applesauce and bologna at the grocery store for other lunch items.

So, is banning certain foods from school lunches a good idea or is it crossing the line? On the one hand, childhood obesity IS a problem and maybe schools need to go to extremes to combat that. On the other, let a kid have a cookie.

How’s your weekend? Mine’s going pretty well, in spite of this rain here in Columbia, Mo. It is really coming down, and has been all day.

I know finals are coming up and projects are yet to be finished, but when the weekend rolls around, it’s family time. So, I got out this morning with my family and went to an MU grad school-sponsored event called “Adventures in Education,” which was held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 24 at Jesse Hall. It’s an annual event organized by graduate students, giving them a chance to share what they do with local students.

A few minutes after arriving, I had made a quick survey of the booths and was surprised at how many people were already there for the event. It was a diverse Columbia group. Being a journalist-in-training, I thought, “somebody should report this.” I called the paper, but nobody could get free to come down.

So, I let the idea go and visited some booths with my daughter. She got to extract DNA from wheat germ at the biology graduate students’ booth, which was called “Become a Junior Geneticist.” She learned how to say “automobile” in German (“das Auto”) at the German grad students’ booth, called “Deutsch ist einfach wunderbar!” (German is simply awesome!). At the chemistry students’ booth, we saw and touched a “non-Newtonian solid.” This substance feels very hard if you push on it quickly, but turns soft if you rest your hand on it slowly.

More people kept arriving, and the place was getting crowded. There were still many booths that we had not visited.

“Somebody ought to cover this,” I kept thinking. Basic reporting students don’t usually cover stories unless they are assigned, but some of the topics at this event were not commonplace. Seeing a “sense of discovery” (for lack of better description)  showing on the faces of so many young students was worth sharing.

One that really got my attention was a booth hosted by grad students from the Textile and Apparel Management department, called “Travels of My T-Shirt.” When we got to this booth, we were asked to check the tags on our clothes to find out where they were made. My shirt was made in Honduras, my daughter’s was made in Pakistan — most likely with U.S. grown cotton. The U.S. produces the majority of the world’s fiber for clothing.

Amanda Muhammad, one of the grad students, said the point was to get us to think about why the cotton is shipped to the other side of the world to be made into clothing and then shipped back. Wouldn’t money be saved if the shirts were just made here where the cotton is grown?

I reflect on questions like that during a normal day — so I knew the answer to the question; but it was news to my kid. Clothes are made in other countries because the people who work there don’t get paid very much for their work. That’s something to think about.

After visiting that booth, and deciding there were more than 200 people in attendance, I decided to cover the event. I had a camera out in the car, a notepad and a pencil, so I got started.

I talked to graduate students, parents, children, an event organizer, and I did not forget to talk to my 8-year-old. We visited all the booths she wanted to see before we took off.

That’s how my Saturday went — now it’s back to studying. Stay dry, CoMO!