Monday, December 22, 1997

Salvation Army taking caution with kettles after recent thefts

Published in the Columbia Missourian

The Salvation Army has already lost two kettles in Columbia this year. The organization is hoping not to lose any more.

"We're trying to make sure that our bell ringers are safe," Salvation Army Maj. Max Grindle said Sunday. "We want them to know that their lives are more important than the money."

He is relieved that both thefts took place when the bell ringers were not around the kettles. The first theft was just of the kettle itself. The second, which took place Saturday outside the Schnucks grocery store on Forum Boulevard, was more involved.

"The person or persons who did it just picked the whole stand up, put it in a vehicle and drove away," Grindle said.

The Salvation Army is taking precautions to prevent kettle theft. The group will start chaining down the kettle stands wherever possible and emptying the kettles periodically.

"We're exchanging kettles every three or four hours so if it does get stolen, they won't get much," Grindle said.

Safety a concern for the holidays

Published in the Columbia Missourian

As travelers hit the highways, rails, and air routes nationwide, area authorities are holding their collective breath, worried for the public safety.

The Columbia Police Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol want to help you and your loved ones stay safe this holiday season.

One problem travelers face is that road rage is on the rise, said Sgt. Chris Harris of the patrol.

"People are tense and trying to get where they're going," Harris said.

Watch for other unsafe drivers and stay calm.

In addition to avoiding theft and accidents while traveling, you should be aware of your home's safety.

Every year some people return home from the holidays to find their homes have been broken into. This can be prevented with simple precautions.

Prepare your home for safety before you leave:
Stop mail and newspaper delivery.
Leave shades and blinds in normal position.
Put lights and/or radio on automatic timers.
Ask a neighbor to keep your residence maintained if need be (decorative lights, snow removal, etc.)
Leave a key with a trusted friend or neighbor in case of an emergency or to check on the residence.
Call the Columbia Police Department's non-emergency number, 442-6131, and ask for a patrol to drive by your home. They will ask you for the dates you will be gone and for the names of anyone who has a key to your home.
Double-check to make sure all windows and doors are locked.
Make a record of your passport, credit cards, and traveler's check numbers, as well as plane, train or bus ticket numbers. Give a copy of the list to a family member or friend for safekeeping. Keep a copy in a safe place among your traveling possessions in case the items are lost or stolen.

On the road:
Carry little cash. Use travelers' checks or credit cards whenever possible.
If you are driving, plan your route carefully. Travel on main roads and use maps. Have your car serviced before you leave.
If you are stopping overnight, remove luggage and other valuables from your car.
When stopping en route, conceal obvious valuables from sight, preferably in the trunk.
If your car breaks down, turn on the flashers and open the hood or tie a white cloth to the antenna. If anyone stops to offer help, ask them to call the police.
When traveling to visit friends or relatives, always phone before departure to give an approximate arrival time at your destination.

Phone numbers for road conditions in Missouri and neighboring states
Missouri: 1-800-222-6400
Illinois: 1-800-452-4368
Kentucky: 1-800-459-7623
Tennessee: 1-800-342-3258
Arkansas: 1-501-569-2374
Oklahoma: 1-405-425-2385
Kansas: Highways: 1-800-585-7623; Turnpike Authority 1-913-266-4135
Nebraska: 1-402-471-4533
Iowa: 1-800-288-1047

Sources: Columbia Police Department Crime Prevention Unit, Missouri State Highway Patrol and others

Wednesday, December 17, 1997

Kewpie performers on move: The choir is planning a trip abroad but is performing at home tonight

Published in the Columbia Missourian

Director Martin Hook gathers the Hickman High School choir on the stage, alive with music and musicians. Ready for rehearsal, clutching purple folders, the Kewpie choir arranges itself four lines deep.

The singing group is on the move again. About every five years the group travels abroad to sing and explore new places.

First, though, the members will raise their voices in concert with the Hickman orchestra and band for a free holiday performance at 8 p.m. tonight in the Hickman auditorium.

The 45 singers more than fill the space they have to stand in. Their voices more than fill the auditorium. The musicians practice the entire concert once, and then again. They are ready for the show.

They almost are ready for the trip.

The last two weeks of June 1998 will see the Hickman choir tour in Britain and Ireland. They will sing concerts about every other day, Hook said. The group will spend about three days in Ireland, before moving on to Wales, Scotland and then England.

But before it can go overseas, it needs to raise funds to pay for the trip. The total cost for 45 students and eight adults will be almost $100,000.

"The students and their families are paying half of the cost," Hook said. The rest is being funded by special events the choir will host throughout the school year.

In addition to singing in local churches on Sundays, the choir will hold a car wash and give away door prizes at concerts, said choir members Megan Bennett and Brandon Belvin.

Several businesses have donated the prizes. One of the choir members is the sister of MU quarterback Corby Jones. The entire football team has signed two footballs, which will also help the choir raise money for the trip.

Despite all the effort and planning, not all choir members will go.

"I don't have the time, I don't have the money," said 11th-grader Lonnie Nichols. He will, however, still sing this summer: A good friend is getting married and Lonnie has been asked to sing.

Right now, Hook said, the group has around $12,000 - about one-fourth what it needs.

"We have about enough to get to Pittsburgh," Hook said.

Hook is not yet sure where the choir will sing on its travels. He still is working on specifics but hopes it will sing at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, among other locations.

He is using local contacts, such as the choir director at the John Burroughs School in St. Louis, as well as a professional tour company, to locate and book venues for concerts.

Previous Hickman choir trips have been to Austria in 1987 and to Spain in 1992.

This week's concert will be at 8 p.m. today in the Hickman auditorium. Admission is free, and the public is welcome.

Wednesday, December 3, 1997

School district seeks public opinions: Two public meetings will be held to discuss elementary school enrollment

Published in the Columbia Missourian

The Columbia School District is still talking about redistricting, and you're invited. The redistricting commission wants community perspectives on its proposals for reorganizing elementary school enrollments.

The district's Enrollment Planning Commission will hold two public meetings this week on plans to reconfigure elementary school enrollments in the northern section of town.

"We don't have a corner on all the good ideas," said Donald Ludwig, chair of the commission.

The current proposed plan would move 57 students from Derby Ridge to Blue Ridge; 20 students from Blue Ridge to Two Mile Prairie; 66 students from Benton to Shepard Boulevard; and 26 students from Shepard Boulevard to Cedar Ridge.

Students from these elementary schools all feed into Lange Middle School, the commission's first target for redistricting. In the spring, the commission will look at the schools serving Smithton and Gentry middle schools.

Although commission members have a general idea of how they hope redistricting will flow, they stress that no plans are finalized and their minds remain open. They want to hear opinions.

"None of us have made a decision on anything yet," Ludwig said.

The principals of the schools hosting this week's meetings are not concerned about redistricting's impact on their facilities.

"We're willing and pleased to work with anybody who walks in our doors," said Teresa VanDover, principal at Shepard Boulevard.

Both David Brunda, Blue Ridge's principal, and VanDover are waiting to see what concerns surface at the meetings.

Tonight, Ludwig expects to hear from parents of children possibly slated to move from Derby Ridge to Blue Ridge or from Blue Ridge to Two Mile Prairie. Thursday, he expects to hear from parents of Shepard Boulevard and Benton schools.

"We'll allow any family who wants to speak, and we'll take notes and listen," Ludwig said.

Next week, the commission will meet to decide what it will recommend to the school board in January. The date for next week's meeting has not yet been set. The school board will meet at 7 p.m. Jan. 12 at the District Administration Building, 1818 W. Worley.

Friday, November 21, 1997

School board looks at long-range planning

Published in the Columbia Missourian

The Columbia Board of Education's work session Thursday morning moved the district forward in a number of important tasks: facilities planning, a technology initiative; and an audit committee.

The board will hold a public forum in January on the long-range facilities plan. The date for the meeting will be set at the board's December meeting.

Currently, the long-range plan eliminates the junior high school level in Columbia. Eighth-graders will be moved to middle schools and ninth-graders will be moved to high schools.

Kim Harding, Gentry Middle School principal, said a committee of middle school principals will convene next week with parents and district administration officials to examine the plan further. Because the committee has not met yet, the direction the discussion will take is unclear. However, the district concern about classroom space is almost sure to surface.

Under the plan, Smithton Middle School, which has about 940 students, would add an eighth-grade population of nearly 400.

Smithton Principal Wanda Brown-Cox is concerned about the number of trailers at her school and others in the district. She wants the students to have enough space, no matter what school they attend.

"I think it's a district concern more than a Smithton concern," she said.

The board continues to seek input from the public on the plan.

"We hope to encourage attendance from both students and other members of the community," said Harris Cooper, board president. "We want to make sure all the folks who will be affected by the plan have the opportunity to speak with us about it."

In other business:
The district administration got the go-ahead to apply for a five-year, $7.5 million competitive technology grant.

Board member Elton Fay asked board members to consider information that discussed the creation of audit committees.

Tuesday, November 18, 1997

Old theater experiences occupy special place in memory

Published in the Columbia Missourian

Old theaters just won't die. Memories of one-screen movie houses stay around forever, it seems, in our minds and hearts.

Smiley Herrin was a ticket taker in the 1930s at the Hall Theater at 100 S. Ninth St. That job and playing with the university band paid his way through college.

Going to the movies now different, he said.

Sometimes he doesn't even see a ticket taker in the theater. "A lot of them aren't around anymore," he said.

Herrin remembers two specific differences between the Hall and cinemas today: segregation and a lack of air conditioning.

Thirty seats up next to the projection booth were the only place black moviegoers were allowed to sit, Herrin said.

The air-conditioning system was hand-built to add comfort to the theater, which was constructed without one. Homer Woods, the theater's manager, set up the system. Large fans blew air over ice and out into the theater through vents beside the orchestra pit.

"It was a home-made outfit but it worked pretty good," Herrin said.

The theater had three shows a day, Herrin said. There was a matinee and two showings at night. Eventually the theater added a show at midnight on Saturdays.

Herrin's favorite film from those days was a Nelson Eddy and Jeannette McDonald film in the mid-1920s.

Highlights from Columbia's theater history:
1915: Construction on the Hall Theater began. It opened at 100 S. Ninth St. the following year.

From 1971 to 1978, it was used by the University Singers. In 1993, developer Max Gillard moved his Bermuda Gold jewelry store to the site. The following year, the Saint Louis Bread Co. opened in the same location.

1921: The future Uptown Theater - then called The Cozy - opened at 1010 E. Broadway. It was closed in 1986 to make room for office space.

1926: The Varsity Theater opened at 17 N. Ninth St. After closing in 1978, in 1988 it was open for five and a half months as the Comic Book Club. In 1990, the Blue Note moved to the site from its original location on Business Loop 70 East.

1928: The Missouri Theatre opened with the future Bob Hope on stage beside the future Radio City Rockettes. In 1978, the theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1988, it opened as the home of the Missouri Symphony Society.

1966: The Cinema Theater opened as the most modern theater in Columbia.

1967: The Forum Theater opened as a single-screen theater. In 1992, it was expanded to include eight screens.

1972: The Campus Twin opened at 1102 E. Broadway. In 1994, the theater began showing specialty and art films. A permit was granted for the construction of the Jerry Lewis Theater. The following year, Lewis withdrew his association with the theater. It was renamed the Biscayne III. Under new management in 1976, the theater focused on family movies. In 1992 the emphasis changed again, as it opened as a cut-rate theater.

1985: Construction began on the Mall 4 Theatres, which opened late in the year.

Monday, November 10, 1997

Don't trash it: Halloween's over, but your pumpkin can still be useful

Published in the Columbia Missourian

Halloween is over, and your candy's almost gone. The pumpkin on your front step is turning black and starting to cave in. It's time to get rid of it before it gets really gross.

There are a few things you can do with it.

You can put it in the garbage and have the city trash collectors take it to the landfill. There it will sit, buried under more trash, far from the air it needs to decompose.

It could take 50 years - maybe more - before the pumpkin decays. Until then, it will occupy space in the landfill.

But pumpkins have a lot to offer the world. They have all kinds of nutrients to give to plants in your house and garden. You have a choice of things to do with the pumpkins.

"You can compost your pumpkin really easily," said Tina Hubbs, city recycling volunteer. A compost is a mixture of things considered to be trash that can be turned into fertilizer.

There are three options for composting here in Columbia.

First there's a yard compost. You can build a bin out of newspaper, sticks and string. In your yard bin, you can compost food, yard waste and pumpkins! It's very easy, not messy at all, and you can even do some of it yourself, if an adult helps.

You also can use a worm composter. This uses worms to help break down the waste. They east the food and organic waste you put in the bin, turning it into useful fertilizer. Cut your pumpkin into chunks and put the chunks into the worm bin.

The last option you have is to use the city's composting facility. Every house has clear plastic bags for yard and garden waste. You can put your pumpkin in there, too, and it will be composted at the city's central compost pile.

When the pumpkin has finished turning into compost, you can use it for lots of things. If you have a garden, you can spread the compost there to make it healthier. If you have house plants, you can mix the compost with soil to make a rich potting soil. You can also spread it on your lawn to help it grow.

There is more than one way to explore things to do with compost.

For example, pile up a bunch of leaves in your yard. Your parents will appreciate the help, and when you're done, you can jump in them!

After you've had your fun jumping in the leaf pile, put your old pumpkin at the bottom of it and cover it with leaves.

When spring rolls around uncover the pumpkin and see what it looks like. What happened to it over the winter?

If you want to learn more about composting, the city runs composting workshops throughout the year to teach you how. There are demonstration sites at Oakland Junior High School and the Community Garden on North Ninth Street.

Of course, besides pumpkins, you can compost food and yard waste as well. Composting is a great way to reduce the amount of trash your family generates, and you can help the environment by keeping useful stuff - such as pumpkins - out of landfills.

Sunday, November 2, 1997

Parents get more than money from annual event

Published in the Columbia Missourian

At 5:30 a.m. the sun is rising over the fields. Clouds obscure the horizon at the edge of a brightening sky.

Clouds fill the kitchen, too, as Two Mile Prairie Elementary School's pancake griddle heats up, throwing smoke into the air.

"Okay, higher math here. 45 servings," says principal Jack Jensen, as he dips a measure cup into a two-pound can of ground coffee.

Volunteers are busy preparing for an onslaught of hungry humans, all trooping in for the school's PTA fund-raising event. Some volunteers supervise the 10-gallon Hobart mixer beating pancake batter into readiness. Others tear into cases of Jimmy Dean pork sausage, setting them in trays for the waiting broiler.

6:15 a.m. The griddle is way too hot, and it smokes as the volunteer chefs struggle to gain control of the temperature.

"Well, I burned the first batch," says first-shift chef Tom Thurston.

"That's to season the griddle, isn't it?" Jensen says, laughing.

With the griddle burning-hot, Thurston shuts the flames off.

"I can cook for at least an hour on this," he says.

Even before the sun made its appearance, the bright-eyed adults had set up 14 tables, with eight chairs at each, in the school gym. They follow one of the eight rules of eating, posted on the wall: "No more than eight to a table." They hope that the guests will obey rule seven: "Eat your own food."

For $2.50, guests get all the pancakes and sausage they can eat, fresh from the Two Mile Prairie kitchen.

The volunteers - among them a small-business owner, an MU administrator, and a homemaker - are armed with four gallons of pancake syrup, 40 pounds of pancake mix and more than 250 sausage patties.

By 6:30 a.m. there are enough volunteers on hand to have some waiting around for things to do. In 90 minutes the doors will open and the eating will begin.

"We had a steady stream of people from 8:00 to about 9:30," Jensen said.

10:00 a.m. The big rush is over. Everyone has lost count of everything.

"I know we've served a lot of pancakes," Jensen said, shaking his head.

What were neat stacks of plates, napkins and forks are now small piles of lonely place-settings.

It's a PTA fund-raising event, but it's hard to tell. Nobody talks about the PTA. All the conversation is about friendships, communities and neighbors.

"It's almost more of a social event," said Rhonda Smith, a mother of four. Two of her children have now left Two Mile Prairie. The other two are still at the school.

Parents gather with their children, greeting friends and talking about Halloween.

"It's like your own little country store," Smith said. Maybe, but it's a country store with a playground. When they're done eating, the kids take their pancake-and-sausage energy outside.
Ten or so of them play soccer in the November sunshine.

11:00 a.m. Katrina, a new kindergartner, plays on the slide with her brother and sister, who have left Two Mile Prairie for Lange Middle School.

Inside, other children are helping the parents clean up. One wields a mop taller than she is. Another stretches to reach the middle of a table with a sponge.

The grown-ups are washing dishes. Everyone is laughing and smiling.

It was a success. The impressive array of food was enough to sate the appetite of the masses. There was no extra. It's all gone.

Saturday, November 1, 1997

Surfing for federal government resources

Published in IRE Journal

Bruce Maxwell's book describing electronic sources for government information is a treasure trove of access points. The 1998 edition of the guidebook is now available; a companion volume in previous years, How to Access the Government's Electronic Bulletin Boards, will not be updated from its 1997 edition, as the majority of government information moves to the Internet.

The introduction to the Internet is short, a valuable, speedy read. Maxwell discusses the issue of trusting Internet information, warning that it is easier to tamper with computer-based data than data on paper. There is also a brief explanation of how to use his listings, and information about where to start looking for government sites of the Internet. Maxwell also includes a glossary to help explain some of the basic Internet terminology, like "upload," "download," and "home page," to assist Internet neophytes (or "newbies") in feeling more comfortable. In addition, there is an index, a true gift to time-limited researchers everywhere.

The book assumes readers are already able to connect to the Internet, as many journalists are, either at home or at work. Anyone not connected to the Internet will need to find an Internet service provider.

ISPs charge monthly fees for Internet access via modem; many also provide an Email address and space for WorldWide Web pages for subscribers. Each ISP has its own fee structure and offers different services. Friends or co-workers might know of a reputable provider. Such a provider should offer a phone number for technical support.

Further, the number dialed to connect to the Internet should be a local call, to keep phone bills down.

The guts of Maxwell's book is a list of Internet sites which are available via Telnet, FTP, Gopher, or the WorldWide Web. Most web browsers (Netscape Navigator and Microsoft InternetExplorer are the most widely used) can handle FTP, Gopher, and WWW connections. Most ISPs provide a copy of a web browser to new customers.

Telnet connections require a special program called Telnet, available for download at .

I'd advise against using Telnet. It's harder to learn, since all the commands must be typed, rather than clicking around a site. It's also harder to save desired information. Once saved, the files are cluttered with unimportant information, such as menu listings and commands already typed. FTP, Gopher, and Web files are much easier to download and use: they are accessible by clicking on links, and the files downloaded are just raw information, without any other "noise."

"Maxwell's list is only of official government sites, and as such can be expected to offer only officially sanctioned data, sometimes enhanced, for publication in electronic form. For instance, the state-based Public Interest Research Groups have a website at .

Electronic media are always in flux; journalists should not assume Internet sites still exist. The government information on the sites may not be available in electronic form until after it is published on paper; online resources will not necessarily be more timely that paper archives. Further, many offices disclaim responsibility for errors in electronic copy, though those same offices will usually stand by printed materials.

Once found, the location of all information-printed and online-must be recorded for later reference, but Maxwell ignores the topic of citation of sources.

There are varying methods for citing information from online sources. My own view is that more information is better. The point of a citation is, after all, to permit a reader to check research, either for verification or edification. Nothing is more dangerous that unverifiable research.

Citations should at least include an Internet address. I would also include menu choices or search terms within the site, describing not only the location of the information, but also the method the searcher used to locate it.

Because of the constantly changing nature of the online world, Maxwell's book should be considered a guide, not an authoritative text. Further, journalists should be prepared to purchase a new edition each year to keep their references current. Given Murphy's Law, old books will almost certainly be out of date in precisely the area needed most.

How to Access the Federal Government on the Internet By Bruce Maxwell

Published by Congressional Quarterly Washington, D.C

Friday, October 31, 1997

High school athletes in city get exemption: The change was necessary because Columbia has a different school configuration

Published in the Columbia Missourian

All is fair in love and war, it is said. Now that's true for Columbia's high school athletes, too. The school district has made sure that Columbia high school athletes are on equal footing with athletes elsewhere in the state. At the request of the school district, the Missouri State High School Activities Association approved an exception to a new state regulation regarding athletes who transfer high schools.

"This is an effort to comply with a new MSHSAA regulation without penalizing the students in Columbia," said Assistant Superintendent Lou Barlow. The association governs extracurricular activities at member schools, including athletics and other student organizations.

The new association bylaw was passed to prevent high schools from recruiting each other's athletes.

The rule sets out the criteria for high school students' athletics eligibility. Under the original rule, Columbia students transferring high schools would be ineligible for varsity athletics not only in 9th grade, but also in 10th grade. Students transferring high schools are ineligible for varsity sports for 365 days following the transfer.

The sticking point in the rule states that students are ineligible for one year following their "promotion" from a junior high to a high school - the physical act of attending a different school.

Most students in Missouri attend school districts in which junior high ends after
8th grade. They begin high school in 9th grade.

Columbia's 8-9, 10-12 grade configuration, however, would have caused each rule to be invoked in a separate year. The district sought the exception to the promotion rule to ensure Columbia's students are treated fairly, avoiding what school officials termed "double jeopardy."

Columbia students can play high school sports in ninth grade, while still attending what Columbia calls "junior high." Those sports are at the high school serving the area in which the student lives.

While attending junior high, a student may apply to the district administration for permission to transfer to the other high school for academic and social reasons.

The student would, therefore, also effectively transfer from one high school team to another. Such a transfer would make the student ineligible for athletics for one year.

Under Columbia's special exception, junior high students who plan to attend a different high school from the one serving the area in which they live should declare that intention before they leave eighth grade, said Hap Whitney, district director of athletics.

The transfer will cause ineligibility for varsity sports during 9th grade, as is the case for all Missouri high school students. The promotion rule, however, will not make the same student ineligible again upon attending a different school for 10th grade.

It can be a difficult situation to understand.

"It took me quite a while because of the grade configuration here," Barlow said. "If we were in a 6-8, 9-12 situation, this would not be a confusing piece." Many students in Columbia file for transfers during ninth grade. Barlow warned that every transfer case must still be dealt with individually.

"I could write up 25 scenarios and the first person to walk through that door wouldn't fit any of them," he said.

Students who wait until ninth grade to declare a transfer might be excluded from varsity athletics for a year following their transfer.

Students and parents with questions can contact Assistant Superintendent Lou Barlow at 886-2149.

Tuesday, October 21, 1997

Mayo postpones hiring of assistant: The employee was intended to reduce the superintendent's staff workload

Published in the Columbia Missourian

Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Russell Mayo has decided he doesn't need extra office help just yet.

He said he has postponed hiring an additional office assistant indefinitely. "I've been through the pool of applicants," Mayo said. After everyone offered the job declined the position, Mayo decided to halt the hiring process. "It's normal in this type of situation," Mayo said.

The position was intended to help ease the load on Mayo's existing staff who work not only for him but also for the school board.

The Board of Education doesn't ask for a fixed amount of time from Mayo and his staff. The board just asks for information when they need it, said school board President Harris Cooper.

Cooper said a decision to hire additional office staff is up to Mayo. "It is Dr. Mayo and his immediate administrative staff's job to see that our requests are met," Cooper said. Requests for different types of information go to different offices, he said.

"It's the type of work boards give superintendents," said Mayo, who noted the work load has not increased in his time with the district.

Cooper said it is up to Mayo to determine specific salary amounts.

Tuesday, October 14, 1997

Board debates focus on special ed: Members also question the impact of computers on education at West Boulevard and Field elementary schools

Published in the Columbia Missourian; co-written with Winston Ross

Tensions ran high at the three-and-a-half hour Columbia Board of Education meeting Monday night.

The agenda item to cause the most debate was the district's special education policies. This year, the federal government mandated that students in special education be disciplined with more leniency than others.

"I think we need to help all the students who have a real desire to be educated," board member Elton Fay said, rather than spend large sums of money on students with serious discipline problems.

Board member David Ballenger said before deciding that serious discipline problems reflect a lack of desire to be educated, administrators should understand all factors that influence behavior.

"Before we make a decision on writing anyone off, we need to make sure we understand the students' individual needs," Ballenger said.

Board member Lynnanne Baumgardner was unsure whether understanding the students' needs would be enough.

"Can we fix all these problems even when we know what they are?" she asked. Fay noted that this year the district hired the equivalent of 12 full-time teachers for special education, without adding any faculty members for "regular" students.

In another debate, board members approved an application for a grant to fund computer equipment at Field and West Boulevard elementary schools.

If the grant application is selected through a statewide competition, there will be three computers with Internet access and a color printer in every first-, second- and third-grade classroom at both schools. Winning schools will have the grant money in time for the spring semester.

Monday, October 13, 1997

More staff, computers on board's agenda: School officials hope a new grant would help West Boulevard and Field elementaries

Published in the Columbia Missourian

Tonight's Board of Education meeting will be busy.

The board will vote on funding computers and additional staff for Field and West Boulevard elementary schools and a school-to-work initiative.

The new computers would be funded through a grant designed to support literacy education at schools with a higher percentage of low-income students, said Bert Shulte, assistant superintendent for instruction.

Columbia must submit a request for the Technology Literacy Challenge grant, which will be awarded in a statewide competition. Field and West Boulevard schools would be the beneficiaries if the district wins the money.

"It is another mechanism to enhance literacy development for these primary-age children," Schulte said.

The two-year grant would provide $100,000 in state money for the spring semester 1998 and $50,000 to $75,000 for the 1998-1999 academic year.

Coupled with 20 percent matching local funds, the state money would fund a full-time instructional aide for each building to provide teachers with time for individualized instruction and assessment.

The rest of the money would buy computers and printers for first-, second- and third-grade classrooms in the two schools. In addition to a digital video camera in each classroom, each building would have one scanner and one video monitor for each grade level.

Electrical problems at West Boulevard would still need to be addressed, Schulte said, but the money for that improvement would not come from this grant. The board also will vote on the submission of an application to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for a four-year, $400,000 school-to-work program. Using federal School-to-Work funds, the program would be open to all student s but would target students at risk of dropping out.

The money would support summer academies for students to experience real-world work environments. Required matching local funds would come from existing guidance and technology budgets. In other business, the board will discuss creating an audit committee for the district's finances. The committee would advise the board on financial matters and auditors.

"It's just another way we can make sure that we're accountable to taxpayers," said board member Elton Fay. The board has been talking about the audit committee for more than a year, he said.

If it goes forward, the next step in the process would be to submit a draft outline of the committee's duties, as well as a list of possible members, Fay said. Also up for discussion is the board's communications plan, including discussion of the 1996-1997 school year survey and the schedule for public forums. The board also will vote on appointing Norman Lenhardt to the Advisory Committee on Energy and Environmental Issues.

The Columbia Board of Education will meet today at 7 p.m. at the District Administration Building, 1818 W. Worley St. All meetings have some time allotted for public comment.

Wednesday, October 8, 1997

Volunteers work to clean up Columbia

Published in the Columbia Missourian

Rock Bridge High School students and State Farm Insurance employees donned orange safety vests and combed the sides of South Providence Road for trash. "What is that?" Julia Slaughter asked.

"Something dead. Don't touch it," responded fellow student Gretchen Staley. After a full day of work at the office or at the high school, about 20 volunteers - half from the high school's Student Environmental Coalition and half from State Farm - filled about 20 brightly colored garbage bags. Most of it was common trash, paper, plastic and cardboard, but volunteers also found hairspray bottles, a car window frame and pieces of automobile engines.

"I expected a little more trash," said Greg Crawford, a State Farm auto claims agent.

Tuesday's cleanup, which was part of the Partners in Education relationship between State Farm and Rock Bridge, took less than an hour.

"It's a great partnership," said State Farm's Karen Butcher, who got release time from her office to participate in the cleanup.

Butcher mentioned other events that involve her employer and the high school, such as "pie day," when high school students bake pies which are delivered to the State Farm offices for the employees to enjoy. State Farm workers also volunteer at high school track meets and debates and host job shadowing days. In addition to two highway cleanups a year, the student coalition performs the everyday recycling duties at Rock Bridge, such as collecting the recyclables every week.

While cleaning up, Luker's sharp eyes spotted a walking stick, an insect which has perfected the art of camouflage in wooded areas. It provided a nice break from the trash, and a reminder of why the cleanup happens.

Monday, October 6, 1997

School system earns merit: The National Merit scholars at Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools share some common ground

Published in the Columbia Missourian

The Kewpies continued their winning streak this year with a 9-1 semifinal victory over the Bruins, despite only a 2-1 advantage going into the game. The game isn't football. It's the National Merit Scholarship qualifying competition. The stakes are college admissions and funding.

Nine Hickman seniors earned National Merit Semifinalist status in the 1997-98 competition. Only one Rock Bridge senior is in the running for the National Merit prestige and money for college tuition.

Students have been in high school for just more than a year before they take the Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. That exam, which students take as high school juniors, determines eligibility for National Merit Semifinalist status.

It is hard for any high school to have much impact on a student's ability in that
short time. The entire school system contributes to the success of top students. "Every one of those semifinalists is a Columbia product," said Thomas Arni, Rock Bridge's director of guidance.

These students have known each other for years. Five of the district's 10 semifinalists this year were in elementary school together at Ridgeway. Three of them went to Midway.

A solid start
The environment in which these young adults have grown up has enabled them to succeed.

Junior high students tend to dislike smarter students, said Angela Paneck, a Hickman semifinalist.

In high school, that disdain changes into quiet respect. The lack of negative distraction contributes to the learning environment.

"It helps to have really supportive friends," Paneck said.

"It's also good to have people help you relax," said Aimee Blanchard, another
Hickman semifinalist.

The home environment also is important.

"Parents start you off on that track," said Matt Arthur, classmate and fellow semifinalist.

Each of the three Hickman students had access to books at a young age. Individual exploration of books and parents reading to children help the learning process, they said.

Parents also need to be positive forces in their children's lives during school. "Everyone needs to go home and get approval," Paneck said. "It's hard for me to brag to my friends, but you're supposed to be able to go home and tell your parents."

In the end, though, students are on their own. "You make your grades for yourself, not your parents," Paneck said.

The school is a place to stretch students' abilities, said Bragg Stanley, Hickman's director of guidance. "What we do here is build on a solid foundation."

Schools contribute
Because of its larger enrollment, Hickman has a wider variety of classes, more student activities and a larger number of advanced classes.

Rock Bridge, though, has its attractions.

"They have more fun," said Paneck, who has several friends at Rock Bridge. Blanchard moved to Columbia from Texas two years ago. Her teachers there had heard of Hickman's opportunities. She lives in the Rock Bridge district but transferred to Hickman.

Rock Bridge works hard on its learning environment, but every year, students transfer to Hickman.

"We hate to lose them, but there's not much you can do to fight that," Arni said.

Many students who transfer live in the Rock Bridge section of West Junior High's district. They do so to stay with junior high friends from the larger Hickman section of West's district.

Arni attributes the different semifinalist numbers to those transfers, though both Arni and Stanley agree the schools are about equal when all the transfers are done.

The curriculum prepares students for test-taking and for further education. It shows.

This year was the most successful ever for Rock Bridge students taking the Americ an College Test. Despite the imbalance in National Merit Semifinalists, Rock Bridge test-takers scored the highest in the school's history.

Teachers of advanced classes at Hickman offer opportunities to improve test-taking skills, Blanchard said. Extra classes such as film study, genetics and "write to publish" add depth to the curriculum.

"There's too much to take," Arthur complained.

Teachers also seem to be willing to spend time with advanced students. Paneck points to her honors-level teachers, who push her harder. In a "regular" class, she said, she got a lower grade because the class had less motivation than in an honors environment.

Honors classes
Blanchard was never formally taught grammar. Instead, she picked up appropriate language usage from reading books and from teachers' comments on her writing. Paneck is frustrated that some teachers don't correct grammar or spelling on her papers now. So is Blanchard.

"You get a handout from a teacher that has grammar and spelling mistakes on it," Arthur said, "and you say, 'What are you thinking?' "

On the whole, though, the students agree that honors classes are more advanced, more learning-oriented and draw stronger students than nonhonors courses. "The biggest thing about an honors class is the people in it," Paneck said.

Testing and scoring
The tests, though, aren't necessarily accurate measures of ability. Blanchard mentioned a friend who got a perfect score on the math section of the PSAT and did less well on the verbal section. The National Merit Scholarship Corp. ranks students by doubling their verbal scores and adding math scores. Blanchard's friend was a Commended Scholar and did not make Semifinalist status because of this calculation method.

The PSAT is intended to be a measure of potential academic achievement, Arni said. In contrast, the ACT is based more on completed coursework and knowledge already attained.

"I think that testing is way overrated," Paneck said. She offered the example of a bright student who has a bad day. She added that the time limit affects scores by making some test-takers feel rushed.

Academic achievement isn't the only attribute worth attention, the students agreed.

"Other students do good things, too," she said.

National Scholars
Hickman High School
Semifinalists Finalists Scholars
1995 19 18 14
1996 12 8 3
1997 12 11 3
1998 9 * *

Rock Bridge High School
Semifinalists Finalists Scholars
1995 5 5 3
1996 3 3 2
1997 4 4 2
1998 1 * *
*The 1998 Finalists and Scholars will be announced in spring 1998.

Sunday, October 5, 1997

Small fire starts at Boone Tavern: Officials say the restaurant might be closed for a couple of days

Published in the Columbia Missourian

A basement fire caused the evacuation of the Boone Tavern and Restaurant, adjoining businesses and apartments on Walnut Street on Saturday afternoon. The cleanup might keep the restaurant closed for a couple of days.

Boone Tavern employees were setting up for a busy Saturday of celebrating football fans when they smelled smoke.

"We smelled smoke and thought it was in the oven," said a kitchen worker. An employee went down to the basement where a clothes dryer was drying the restaurant's tablecloths and napkins.

A plastic tub had caught fire on top of a commercial dryer. Flames licked the ceiling. A broken water line in the basement caused some flooding. "By the time we got down there, it was already on fire," said kitchen manager Robert Dodd.

Tavern staff used two kitchen fire extinguishers on the dryer before calling the fire department and evacuating the restaurant.

"It came to a halt real fast. We had to pretty much drop everything and leave," Dodd said. "We got everybody out safe."

Some sprinklers in the basement were activated automatically, said George Glenn, division chief at the Columbia Fire Department.

"If the sprinklers went off, it could take a day or two to reopen," said Jim Koetting, the restaurant's general manager.

The fire department estimated the damage at $12,000.

When firefighters arrived, they pulled an engine around to the rear of the restaurant, between the restaurant building and the Boone County Government Center at the north end of the courthouse square.

While some firefighters got the fire under control, others went around to the apartments above and next to the restaurant, asking residents to leave for their safety.

"I didn't smell smoke until I opened the door," resident Shana Jones said. She said she wasn't worried about her apartment or its contents.

To clear out smoke, firefighters set up fans in the basement, the main restaurant area and the basement of the apartments. Smoke damage was minor. Six engines responded, as is normal for a fire in a commercial building in the downtown area. Also responding were two ambulances, an air supply truck from the Boone County Fire Protection District and several police officers, who supervised traffic.

Union Electric was also on the scene, checking for gas leaks. None were found, according to a technician who performed the check.

The Health Department will determine when the restaurant can reopen after inspecting the food preparation and storage facilities.

Thursday, October 2, 1997

Festival shows students, staff how to recycle: The annual Energy Extravaganza featured booths on conservation

Published in the Columbia Missourian

How much energy do you use? MU's Energy Management staff wants you to think about it.
The department held its seventh annual Energy Extravaganza on Wednesday in MU's Lowry Mall. The goal was to inform students, faculty and staff about how conserving energy can improve the environment.

"If we save energy, we save the environment," said event coordinator Leilani Haywood.

A number of environmental organizations set up booths and displays showcasing environmentally aware technologies, some of which are still in development. Steve Trokey, an MU sophomore, said the displays were informative. "I found lots of information that's not information you'd find every day," said Trokey, who spent about an hour at the five-hour event. "There are more uses for solar than I thought."

Trokey said he normally shuts off lights when he leaves a room and turns off the faucet when brushing his teeth. He said everyone can take care of the environment.

The Center for Sustainable Living's booth displayed the solar Nash Doll House, a model of how homes can be retrofitted to improve sustainability and conserve resources.

Nancy Boon, who attended the fair, lives in a passive-solar house. She said her annual heating bill is about $60 to $70 - the cost of half a cord of wood, which she burns to heat her home.

Boon, an architectural drafter at the university, built the house in 1983 to take
advantage of the environmental and economic opportunities of solar housing. She uses her window air conditioner three or four days a year. The house is warm during the day, she said, but cools rapidly at sundown.

"When it's hot and sticky outside, it's hot and sticky inside," she said. "But I work during the day, so when I get home it's cooled off."

A wall of windows on a brick wall store the sun's energy and radiate it back to the house, heating the interior.

"It's perfect," Boon said.

Another way to save energy and resources is recycling, said members of the MU Recycling Committee. Students, staff and faculty can bring materials from home to campus recycling facilities.

In addition to in-building recycling containers for paper, there are bulk recycling containers at the corner of Virginia and Lake streets, near Pershing and Defoe halls on the MU campus. The bins are for glass, cans, corrugated cardboard, news papers, magazines and brown paper bags.
University employees can complete the recycling cycle. University General Stores stock a variety of common products made from recycled materials, including notebooks, index cards, envelopes, binders, computer printer paper and toilet paper.

The MU Recycling Committee can be reached at 882-5054. The Energy Management office is at 417 S. Fifth St. and can be reached at 882-3094. Peaceworks and the Center for Sustainable Living can be found at 804C E. Broadway, by e-mailing sustlvng @mail.coin. or by calling 875-0539.

Friday, September 26, 1997

Hickman seniors commended: Nine students are eligible for National Merit Scholarships, and 18 were named semifinalists

Published in the Columbia Missourian

Twenty-seven Hickman High School seniors have been honored with national commendations. Nine are National Merit semifinalists, eligible for college scholarship awards from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. Hickman also has 18 National Merit commended students not eligible for National Merit money but who hold Letters of Commendation. The letters were earned by only 35,000 high school seniors nationwide.

Semifinalists are: Matthew Arthur, Aimee Blanchard, Michael Dixon, Ian Harrison, Erin McElroy, Angela Paneck, Ben Parks, Andrew Riskin, and Prashant Velagaleti. They are members of a group of about 15,000 students nationwide. Ninety percent of semifinalists become finalists by fulfilling additional requirements. Half of the finalists will earn the National Merit Scholar designation. Scholarship winners will be announced beginning April 1998.

Hickman's Commended Students are: Sabri Benachour, Phillip Coleman, Lindsey Erickson, Erin Gallagher, Justin Gerke, Elizabeth Havey, Nahyoung Lee, Naichang Li, Paul Lightner, Travis Linneman, Christina Losapio, Joel Miller, Andrew Misfeldt, Morgan Smith, Bruce Troyke, Wesley Walker, Lindley Wall and Megan Williams. "We're really pleased with the achievement of our students," said Bragg Stanley, Hickman's Director of Guidance.

More than 1 million high school students nationwide participated in this year's Merit Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test during their junior year of high school.

High school students interested in participating in the PSAT/NMSQT program can find more information at their high schools' guidance offices.

Thursday, September 25, 1997

Students recognized for scores: Area high schoolers in the National Merit program could receive money for college

Published in the Columbia Missourian

Five Rock Bridge High School seniors have been honored in the 1998 National Merit scholarship program. One is a National Merit semifinalist, and four are commended students.

Hickman High School is waiting for its list of National Achievement Scholars before releasing a list of this year's student achievers.

Marina Somers is Rock Bridge's only semifinalist, one of 15,000 nationwide. About half will be chosen as National Merit scholars and awarded money toward college tuition.

"I was pretty surprised," Somers said. "I guess I must have eaten a good breakfast the day of the test."

Seniors Gil Alexander, Anne Hillman, Corey Webel and Aaron Wright will receive letters of commendation from the school and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation at the school's homecoming assembly Friday.

Last year, Rock Bridge had four semifinalists and five commended students, said Principal Jim King.

"Counselors encourage students about testing programs," he said. King also said the school's guidance office runs in-house test preparation programs.

"It's important for students who are serious to take it seriously," King said. Nationwide, 35,000 students will be honored this year as commended students. Although they are not eligible for National Merit scholarships awarded next spring, these local students are in the top 5 percent of more than a million students who entered the 1998 Merit Program by taking the 1996 Preliminary Scholastic Achievement Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

Outgoing senior Somers is preparing to take the SAT again in November. She uses commercially available practice books.

She said she hopes to attend MU, Rice University, the College of William and Mary, Yale University, Wake Forest University or the University of Richmond. Somers, co-editor of The Rock, Rock Bridge's student newspaper, might major in journalism.

However, she is applying for a Rotary Club youth exchange that would permit her to live in Germany for a year. She has studied German for six years. "It's kind of scary, but it will be a good experience," Somers said. Webel, Wright and Alexander said they are happy with their test results. Alexander and Webel said they have older brothers who were National Merit finalists but are proud to be commended students.

Colleges and universities are interested, too.

"You get sent a lot of mail," Alexander laughed. Wright and Webel also are getting promotional mail from numerous colleges.

Alexander, who said he is ready to wander a bit farther from home, plans to study music in college. He said he hopes to attend Northwestern University, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor or Rice University.

Wright decided he wants to be a college professor, though he hasn't decided in which area he would like to teach. He intends to go to MU, Washington University, Grinnell College or Carleton College.

Webel has a large number of interests, including academics, sports and music. He will apply to MU, Truman State University and Wheaton College, though he doesn't know what he'll study.

Monday, September 22, 1997

School district screens prospective staff: Columbia makes the checks even though the state does not mandate them

Published in the Columbia Missourian

The Columbia Public School District takes your children's safety seriously. Though Missouri is one of 12 states that does not mandate any criminal background checks on prospective school employees, the district performs these checks on all new school employees and volunteers, including substitute teachers. The lone exception is parents who serve as volunteers in classrooms.

The district has never had a problem with former criminals in schools, said Gene Huff, district director of personnel.

Local background checks are done by both the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Clarence M. Kelley and Associates, a private investigative and consulting firm in Kansas City.

If an applicant is from Missouri, the Highway Patrol performs the pre-employment check, which includes Missouri Department of Family Services child abuse and neglect records.

Kelley and Associates handles out-of-state background checks and reports information from agencies in places the subject has lived or worked.

Each report provides information on a subject's criminal background, including offenses against children. Pending cases, convictions and sentences are reported; " not guilty" verdicts are not part of anyone's criminal record.

The report turnaround time is quick, said Darren Dupriest, investigations manager at Kelley and Associates, because his clients have employers and job applicants waiting for the results. "Three to four days is pushing their envelope," he said. The Highway Patrol check takes 14 days, said June Baker, assistant director of criminal records and identification. The Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline Unit of the Department of Family Services report takes about 10 working days, said Martha Witt, a social services supervisor for the department. Both attributed the timetable to the paperwork involved.

Three factors influence the hiring decision: any infractions committed, the frequency of convictions and when the offenses occurred.

Although background checks are only done before hiring, school personnel who commit crimes during employment should consider their jobs in jeopardy, Huff said. Each situation is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, he said. A decision to fire would require a conviction, rather than an allegation or formal charge. The seriousness of the crime also is a factor, Huff said.

Kelley and Associates can perform different kinds of background checks for clients, including verification of work experience and educational credentials, Dupriest said.

Also, because Dupriest's case managers have law enforcement experience, they can assist clients in understanding the information in the reports the firm delivers.

"We report whatever's publicly accessible within the guidelines of applicable laws," Dupriest said.

Because the Columbia school district is a new client of the investigative firm, Dupriest said he was unable to comment on the frequency of requests from Columbia.

He did say school districts are regular requesters of pre-employment background checks.

All applicants for Missouri teacher certification must declare a felony conviction, said David Adams, assistant director of teacher certification at the Missouri Department of Education.

Failure to truthfully declare a criminal history is perjury.

The Missouri Department of Education shares lists of revoked teaching certifications with other members of the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, Adams said. Although the monthly list of new revocations is large, the number of Missouri teachers affected is low - fewer than three in an average year, Adams said.

The state doesn't mandate background checks because it expects school districts to properly investigate applicants on their own, said State Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson, D-Columbia.

Until there is evidence the system isn't working, there is no need to place additional restrictions on school districts, she said. "It's one of the things we leave to local control."

Sunday, September 14, 1997

Schools use fewer trailers: The district is experiencing temporary relief from the overcrowding problem

Published in the Columbia Missourian

Columbia public schools are using fewer mobile classrooms this year than in the past, in an attempt to bring students into permanent school buildings. School officials are optimistic about eventually moving away from trailer use, but say that the district's bonding capacity limit prevents them from moving forward more quickly.

This year, there are 121 mobile classrooms around the Columbia Public School District, down 15 from last year. Ten of those are at Lange Middle School, which opened with them this year because of an inability to finance a larger permanent facility.

Many students and teachers like the trailer-classrooms, for their space, atmosphere and climate control.

"It was a lot smaller, and I liked it because it had air conditioning," said Andrea Smith, a fourth-grader at Fairview Elementary, whose class was held in a trailer last year.

"I enjoyed my trailer because they're large," said Joan Rawson, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Oakland Junior High.

"You're out here by yourself," said Justin Towe, a sixth-grade math teacher at Lange. "We have the same facilities other people in the school have except that we're outside."

However, Two Mile Prairie Elementary's art teacher, Kathy Dwyer, is happy she's back inside. Dwyer was in a trailer last year with no running water, which made cleanup more difficult.

Harris Cooper, president of the school board, calls mobile classrooms a temporary solution to an overcrowding problem.

"Mobile classrooms ought to be used in a very limited fashion," Cooper said. He wants them replaced in time with permanent structures. Trailers can only increase classroom space and not infrastructure; bathrooms, lunchrooms, auditoriums, and gymnasiums become inadequate for the student population size, he said.

Financing problems
Major renovations are needed at some schools; most schools need more classroom space than they have. School officials say there is not enough money for everything.

By law, Missouri school districts can only issue bonds worth 10 percent of the district's assessed property value. In 1996, voters defeated a statewide constitutional amendment that would have permitted an increase of bonding capacity to 15 percent.

The Columbia district is already bonded to its maximum capacity. An expansion of that capacity would have permitted over $40 million of additional bonds to be proposed by the board, still subject to public approval.

Renting vs. buying
Deputy Superintendent Marjorie Spaedy said no records are kept for annual mobile classroom maintenance. The district leases 87 trailers with an option to buy and rents 28, according to Greg Cooper, district purchasing agent.

The trailers each cost between $6,500 and $7,000 annually to rent, Spaedy said. The district has moved from leases with buy options to rentals, Spaedy said. "Recently, we've been hoping we would be able to return some as we built new buildings," she said.

Replacing all of the existing trailers with permanent classroom space would cost nearly $11.5 million.

The main company renting trailers to the school district is Missouri Equipment Leasing, of Springfield. Purchasing a trailer there would cost between $35,000 and $45,000, including transportation and installation. With a toilet included, it would cost at least $40,000 delivered and installed.

Tony Andrews, of Modular Technologies Inc., of Kinston, North Carolina, said the district is "coming out a lot better" by renting trailers from his company than by purchasing them. He said purchasing a trailer from Modular costs around $25,000 , not including transportation or installation. In their leases, Modular Technologies includes transportation, installation, and removal as well as structural maintenance.

Planning for the future
Cooper noted that while enrollment stabilization is difficult to predict, some catching up has been possible with the opening of Lange Middle School. Also helping this year is the fact that enrollment increased by only 23 students, far lower than projected. He hopes that new bond issues will be able to continue to relieve overcrowding.

Lange Principal Carole Kennedy said the use of trailers "really isn't poor planning." Lange opened with 10 trailers because there was no money to build a larger facility, she said.

Spaedy reported that the planning process for each of the three middle schools includes plans to double their capacities, though that construction would require further district bond issues. Kennedy said school facilities plans also include trailers.

The district maintains all the trailers it uses.

"Their life span depends on how long you make them last," Spaedy said. A typical lifetime is between 10 and 30 years, she said, noting that she is not aware of any trailers discarded by the district.

More pressing concerns?
"It's clear that they don't plan to move these trailers," said Helen Burnham, a parent of four students in the district.

Burnham doesn't consider mobile classrooms a major problem.

"They're not that big a deal," she said. "My children tend to want to have classes in trailers."

Burnham would rather the district focused on reducing class size rather than reducing trailer numbers. Most of the district's educational goals could be met, she said, by lowering class numbers and giving teachers more time with each student. "A nice group of 15 or 20 of them in a trailer is fine."

Tuesday, August 26, 1997

Family gears up for new school year: The Sedalia family is like many getting ready for school this week

Published in the Columbia Missourian

Savannah Szymanski, 12, walked up to her mother with a different shoe on each foot.

"No, we're only doing one pair," said her mother, Ramona Mefford. Several minutes later, Mefford called to her children: "Look, here's Mom paying. That's what she does best."

The back-to-school shopping trip was over at last. The Sedalia family spent Monday in Columbia, as did many mid-Missouri families, getting ready for school to start this week. The amounts of time and money spent, while necessary, are never as moderate as parents hope.

"I dread it," Mefford said of the annual expedition. Mefford cares for her children as well as working at a Mexican restaurant. Her husband, David, has been pulling overtime at his job "so we can pay for all this," she said. "It makes them happy," she said of her children. "They really look forward to it." The day began at 10:30 a.m. in Sedalia. The baby, Anna, stayed home with her grandmother. Jacob, 3, insisted on going shopping with his older sisters. Savannah and her sister Stephanie, 10, each brought a friend. Kristin Ash, 11, and Samantha Ash, 9, already did their shopping for school, but came along to keep the Szymanski girls company. After more than five hours in Columbia, the group headed home. Mefford said peers at school now influence the buying process more than when the girls were younger. That outside pressure helped make this year's trip more hectic than usual, though the children helped watch Jacob.

"It can get real expensive," Mefford said of the girls' desire for brand-name items. "We can't go to Payless for shoes anymore." That is why they all ended up at the Columbia Mall. Savannah was in search of Nike or Adidas shoes, though Stephanie selected her old standard, Keds.

Savannah was helpful, keeping her eye out for sales or discounts on the shoes she looks for. Her mom appreciates that. "I don't like using a credit card so I have to save up," Mefford said.

The family enjoys coming to the Columbia Mall because it's a convenient place to shop, with the whole space air-conditioned and indoors. The mall also has a wider variety of stores than Sedalia. They can even go out to eat - a real family trea t - without having to drive anywhere else and find a parking space. The convenience hides the cost, however. Savannah needed new glasses, which cost $200. To be ready for school, she needed to buy shoes, for $65, various sports clothes, for about $20 per item, and jeans, found on sale for $22. All told, Mefford said, she spent $328 Monday on clothes for her two school-age children. Last week she spent just more than $100 on the girls' school supplies. "They're worth it ," she said with a proud smile. The girls also help around the house to get allowances, which, their mom said, they conveniently spend just before the big shopping trips.

The girls do help pay for things they want throughout the school year, from extra classroom supplies to clothes they want. Savannah and Kristin will soon be sharing a paper route to earn an additional $76 a month, which they will split. As the kids got hungry, they got restless and the family headed off in search of pretzels or pizza. With Jacob in tow, the four girls strolling along, Mefford pushed the stroller laden with purchases and quipped, "That's why I got a minivan."

Friday, May 30, 1997

Technology, Public Buildings, and Community

Published in OnSite Ireland

I. Introduction

As technology becomes more expensive, and access to it more important, communities are pooling financial resources to bring people together both physically and technologically. Public spaces are subject to an increasing variety of demands as communities work to get the most out of their public building budgets.

How does this affect building needs, community design, and human interaction into the twenty-first century? Some of these groups will want new structures for their technology centers; what issues will they bring to the design table? Others will want to modify existing structures, even potentially historic buildings (e.g., municipal libraries); what modifications will need to be made to those spaces?

It is difficult to examine these questions without first having an idea of the technological advances which will happen in the coming few years. This is a difficult enough task on its own, and varies greatly from country to country, and from place to place within a given country. We can, however, note several overarching trends which can offer us guideposts for the journey.

II. Guideposts of Technology

Communication will become even more important than it is now, and more technologically complex, from the "back end," while at the same time getting simpler from the "front end." This applies to both wired and wireless communications. In places which are not now wired, such as Malaysia, cellular technology will be the next major communications innovation. Wires will eventually stretch to many locations throughout the developed and developing countries, but the initial steps of communications infrastructure development will be wireless in many countries.

In the wired world, those countries home already to networks of telephone wires, not to mention to the proliferation of cable television, wires and cables will be the next big addition to homes and places of business. Differences between the wired and wireless worlds will cause some problems for those attempting to design flexible-use structures.

Another certainty is that video displays will grow in number and in size. Whether showing text, still images, or video, LCD, CRT, and projection (from front and rear) displays will proliferate. These are the three major trends which we can predict with confidence.

III. Guideposts of Humanity

Human nature also provides us with some points of departure. First among these is a healthy skepticism for new things and change. People will want places and ways to escape the invasion of technological implements. Places of refuge, within the home and without, as well as in and around the workplace, will become increasingly important.

People will also tend to want as much information as quickly as possible, when they are indeed in search of it. While we can let the technology people deal with methods of sorting this information in a useful manner, architects need to work with them to provide maximum bandwidth in the wired and wireless infrastructures.

Based on the principle that "information wants to be free," public places are ideal for information gathering, viewing, and sharing. What better venue for free information than the public square? The technological version of the Town Crier may not be too far off.

IV. Economics and Lifestyles

Technology is getting increasingly expensive, though at a far smaller rate than the perceived value of the equipment. Prices of home computers go up no more than twenty percent annually, while hard disk sizes and microchip clock speeds double and triple in the same period of time. Meanwhile people want their own private access to information, though often not at the expense of other aspects of their lifestyles. The desire for privacy while digesting information contrasts with the obvious advantage of public sharing of ideas facilitated by public technology centers.

It is likely that technological expenses will soon become so high that families look to each other for assistance with access to the infrastructure. People will maintain their own Email accounts, but, as now one family has one computer for four people, perhaps four families will share two or three connections to the electronic world. This is analogous to the "party line" in the early days of telephone communications.

In Dublin, for example, several buildings in the Temple Bar area have been redesigned to take advantage of emerging technologies. Showcased in the Architectural Association of Ireland 1996 awards are three such buildings: the Arthouse, the Gallery of Photography, and the School of Photography. Also in Dublin, the Collins Barracks, now property of the National Museum of Ireland, will feature high-technology applications as an organic part of its basic design as a museum. On a smaller scale, other communities are even now using parts of their municipal libraries to ensure low-cost or free public access to the Internet. This trend will continue.

V. Specific Design Issues to Consider

In wireless communities, lines of sight between individual antennas and central towers will be important. In conflict with this will be the aesthetic desire to prevent significant public visibility of antennas on the exteriors of structures, as well as providing space and strength to support them, in varying sizes and shapes. Within these buildings, wired infrastructures will need to be laid out and organized along both technological and architectural standard guidelines. Network topology is not something most architects have studied, but any architect putting a fifty-five foot run of 10BaseT cable into a building will get an earful from the networking specialists. (Specifications only permit fifty feet of 10BaseT cable between two pieces of equipment.)

Wired communities will face not only the above internal infrastructure limitations, but also the need for more and larger cables entering buildings and winding throughout them. Security of connections is important. Netscape Communications, Inc. has three major network connections into its central facility. Two are on one side of the building, and the third is on the opposite side, for maximum physical security. In countries where cable television is common, the cable conduit will provide an initial link into homes and offices. That link, however, will need replacement or upgrading. What it connects to will change as well, as television evolves into a hybrid of today's computer and television functions. Electrical power will be in much higher demand in all of these places.

Size of video display, and methods of interaction with displays, will define how spaces are used for that purpose. As well, the function of a display (whether of a surveillance camera's view, or as a rotating display of artistic decorations) will determine its location and the surrounding space to some degree.

Further, distribution of technological tools throughout a building (as telephones today are found all over the house) will place different demands on technological infrastructure and design features than structures and spaces designed specifically as technological centers.

Rooms will need conversion for technological capability. New structures will be built for schools and communities to house their electronic tools. Some of these will affect historic land and buildings; the past cannot forever shape the future. At some time the present must take charge and move towards the future. This may mean giving up some historic value of a building or a location. This should not be done lightly; nor should it be dismissed without proper examination.

Community living arrangements are only now beginning to gain recognition in the United States; architects are, as a rule, inexperienced with the specific needs of such living conditions, including both outdoor and indoor spaces. If these become more common as the costs of technology require conservation of financial resources, the constraints of community living will be augmented by the constraints of technological enhancement of a living arrangement.

VII. Examples

The Arthouse building, in Curved Street, Temple Bar, is a unique example of a building created during the "crossover" from traditional to new media uses in public spaces. Originally designed as a sculpture gallery, it has now adapted itself to multimedia exhibits, though the idea of multimedia as a discrete art form is still new enough to render Arthouse events not always available to the general public (whether because of esoteric installations or exorbitant admission prices). It has some features of a more traditional gallery, such as a boom for moving large pieces of artwork into and out of the display area; its spaces also functions as a multimedia exhibition hall.

The relationship between the Gallery of Photography and the School of Photography bears further exploration. In the School's building is a projector which projects still and moving images onto the side of the Gallery building, just opposite in Meetinghouse Square, Temple Bar. Each building serves a traditional function, of gallery or school, but also interact in a public theater in a revolutionary way. Photography is but one field (architecture is, of course, another) which is being shaped and reshaped rapidly as technological advances are made.

Each of these structures has won at least a commendation from the AAI; while some criticisms may no doubt be made about the design or purpose of these structures, they are revolutionary and, particularly in the case of the Gallery, well-conceived and realized buildings.

As for the Collins Barracks, much remains to be seen. Interactive kiosks, now almost a cliché in the technology world, are coming into the public realm, assisting museum and zoo visitors with interpretive displays. Rare pieces can be viewed publicly, even in multiple sites, with the assistance of technology (A prime example of this is Ben Britton's "Virtual Lasceaux" project at the University of Cincinnati, which has been displayed at EPCOT Center in Walt Disney World in Florida, as well as other locations around the United States and France).

Not only does the Collins Barracks renovation include massive electric and communications wiring conduit built into the space itself (every "techie" rejoices at accessible conduit), but the expansive size of the space permits great flexibility, including, if appropriate, using temporary partitions to section off smaller areas for productions, displays, or support equipment. A combination of indoor and outdoor facilities not only permits year-round visitations, but also permits the necessary escape from technology while simultaneously providing additional arenas for display, interpretation, and production.

VIII. Conclusions

It is clear that architects, who are very accustomed to working with general contractors and building professionals, will need to add a member to their renovation and building teams. That new member should be aware of not only current technological possibilities, but trends in the field, and be able to predict with some accuracy infrastructure demand changes of the short-term future.

It must be made clear that no contemporary issues facing architects will disappear with the growth of prevalence of technology throughout society. Rather, the information revolution will add more subjects for consideration by customers, designers, and builders.

People, who already have idiosyncratic ways of interacting with information and technology, will need to communicate effectively with the architect and the technologist to ensure that the project (whether a renovation or a new building) is completed satisfactorily.

Communities in search of a space of this nature will face their first challenge in deciding among themselves what they want, and what they want the future to hold for their design.

Monday, May 5, 1997

Theater Review: Middlebury shines in Washington

Published in the Mountainview

On the Theater Lab stage at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., another Middlebury College play was performed this year. This time it was Dan O'Brien '96 wo wrote the play "The Last Supper Restoration," directed it and acted in it. For his writing, he won the National Student Playwriting Award, sponsored in part by the Kennedy Center/American College Theater Festival.

The seats were filled to capacity, and hopeful attendees without tickets were turned away at the door. The re-staging of the play was impressive, given the time limitations and the fact that the original play had been so closely tied to the Middlebury College Studio Theater space in which it was first performed.

A significant revision of the original Middlebury production, this version was the one which went to the Irene Ryan Festival in Boston last autumn; the reworking succeeded at clarifying and simplifying a piece whose intellectual depth was matched by the quality of the company's performance. (Disclosure: the part of Caterina was played by my sister, Katherine Inglis '98.)

The cast and crew were in at least three countries and three states the week before the production went up at the Kennedy Center; airlines and car-rental companies no doubt rejoiced when they heard that O'Brien would be coming from Ireland, Coert Voorhees would fly in from Chile, Ted Dowling from Seattle, Nick Molander and Katherine Inglis from Vermont, and others from Vermont and New York City. The diaspora of the company is a testament to its level of ability; their capacity to perform the play for the first time in three months after only a couple of days of rehearsal is nothing short of phenomenal.

Dealing with three different time periods in the fifteenth and twentieth centuries, the play is a detailed amalgam of the lives of Leonardo da Vinci, a restorer of da Vinci's "The Last Supper," and the son of that restorer. Blending the diverse threads of art, homosexuality, Nazism, Judaism, love, fear, and death (among others), "The Last Supper Restoration" is in itself a restoration of multi-level dramatic arts, when each speech had multiple meanings, and each character stood for something much more than just one person in a

O'Brien's National Student Playwriting Award is actually a series of awards, including cash awards, professional memberships and development opportunities, and the publication of his play by high-profile drama publisher Samuel French, Inc. In addition to those awards, O'Brien is currently on a Thomas J. Watson Foundation Fellowship in Ireland acting in Irish productions and working on new plays of his own.

In attendance at the first national production of an O'Brien play were members of the Middlebury alumni community in Washington, D.C., an impressive contingent from the College (attending in both official and unofficial roles), and a large number of the general public. Comments in the audience afterward ranged from the confused to the congratulatory, though the reaction was unanimous to a scene in which an airline stewardess puts her hand inside a bag of a passenger's vomit.

O'Brien has made a promising beginning with a play which appeals to the intellectual and the emotional, combining history and conjecture in a story which entrances and intrigues. We will definitely hear more from O'Brien soon, and we congratulate him on his success to date.

The ICC/ACTF program is a national program for all dramatic arts, sponsored by academic institutions, businesses, and theater organizations nationwide. Awards are given for excellence in areas too numerous to name, and the prestige of such awards is great in the world of theater. Middlebury College has historically had good luck participating in KC/ACTT and its regional Irene Ryan awards; the theater department here is known for its strength and quality of acting, performance, and production.

Opinion: Women's Issues? Not quite.

Published in the Mountainview

It's time we had a talk. Just you and me. Man to man. (Women, you can read this, too.) The Report of the Task Force on the Status of Women was just issued, and it's time you sat down and read it. Yes, you. Yes, even if you read it before. Siddown.

The issues in this report are not women's issues. They are human issues, and they affect you and me as much as they affect the women with whom we share this campus and this town. Here are some very cold facts, which don't make me proud.
•           The woman sitting next to you in evening seminar doesn't feel safe walking home in the dark.
•           The woman just behind you in the line at Proctor is going to eat some salad and maybe an apple today. That's all.
•           The woman who lives across the hall from you is the only woman in her year who is majoring in her field. She's also found that all the classes she has left to take are taught by men.
•           The woman behind the counter at Proctor, serving your food, has three kids she hasn't seen since this morning. She'll miss seeing them tonight before they go to bed, because she has to work late cleaning up.
•           The faculty member who just walked past you coming out of the Crest Room is afraid she'll never get tenure. She gave up having a family to have an academic career; now she might have neither.

These are all real problems which are happening here and now. They are not problems without solutions. They are not someone else's problem. They are my problem, as an alumnus, and they are your problem, as a male student, faculty, or staff. It is your personal problem, and you, yourself, today, need to fix ii Here are some ideas, to get you started:
•           If you feel comfortable doing so, start talking to that woman next to you in class. Keep up the conversation after class and walk with her wherever she's going, talking all the way. Then go where you were going. She'll be safer, you'll have helped solve the problem, and she didn't even have to admit she's scared.
•           Have a look at what your friends eat, men and women. If your roommate is gorging himself on onion rings, point out that there are fresh onions over on the salad bar. If his girlfriend has a single chickpea on her plate, let her know you care about how she takes care of herself.
•           On course evaluations, say what you think would have been different if your class had been taught by someone of the opposite gender of your real professor.
•           Thank the woman who just put the food on your plate. At least let her smile once today.
•           When someone you think should get tenure is up for review, write a letter to the Committee on Review, or to the department chair. Qualified women and men deserve a shot a Middlebury careers; help them out.

You're going to ask me why you should do this. There are a couple of answers. The first is that the world can always stand to be a better place. If you work towards that goal, in whatever ways you feel comfortable, everyone will be a little better off. That's the "piein-the-sky reason," The other reason is that someday you will be a minority somewhere. You'll be the only white person on the street in Chinatown, New York, or you'll be working somewhere where everyone else behaves properly towards women and men. You'll need their help, and you'll have to earn it. Start now.

These subjects are not just women's issues. The fact that any human beings are in these situations demands our immediate action. Caring about others — women and men — and being respectful of their rights and responsibilities, is something you will have to do for the rest of your life. Middlebury is an excellent place to start; everyone can work on it together, and we can all help each other. But you, and you personally, have to do something about it today.

Monday, April 28, 1997

Alumni profile: Jennings aiming for the marketing moon

Published in the Mountainview

Marketing and business building have gotten Ryan Jennings '91 his own business and some rich opportunities, all the while living in Cornwall. He not only builds his own business, but sells his skills to others interested in enlarging their own markets.

Jennings spoke to The Mountainview about his work with a photography business based in Maine. Found by accident, the company has blossomed into an opportunity for Jennings, providing he plays his cards (and cornpany politics) correctly.

An initial conversation began with Jennings and one of the directors of the company, regarding marketing opportunities for prints of the unique wide-angle sports stadium shots which are the company's flagship products, turned into a series of exploratory meetings between Jennings and the company's founders.

He had a lot of ideas for them, and gained credibility with them almost immediately because he had some ideas for marketing their product which they had considered but not yet implemented. He also had some new ideas, which all agreed were good ideas. "They get so close to it," he said, explaining how the company's advertising plans had left out seemingly obvious marketing opportunities, so Jennings decided to explore his own ideas himself.

He sought and got permission to market the photographs himself, at his own expense, in exchange for a cut of the profits from sales he attracted. Jennings's basic philosophy is the classic marketing cliché, "The customer is always right." He said, "Business people think about what they want to do, instead of what the customer wants, or where the customer is." Jennings focuses on his intended customers, using what he calls "funnel vision," the opposite of "tunnel vision."

The son of an inventor, Jennings learned early on the opportunities and shortcomings of "experts." Those people, Jennings said, don't see opportunities the same way non-experts do; they are used to knowing what they do and how to do it. Creative marketing, Jennings argues, comes from saying "I don't know" and then discovering the answer. He also attributes his marketing success to the fact that he works in multiple industries and "cross-pollinates" with marketing ideas, taking an idea from one company or industry and applying it to another.

As the photography company ignored his advice for more and more time, his frustration with them grew. Eventually Jennings began marketing their material as an independent agent, acquiring prints for wholesale rates and using his own publicity ideas to sell the products.

He learned valuable lessons from his collaboration with this company: at a public collectibles show, they made nearly no sales. At closed industry trade shows (for restaurant owners, for example), sales were in the thousands of dollars daily. Picking events, publications, and locations for sales is vital to the success of a marketing effort, Jennings said.

Jennings notes that while he hopes for success with this project, he has placed himself at great financial risk, investing thousands of dollars of his own money to pay for advertisements in magazines, and for a toll-free phone number to accept orders. He is confident that his ideas will pay off, and estimates that he will gross twice his capital outlay within the next eight months.

He is concerned, however, because the photography company with which he is involved is very wary of losing control of their product. A unique product in the world of sports photography, and possible only with a camera valued at $150,000, the stadium panoramas are a sure seller. The photographer obviously wants to make the maximum amount he can from his work. Jennings notes, however, that success in business comes from a melding of two major principles: innovation and marketing. He concedes that the photographs are innovative and are. for the moment, selling themselves.

He notes, though, that the marketing effort put out by the company itself has been feeble and only a limited success. He is betting that his marketing skills can take the photographer's innovation and make it a commercial success. It is this risk which will determine the path of Jennings's career in the short term.

Opinion: Balance is the key

Published in the Mountainview

Technology maven Esther Dyson recently said, "The most important finite resource in the late 20th century is people's attention." Nothing could be more correct Information is flowing into our lives faster than ever before. Information about places and people previously unheard of is now meeting us for breakfast, in the morning paper and on the morning news programs.

Who a hundred years ago would have thought that the struggle for power of an overweening rich man, Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, would headline world news? We are inclined to ask why this is important to Americans. It is clearly of importance to the people of Zaire and neighboring countries.

Don't we have enough to worry about? Social activists constantly remind us of human rights tragedies around the world and in the United States, Amnesty International makes a point of including the U.S. in its annual reports on the world's worst human-rights offenders. Don't we have enough to do, here at home? Shouldn't our attention be spent on cleaning our own house, rather than throwing stones at the glass houses others inhabit? Isn't that, even if a productive use of our own time and energy, distracting them from the pressing problems of their worlds?

Attention is something we must ration carefully; Dyson is correct. We have only so much time to spend on anything. only so much mental energy before we need sleep, respite, or a good beer. We must choose what we pay attention to; we cannot afford to choose unwisely, How, then, should we determine what to ignore? Or should we ignore nothing, sufficing with short blurbs about everything, reducing our knowledge to trivia and our understanding to mere chronology?

As individuals, we each have certain special interests. Mine may relate to technology and the communications revolution; yours may be in environmentally-aware architecture. Each of us follows a certain set of topics, from sports teams and academic disciplines to current events in the domestic affairs of particular nations. As a nation, we have certain collective interests. Health insurance for all Americans is something to which we should each bend an ear from time to time. We also need to know where our elected representatives stand on the Chemical Weapons Ban Treaty and nuclear non-proliferation. These indicate, however, that there is an overlap in individual, domestic national, and international levels of interest.

The line between what we pay attention to and what we ignore is fuzzy at best. It is no less clear for the fact that daily events occur which we could not have predicted but which directly affect our lives. Would anyone argue that Americans should ignore the threat to our own individual personal safety posed by the Oklahoma City bombing? Would anyone argue that Americans at large ever expected such an event to occur? We need to pay attention to people telling us things we haven't asked about, which we don't know about to be interested in them.

And so our attention is again stretched, unfocused, confused. Can we just shut off the world, even for a short time, and listen to the silence? In the age of digital timekeeping, silence is just that; there's not even a clock ticking to remind us of time passing. Silence can be wonderful, and relaxation, departure from this hectic world refreshing. It is imperative that, at the same time as we learn to take in, process, and comprehend more and more information, we also learn to take time for ourselves to remain in balance.

To do otherwise would be to invite disaster of a cognitive nature. The world closes in around us, and we must learn to escape it or risk being enveloped by it. Our attention must be focused on yet another subject: our own personal, societal, and human well-being: This is the area in which it is most imperative that we all pay attention. We must all confer upon each other the human dignities we ourselves desire; we must respect the space and time of others, and the fact that they, too, suffer from the same attention deficit we do. Our time here is limited, and to make the most of it some things must fall by the wayside.

Each of us must decide individually what to leave behind and what to carry forward. Those who strive to do too much or too little will risk failure and insignificance, both individually and societally. Balance is the key: our resources are indeed finite.