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.