Showing posts with label ColumbiaMissourian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ColumbiaMissourian. Show all posts

Thursday, October 1, 1998

Soldiers in training

Published in the Columbia Missourian

A man in a camouflage military uniform hunches over a desk and grips a marker tightly. He quickly traces the outline of a map and its legend and looks up, wryly remembering his days as a full-time soldier. "I used to have privates doing this for me," he says. This is Sgt. 1st Class William VanZandt, a master's candidate in business administration at MU. Tomorrow his National Guard unit's drill weekend begins.

Ads for VanZandt 's group are everywhere: "One weekend a month, two weeks a year, the Army National Guard." The ads don't say that many National Guard members have only two weeks of vacation from their jobs every year - and they spend that vacation training with their Guard units. The ads don't say that one Saturday morning each month, the men and women of the Guard roll out of their beds at 5 a.m., drive to their local armory and stand in formation at 7 a.m. to wait for the day to begin. The ads don't say that the following day, they do the same thing again. And, the ads don't say that some members of the Guard do this routine for 20 years or more.

These people are not the full-time Army, which does "more before 6 a.m. than most people do all day." They are not the Army Reserve, which is on call only for the Pentagon. The National Guard has a dual mission: federal military service and state emergency service. They do more in one average drill weekend than in a whole week. Map tracing is only the beginning.

Seven a.m. Saturday. VanZandt stands in formation on Stankowski Field with the rest of the headquarters battery of the 128th Field Artillery Regiment, Missouri National Guard,
Battery 1st Sgt. William Carney announces the order of the day. Arrayed in front of him are a little more than 100 men. No women are present. This is a combat unit; women aren't allowed here. Ninety percent of their training is for combat duty. They are the headquarters unit for the regiment, which is made up of National Guard batteries all over Missouri.

In time of peace, these men are ready to serve Missouri for disaster relief, riot control, maintenance of public order or, most recently, flood control. Staff Sgt. Melvin Wriedt remembers the Great Flood of 1993. "A lot of inventions came out of that flood," he said. "One was the automatic sandbag-filler. It has a hopper and a spout. You hold the bag up and pour. It's better than 'one man hold the bag, one man dig.' " Ten percent of their training is for this type of public service.

This morning, though, their routine is very basic: They must do a certain number of push-ups and sit-ups and run two miles in the time the Army allows. The requirements vary depending on the men's ages. It is their physical training, or PT, test. The men, in sweat clothes clearly labeled "Army," are in varying stages of readiness for the test. Some are taking this "for the record" to be noted officially in their service log. The rest are taking it to see how they measure up to the more rigorous Army standards, which take effect in October.

They do their push-ups six abreast, each with a sergeant keeping count. Sgt. 1st Class Dave Robbins is the most vocal of the bunch. "Give me 65, sir! 65, SIR!" he bellows, his voice splitting the early-morning air. He attracts stares from the few civilian runners out for a jog around the track. In a pressed camouflage uniform complete with extra-shiny combat boots, Robbins is the genuine article.

Some of the soldiers laugh, but most smile quietly. He is respected around here; he's been in the Guard 20 years, after serving in the Navy in Vietnam. This morning he is all military, but tomorrow will be his last official day in camouflage.

He's retiring.

Robbins coaxes, chides or forces the best out of the men doing push-ups in front of him. He does the same when the sit-ups come around. The run gets under way, and in a more subdued tone, he urges the men to run faster. As they get close to the end of the two miles, he's bellowing again, demanding performance from his friends and fellow soldiers.

When the last man crosses the line, it's back to the armory and onto the scale one by one. Weight and height recorded, they hit the showers. Finally, they emerge from the locker room in their camouflage uniforms.

Some of these men have worn other uniforms before in the Navy, Army or Marines. "We collect all types. We're not picky," says battery commander Capt. Harold Spies, who did 67 sit-ups. This unit dispenses with the traditional armed-forces rivalries. They're all artillery men now.

But this weekend they don't get to fire "the big guns," as they do during their two-week annual training. Sgt. 1st Class Joe Reddick, who did 99 push-ups (his personal record is 150 in two minutes), works in the impact zone, where the shells come down. He's a full-time member of the Guard, meaning he also works 40 hours a week in the armory helping the unit stay organized.

The full-timers are a smooth office team. They get their work done mostly on time, banter extensively and keep abreast of each other's personal lives, just like any other office staff, except they wear camouflage to work every day. And their workplace is vacant most of the time. On drill weekends, though, the place is hopping with what the Guard calls "traditional soldiers," meaning citizen-soldiers.

The military and civilian worlds combine in curious ways in the National Guard. Students, young and old, are in this university-town unit. Some, like VanZandt, are getting advanced degrees in accelerated programs. Some are working on their college degrees. The newest members haven't yet graduated from high school.

Civilian life appears elsewhere, too. Staff Sgt. Paul Hegg's daughter is a Girl Scout. He sold over $400 worth of cookies to members of the unit, hand-delivering them out of a huge cardboard box during breaks in the weekend's events. Specialist Steven Walker collected his four boxes, saying, "I'm so happy. I've got my breakfast now."

The day passes slowly as the men wait for tomorrow's field exercises.

Some men check out weapons and equipment for tomorrow. It's a "Warrior Weekend," when some members of the unit head out to a local training area for a mock battle. It's not just a bunch of guys jumping in Jeeps to go play laser tag. This is the military.

Like civilians, though, they enjoy a cold beer at the end of a long day. Robbins supplies a half-keg for the unit in honor of his final drill. It's gone before the men go home for the night. Those whose homes are several hours away bed down in the armory.

Seven a.m. Sunday. First formation. Some soldiers are late because this is the weekend the time changed one hour forward. Carney forgot to mention it at yesterday's final formation. He's fuming. Most of the men checked out their weapons and MILES gear the day before. "MILES gear" is the Army's term for laser tag equipment, which consists of a laser gun and receptors that register hits from the gun. The men wear receptors on their helmets and on their chests and backs. The equipment is heavier and bulkier than the commercial version; each man's total burden is 60 pounds.

Carney is trying to get the laden men together for their safety briefing before the ride up to the Macon Training Ground. He had planned to start the meeting at 8 a.m. It's now almost 8:15.
Spies is waiting for the briefing, too. He's in charge of the detachment going up to the training area. "My unit hasn't been in the field for a while," he says. "They're a bit rusty. But I refuse to get agitated. I'll just let the first sergeant sweat a bit. That's his job."

Carney is definitely sweating. He's about to start the safety briefing and now he can't find Spies. Everyone else is almost ready. At last, all the Humvees have enough gas, and the ones that don't start have been exchanged for ones that do. Carney begins.

"I'm going to forget that I planned this briefing for 0800. I'm going to forget that it's now 0826. I'm going to forget that you were all supposed to get gas for your vehicles yesterday afternoon. I'm going to forget ... " The litany of the morning's errors continues. Discipline here is military mixed with civilian: harsh criticism tempered with positive group-dynamics techniques. "We move on from here. This is a safety briefing."

It is not about the dangers of playing laser tag with M-16s while wearing full camouflage (including face paint) in a wet and wooded area. Instead, Carney delivers a lecture on the hazards of getting to the training ground. "We're going to be traveling on highways varying from two lanes to four lanes, with speed limits varying between 60 and 70 miles per hour." Vehicle-
following distances are carefully specified, in meters, of course - this is the military. If any vehicle can't see the one behind it, it must slow down.

Everything is prescribed: "You assistant drivers are there to keep your drivers alert and awake. Make sure you do this." Everybody wears seat belts. Vehicle headlights are on for safety. Even plans for vehicle breakdowns are outlined. The convoy is registered with the state National Guard headquarters; the registration number is chalked on the side of every vehicle.

The Humvees and trucks pull out onto the highway. Though the speed limit is 70 mph, the convoy's top speed is 50. Other drivers take every opportunity to pass, leapfrogging dangerously up the convoy between Humvees. Civilian drivers almost cause two accidents as the convoy lumbers north.

Exiting the highway onto a dirt road, the convoy finds the going wetter and tougher by the mile. Soon the Humvees' massive wheels are thickly caked in mud. Civilian cars don't have a hope of making it; the lone pickup truck venturing down the road slides and spins for a bit before proceeding. The mud-spattered convoy parks in a clearing for lunch.

Food in the Guard is completely a military affair. Meals ready to eat, or MREs, are standard fare. Though the soldiers have to pay a little more than $3 per MRE during drill weekends, if they are called into service, food is provided for them. Most pay and then complain about the quality of the product. They choose their meals, paying careful attention to the labels: beef stew is good, ham-and-cheese omelets are awful.

"Eat. Don't eat. Eat. Don't eat. Don't eat. Don't eat. Oh, these are good," Sgt. 1st Class Chris Jones, the unit's recruiter, says. He sorts the contents of his MRE. When he's done, there's as much discarded food and plastic wrapping as there was food he ate. The rations aren't terrible; each meal contains 7,200 calories - enough, the Army calculates, to sustain a soldier in the field on one meal pack per day. One of the unit's ex-Navy guys remembers fondly his days of "C-ratch," canned food, the Navy's version of an MRE. But he grins and eats, too.

As the MRE aftertaste wears off, the exercise begins. Some of the men learn to use a new mine detector, like the ones in Bosnia now. A squad goes down the road to test it. One man holds the mine detector; two others walk behind him with weapons held ready for potential attack.

About seven of the group fade off into the woods to prepare for the exercise. They're called OPFOR, opposition forces, and will attack the main group at some point in the afternoon. The rest of the men will practice moving into a new location and setting up a headquarters base there. First they sweep the road for mines. Then they secure the perimeter in a silent operation, using only hand signals to communicate. The men move quickly, though not that quietly, through the forest. They are on the lookout for enemy troops and booby traps. It's eerie - a silent defense against unseen aggressors. It's almost possible to believe there's a real enemy out here, somewhere in Macon.

When the perimeter is almost secure, OPFOR attacks. Two men move in from one side of the road; three others appear farther down on the same side of the road. But where are the rest? The defending men open fire, running, dodging and diving through the brush to get better views of the aggressors while still protecting themselves.

The rest of OPFOR opens fire now that forces are committed away from them. They are next to the road, in a clump of trees, on relatively high ground. Spies and Carney hang back, letting the men fight. They're commanders who need to stay alive as long as they can to coordinate the counterattack and communicate with other units.

Some of the men who were scouting the other side of the road come over to help in the fight. Others stay where they are, guarding against any other possible attacks.

The fight lasts about 15 minutes, but it was compressed in the minds of the men who want to do it all again. "Let's play more!" a couple of them say. OPFOR has been defeated, their position overrun by hard-charging, fast-firing defenders. Despite how much they train for war, weekends like this are really the only time these Guardsmen get to be soldiers in a combat situation. Most of their time on active duty is helping civilians in Missouri.

They took a break to talk a bit about the exercise, but now it's time to clean up. This is the 1990s Army - environmentalism is important. The brass shells expended by the M-16s are valuable. They're easily recyclable, but making new brass is expensive. The Army has also found a military reason: Leaving behind signs of your presence gives valuable information to the enemy. Never mind that the "enemy" that has successfully captured this Midwestern training ground already has a good idea of what kind of ammunition M-16s use.

Back the men go, revisiting their locations during the recent battle. They pick up as much brass as they can. One soldier notices that he's missing something more than just brass.

Specialist Anthony Ash had strapped a radio to his chest when the fight began. It's not there now. After a few minutes of searching, they find it in the place Ash first hit the dirt to fire his M-16 at an intruder. He's chagrined and refuses to carry the radio back to the vehicles for fear of losing it a second time. "He's got it, and I'm not going to touch it, sir," Ash says dejectedly to Spies.

Despite the mistake, Spies gives Ash a break. The unspoken feeling is that a "real soldier" wouldn't have dropped the radio in the heat of battle, even though it is the sort of thing that could very well happen in combat.

Spies and Carney are happy with the way the exercise turned out, even though the group experienced several problems with the laser tag equipment. The convoy packs up and returns to the armory the same way it came: in order, creeping down the highway. This time, though, they're spraying mud everywhere. Even after the 60-mile trip, some mud is still coming off of the tires in the armory's parking lot.

Final formation begins after everyone has returned their weapons and MILES gear. Various announcements are made before the real event begins. Spies' voice rings out in the immense room.

"Sgt. 1st Class Dave Robbins, front and center."

Robbins leaves his place in the ranks and marches up to stand at attention in front of Spies. It is his last day in the Guard, his last few minutes. Spies speaks again.

"Gentlemen, before me stands the example of the citizen-soldier." Spies talks briefly about Robbins' service to the Guard and the level of performance the veteran demands from his fellow soldiers.

Robbins' wife has already been given an award for her support of the Guard and her husband's career. Now Robbins gets a service medal and letters of commendation from President Clinton and Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan. He is trying not to cry. Spies is trying not to cry. Carney, who is reading the letters aloud to the men, is trying not to cry.

When he is permitted, Robbins runs back to his place in line so the men don't see his tears. The new medal falls off while he runs; he stops quickly to pick it up. When he gets back to his place,
the man next to him slips him a handkerchief.

The battery is dismissed, and most of the men crowd around Robbins to congratulate him on his service. When the crowd has just begun to die down, another section of the unit drives up. Robbins is back on the job only five minutes after being told he's done. He checks quickly to make sure the situation is under control, then heads out the back door of the armory with a few of the men. In the bed of Robbins' white pickup truck is a cooler of beer.

Robbins doesn't quite know what to think, but he's smiling and puffing away on his cigar, laughing with his comrades in arms. Spies reminds the group that most of them are here not for the money - though the money is nice - but for the company, the comradeship. Rich says that of his 10 best friends, he met seven in the Guard. Robbins promises everyone he'll be back to visit; they assure him they'll miss him when he's not around.

This is the Guard. Friends will be nearby, not far away on some Army base. Robbins can visit the public armory any time. He can go home to his job and his family.

For the first time in 20 years, Robbins won't be back next month to be a soldier again, even for a weekend. The rest of them will be back. Some will see each other tomorrow; others will have to wait the full month. They part ways smiling and waving, their ambivalent goodbyes indicating they're not quite ready to return to civilian life.

Monday, May 11, 1998

Making weekend war

Published in the Columbia Missourian

The Headquarters Battery of the 128th Artillery Regiment, Missouri National Guard, trains one weekend a month and two weeks a year to stay ready for their two main tasks: 1) to serve the state of Missouri in times of civil distress, like floods or other natural disasters; and 2) to serve the United States in time of war.

During the rest of the year, the members of the National Guard have regular jobs like most other people: working in offices, teaching, doing various kinds of skilled work, and so on.

But on their training weekends, they prepare for war. It's not just a matter of being physically ready, but also of having plans for events that might happen. They plan a lot. Each weekend they go home having planned a little more. The next month, they come back and pick up right where they left off.

The men in the upper right photo are officers preparing for a mock battle they will fight in a couple of months from now. The man in the upper left photo is a soldier practicing combat maneuvers with his squad.

Humvees are the military's main method of moving people around during exercises and combat. The trucks are built with large tires and high ground clearance, so they can get through almost any type of landscape. They're still nimble enough, though, to drive on regular roads.

The inside of a Humvee has room for about four people to sit. (In a Humvee, everyone wears a seat belt because it jolts around so violently!) There's also room for a lot of equipment on the floor and in the rear storage area.

When they're not in motion, the vehicles can be used as tables, desks, or chairs. The tough metal can take it if soldiers sit on the vehicles or put weaponry or other things on them. Humvees are built to be rugged.

Sunday, February 15, 1998

Entangled in expansion

Published in the Columbia Missourian

On the wall above the kitchen counter in Jim and Helen Judah's house is a 30-year-old aerial photograph of their property. Open fields and clustered treetops dominate the scene. Taken today, the photograph would look very different.

At the northwest edge of their property, middle-class houses in the Georgetown subdivision spring up from the fields. Nearer the Judahs' house, across Gillespie Bridge Road, residents of the Longview subdivision mow lawns in front of their duplexes. And although a proposal to rezone the land just downhill from the Judahs' lagoon was rejected a couple of years ago, the possibility remains for subdivisions to creep closer.

Southwest and northeast of Columbia, land like the Judahs' is under pressure from the expanding city. As the city's population grows, homes and land to build them on are in high demand.

Many northeastern landowners seem ready to sell their properties. But in the southwest, few landowners say they are interested in selling despite the money they could make.

Meanwhile, shops and houses are going up all along the perimeter of the Columbia, wherever land can be bought and developed. Growth to the southwest of the city has been curtailed, however, because holdouts in that area own more than 3,000 acres of development-ready land.

But even in the southwest, residents' lives are changing because of Columbia's growth. Civilization is banging on the door. Roads bring more traffic; zoning and subsequent building alter the views from people's homes.

To sell or not to sell
Jim Judah says he knows all about selling land. The family farm on which he was born was sold and became tract housing. Three years ago, he and his wife, Helen, sold a 320-acre parcel on Coats Lane. The new owner isn't a developer, and the Judahs rent the land from the new owner to produce hay. Jim says this is the only way they can support 110 cattle on the 175 acres they have left.

What of that last 175 acres?

"We're not going to sell," he says.

The Judahs are holding on, even without much help. One of their two part-time farmhands is unable to walk, but drives a tractor. The other helps in the afternoons. Jim does the morning and evening feeding alone.

Land prices and the production costs make farming for a living difficult - even for longtime family farmers such as the Judahs.

Surrounded by growing developments and "hobby farmers," Jim and Helen live on their investments. "It has cut farming clear out," Jim says.

Over on South Coats Lane, John Sam Williamson says he too worries about the development happening nearby. He says he is watching valuable soybean fields turn into grassy lawns for subdivisions.

"This land is all zoned agricultural," Williamson says. "As we have urbanization of the area, because of the growth of Columbia and outside areas, this land has changed from agricultural to residential."

State, city and county governments are also developing land. Near Williamson's house, the land is river bottom and flood plain and is unsuitable for residential development. The city of Columbia has 10 wells and three sewage treatment sites, with a fourth in the works. The Missouri Department of Conservation owns the nearby Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area.

Williamson says he has had several offers to buy his land, but he has turned them down. "At some point I probably will, because it would be stupid not to. I'm under pressure, but I'm not letting it bother me."

Williamson, who is president of the McBaine Levee district board, owns 1,400 acres of Missouri River flood plain. He says he maintains the fences at the edge of his land because neighboring developers didn't want to build them.

Florea, who owns 430 acres on Coats Lane, says he has had no purchase offers, but he is wary about the idea of selling: "Anywhere within 20 or 30 miles of Columbia, you want to be careful offering your land for a price, because someone might take you up on it."

His son and daughter-in-law also live on Florea's land. He says he doesn't plan to sell.

These landowners recognize that they are still part of the community. They can't just hold onto their land, blind to issues of expansion. Their own quality of life, land use patterns and financial security are in question. Like everyone else, when they talk about the future, they talk about zoning, roads and sewage management. These, they say, need to be addressed no matter what.

Florea, for example, is always present at county meetings. He and other farmers go to make their opinions heard and to keep the county mindful of obligations to its citizens.

Two sides of the coin
County land wasn't always governed by zoning ordinances. Now, however, land is zoned several different ways, says Stan Shawver, director of county planning and building inspection.

That is both good and bad, farmers say. The Boone County Planning and Zoning Commission is helping control expansion by preventing landowners from doing whatever they want. The Judahs, for example, now have to get a permit if they want to build even a shed on their land. Folks no longer can "just go out and put a trailer up," Jim Judah says.

The city's southern expansion over the past 30 years has also brought mixed results, Williamson says. Besides more crime and traffic, there is a lag between support and growth: "The infrastructure has not kept up with the development in this area," he says. Old roads carrying new traffic, for example, are a problem.

Florea says the city should improve its road maintenance. He says that during the 1993 flood, a bridge on Coats Lane was under eight feet of water. Ten families had to use rowboats to cross between their homes and their cars parked on the other side of the bridge.

The county is finishing a five-year program to upgrade roads. The half-percent sales tax extended in November will sustain the project for an additional 10 years. But residents say it is hard to know where the next improvements will be made.

When Jim Judah moved to his land in 1944, four miles of gravel road led from there to the Columbia town line. Now, cars back up on the blacktop in front of his home every day during rush hour. "I don't even go to the mailbox without having to wait for the traffic," Helen says. On the other hand, Jim says, the paved road is more driver-friendly.

Florea says the county could influence where development occurs with its road-paving plans. While the county can't force developers into particular areas, a blacktopped road is certainly more attractive for development than a gravel one.

"The concentration of higher-cost housing is along improved roads," Shawver says. But the impact of the five-year road-paving project has yet to increase development rates significantly, he says. "At this point we haven't seen a lot of that. Development takes a long time."

Jim Judah says he is used to managing the waste from both his household and his farm animals. Now, however, the city's waste also is being treated near his home.

City sewer standards are strict, and new subdivisions are required to comply. But because the city requires annexation before extending privileges to residents, most current owners have either a septic tank or a sewage lagoon. However, Boone County's primary soil contains a lot of clay, and this prevents septic tanks from percolating properly, Williamson says.

Lagoons smell bad, and neighbors can see the waste. Some houses use combination systems, such as septic tanks piping effluent to secondary treatment plants.

The city sewer plant near the Judahs' place is built on land the Judahs used to own. The city used its power of condemnation to buy the land, Helen says.

The fourth sewage-treatment wetland to be created will use part of a 100-acre parcel that Florea sold the city last year. He is concerned about the possibility of odor.

Florea says he doesn't notice any odors from the existing wetlands, but his house is a quarter-mile upwind of those areas. The new treatment wetland might be closer to his home.

The city's impact has not been entirely negative, residents say. After the 1993 floods, the city helped river-bottom landowners organize levee maintenance. And Florea says he appreciated the city's helping residents form a levee district: "They've been a prime mover on that since the word go."

The future
"The city's really changing," Williamson says. "It hurts me to see the change, because this is my heritage. This has been agricultural land for generations. People are selling it. But you can't blame them for doing it."

He is quick to add that these kinds of changes are happening not just in Boone County, but all around the country.

"There's no more agricultural land being made. It's all that we're ever going to have," he says.
Even Earth City, a St. Louis suburb, used to be an agricultural area of river-bottom farmland, he says. Now it has hotels, factories and warehouses.

As the world's population increases, the demand for food grows. The United States is the most efficient producer of agricultural products, Williamson says, adding that other countries don't have the same combination of infrastructure, know-how and technology.

"I'm not going to be like Don Quixote, out fighting windmills," Williamson says. "There's just one thing after another, and it's not going to end - it's going to be more."

At a recent meeting about the county budget, Florea was the only resident in attendance. "I've tried to be very active in influencing (the commission) - not with a very high degree of success," he says. "I keep nipping at their heels."

Florea says his main concern is that the county is spending too much money on construction of roads and too little on their maintenance. But bad government, he says, is the fault of citizens who don't participate. The opportunity is there, he says, even for a farmer who still loves his independence: "What do you lose by trying?"

Sunday, January 18, 1998

Instilling knowledge

Published in the Columbia Missourian

Think back to when you were in school. Chances are, your teacher had a list of assignments to get through in a given year. Those that didn't get covered were left for the following year or skipped altogether. That's all very different now.

School districts now use academic standards to design effective curriculum for science education. The result is teachers have more focus in the classroom and students benefit from improved continuity.

State and federal funding sources require school districts to adhere to their recommendations yet they each have different guidelines.

Competing for district attention are the national standards, backed by the U.S. Department of Education.

There are the Project 2061 standards put forward by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. And there are the Show-Me Standards, designed by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and mandated by the state legislature.

They are similar. They all have the goal of improving K-12 science education. They all split curriculum levels the same way: K-4, 5-8 and 9-12. They all stipulate that science education is vital preparation for the world beyond academics. They all cover similar topics somewhere in the curriculum.

The problem for the school district comes in assessment. While the state's goals for learning are to be achieved by the fourth, eighth and 12th grades, the tests are administered in third, seventh and 10th grades.

For example, the third-grade test asks students about food chains and food webs. In Columbia, those subjects are taught in the fourth grade.

While in the primary grades, this forces teachers to cram an extra year of science learning into the K-3 years. Those are years when literacy education is vital. There is not enough time for both, said Becky Litherland, district coordinator of science education.

In the middle grades, the state of Missouri requires the teaching of genetics and natural selection in seventh grade - a subject difficult even for high-school sophomores, Litherland said.

In high school, teachers are left with two years to fill after the final state assessment. Subject matter originally intended for those years is tested before it is ever taught.

The competing sets of guidelines, together with the state-mandated assessment schedule, give Columbia schools some hard choices and, Litherland said: "Local control is costing us more of our education dollars."

Curriculum development has been an ongoing process far longer than government standards have been in place. "We have been changing the science curriculum for 14 years," Litherland said.

It's only in the past two years that she has been working with the national standards to create a Columbia curriculum unique to the district.

Gentry Middle School teacher Laura Jackson helped design the national standards for K-12 science education. Litherland said there is "a real sense of pride" with the local connection, and the local district tends to favor that system over the others.

The national standards, she said, are the result of years of hard work by some of the nation's best science educators and their recommendations make sense to her when others do not.

Teachers are, on their own, doing very good assessment of student performance. They have left behind the multiple-choice tests used for years, but the district's teachers are stuck. They want to teach well. They also want students to do well on tests which adhere to the state standards.

"It's hard to sell at the local level," Litherland said. "You're sitting there with a bunch of teachers and they say, 'Give me what's going to be on the test.'"

One particular national standard of importance to Litherland is "science as inquiry." It used to be called "designing and doing experiments." In Columbia, these experiments are integrated into classes where possible, giving students experience in exploring science for themselves.

A big difference now is the concept of the science fair. In the past, a student may have been told to do a science fair project without much additional help. Now students learn how to think about experiments, how to build them and how to interpret results. It's working. Columbia schools win Missouri Science Olympiad awards year after year.

Although Litherland said she believes standards renew the commitment to teaching excellence, she said she fears that the state testing system asks too much of students too early. She said she isn't happy with the current timetable.

When the state was planning education schedules, Litherland and other science educators asked the department of education to schedule science testing in fourth, eighth and 11th grades.

As all of the state's standards and assessment guidelines are developed, there will be too many tests to have all of them in any one year. The state decided to split testing between third and fourth grades, seventh and eighth grades, and 10th and 11th grades.

Science testing was the second standard implemented in Missouri, which should have given it free choice in the timetable, Litherland said, yet the state decided against the educators' request.

This spring, the first state tests will be administered. Litherland is hopeful but not optimistic. "I think our scores are probably going to be pretty poor," she said. "Our kids aren't going to do as well as I think they could because of this misalignment."

She explained the scores do not measure the quality of science education in Columbia, but merely Columbia's adherence to the state-set curricular time table. In this world of change, though, the legislators are the only people who can help Litherland ease the transition.

The people who set the standards often have a poor grasp of early childhood education, she said. That means they don't understand how much growing and changing occurs from year to year. They don't see the trade-off in primary grades between time spent on science and on literacy education.

"I hope that we'll be able to have good test scores without sacrificing our children," she said. "I want kids to come out of our elementary schools loving science, being successful at science."

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.

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.