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.